Galapagos Cruise -The Second Day

(see Day One above)
The Legend cruised west to Floreana during the evening, anchoring off a small, curved beach on the North side of the island that led to a trail into the interior. This area is called the Post Office because a Captain James Colnett in the 1750’s put a barrel on shore so that passing sailors could place mail to be picked up by homeward bound sailors and delivered to the addressee in Wales or some such place. 

This system is still in place as visitors deliver post cards and passing “sailors” select those addressed to places close to their homes. One woman did find one addressed to a home a few blocks from her Ohio home and, I presume, it has been delivered by now.

Alejandro gave an historical view of Floreana, focusing on the fact that it has the only freshwater source, a spring in the hills, of any of the islands. This means there were permanent settlers here. There were three groups of interest. The first was a group of four, one woman and three lovers, who arrived in the late 19th Century. Apparently, one of the lovers left, only to be replaced  by a new fellow, but after that, another one left and then suddenly the woman disappeared.  This woman was called the Duchess on account of the fact she was married to a Duke. Good enough for me, but I would like to know what happened to the Duke!

The next group was Norwegians who read a report from some fishermen that the Galapagos were a paradise. So they sold everything and travelled to Floreana, built a factory and went broke as there were no customers. They soon realized that the fishermen were referring to the Galapagos as a paradise because of the off-shore fishing. (An earlier Spanish explorer had reported to the King of Spain that the Galapagos, because of the arid condition and no water that he could find “was hell on earth.” He didn’t find the water source on Floreana! )  So they left.
The third group in the 1920-30 period, included a woman who left the island, travelled to California, then to the US east coast, then to Germany only to be killed in a British air raid in 1943. I have this vision of her travelling in pursuit of her fate. Don’t we all?

After the history lesson, we went snorkeling. After the murkey water yesterday, this was clear. I noted amazing fish, Pacer’s Angels, one of my favorites, everywhere along with butterflies, Meyeri etc, grunts, parrott fish, and assorted invertebrates including orange polyps and some soft leather corals. The most interesting part of dive found me suddenly in the midst of ten green pacific sea turtles. They are wonderful animals and watching them eagerly eat the alga from the rocks was fun, even when they were pushing me around.
The dive lasted for about an hour and we returned to the ship for lunch and rest.

In the afternoon we landed on a green beach due to oivine in the sand. Alejandro had shown us the different sand. Olivine is mineral sand, as are sands created from sandstone. These get hot. Those created from organics, shells, bones etc. don’t get hot. Amazing.
The hike was a few hundred yards on a trail that followed the base of a small mountain, until we encountered a brackish lagoon of about 100 acres that housed about twenty Flamingos. There was some discussion of how the flamingos got to Floreanna, and whether the crustaceans they ate had to preceede them to the lagoon. This was because Alejandro had discussed the need for a favorable niche when a specie arrived on Galapagos.
Flamingos are beautiful, and Alejandro explained that they stand on one leg and tuck their long necks into their wings to take pressure off their hearts. He said we do the same thing when we shift feet etc.

From the lagoon, we walked to a cresent beach that was amazing. We saw evidence of turlle egg laying, trails, dug holes, and, we saw dozens of turtles floating like so many black mines in the shallow water just off the beach, waiting for dark to lay their eggs. Ajejandro sugggested that we take our shoes off but shuffle if we walked in the water due to sting rays in the very shallow water. I was at first dubious, but Alejandro kicked one up in the first ten feet, then we found theme to be everywhere, in the sand and in the shallow water. Looking over the bay, I noted a school of Eagle Rays frolicking on the surface, and other evidence of adundant sea life here, like birds skimming the surface and Pelicans diving.

We walked back to the olivine beach, (The white sand was organic and not hot, the oivine on the other side was mineral and hot. He was right.) And boarded the inflatables for the trip to the boat. By this time, we were adept and getting on and off an inflatable in the surf. There is a trick to it. 

I will describe Sta Cruz and the giant tortoises tomorrow.

Galapagos Cruise, The First Day

After spending a rainy day in Quito, we spent four nights in the Galapagos. These islands, made famous by Charles Darwin who spent five weeks of a five year cruise collecting specimins here in 1835. There are ten major islands, and we visited four islands: St. Cristobal where we our flight from Quito landed, Espanola, Floreana and Santa Cruz before flying to Quito from Bitra.

The ship we were on is the Galapagos Legend, a former hospital ship in Viet Nam that is in perfect shape and size. My first USN ship, the Greenwich Bay, was about the same size, so I was very much at home. From St. Cristobal we sailed south to Espanola, the oldest at 3.6 million years of the islands. (the youngest Isabela and Fernandina are 600,000 years old.) They are all volcanic like Hawaii.

We took inflatables to shore and made a wet entry into the surf. We encountered a cluster of sea lions and Alejandro Villa, my group’s naturalist guide, explained the family structure which has as many as thirty females and one alpha male. Alejandro describes the alpha’s challenge which is to keep intruders at bay. He fought off one, lots of barking, wrestling, and biting, and the intruder retreated. Then another one showed up, emerging from the sea. The alpha then ran after him and he retreated into the sea. Both emerged some minutes later, the alpha near shore, the pretender well out to sea.

As this played out, the former intruder started rolling in the sand towards the females. Alejandro said he was pretending to be female, and when he got to the female scrum, he started muzzling them, but no one paid attention. One wonders why!!

This drama is played out on beaches around the world every day, but here it was particularly poignant.

We then walked the beach and then went snorkeling, but the water was murky and the current very strong; then we went to lunch.

Lunch on the Legend was very pleasent. Fruit, fish, vegetables, great salads, and then time off.

In the afternoon we moved around the island and started with a dry landing on a pier. We then started a hike over a mile or two of volcanic boulders, of various sizes, some split and angular, some sharp edged. There was no smblance of a trial other than some stakes painted white stuck between bolders. The first stop was to watch young sea lions frolic in the shallows, then we marched to find albatrosses in their nursery. It was late in the season, but we did find a few and they are wonderful, large, majestic birds. They breed near a cliff so that they can launch their flight from the cliff. They then spend six years at sea feeding on krill before returning home to breed. It seems they can sleep while flying by turning off half their brain. I find that interesting and wonder who did that research!! We then progressed to a field where the flora was low growing succulents in pastel colors, cherry red, yellow, purple, It looked like a Scottish hill side. We then found a group of nesting Blue Footed Boobies. And they are blue footed and appear to be boobies. They are interesting birds, and they paid no atttention to us. We then scampered up a incline over lava ridges. Then back to the boat on fairly level ground. The hike ended and we boated back to the Legend. Espanola was a terrrific first day in the Galapagos.
Several of us were discussing the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner and the poor sailor with an albatross around his neck, of course, killing that bird should have had some consequence. Tomorrow, Floreanna.