Sunday, December 30, 2012

Midway Christmas

It was a nice Christmas here.  We had a gift exchange at Capt. Brooks' on Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Day, some of the albatross nest counters volunteered to do the Christmas Bird Count for the Audobon Society.  I'm impressed that they want to count birds on their day off from counting birds.  We did that for half a day, and after a really good Christmas dinner, a large group went out snorkeling at Reef Hotel.  The water is a lot cooler now, but that makes it much clearer since there's not as many tiny organisms growing in the water.  I got quite a few decent fish pictures, but I'm only posting a few since I've got more pictures than usual.  I'll put them up sometime when I don't have as many.

Capt. Brooks' is all set up for the gift exchange.  The tree is decorated with the marine debris ornaments.

Santa is stating the rules for the gift exchange.  You can only steal presents twice before they are out of play.

The Clipper House staff set up the community table again for Christmas dinner.  We had turkey, pork, baked black cod, and beef Wellington for the main dishes.  I was great as usual.

This is Dasha's marine debris ornament made from 3 plastic floats.  She drew on some Christmas turtles for good measure.

Last year I painted some flying birds on a blue float, this time I put a turtle, dolphin, and some fish on a blue float.

These are threadfin butterflyfish.

This is a bluespine unicornfish. This is an easy name to remember since it has blue spines near the tail and a "horn" on it's head.  There's a tiny saddle wrasse following it.

I've tried for a long time to get a good photo of a pearl wrasse and one finally cooperated.

These are 2 of the Pacific golden plovers that Dasha and I counted during the Christmas Bird Count.

The green sea turtles are taking advantage of some nice, sunny weather on Turtle Beach.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays from Midway

There's not that much news again, but it's good to have a few extra people on island.  It gave the band an excuse to play, which they haven't for quite a while.  We haven't had too much other excitement around here.  The albatross counters are working hard every day counting all of the albatross nests, so they really don't have much time for anything else.  The weather has been very cool and windy lately, but we still might try for reef trip in the next day or two for snorkeling and to make sure everything's good out there.

The albatross nest counters count in a line so they don't miss any nests.

 We had our annual marine debris ornament making party at Capt. Brooks' Tavern.  I'll put up some ornament photos next week.

 Dasha is helping to pick up some lines off the beach.  They are an entanglement hazzard for the seals and turtles.

 Here are some anchors in the field near the harbors.  I'm not sure why they were put there originally other than Navy decoration.
Two Lasysan albatross flying by.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

'Escape from Planet Earth': new poster

Silver Screen Saucers

Check out the new poster for The Weinstein Company’s upcoming animated adventure Escape from Planet Earth...
Escape from Planet Earth lands in theatersFebruary 14, 2013. Here’s the official blurb:

“The 3D animated family comedy catapults moviegoers to planet Baab where admired astronaut Scorch Supernova (Brendan Fraser) is a national hero to the blue alien population. A master of daring rescues, Scorch pulls off astonishing feats with the quiet aid of his nerdy, by-the-rules brother, Gary (Rob Corddry), head of mission control at BASA. When BASA's no-nonsense chief Lena (Jessica Alba) informs the brothers of an SOS from a notoriously dangerous planet, Scorch rejects Gary's warnings and bounds off for yet another exciting mission. But when Scorch finds himself caught in a fiendish trap set by the evil Shanker (James Gandolfini), it's up to scrawny, risk-adverse Gary to do the real rescuing. As the interplanetary stakes rise to new heights, Gary is left to save his brother, his planet, his beloved wife Kira (Sarah Jessica Parker) and their adventure hungry son Kip.”

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Albatross Counters and Island News

We've got some new people on island for the next couple of weeks, but with a lot of our island population gone for vacation, it's still pretty quiet on island.  We've got our annual albatross nest counters here to tally up all of the Laysan and Black-footed albatross nests on all 3 islands.  My wife, Dasha, also came out for a couple of weeks.  We haven't seen each other for a few months, so it's about time.

There was some news from Tern Island this week.  They were hit with a short but violent windstorm last week and there was quite a bit of damage to the facilities there. Everybody is ok, but it will take a lot to get it up and running again.  Here's a link to the press release: 

We're losing our neighbors out in the archipelago.  The field camp on Laysan Island was evacuated on Nov. 4 for a medical issue.  Article:

The only currently inhabited places in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are at Midway and Kure Atolls. 

