Genovesa was for me the most enchanting of all the islands we saw, not only because we got to walk along the rim of the caldera, but because of the birds in tremendous profusion. And what birds they were: boobies of every kind, frigate birds, gulls, owls, mockingbirds, finches. They were mating, nesting, roosting, sleeping, hunting, fighting. The sky was full of them arriving and departing from their feeding grounds. The noise they made, especially at sunset, was cacophonous.
Green turtles were mating in the water in front of us when our Zodiac pulled up to Bartolome, a mound of lava less than half the size of New York’s Central Park, just off Santiago Island in the Galapagos. Bartolome is a breeding and nesting ground for the turtles. It’s also favorite stop for visitors to the Galapagos because of its fantastic geology, an energetic climb up 376 wooden steps to a commanding view from the summit of the islet’s biggest volcanic cone, and spectacular snorkeling with sharks and rays in the clear water around postcard-famous Pinnacle Rock.
Day five of our expedition to the Galapagos islands took us to the northwest slope of Santa Cruz for a walk up Cerro Dragon, “Dragon Hill.” This place was once home to a thriving colony of the massive Galapagos land iguana, Conolophus subcristatus. The lizard is making a comeback here after being nearly wiped out by cats, rats, and dogs introduced to the Galapagos by humans.
In this post I interview Terry Goss, who was on our expedition as the 2011 winner of the Ocean in Focus Photo Contest, a competition that focuses on the human impacts on marine environments and species, positive and negative, in an attempt to advance ocean conservation through the power of imagery. Terry shares his impressions of the Galapagos beneath the waves, and some advice for how to get the best underwater photographs.
On the night we sailed across the Equator the sun set fire to the sea and sky, creating a dramatic setting for the shadowy dormant volcanoes lining the horizon around us. It was a memorable moment celebrated over a glass of champagne on the bridge deck of National Geographic Endeavour. We were roughly midway through…
Some 250,000 giant tortoises once roamed the Galapagos islands. But taken for meat by pirates and whalers, their populations collapsed to near extinction. We visit the Charles Darwin Research Research Center to see how the giant tortoise has been restored, and we visit scores of wild tortoises in their natural habitat in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island.
In 1835 Charles Darwin arrived on Floreana Island in the Galapagos, noting in his journal that it had long been frequented, first by buccaneers, latterly by whalers–and then political dissidents exiled from mainland South America. The giant tortoises Darwin saw on Floreana have since been extirpated from the island and the prisoners and pirates exist only in history. But the scenery he described remains much the same, and a tradition of leaving mail in a “post office barrel” for collection and delivery by passing ships has endured for two centuries.
This is the second post in my account of a ten-day exploration of the Galapagos, on board the National Geographic Endeavour. In the first post, I described our arrival on the island of San Cristobal and our first visit to a Galapagos beach. We awoke on the first full day of our expedition to…