September 5, 2008
Happy 21st anniversary Deb - this is the first anniversary that we have not been together.
A new day! We are anchored in a small cove at Floreana Island. The seas are calmer and I feel almost human; I'm even a bit hungry! For breakfast I had some fresh fruit and a small cup of coffee. I wanted to take it easy on my stomach so I did not eat the eggs that were prepared by the cook.
The first day of the survey! The uniform of the day for the survey is a rain suit to protect us from the spray and splash from the waves and Ecuadorian canvas shoes that are similar to Converse All Stars. The shoes are supposed to grip the rocks very well. The survey will be mostly conducted from the panga cruising just offshore to count the animals with occasional excursions to the land to check for tagged Cormorants and to count Penguin nests. The usual panga crew was six surveyors and one panga driver or pangaro. For seating we had six resin chars with their legs cut off screwed two to a plank that was then placed across the panga in three rows. As the panga cruised the shore the Queen Mable would follow in deeper water. To record the data species counts are called off and are recorded on the GPS and on a paper form. All the data is then compiled and entered into a computer each evening.
The survey today was very exciting. Much of it was conducted from land and involved looking for penguins in known penguin nesting sites and recording whether or not the nest sites were active or inactive. To do this we had to look deep into cracks and crevices in the rocks sometimes having to crawl into the crevices. We had to climb wet slippery rocks to get to the nests and climb a 50 degree slope with loose rocks to get around a sheer cliff to get to more nesting sites. At one point we had to traverse a 6 inch wide ledge perched 25 feet above sharp jagged rocks. It was all a great adventure! Sadly we did not observe any active penguin nests.
After completing the day's work we had a five-hour transit to Isabella Island. Isabella is the largest and most volcanically active island in the Galapagos. The Queen Mabel did not disappoint, she rocked and rolled for the entire trip. Thankfully this time I was not seasick. We pulled into Puerto Villamil a town on Isabella Island after dark. After dinner on the boat several of us went into town. The trip into town in the Zodiac was another adventure. To get to the beach where the Captain wanted to land we had to dodge 5 to 6 foot breakers to keep from being swamped or capsized. Timing our approach between the breakers was the key and we made it safely with only a splash or two. Puerto Villamil has a population of only about 2,000 people and an economy that is based on tourism. The few roads in town and on the island are made of dirt or sand. As we were walking through town, we stopped at a small restaurant/bar that was on the beach. As we approached the establishment we could hear sounds of familiar rock and roll. I can't describe the feeling of sitting at a table on the beach, drinking a cold beverage, conversing with my new colleagues as if this were all just another day, in this small remote town in the Galapagos Islands! Words that came to mind were surreal, unbelievable, incredible, and amazing.
We left port at 11:00 p.m. for an all night transit to the other side of the island. The seas were very rough again, worse than before. Luckily I was not seasick. I got to sleep OK; staying asleep was another matter. The boat was pitching and rolling so much that I was thrown out of my bunk three times during the night! It's just all part of the adventure!