Monday, November 28, 2011 Sunrise @ 05:45, Sunset @ 17:53
This morning we awoke to find ourselves at anchor off of Punta Cormorant on the Island of Floreana. After a long but rewarding day yesterday, I opted to take it easy and didn’t go on the optional pre-breakfast outing. But I did get up early enough to go for a quick run on the treadmill and take a pilates class on the sun deck. Breakfast this morning was quite late, at 8AM, compared to yesterday, and we went straight over to Champion Islet for some deep-water snorkeling. There was a group of snorkelers who went to “drift” with the current around the islet as opposed to us who went “bay snorkeling.” It turned out we made the right decision choosing the calmer environment, as we heard later how most snorkelers who went drift snorkeling had a really tough time (Phil said he swallowed a gallon of sea water) with rough waves and strong currents hitting them from all sides. For us, the water was cold but still enough to relax and enjoy swimming with a lot of colorful fish (Parrot Fish, King Angelfish), and see black sea urchins, a sea turtle, and a few sea lions.
Once back on board the Endeavour, we were thrilled to have Willy, the hotel manager, join us for lunch. Originally from Germany, Willy has been working and living on ships for decades, and has sailed everywhere. He told us there were over 70 crew members working on board the Endeavour (with naturalists and photo experts, we almost have one guest to one staff ratio), and all the hard work they put in to make our expedition run smoothly. They really do a fantastic job on this boat. I don’t see anyone but our cabin is impeccably clean and serviced multiple times a day. And I’m sure Willy has everything to do with how everyone is trained and works. He brought such a vibrant energy to our lunch table today and I had a great time talking to him. He was full of fantastic stories about his most memorable trips around the world, including meeting chiefs on Polynesian Islands and rescuing stranded fishermen off of small islands. He could really write a book…
In the afternoon there was a presentation by Karen Kasmauski who is a National Geographic photographer entitled “People, Places, and Animals.” The photos she’s taken for National Geographic were inspiring enough but seeing what she’s taken over the last few days here in the Galapagos had us all impressed. Ah, to be a great photographer!
After the presentation, we took a zodiac ride out to the famous Post Office Bay. On the way I saw a penguin swimming in the water and knew it was going to be a great afternoon! Post Office Bay has a wonderful story behind it; it was first mentioned in 1793 by British Captain James Colnett and it had been used by whalers and seamen centuries. They would leave letters in the barrel on Post Office Bay and those who are traveling back home would pick them up and hand deliver them. This tradition still continues as visitors to the Galapagos leave postcards without any postage in this wooden barrel and people shift through them to see if they can hand deliver any of them. Our naturalists read off the cities and countries from the postcards in the barrel, and we volunteered to take them with us. Some of us left postcard to be delivered by others and I took a postcard with a Buenos Aires address since I’ll be headed down there in a few weeks. We learned that Charles Darwin had also been to Post Office Bay, for Floreana Island was second of four islands he went ashore during his five week visit to the Galapagos in 1835. I literally followed Darwin’s footsteps today!
We spent the rest of the afternoon on our zodiacs to explore the various volcanic islets around Floreana. I loved having Jason as our naturalist guide again, as he pointed out and helped us find turtles, mockingbirds, blue-footed boobies, and penguins. We were really fortunate to find three more penguins perched up on a small islet, just standing there as if posing for photos for us. Jason told us that there are about 15 or 16 penguins that live on Floreana so I was thankful that we got to see so many of them. There were also plenty of sea lions and blue-footed boobies to make me ridiculously happy, and we sailed back to the Endeavour basking in the glow of another gorgeous sunset.
After dinner our expedition leader Paula told us a bedtime story about the mysteries of Floreana. She had photos to go along with the story up in the lounge but I was feeling too tired to sit for it, so I went back to the cabin and tuned into the ship’s PA system to listen. It was both fascinating and unbelievable. This inhabited island of Floreana (now population ~100) has a very interesting story of three sets of European settlers that include a couple of toothless Germans, a small family, an eccentric self-proclaimed baroness/empress with three boyfriends (as Paula told it, a rich boyfriend, a handsome boyfriend, and an endemic boyfriend- ha!). Some of them went missing, never to be found again, some died on the island (or murdered? the toothless German dentist who was vegetarian allegedly died eating chicken soup), and some continued to live on Floreana. Paula, a geologist, expedition leader, and also children’s book author, told the story so well that I stopped brushing my teeth and sat on the bed for 10 minutes to finish hearing the crazy tales of this mysterious island.
We have another early wake-up call tomorrow for a full day to be spend on Santa Cruz, so off to bed I go…
Highlights & animals seen: Snorkeling (lots of fish and a sea turtle), four Galapagos penguins (one swimming, three on land), bedtime story about the mysteries of Floreana, lunch time conversation with Willy, Karen’s photo presentation
06:30: Optional early morning walk at Punta Cormorant or pilates on the Sky Deck
09:00: Deep-water snorkeling around Champion Islet
11:30: Zodiac rides along Champion Islet to look for the elusive Floreana mockingbird
14:00: Karen Kasmasuki, National Geographic photographer’s presentation entitled “People, Places, and Animals”
15:00: Kayakers disembark
15:30: Disembarkation for a visit to the Post Office Barrel and cruise around Floreana to look for penguins
19:00: Cocktails, recap, briefing
19:30: Dinner, then join Expedition Leader Paula in the lounge for her talk about the mysteries of Floreana Island