Sofia Darquea - To borrow a line from a song, this brilliant naturalist "has forgotten more than I'll ever know" about the Galapagos. Although a native of Quito, Sophia first started working in the Galapagos in 1987. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the islands certainly enhanced our experience, and she was fun to be with!
Although the various finches in the Galapagos played a key role in the development of Darwin's theory of evolution, Darwin paid little attention to the finches while he was in the Galapagos. It wasn't until he returned to England and started analyzing his collections that he realized the significance of their differences. At that point Darwin had to rely on the notes and specimens collected by Captain Fitzroy, because his own collections were disorganized and poorly labeled. Darwin eventually developed his theory of adaptive radiation based on his study of the finches.
Galapagos sea lion - The Galapagos sea lion, a close but smaller relative of the California sea lion, is the largest animal found on land in the Galapagos. Numbering over 25,000, they are generally very approachable, especially the young pups who are very curious, but older males are not to be trifled with. "Beachmasters" are older males who typically herd over a harem of females and guard their territory aggressively. Unlike seals, sea lions have ears and use their front flippers for swimming.
Panama Hat - Did you know that the "Panama Hat" is not from Panama at all, but is instead from Ecuador? It took its name from the place where it was most likely to be seen and purchased by Americans and Europeans. Fine Panama hats can be still be purchased in Ecuador, costing upwards of $600.
Day 3 - Floreana
As we slept during the night the Islander journeyed from Punta Suarez to the island of Floreana. Again being lazy, we opted to skip the early morning (6:30 a.m.) hike (are you noticing a trend here?) and start our day with a deep water snorkel off of Champion Islet. This was one of my favorite snorkel adventures of the entire trip because sea lions swam with us most of the time. Seemingly curious about us, although they've doubtlessly seen thousands of people, they would swim right up to our faces and then fly past us. A slide show of their acrobatics is below:
Following lunch our Expedition leader, Jason, gave a talk and slide presentation on the geology of the Galapagos archipelago, explaining its volcanic origins and the different types of terrain that are present.
This was followed by a visit to Floreana Island's historic "mailbox." A barrel was placed on Floreana in 1792 and used as a primitive post office by whalers who would spend as long as five years away from home. Whalers leaving the islands stopped at Floreana to pick up fresh water and outgoing mail before making the long voyage home. While in England, they would personally deliver any mail that had been deposited in the barrel.
The tradition continues today, as tourists deposit postcards in the barrel and also pick up and personally deliver any postcards addressed to destinations close to their home. Four passengers from our vessel read off the addresses of the postcards in the barrel, and passengers stepped forward to undertake the delivery. And sticking the post card in the mail is not allowed! Frank and I took a postcard addressed to someone in the Atlanta area, but thus far have been unable to connect with the recipient, a young child. We'll keep trying - Stay tuned...
Following the post office, we took a zodiac ride around the island and were thrilled to see our first Galapagos penguin. You can read more about this species of penguin in the "Spotlight On..." at Day 8. He posed for photos and then I captured him on video, waddling down to water's edge and diving in...
Can it get any better than this? Stay tuned for Day 4...