Fishing for Fish Balls

By Rick Shepker


While stationed on Midway Island I got a letter from my Dad. He wanted to know all about the island. He was fascinated by how utterly remote this place was. One of his main questions was, “what do you all do with your spare time?”


I wrote back, answering his question as best I could. After all, there really wasn’t all that much to do out here in one of the most desolate duty stations the U.S. Navy could send a Sailor. I told him about one of the things we would do, that everyone really enjoyed.


That was, after a storm, we would walk the beach looking for fish balls.


Original version is Image:Oceanic gyres.png. T...

Original version is Image:Oceanic gyres.png. The north pacific gyre is highlighted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Maybe I should have elaborated. I could have explained that because Midway Atoll is located smack-dab in the center of the North Pacific, hence the name “Midway,” it is also in the center of the vortex of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This garbage, now consisting of ninety percent plastic, accumulates on the beaches of Midway. This garbage represents a hazard to the bird population of the island. Twenty tons of plastic debris washes up on Midway every year with five tons of that debris being fed to Albatross chicks, because the parents of the chicks mistake it for marine life.


Being from the Midwest, he had no idea what I was talking about when I referred to our search for fish balls, and as I said, I offered no explanation.


A few weeks later I receive a brief one line note from him that stated:


“Your eyesight is much improved.”


Here is a picture of a Japanese “fish ball” provided by Martin Barker, from one he found on the Midway Islands. It is valued at about $300.00:


Photo Credit: Martin Barker

Photo Credit:
Martin Barker
This is a beautiful specimen of a Japanese hand-crafted glass float, with it’s original hemp rope work. This antique “fish ball” was found in the 1960’s on Midway Atoll. It is stamped by the glass blower with a symbol that denotes
“Good Luck”



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