Remote Hawaiian island vanishes following powerful hurricane

Hurricane swallows Hawaii island whole

Hurricane swallows Hawaii island whole

Photos of East Island taken in May before the hurricane show the pristine 4.5-hectare sand and gravel spit.

But the area that served as a home for these animals is almost gone, with only bits of sand still proving it ever existed.

The team from the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument is expected to survey the effects of the hurricane later in the week.

Before Hurricane Walaka swept through the central Pacific this month, East Island was captured in images as an 11-acre sliver of sand that stood out starkly from the turquoise ocean.

As it became known, a powerful storm hit on a Hawaiian island and literally washed it in the open ocean. French Frigate Shoals is a place where there is the 95 percent population of the Hawaiian green sea turtles and they are classified to be threatened under the scarce species act.

Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, concurred that the island's disappearance is a warning to humanity.

The new images revealed the spit now nearly completely submerged.

"I had a holy [expletive] moment, thinking 'Oh my God, it's gone, '" Fletcher told the Honolulu Civil Beat.

East Island was only a half-mile long and 400 feet wide, but it was the second-largest island in the French Frigate Shoals.

The Hawaiian monk seals - there's only about 1,400 of them left in the world - spend most of their time on the island lying under the sun and resting on its beaches.

"We wanted to monitor the island so we are disappointed it has gone, but on the other hand we have learned these islands are far more at risk than we thought".

One of the most intense Pacific hurricanes on record at its peak, Walaka buzzed just 70 miles west of East Island as a major Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph, walloping Hawaii's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

The same French Frigate Shoals used to serve as the main breeding ground for the seals.

Federal Agency of the U.S. National oceanic and atmospheric administration (NOAA) is now assessing how much damage the disappearance of the island may cause to the animals.

"These small, sandy islets are going to really struggle to persist" as the seas rise because of anthropogenic global warming, Charles Littnan, director of NOAA's protected species division, told the Huffington Post.

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