Animals and seeds do not honor the straight lines on human maps. They follow river beds, they migrate through mountain passes, they forage from mountain to plains, they pass from public forest to private. They blow where the wind blows.

- David Bower

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Day 5: Thursday May 18, 2000
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click once for larger imageWe have calm seas this morning, and as the mist burns off we become aware that we are anchored in a beautiful and sheltered bay, Tagus Cove. Mary, rising early, claims to have seen dolphins. We believe her. But this beautiful bay has certain features we have not seen since Quito: graffiti covers much of the rock. This is the “historical graffiti” shown on our itinerary, a tradition which is now, rightly so in my opinion, discontinued. Richard asks later if I noticed the “Charles Darwin, 1835” inscription, and like a fool I believe him. I spend the morning making a mental note to be sure to get a shot of it. Doh!


click once for larger imageWe have another climb ahead of us, but after the 372 steps of Bartolomé, we laugh in the face of this equivalent but gentler ascent. At the summit we are treated to another stunning vista of volcanic devastation and the verdant reassertion of life. Lava cactus is one of the first species to grow in a lava field.


Christian tries to spot one of the thousands of feral goats that inhabit the island, scouring the hillside with binoculars but, save for one suspect white dot, they remain elusive.

click once for larger imageThe second half of our visit to Tagus Cove is an idyllic—and momentous—panga ride around the cove. A group (flock?) of penguins are very much in evidence, swimming ahead of us. Boobies dive dramatically as only boobies can do, popping up moments later like corks. We spot a couple of sea turtles, mostly underwater but also an occasional head poking up to look around. Hawks circle overhead. It seems that at every turn there is something new to see.

click once for larger imageAnd then it happens. The thus-far unflappable Eric begins to scream excitedly, “Tortuga! Tortuga!”, and sure enough, coming out the woods are two giant land tortoises. Amazing! Eric drives the panga to shore, hands over the wheel to his assistant and leaps ashore, as if he would chase after them. Then he remembers the tourists, and rejoins us, but it is clear how excited he is, and that gives us some idea what a significant sighting this is.

We would later learn that this was only the third tourist sighting in nine years of Galapagos tortoises in the wild. And the Boobies were there! Go team!

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After a lively lunch, we’re still pumped as we prepare to go ashore on nearby Fernandina Island, at Punta Espinosa. We have seen marine iguanas most places we’ve been so far, but never in the numbers we see here. They are literally crawling all over each other. Every couple of seconds, one of them spits out excess salt in a comical squirt from the nostrils.


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Sea lions are here too, and we visit with a small pup, reportedly only a couple of days old. No sign of its mom, but it seemed in good health, so we were not concerned, despite its plaintive cries.


click once for larger imageAnother rare sighting now: as we are returning to the panga, we come upon a Galapagos hawk, top of the food chain, enjoying a meal of marine iguana. I am up front with the guide, and am fortunate to get a picture before it flies off. But moments later we see another hawk posed nicely in a nearby tree. We gather around, then watch in stunned silence as yet another hawk (or perhaps the first one) lands atop this one and shows off his mating prowess for nearly a full minute before summarily flying off again without so much as a thank you ma’am.

I break the silence by asking if anyone has a cigarette, which quip I am proud to say makes it into the Marine Expeditions Shipboard News, the official paper journal which would inspire this web-based personal version.

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As if we haven't had a full enough day, this evening we have the honour of joining our Captain Fausto Pacheco for cocktails and then a Captain’s Table seating for dinner. Paul wisely places me farthest from our host, as I’ve been calling him “Captain Schmaptain” and am still enjoying signing for vodkas. Jon, with his reasonable command of Spanish, has the pole position. It is also our chance to belatedly celebrate Jon’s 60th birthday.

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What a day. Must have been that full moon last night.

Day 5 (recap)
07:30 breakfast
08:00 Isabella Island (Tagus Cove) - dry landing
11:30 return to ship
12:30 lunch
15:30 Fernandina Island (Punta Espinosa) - dry landing
18:30 return to ship
19:30 briefing on tomorrow’s visits to San Salvador and Rabida Islands
20:00 dinner
21:30 live music and dancing (or off to bed)
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