 Dasha is feeding the one White tern that is left from the chicks saved from the lead paint removal project.  We've been feeding three of them for the past few weeks and two flew away on Friday.  We're usually feeding them frozen smelt from the grocery store.

 The albatross nests aren't near as dense in the trees as they are in the open areas.

This area is near Brackish pond.  It doesn't look much like the rest of the island over here.  A few albatrosses try to nest, but the water is still rising, so they get flooded out.

 It was a cloudy day at the cargo pier on Saturday, but it was one of the few non-windy days for the past month, so Dasha and I went for a quick snorkel under the pier.

 There are large schools of fish under the pier, including chubs, jacks, needlefish, and like in the picture, yellow-fin goatfish.

A small green sea turtle swims below.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wahlberg mad for 'Transformers 4'

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Wahlberg: mental
It’s official: Mark Wahlberg has lost his mind. The star of Boogie Nights, Three Kings, The Departed, and The Fighter (keep those meaty titles in mind) last month officially accepted a role in Michael Bay’s Transformers 4.

This was a clear sign of insanity. But now, a new statement by Wahlberg about the movie would seem to confirm the complete loss of the actor’s marbles. At a recent press junket, Wahlberg told

"I'm really excited about Transformers. Michael Bay and I just did Pain & Gain and we had such a good time making it. He came to me and said, 'I'm kind of doing a whole different reboot on Transformers. Are you interested?' I said, 'Yeah, I'll do it!' I loved the idea and I think we can make something really cool and kick-ass. This is not something where it's already established and I'm just in there to get a paycheck. I'm thinking this is the most important role of my career and I can do something really special."

Really, Mark? The most important role of your career? Really??

Transformers 4 is to shoot in May 2013 for a theatrical release on June 27, 2014.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

'Giant Interdimensional Monsters from the Deep!' AKA: 'Pacific Rim' new trailer & poster

Silver Screen Saucers

"We always thought alien life would come from the stars... but it came from deep beneath the sea -- a portal between dimensions in the Pacific Ocean..."

Check out the trailer for Guillermo del Toro's epic alien monster movie, Pacific Rim...

Iconic alien movie props up for auction

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Ever dreamed of owning a 'real' facehugger, 'authentic' Kryptonite, the actual mask worn by Predator, or even the alien robot Gort's actual head (who hasn't, right)?

Well dream no more, because these and other iconic movie props will be available for purchase at the Profiles in History auction, which takes place Dec. 15 and 16. 

The only catch is you'll need a pretty healthy bank account to afford anything:


Facehugger from Aliens (1986) -- $20,000 - 30,000

Gort's head, as featured in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) -- £100,000 - 150,000

Lethal Kryptonite as featured in the 50's Superman series -- £5000 - 7000

Mask worn by the Predator in the 1987 movie -- $12,000 - 15,000

Lightsaber used by Luke Skywalker during the final battle between Luke and Vader in Return of the Jedi -- $30,000 - $50,000

Head on over to Blastr to check out some of the other famous movie props up for auction. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

'Man of Steel': new trailer lands

Silver Screen Saucers

Superman's spaceship features in the new Man of Steel trailer

Check out the new trailer for Superman reboot Man of Steel, which seems to be placing a greater emphasis on the beefy Kryptonian's alien origin and threats from outer space (General Zod!) than did Bryan Singer's ponderous 2006 movie, Superman Returns...

For a shot-by-shot breakdown of the new trailer, head on over to io9.

UFO movie news round-up (11 Dec. 2012)

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

‘Oblivion’: trailer, poster & concept art

In theatres April 12, 2013, Oblivion stars Tom Cruise as Commander Jack Harper, one of the last remaining men on an uninhabited Earth. He repairs the drones which patrol the skies and protect the planet from warring aliens.

The first trailer is now online. Looks pretty epic...

Also check out the official poster (above) and concept art below.

Oblivion is written by William Monahan (The Departed) and directed by Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy).

All you need is Cruise (and military support)

On the subject of Tom Cruise and aliens, the couch-pummeling star was pictured recently shooting his other upcoming ET invasion epic, All You Need Is Kill (plot details here), which is scheduled for a March, 2014 release. These pics were snapped in London last month and show Cruise in military uniform stepping out of an RAF helicopter in the center of London’s iconic Trafalgar Square, which had been sealed off for filming. The military hardware on show in these pictures is a clear sign that the movie has received production assistance from the British Royal Air Force (RAF). There is no indication at this point that the US Department of Defense (DoD) has had any involvement in the production. More pics here.

