August 27, 2008
I took some time to explore the Station and see the animals that they have on display. The Charles Darwin Research Station is a collection of about 20 or so buildings that range from administrative offices and repair shops, to state of the art research labs as well as animal and plant displays. The main animal attraction is Lonesome George. I was able to see Lonesome George - the last known individual of his species of Galapagos Tortoise. I have read about extinction and have seen organisms that were threatened or endangered - even then extinction tends to be something of an abstract concept because we are not up close to it on a regular basis. This is the first time that I have come face to face with the extinction of a species. Lonesome George is the last of his kind; he represents the end of an evolutionary chain of events that possibly produced hundreds of thousands of his species. Of course George has no way of knowing he is the last.
The Galapagos Tortoises are magnificent animals. It is hard to describe how these large armored animals can be both ponderous and graceful at the same time. Their movements are slow and deliberate - as large and protected as they are there are not any predators (other than humans) that they had to run from. I did witness a fierce battle for dominance between two large males; fierce that is for Galapagos Tortoises. The battle between the two combatants came down to posturing and which one could extend its neck the furthest. There was really no way that they could harm each other.
I took a short walk up the coast towards some cliffs late this afternoon. It was much more difficult to walk over the loose volcanic rocks than I had anticipated. I was stopped by the approaching darkness. I'll try to make it to the cliffs another day.
I talked to one of the Station's scientists today and discussed the possibility of helping on some other projects until I leave for the Penguin Survey. From this conversation came an invitation to go along with three of the Station's botany technicians when they go into the Highlands tomorrow to participate in a plant survey and collection with the possibility of other experiences on other days.