The BBC produced a great documentary that chronicles the life of Galapagos Islands. Their story is very much a story of life and death—our voyage aboard the Endeavor very much like sailing through time. The Galapagos were born from the sea millions of years ago—so the story begins—the result of geologic forces and volcanic activity in a region that is still very active today. The younger islands lie to the west, the oldest in the east. Fernandina is the youngest of them all—perhaps only 20,000 years old— showing little life in her youth. Santa Cruz—middle aged and mature—is covered in plants and rich with life. Furthest east is Hispaniola, the oldest of them all, withering away, fracturing and sinking. “One day she will descend beneath sea from which she rose,” says the narrator. “All the other islands will meet the same fate just like countless islands before them,” she says. It is a beautiful story of creation. And like all creatures, and all the creatures here in the Galapagos, each island is unique.
What Iguana? —I Only Got the Picture of You
Our story begins its second day. It picks up on North Seymour, a small island just north of Santa Cruz. It is an island of blue-footed boobies who honk and whistle and dance—if the chemistry is right. Everybody loves the boobies. The iridescent blue of their feet is mesmerizing; their mating practices—pure entertainment. It is an island of frigate birds too. Not to be outdone, male frigates have developed their own theatrical display and to attract a mate they will pump air into a bright-red, sack-like throat that will inflate like a party balloon.
The island tells its own story of adaptation. A careful examination of the terrain reveals a world of land iguanas perfectly blended in to the desert landscape. (I sent my wife a picture of myself with a land iguana in the foreground—she replied that she only got the picture of me). These guys and gals don’t swim like their marine counterparts and instead of foraging for ocean algae they will feed off of the fruit of low-lying cacti. They’re stout too, growing up to 30 pounds or so—maybe a few ocean laps would do them some good. Anyway, the prickly pear cacti of North Seymour have shed themselves of their mostly shrub like characteristics and adapted, to protect themselves, by growing upward, beyond the reach of predators below.
A World Beneath Us
A few hours west of North Seymour is Rabida where we anchor for a bit for some snorkeling. We launch off the sides of the zodiacs into somewhat chilly water—it’s relative of course, but it’s certainly warmer than the ocean water just off the coast of California. We travel with an aggregate of parrotfish and yellow razorbacks for a while until we spot a sea turtle and alter our course. An aggregate—by the way—is when more than one type of fish is travelling together. I’m learning here. Anyway, we follow the sea turtle into deeper and darker waters until it all but disappears. Deeper and darker still are the silhouettes of a dozen or more eagle rays below us. It is too much for one day and more than enough for any vacation. And with that we go back to the Endeavor, our home away home.