Indiana Jones and the Lawsuit of the Crystal Skull

"Lawyers... why'd it have to be lawyers."

Lucasfilm, Disney and Paramount Pictures are being targeted by a lawsuit relating to a “stolen” Crystal Skull. The Lawsuit was filed last week on behalf of Dr. Jaime Awe, director of the Institute of Archeology of Belize. According to The Hollywood Reporter:

“This real-life Indiana Jones is suing on behalf of the nation of Belize over the Crystal Skull artifact, popularized in the 2008 Steven Spielberg film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Awe is demanding the return of the Crystal Skull from a treasure-hunting family that allegedly stole it 88 years ago from Belize. And if that's not enough, the lawsuit targets Lucasfilm, its new owner the Walt Disney Co. and Crystal Skull distributor Paramount Pictures for allegedly using a replica "likeness" of the Crystal Skull. Among the damages claimed are the "illegal profits" of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The movie grossed about $786 million worldwide.” More here.

Disney heads to ‘Terra Incognita’

Walt Disney Pictures has cooked up yet another original sci-fi (and potentially alien-themed) project called Terra Incognita.

Variety reports that Guardians of the Galaxy's Nicole Perlman will pen the screenplay.

The premise for Terra Incognitahas yet to be disclosed by Disney, but the title references a Latin term for "unknown land" that is most commonly associated with ancient cartography.

Terra Incognita joins Disney’s sci-fi production line-up along with the (allegedly) alien-themed 1952 and an
untitled space adventure from screenwriter Max Landis.

New ‘X-Files’ movie and TV reboot?

Former X-Files producer Frank Spotnitz told Den of Geek recently that he would love to make a third X-Files film with the existing cast to bring the series to a close.

Apparently Spotnitz and X-Files creator Chris Carter have been discussing the idea and, although not yet at the scripting stage, the movie would likely be “the climax of the alien colonization story that began the series."

Spotnitz was also asked whether he thought The X-Filescould return to TV the way Star Trek did. He told DoG:

"I wouldn't be surprised at all. I mean, I don't think I would have anything to do with it but you know, for better or for worse, these things are titles of big corporations, like Star Trek belongs to Paramount and The X-Files belongs to Twentieth Century Fox and it's a huge asset in their libraries so I can't imagine they would let it sit languishing forever.

Anything could happen. I just hope that if they do it, they do it well, that's my only request."


First-time director Tim Miller has been chosen by Sony to helm an adaptation of Joe Haldeman's short sci-fi story, Seasons. The tale, which features in the author's anthology "Dealing in Futures," is about an anthropological study of a sexless – and supposedly placid – alien race. But when the seasons change on the aliens’ home world, so too do the aliens’ personalities. Needless to say, things go horribly wrong for the anthropologists.

Currently in its early stages of development, Seasons will be drafted by Sebastian Gutierrez and produced by Michael De Luca with Alissa Phillips executive producing.

Monday, December 10, 2012

UFO Disclosure: world leaders use Hollywood as safety net

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last week confirmed that extraterrestrial visitation is a reality... or did he?

In footage recorded Friday following a television interview, Medvedev commented to a reporter that every Russian leader is presented with two folders containing Top Secret information about alien visitation.

In the footage, Medvedev tells a REN TV journalist he could not reveal "how many of them are among us, because it may cause panic."

The Russian PM did not appear to be “joking” (contrary to the mainstream media’s take on this story) having made his statements without a hint of a smile. The only part of Medvedev’s ‘disclosure’ that, on the face of it, would cast doubt on its seriousness was a reference to the film Men in Black, which Medvedev advised the journalist to watch for more detailed information on how alien activity on Earth is covertly monitored. And yet, those familiar with UFO history will know that the Men in Black movies, although layered with fantasy, are strongly rooted in fact.

The journalist, of course, chuckles quietly throughout Medvedev’s seemingly bizarre statement, despite the PM’s deadpan delivery.
Here is Prime Minister Medvedev’s ‘alien’ statement in full as printed in the UK Telegraph:
“The president of the country is given a special 'top secret' folder. This folder in its entirety contains information about aliens who visited our planet. Along with this, you are given a report of the absolutely secret special service that exercises control over aliens on the territory of our country... More detailed information on this topic you can get from a well-known movie called 'Men in Black'... I will not tell you how many of them are among us because it may cause panic."

