Tuesday, October 31, 2017

San Cristobal and Lobos Island, Galapagos, October 31, 2017

San Cristobal is the only island with fresh water and an airport in town.  It's the fifth largest island and has the second largest population.  The Chatham mockingbird is only found here.  It was first settled in 1880 by Manuel J Cobos who established a sugar factory.  He 'hired' prisoners to work in his factory, imported train cars and even minted his own money called the cobo.  His empire lasted 13 years until his workers revolted and killed him in 1904.  His son took over but he was not a businessman so was not successful.

I had two works of art this morning-

I think Alex likes me!  He's 30, young enough to be my son!

We went to town - Puerto Baquerizo Moreno-

to visit the museum.  It explained everything I've already read in Lying Planet including the tectonic plates, the Panama Current which brings warm water to the archapalego and the Humboltd Current which comes from the south and brings cooler water.  More than just the Norwegians and Manuel Cobos tried to live on the islands with no success.  It was after many attempts on many different islands with many different economic plans, much animal annihilation and all failures that the Ecuadorian government got involved and decided to keep the islands as an ecological paradise.  Luckily they did because the protection of the species is guaranteed.

Along the way-

After the museum I went to a cafe to contact Neinke, book a hotel in Guayaquil, check my email and  the bus schedule to Trujillo.  For 2 hours I tried to upload one blog post with no success.  The Internet is so slow that you don't even want to bother.  It was very frustrating but now things will just have to wait for another 2 days when I'm back to civilization!

This afternoon, we went walking on Los Lobos and saw the female Magnificent frigate with a chick.  The Magnificent has a blue color around her eyes.  The male has a purple sheen on his back feathers-

The beach is covered in stones of lava-

which makes walking rather difficult-

This blue footed boobie is with her chick who is about one week old-

A female blue footed boobie has a larger pupil than the male-

Frigate chicks-

Blue footed boobies-

We use our dinghy daily, whenever we need to leave the boat-

Tomorrow is my last day!  Looking forward to visiting Santa Fe and South Plaza!

P.S.  Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Suarez Point, Española Island, Galapagos, October 30, 2017

The day started with another creative decoration on my bed, complete with wine, glasses and an open Kindle-

I'm not the only one getting so well treated!  She's even wearing headphones and shoes!

We had a fantastic morning at Suarez Point on Isla Española.  It started out with marine iguanas, this time, multi colored-

There were many-

Next we saw Waved Albatross.  They show up on Española in January after spending the last few months flying over water.  They lay their egg, hatch it after 60 days, look after it and in _______ it's time to leave.  If the baby isn't ready, too bad.  They leave without him/her-

A juvenile-

A pair of albatross were also courting.  They did a dance where they would both bend their necks to the outside then sword fight with their beaks-

Then open their mouths wide-

And start again!

We came across an abandonned albatross egg.  They are quite large.  It would probably make a 3 or 4 egg omelette-

Next we saw Nasca Boobies-

We saw a pair mating.  The male gives gifts of sticks and feathers.  He piles them at the female's feet and they kiss, lots of kissing.  They also neck, lots of necking-

Then he mounted her-

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Floreana Island, Galápagos, October 29, 2017

Because the islands were never connected to the mainland, all species had to somehow cross the 1000 km of water.  Some reptiles, mammals, plants, insects and land birds might have been carried across on floating vegetation.  Plant seeds and insect larvae may have been in the animal's stomachs and/or attached somehow to their bodies.

Today, there are birds born with different bills than their parents that allow them to take better advantage of their surroundings.  After many generations, this new bill is a favorable trait that eventually becomes the norm.  Then, the differences between the original animals and the 'new' animals produce a new species.  This is the thinking behind Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

This morning's masterpiece: so cute!

We visited the island of Floreana this morning-

to see sea lions, flamingos-

and blue footed boobies-

After, we snorkeled in 3 different spots looking for Galapagos sharks.  We found a few, the largest being close to 3 meters in length.  We also saw millions of colorful fish, a turtle and a sea lion swimming.  Of course I have no pictures because my camera is still sitting in a bag of rice!

