western pacific ocean

There is trouble in paradise — but that is nothing new for Guam.

The U.S. island territory in the western Pacific Ocean is ringed by beaches, studded with palm trees and packed with bombs. It’s small but strategically significant.

After President Trump threatened to bring “fire and fury” down on North Korea, Pyongyang said Wednesday that it is “carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam.”

The declaration might come as a surprise to some mainland Americans, but North Korea has long had a hostile eye turned toward Guam, which is about 2,100 miles away from the Korean Peninsula. The U.S., in turn, has heavily fortified Guam — in part to keep an eye on North Korea.

Guam — only about 30 miles long and 4 miles across at its narrowest point — is located about three-quarters of the way from Hawaii to the Philippines. The isolated island is home to thousands of U.S. troops stationed at Andersen Air Force Base and Naval Base Guam.

Why Is North Korea Threatening Guam?

Map: Leanne Abraham/NPR


A couple of days ago I had the great luck to swim with a Dugong in the Red Sea, Egypt. The dugong is a medium-sized marine mammal. It is one of four living species of the order Sirenia, which also includes three species of manatees. The dugong is the only strictly marine herbivorous mammal. The dugong is easily distinguished from the manatees by its fluked, dolphin-like tail, but also possesses a unique skull and teeth. Its snout is sharply downturned, an adaptation for feeding in benthic seagrass communities. The molar teeth are simple and peg-like unlike the more elaborate molar dentition of manatees.
Dugongs are found in warm coastal waters from the western Pacific Ocean to the eastern coast of Africa, they are generally found in warm waters around the coast with large numbers concentrated in wide and shallow protected bays.

Western Pacific Ocean (Oct. 25, 2003) – An F/A-18 Hornet assigned to the “Mighty Shrikes” of Strike Fighter Squadron Ninety Four (VFA-94), flies over the Western Pacific Ocean during flight operations aboard USS Nimitz (CVN 68). The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and Carrier Air Wing Eleven (CVW-11) are deployed to the Western Pacific. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Elizabeth Thompson. (RELEASED)

Radial filefish (Acreichthys radiatus)

The radial filefish is a species of demersal marine fish which belongs to the family Monacanthidae widespread throughout the tropical waters of the western Pacific Ocean, from Ryukyu Islands, the Philippines,the oriental part of Indonesia, the Papua New Guinea, the north east area of Australia, and New Caledonia.It’s a small size fish that can reach a maximum size of 7 cm length.

photo credits: Elias Levy


Meet the “Wonderpus” octopus - native to waters off the Philippines and Bali, Western Pacific Ocean

PACIFIC OCEAN (May 21, 2008) A Marine AH-1A Super Cobra fast-attack helicopter passes by the amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa (LHA 1) during sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Tarawa is on a scheduled deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility operating in the western Pacific and Indian oceans. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Daniel A. Barker/Released)

Bluespotted ribbontail ray (Taeniura lymma) by PhotoStock-Israel The bluespotted ribbontail ray (Taeniura lymma) is a species of stingray in the family Dasyatidae. Found from the intertidal zone to a depth of 30 m (100 ft), this species is common throughout the tropical Indian and western Pacific Oceans in nearshore, coral reef-associated habitats. This ray is capable of injuring humans with its venomous tail spines, though it prefers to flee if threatened. Because of its beauty and size, the bluespotted ribbontail ray is popular with private aquarists despite being poorly suited to captivity. Photographed in the Red Sea Israel

Game-changing Amelia Earhart picture

The retired federal agent who discovered what he believes is the first photographic evidence of Amelia Earhart alive and well after crash-landing in the Pacific Ocean during her attempted round-the-world flight says he didn’t understand the significance of the image until years later.

The black-and-white photo is of a group of people standing on a dock on Jaluit Atoll in the Marshall Islands, including one who seems to be a slim woman with her back to the camera. A new documentary airing in the US on Sunday claims the figure is the famed aviator who disappeared 80 years ago this month.

Retired US Treasury Agent Les Kinney said in an interview on Wednesday with The Associated Press that he was looking for clues surrounding Earhart’s disappearance in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, when he found the photograph in 2012 in a box filled mostly with text documents from the Office of Naval Intelligence but “didn’t really look at it carefully” because he was looking over thousands of documents and images.

In 2015, he took another pass at the photo. “I looked at it and I went, ‘I can’t believe this!”’ He asked his wife to come over and pointed to the seated person, asking if it seemed to her to be a man or a woman. “She said, 'It’s a woman!”’ His search led him to identify the ship seen at the right apparently pulling Earhart’s plane wreckage on a barge.