Notably, Medvedev's comments were made off-air and he was seemingly unaware that cameras were still rolling. The footage was later delivered to Reuters as a pool signal before being uploaded to YouTube.
This incident has very strong echoes of Reagan's 'ET is real' announcement back in 1981 during the White House screening of ET: The Extraterrestrial, at which director Steven Spielberg was present. “There are a number of people in this room who know that everything on that screen is absolutely true,” said the President to his distinguished guests who included politicians, military officers and astronauts. “And he said it without smiling!” confirmed Spielberg.

Despite giving no indication that he was joking, Reagan’s guests nevertheless erupted into laughter. How else were they to have responded to a statement of this nature immediately following the screening of a science fiction film? Polite guffaws were the only way to go, as Reagan would surely have been well aware.

The President – himself a Hollywood veteran – would also have known that the sci-fi context of the E.T. screening would act as a natural safety net for his otherwise earthshaking statement. For Reagan, this was a rare opportunity to ‘publicly’ speak the truth about an issue that had occupied his mind for decades without fear of the walls crashing down around him.

Medvedev’s recent statement about aliens certainly has parallels with Reagan’s: the Russian PM gave absolutely no hint of a smile, yet the perplexed journalist responded with laughter anyway, either out of surprise, discomfort, politeness, or all three.

If nothing else, the Reagan and Medvedev statements and the jovial responses they elicited raises the question: other than a formal televised press conference beamed live from the White House, the Kremlin, 10 Downing Street, etc., are there any circumstances in which heads of state can tell members of the public ‘aliens are real’ and expect to be taken seriously?  

The answer would seem to be ‘no’. This is not surprising. To most of those outside of the UFO research field, the subject of alien visitation inherently seems so fantastical that anything other than a ‘bells and whistles’ government press conference confirming its reality is dismissed out of hand as “humour.”

Not incidentally, both the Reagan and Medvedev 'disclosures' were linked to Spielberg productions: ET and Men in Black respectively. In this sense, it would seem that Spielberg is the go-to guy in Hollywood for world leaders attempting to publicly contextualise an otherwise dauntingly complex phenomenon. When it comes to the thorny issue of UFO Disclosure, Hollywood matters, and so does Spielberg.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dec. 7, 1941

On Dec. 7, 1941, the same day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, Midway was also attacked by two Japanese ships.  First Lt. George H. Cannon was mortally wounded and became the first U.S. Marine to receive the Medal of Honor in WWII.   I've got a short version of the story in a photo below. 

We had a visit from some of our Washington D.C. staff, regional staff, our new monument superintendent, and one of the Assistant Secretaries of the Interior.  It's always good to have people in the organization see what we do out here at one of the most unique wildlife refuges in the country.

The Thai King's birthday was on Dec 5th.  There's usually a celebration on island for that.  This year we had a presentation and food and drink at one of the Thai houses. 

 This is the memorial to First Lt. George Cannon outside of the old command post/power plant.

This is the story of George Cannon.  If you click on the photo, it should open up large enough for you to read.

 Our group of visitors took a trip over to Eastern Island to see the progress of the verbesina removal project and the endangered Short-tailed albatross.

 The Short-tailed albatross female was near her usual spot, but so far doesn't have an egg.  It looks like they may skip breeding this year. The female is young, and she's had a chick two years in a row, so I wouldn't be surprised to see them take a year off.  It's still possible that she'll lay an egg though.

An exhibit honoring the Thai King was set up at the Clipper House.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Aliens on the ‘Horizon’ for ‘Walking Dead’ producer

By Robbie Graham Silver Screen Saucers

The Walking Deadproducer Gale Anne Hurd (who also gave us The Terminator and Aliens) is moving ahead with a new alien-themed TV series for USA titled Horizon. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series revolves around an alien battle in the South Pacific:

"Set during the height of World War II, Horizon centers on a secretary at the FBI who discovers that her husband might have been killed in a battle with a spaceship in the South Pacific. Obsessed with learning the truth, she becomes the only person standing between Earth and an alien invasion."

The show is to be written and co-produced by Bridget Tyler, who has worked on Burn Notice. Deadlinequotes USA co-president Jeff Wachtel and Chris McCumber as saying:

"Horizonis our first genre piece since The 4400 and the first-ever period drama for the network..." 

