September 12, 2008
We sailed around Santiago Island and anchored at Bartolome Island, a very busy tourist location with many cruise boats tied up at moorings installed by the Park. This is the most people that we have seen since we left Porta Villamil. An interesting thing happened while we were there, the Ecuadorian President was in the area making an official tour. I was able to glimpse him as his boat sailed by.
The survey crew went out this morning in the panga for a quick survey of a couple of areas. We went ahead in the Queen Mabel and anchored in a beautiful protected area to wait. While there, Pete and Andrea went snorkeling from the Zodiac. I went along and was asked by Pete to warn them if a tourist boat came into site. Apparently even though we were on a scientific expedition we did not have the proper authorization or park supervision to be in the water in this location. A boat did come into the area and I was able to warn Pete and Andrea in time to get out of the water before being seen. When the panga returned we weighed anchor and headed to Rabida for another short survey.
Judging from the landscape Rabida is a much older island. It is covered with Opuntia Cactus and the Palo Santo tree, an aromatic tree that is endemic to the Galapagos Islands. The island appears to be much more weathered and eroded than other islands that I have seen with the exception of Santa Cruz. From the boat it appears as if it has had time for soils to develop.
We sailed into a large population of perhaps 150 Blue Footed Boobies feeding at Rabida Island. I don't think that I could ever get tired of watching them. The birds cruise at various heights above the water watching for schools of fish. When fish are sited they tuck their wings in and dive at great speed, head first, into the water. They are so streamlined when they dive that when they hit the water they hardly make a splash. They pop quickly to the surface, float for a moment, and then are off to hunt some more. They are very cool birds!
The survey is winding down and is finishing earlier than planned. Overall there were fewer Penguins and fewer nest sites counted. I will have to wait to get the final report to see the exact numbers. The early finish to the survey is not entirely bad for me. Because of the late start if the survey had lasted as long as predicted Gustavo would have had to drop me off at 4:00 am on the 14th at the Ecuadorian Dock on Baltra Island. I am not sure how the Navy would have reacted to lone American in their dock in the middle of the night! As it is now we should be in Porta Ayora by 6:00 am tomorrow.
The wind and the currents were with us this evening. We made it back to Porta Ayora and anchored by 9:00 pm. Only a few of us stayed on board for the night. I did not have anywhere else to go so I had to stay. Tomorrow we unload the equipment and put it all away in the Gustavo's lab at the Station. Then I am going to find decent hotel for the night.