The image is at the heart of the two-hour Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, which argues that Earhart, along with her navigator Fred Noonan, crash-landed in the Japanese-held Marshall Islands, where they were picked up by the Japanese military and held prisoner.

In the documentary, that photo is subjected to facial-recognition and other forensic testing, such as torso measurements. Experts on the show claim the subjects are likely Earhart and Noonan.

Others aren’t convinced, including Dorothy Cochrane, a curator at the National Air and Space Museum and an expert on women in aviation. She said the blurry image isn’t conclusive. “I cannot say definitively that this is Amelia Earhart. That doesn’t mean that it might not be, somehow. But you can’t say that just through the image the way it is.”

The disappearance of Earhart and Noonan on July 2, 1937, in the Western Pacific Ocean has been the subject of continuing searches, research and debate.

The longstanding official theory is that the famed pilot ran out of gas and crashed into deep ocean waters northwest of Howland Island, a tiny speck in the South Pacific that she and Noonan missed.

While the photo is undated, Kinney strongly believes it was taken in July 1937, and he is convinced it shows Earhart and Noonan, based on other evidence including physical landmarks and islanders’ recollections.

Kinney said the presence of two Caucasians on Jaluit Atoll prior to WWII was very unusual. The man’s distinctive widow’s peak seems to match Noonan’s. As for the figure with her back to the camera: “You have one that has a striking resemblance to Amelia Earhart from the back, including the short hair.”

Kinney suspects the pair may have been picked up by a fishing boat and handed over to Japanese authorities, who initially may have had no intention of keeping them. That may explain why there are no handcuffs or restraints in the photo.

EAST CHINA SEA (March 16, 2008) Capt. Michael Manazir, commanding officer of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), performs a high speed fly-by in an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Tophatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, before making his career 1,000th trap. The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group is deployed with the U.S. 7th Fleet operating in the western Pacific and Indian oceans. The 7th Fleet is the largest of the forward-deployed fleets with approximately 50 ships, 120 aircraft and 20,000 Sailors and Marines assigned at any given time. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman John Wagner (Released)


Whiteface Waspfish

The Whiteface waspfish, is a species of waspfish reaching about 4 inches in length native to reefs of the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific Ocean. This fish inhabits silty coastal reefs and sheltered sand habitats in coastal bays and deep offshore. The whiteface waspfish is nocturnal, coming out at dusk, and usually buries itself in the sand during the day. It is uncommon and mainly known from prawn trawling grounds. 


The banded sea krait (Laticauda colubrina) is arguably the most recognizable of the sea snakes. Similar to other sea snakes, the banded sea krait is quite venemous, but not aggressive towards divers. As they need sources of freshwater to survive, they can often be found on land. These snakes hunt in a fashion similar to moray eels, where they wiggle their way into small crevasses and flush prey out. This species is widespread throughout the western Pacific and eastern Indian Oceans.

Photo sources

A small group of us went out looking for whales one day out in Palau, far out from shore. We thought we’d seen signs of the whales, so a few of us jumped into the water and while we were looking around these Silky Sharks suddenly appeared out of nowhere (we were out in the bluewater, meaning that you couldn’t see the bottom or any structure or island around you). The Silky Sharks were attracted by our splashing and the sounds of the boat.

These types of sharks live out in the open ocean, well away from coastal waters and reefs. To survive in that barren environment, they need to be extremely fast, agile and able to sense and hunt prey from a great distance. I loved interacting with these beautiful and inquisitive sharks - photo taken offshore Palau, Western Pacific Ocean

PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 29, 2008) An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the “Kestrels” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 137 refuels an EA-6B Prowler assigned to the “Lancers” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 131 over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) during an air power demonstration performed by aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2. The USS Abraham Lincoln Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility operating in the Western Pacific and Indian oceans. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans/Released)

Sailors tend the phone and distance line aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) as it maintains station alongside the Military Sealift Command Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8) during an underway replenishment evolution in the western Pacific Ocean. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia-Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers/Released)


Hypselodoris bullockii

…is a colorful species of Chromodoridid nudibranch that is native to the tropical western Pacific Ocean and the eastern Indian Ocean. Although H. bullockii is typically a light purple color, it is surprisingly quite variable in color and can occupy a large range of colors. Like all other 7chromodorid nudibranchs H. bullockii feeds almost exclusively on sponges.


Animalia-Mollusca-Gastropoda-Heterobranchia-Euthyneura-Nudipleura-Nudibranchia-Doridoidea-Chromodoridae-Hypselodoris-H. bullockii

Images: Jens Petersen and Samuel Chow