A secret war with aliens during WWII? Sounds suspiciously familiar to Dark Skies... No, not the new alien abduction movie Dark Skies, but the ‘90s TV series from which the former borrowed *cough-stole-cough* its name. Still, at least there’s no outright thievery going on here, and the tightly focused premise of the show – covert alien battles in the South Pacific – certainly has potential. Let’s just hope Gale Anne Hurd takes more than a few pages from Battleship’s book... and then rips them to shreds.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Robbie Graham PhD announcement

Dear friends and colleagues,

I am writing to inform you of my decision to withdraw from my PhD programme at the University of Bristol.

The reasons for my PhD withdrawal are threefold:

My primary reason for enrolling on the PhD programme in 2009 was to provide myself with an avenue that would safely and steadily lead to a book – the idea being to complete a PhD thesis and then adapt it for a populist market. However, populist opportunities having presented themselves several years ahead of my original expectations, the PhD is now far less vital to me than it once was.

Reason number two for my PhD withdrawal is that – having been enrolled in postgraduate studies for several years – I am now absolutely certain that a career in academia holds no appeal for me. I had originally considered that I might wish to pursue a career as a university lecturer. However, as a doctoral candidate it has been my experience that high-level academia is too often intellectually stifling, elitist, insular and regurgitatory. My preferred readership as a writer is populist and journalistic, not academic. I see little point in completing a PhD thesis that (as with virtually all PhD theses) will be read by only handful of individuals in a university library.  

Reason number three trumps reasons one and two: it is financial. As my PhD is self-funded and a constant monetary drain on my household, I find it impossible to justify three years further spending on a programme I now believe will be of little-to-no use to me professionally.

For the above reasons, the continuation of my PhD programme is no longer a viable option for me.

Obviously, this has been a major decision for me, one that I have not taken lightly. But I am pleased to say I have no doubts whatsoever about the choice I have made. I am a proud person, but not foolishly so. Continuing with a PhD I no longer want or need for a further three years is plain foolishness.*

Despite my above gripes regarding academia, my time to date on my doctoral programme has been extremely valuable and I don’t regret one minute of it. My time as a PhD candidate has allowed me to conduct a vast amount of research into the topic of UFOs and Hollywood from both cultural and political perspectives, and it has afforded me the opportunity to regularly present this research within the harsh scrutiny of an academic environment. Every last morsel of my academic research will now be adapted for the populist market and fill the pages of Silver Screen Saucers: Sorting Fact from Fantasy in Hollywood’s UFO Movies, which is on track for completion within the next six months.

The few people who were already aware of my PhD withdrawal have been overwhelmingly supportive of my decision, and I thank them. Thank you also to the fast flowing stream of visitors to Since its creation in February of last year, this humble little blog has received almost half-a-million visits – and it will continue to grow.

With appreciation,

Robbie Graham

*Though I began my doctoral programme as a full-time student in 2009, following a successful viva (a course upgrade following an internal examination) I decided in 2011 to take my PhD part-time before requesting a 12 month leave in order to pour more energy into my populist book, which was clashing with my doctoral studies. Though welcomed and encouraged by my PhD supervisors, these decisions extended my course duration to 2015. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Wisdom is Back

Wisdom, the oldest known wild bird, has returned.  Wisdom is a Laysan albatross who was banded while sitting on an egg on Dec. 10, 1956.  She was at least 5 years old at the time, so we say that she's at least 62.  She could be older, but that is the youngest that she would be.  A few days ago I came across Wisdom sitting on her egg, and while I was watching, her mate pushed her off the egg so he could take the first incubation shift.  She'll probably be gone for a few weeks.  

I don't have any news on a Short-tailed albatross nest on Eastern Island yet.  I'll get over there this week and see if the pair has nested again.  

 Wisdom's mate is sitting on the egg as she stands next to him.  She was gone the morning after I took this photo.

It's turning into winter around here.  The weather is cooling down and we're getting a lot of wind and rain.  This is the parade field on a rainy day last week.

One of the White terns that we've been feeding  is getting soaked in the rain.  We're only feeding 3 terns now.  It's been a few months since they became homeless, and the last 3 should start finding their own fish sometime soon.

 I haven't shown you a picture from the woods over on the west side of the island for a while.  The trail looks passable here, but as you get farther, more birds are nesting, and it's too difficult to get a cart through there.

This is the street that goes past the Midway House and Charlie Barracks.  I took this with my little Olympus camera with the "Dramatic" setting.  

I checked the south beach for tsunami debris.  I didn't find any, but I took a photo of the old wooden floats that were used to float the anti-submarine nets that they had back in earlier military days.  These are now used to reduce shoreline erosion.