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.