It just keeps going… and going…
On Floreana island, we visited this replica of a barrel that has been used as a “post office” since the 1700’s by passing whalers. This is the southernmost island in the Galapagos. Ships would drop off letters here as they were plying these waters, and others heading back home would stop and collect letters to be hand delivered, once they arrived. We looked through the stack of postcards that had been left recently and took a few bound for TN, after leaving some letters for family. We haven’t heard back yet that all made it to their destination.
Later that afternoon, we went snorkeling here at Devil’s Crown. We were treated to a number of white tip sharks that really liked the strong currents.
On the last day of our first week, we headed to the highlands of Santa Cruz island to a ranch where they are raising tortoises to help repopulate some of the islands. Whalers completely cleared some islands of their giant tortoises, as they were a prized commodity. They can survive for a year without eating or drinking! Later in a voyage, they would be killed to supply fresh meat to the sailors.
Many of the tortoises at the ranch kept cool in the ponds or mud holes.
We also explored some lava tunnels. These are formed when the outer layer of lava cools and hardens, but the inner core is still hot and flowing. Hopefully you can enlarge this picture to appreciate the immense size of the area, by looking to the hand rails for scale.
That afternoon we went to the Charles Darwin Research Center where they are working with the remnants of a species of giant tortoises that had been on Espanola island. We met “Super Diego” who is still, at 120 years old, continuing to bring back his species from extinction, with over 800 descendants and counting!
He is a saddleback type of giant tortoise, in contrast to the domed shell ones we had previously seen.
The saddlebacks have super long necks and legs to help them reach vegetation in trees and even cacti.
At the Research Center, they are raising young tortoises from different islands. These are giant tortoises that are only a few months old, and they were so cute to see “scurrying” around, in contrast to the speed at which their elders travel.
Amazingly, we are now starting into our second week’s stories…
We went back to Floreana for an early morning visit to a salt pond with another group of flamingos, albeit at some distance. [I want to make this into a jigsaw puzzle]:
One of the juveniles came close enough to see his developing plumage.
I just loved the natural compositions -
Near sunset, we went out for a kayak and Zodiac ride, and 2 pairs (of only 10 pairs on the island) of Galapagos penguins posed in the waning light.
Until next time…