Discovery of Midway
Like on many of the low islands and atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the first visitors to what is now called Midway Atoll may have been Polynesians/Hawaiians exploring the Pacific in voyaging canoes. Unfortunately, no physical evidence of their visits remains, but oral histories and chants refer to distant low-lying islands with abundant birds and turtles. Native Hawaiians named the atoll "Pihemanu," which means "the loud din of birds."
Captain N.C. Brooks was the first Westerner to "discover" Midway aboard the Gambia from Honolulu in 1859. He claimed Midway for the U.S., based on the Guano Act of 1856, which authorized Americans to temporarily occupy uninhabited islands to obtain guano. Captain Brooks named the atoll "Middlebrooks," reflecting its position between the U.S. west coast and Japan, and himself. The United States took formal possession of the unoccupied islands in 1867. Later, the name was changed to Midway. Hidden beneath the salty Pacific, the coral atolls along the northwestern Hawaiian chain put an abrupt end to many a daring seafarer's adventure. Though the first intentional settlers arrived in 1903, earlier castaways spent many a day struggling to survive on these harsh islands. For example, the General Siegel and the Wandering Minstrel wrecked on Midway's reefs in 1886 and 1888