We normally report new islands forming after natural disasters like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or Cat.5 storms. Well, Hurricane Walaka, which churned over the Pacific Ocean in early October, quietly made the remote East Island of Hawaii disappear from satellite imagery.

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Satellite imagery shows East Island, Hawaii in May 2018. The next picture shows the same island after Hurricane Wanaka in early October 2018. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Walaka was one of the strongest hurricanes to ever hit the region, but the Category 5 storm got little international attention since it didn’t strike any major population centers.

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Satellite imagery shows what’s left of East Island in October 2018 after Hurricane Walaka. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Instead, the storm’s significant impact was on the environment. Walaka quietly made the remote East Island of Hawaii disappear from satellite imagery.

Before and after photos show the island in May, then after the hurricane in October.

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Hawaii East Island disappears off the maps after Hurricane Walaka in early October 2018.

Only tiny stretches of sand can still be seen; the rest is underwater.

That’s a holy s***— moment… Like ‘Oh my God, it’s gone! It’s one more chink in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled.

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The French Frigate Shoals (the chain of islands where East Island is located) before Hurricane Walaka. Photo by Dan Link / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

While the 11-acre island was uninhabited by people, it held immense ecological importance. Nearly half of Hawaiian green sea turtles nested on East Island.  It was the most important single islet for sea turtle nesting.

One in seven Hawaiian monk seals, which are an endangered species, were born on East Island.

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The French Frigate Shoals (the chain of islands where East Island is located) after Hurricane Walaka in October 2018. Photo by Dan Link / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

It’s too soon to determine what impact the island’s disappearance will have on the wildlife that called it home. But that’s amazing again!

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SFGate – Hawaiian island practically disappears off map after Hurricane Walaka

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