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July 12, 2008

 

Friends and Students,

Well, where to begin? 

We arrived on San Cristobal, one of the older islands, on Thursday. Friday our schedule got bungled by the fact that the Ecuadorian president was arriving on the island. The cool part about that was that on Friday night many of the people in town gathered and we got to hear the governor of the Galapagos speak and then the president of Ecuador spoke. It was hard for me to understand all of what was said, 

but some people translated parts for me. It was an interesting peek into the political life of this country. Also, there was no security, no fenced off areas, no metal detectors, nothing except one police dog. It definitely wasn’t the same as seeing the president speak in the U. S.
 

Saturday turned out to be absolutely INSANE! First we went snorkeling in an easy spot with lots of young sea lions. You could play with them by tossing sand dollars (like mini-Frisbees) which they would catch with their snout and push upwards. So fun! Aaron also got to see a sea turtle munching on some algae. (Sadly I had returned to the boat because I was too cold).


Then we were cruising on the boat to an outcrop way off the coast called Kicker Rock. On the way there we encountered a HUGE pod of dolphins. They liked to race the boat, so I laid flat on the bow and hung my head over to watch them underwater. When they would surface to breathe, the spray from their blowholes would drown my face. It was sooo cool! When they sped up the boat the dolphins started jumping out of the water. Then they stopped the boat and I asked our guide if we could get in the water with them, expecting him to say no. He said sure, and I thought maybe he didn’t understand so I had to ask again. When he said yes I grabbed my mask and jumped in, without fins. (I hope I didn’t push anyone out of the way, but I wasn’t about to miss this!) The dolphins were EVERYWHERE! People who stayed on the boat said there were hundreds of them. The guides, who have lived their whole lives here, said they have never seen that many dolphins in one place. Underwater they approached within 6 feet and you could hear the sounds they make all over the place. Also there were some Galapagos sharks in there. It was just the most surreal thing; I never could have imagined that happening. Aaron took a little video footage, so once we see it, if it’s decent, we’ll post it.

Snorkeling at kicker rock was great because I saw two green sea turtles, another life-long dream fulfilled!! I was especially happy since I missed the other one earlier in the day. The rock had a steep profile, and a moderate current, so you could just float along and check out everything growing on the rock and swimming nearby. Everything is so colorful and unusual; I just don’t get tired of looking and diving down to check things out. I wish I had a case so I could use my digital camera underwater. I’m renting a wetsuit and they gave me a “shorty,” which means it stops above the elbows and above the knees, so I got to the point where my teeth were chattering on that dive too. It makes it hard to hang onto the snorkel and hard to focus on what you’re seeing. I’m hoping I can get a full length one for when we SCUBA next week or I might not have that much fun.

Today was, again, off the charts!! We went to a tortoise sanctuary and saw those HUGE land tortoises. (When I say huge, I mean they can weigh up to 600 pounds and live 80 - 100 years.) We got to see three different ones, all chowing down on small plants. They’re vegetarians, so they have to eat a lot. We took video there too, and I got one while it was moving over rocks 

and down the path. Their feet look like elephant feet. Overall, they just look like something ancient

In addition, I saw the woodpecker finch, which is a small bird that uses twigs as a tool to forage for insects. Listen, people think poorly of Darwin because he didn’t figure out the finch thing until he got back to England. Speaking as somewhat of a bird expert, let me tell you, it’s way harder than you think! All told, we have seen five of the 13 finch species found in the Galapagos. The past two days have been over the top, so I can’t wait to see what else is in store.

 

Tomorrow we start our week working in the school with the middle school and high school students. Luckily part of our job is to speak English, so they can practice with native speakers. In the afternoons we’re supposed to do a research project. I’ve already decided to find something that involves snorkeling so I can spend as much time in the ocean as possible. We also get to go see the place where Darwin first came onto land in the Galapagos. This is incredible!

 

More to come,

Lynn Crew

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