The island has almost totally vanished. Image Credit: Facebook / Chris Fletcher / US Fish and Wildlife Service
An island in the remote Hawaiian archipelago was wiped off the face of the Earth by a storm earlier this month.
Part of the French Frigate Shoals, the 11-acre East Island disappeared underwater practically overnight after being hammered by Category 3 gales courtesy of Hurricane Walaka.
Its fate was discovered by scientists at the US Fish and Wildlife Service who had been monitoring the atoll with satellites. Earth sciences professor Chip Fletcher described the event as "one more chink in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled."
The loss of the island is particularly worrisome because it had supported a thriving ecosystem for several species including endangered monk seals of which only 1,400 remain in the world.
Half of Hawaii's green sea turtle population was also known to have nested at the island.
"This event is confronting us with what the future could look like," said Charles Littnan, protected species division director at the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).