This afternoon we visited the Post Office.  Edgar had told us that you can mail postcards there for free and they get delivered all over the world.  So, I wrote one to myself and one to Nico-

Well, the post office-

isn't quite what we were led to believe.  First, it's filled with posts cards other travellers have left behind, so you're supposed to read through the addresses and if one is near where you live, your take it and deliver it.  Some people were super disappointed because they spent a small fortune on postcards and know for instance, that they'll NEVER be delivered to Slovakia!  I took 4: one to Sherwood Park, another to Saint Albert, one to Edmonton and another to Calgary.  This spring/summer I'll deliver them.

We then walked a little further and found the remains of a Norwegian settlement from the 1920s.  What the hell were they thinking?  Moving to this desolate island, with little if any fresh water, nothing really to eat and barren land.  They didn't last long-

The next couple of hours were spent on the beach and snorkeling, trying to see sea turtles and did we see turtles.  I counted 12!  (Unfortunately, no pictures).  They were white, white with black spots, green, brown and my favorite was orange.  It had orange diamond shapes on its head and back.  So cool!  The second time I went in, I saw 7 in one grouping!  Then I looked up and a sea lion was coming straight at me like a torpedo!  Of course they are harmless.  After my second time snorkeling, I swam to the boat and basked in the sun, waiting for the others.  It was an awesome afternoon!

Looking forward to Espanola Island tomorrow!

P.S.  No, my shoes aren't too big!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Santa Cruz Island, Galápagos, October 28, 2017

The islands are 4-5 million years old and were formed by underwater volcanoes erupting and rising above the water surface.  Less than 20 km from the coast of the northern islands, the water is over 3000 m deep!  Hope we don't sink!  We only see the top third of most of the volcanoes/islands.  Most of the islands are made of basalt which is more fluid than most volcanic rock.  When basalt erupts, it's in the form of lava rather than in explosions so the Galapagos have gently rounded shield volcanoes rather than the typical cone shaped ones.

This morning we went to the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island-

 to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station.  We weren't the only ones visiting the town-

At the Research Station, we learned about Solitary George, a 100 kg, 100+ year old tortoise, whom when he died, was the last one of his species.  His body was sent to the Natural History Museum in New York City where it was preserved.  He returned to the Galapagos last year-

In 1906 the last three Pinta (an island) tortoises were sent to museums, so they were obviously dead.  In 1971, Lonesome George was found on Isla Pinta.  In 1972 he was brought to the research station with the hopes of him reproducing.  They tried to breed him with other species but the eggs would not develop.  He died in 2012, childless and that was the end of his species.

Since 1970, the research centre has returned 5456 young tortugas to their islands.  Eggs are removed from the islands and hatched at the breeding centre for safety reasons.  When the tortoises are 10, they're returned to their original island.  

These Tortuga are 1.5 years old and 8-10 inches across-

These were born in 2017. They are about 6 inches across-

Galápagos tortoises eat at least 70 different species of plants.  Many of the plants are invasive species.  They eat a lot of fruit and the seeds pass whole through their digestive systems. Sometimes the seeds remain in their gut for a month.  As they move around in search of food, they transport seeds to different areas of their islands via their poo.  The seeds grow, guaranteeing more food for the Tortuga.

Super Diego is a saddleback tortoise who has fathered over 2000 babies-

A saddleback tortoise is only found in the Galapagos.  They have longer front legs, longer necks and their shell is higher in the front, allowing them to reach upwards to eat leaves from plants.  They are found in arid areas-

After lunch we visited the Él Chato 2 Ranch in the highlands on Santa Cruz.  We went there to see domed Tortuga who have shorter front legs and necks and a round shell in the front because they live in wet zones and eat food found on the ground-

They are huge!

This fellow defecated in front of us-

The male's penis is in his tail-

We also visited lava tunnels.  When volcanoes erupted, lava flowed to the sea.  Cold water hardened the outside shell but the hot lava still ran inside the tunnel to the water.  This caused the tunnels-

Later, we tried tortoise shells on-

Road signs along the way-

Looking forward to Floreana Island tomorrow!