Monday, August 20, 2018

Galapagos 1991

Annamaria on Monday

Until quite recently, I was unable to look back at the many of the trips that David and I took together because he did almost all the photographing, and he took 35MM color slides.  The film he used was the best way, in those days, to capture really fine images.  But that technology went obsolete.  And then, when the bulb blew out on our slide projector and I couldn't find a replacement, I could not see his photos.  There I was with forty-four boxes containing carousel slide trays, most of them holding about a hundred and ten slides, none of which I could view with any level of satisfaction.

A few months ago, I bit the bullet and sent the slides off to be scanned: All 5460 of them.  Once those precious pictures were in digital form, the first ones I went to look at were of our trip to Galapagos.  I had one image in mind that I really wanted to see again.  It was one I took of David.  I'll show it to you in a few minutes.

Cruise passengers in single file.
 Almost all the shots you will see here were taken by David Jay Clark, who is still of this world, but as many of you know, barely.  He had a great eye--for art and for taking photographs.  What you will see below, with two obvious exceptions, are his shots.  The only one I cropped is the one of me at the very top.

On almost every one of the many tropical islands David and I visited in our travels, one could buy a tee-shirt with the name of the place, followed by the words "An Island Paradise."  The only place that ever felt like paradise to me was Galapagos--because (as I was taught about the Garden of Eden before the fall) the animals are not afraid of people.  Birds did not fly away.  Reptiles did not skitter off.

David worked with a light meter and a camera that required him to set the F-stop.  That sort of thing.  Here are a few of his birds.


This--I think--is one of the finches.  For which, thanks to Charles Darwin,
Galapagos is famous.
Penguins at the equator!

My favorite birds were the boobies...

...especially the blue-footed boobies.

All the boobies, viewed straight on,  have a goofy kind of look.  That is because their eyes are unlike the usual eyes of bird species.  Ordinarily birds eyes are on the sides of their heads and give them great peripheral vision.  Boobies are built to see very well looking straight ahead.  Here's why.  They are fishing birds and catch their prey by diving into the water and taking the fish on the way up.  So they have to see well directly ahead.  

I loved watching them fish.

They circle over the ocean in squads of fifty or more.  When one of them spies a school of fish, it dives.  Then a few others take the cue.  And then--wow!  Ten, twenty, thirty birds are folding their wings and hitting the water, going straight down.  Soon they are are emerging with fish in their beaks.

If they are lucky, and most of the time they are, they get away with their catch.

But they have to watch out for this creature.  The frigate bird:

The frigate bird, displaying during the mating season.

Frigate birds are fast and very manoeuvrable.  I think they take their name of the English ships of old.  The birds get their speed and agility from how light they are.  Their bones are hollow and they have no oil in their feathers.

But they eat fish, even though they can't dive into the water.  The lack of oil in their feathers means they would sink and drown.  What they do is harry the boobies who are carrying fish, until one of them drops his catch.  The frigate bird then swoops and catches the fish in midair.

I learned when researching my first novel--City of Silver that Spanish Galleons, tubby, heavy craft, were loaded with silver from the mines of Potosi and traveled up the west coast of South America toward Panama on their way to Spain.  The Spanish ships were often attacked by lighter, faster English frigates that stole the product of Spanish labor: ingots, ships, and all.  I think the frigate birds got their name for the similarities in these two ways of making a living.

Speaking of British frigates, they hung out in Galapagos while they were waiting for ships of packed with silver to come along.  While there, they loaded up on fresh meat, including giant tortoises.  As a result, the lovely creatures' numbers were decimated.  By the 20th Century, they were endangered.  Thanks to animals bred in captivity and then returned to their natural habitat, they now number more than 19,000.

A very memorable day for me was when we visited Isabela Island.  I had been reading Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle as we traveled from island to island.  I recognised one of the locations we visited as one I had read about:

I was pretty sure an amazing coincidence had taken place.  We we returned to the ship I checked the book and found I was right. (Albemarle Island is now called Isabela)

We were there on September 29th.  Just as Darwin had been:

September 29th.—We doubled the south-west extremity of Albemarle Island, and the next day were nearly becalmed between it and Narborough Island. Both are covered with immense deluges of black naked lava, which have flowed either over the rims of the great caldrons, like pitch over the rim of a pot in which it has been boiled, or have burst forth from smaller orifices on the flanks; in their descent they have spread over miles of the sea-coast. On both of these islands, eruptions are known to have taken place; and in Albemarle, we saw a small jet of smoke curling from the summit of one of the great craters. In the evening we anchored in Bank's Cove, in Albemarle Island. The next morning I went out walking. To the south of the broken tuff-crater, in which the Beagle was anchored, there was another beautifully symmetrical one of an elliptic form; its longer axis was a little less than a mile, and its depth about 500 feet. At its bottom there was a shallow lake, in the middle of which a tiny crater formed an islet. The day was overpoweringly hot, and the lake looked clear and blue: I hurried down the cindery slope, and, choked with dust, eagerly tasted the water—but, to my sorrow, I found it salt as brine.

So happy to be in the footsteps of Darwin!

Here is that photo of David that I am so happy I can see again.  He is standing under an opuntia cactus--YES! a prickly pear plant.  But in Galapagos, they grow to the size of an oak tree!!


  1. Great pictures and great memories! Thanks for sharing them with us. I regret not having been to the Galapagos myself...

    1. Michael, when we were together in Olifants, I thought of how much you --with your encyclopedic knowledge of birds--would love Galapagos. At least as it was when David and I were there. It was nesting season for the boobies. They were laying eggs out in open, right in the middle of the path we trod. Not one picture of a was-bird. The birds seemed to be watching us as intently as we were watching them--but out of curiosity, not fear.

  2. A wonderful adventure. I'm glad you've recovered those memories.

  3. Thank you, David. I am now in the process of getting videos converted. But they are of events, not travels. It's the travels I am so thrilled to recall. And, under the circumstances, so very happy that David and I went so many places when we were young. Next week, I think I will repost my blog urging people NOT to have a bucket list. If David and I had put off our heart's desires, he would have missed out completely. I think it was Kipling who said, "Of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest of all: it might have been." None of that for us!

  4. Thanks for sharing your memories, AmA. Ah, youth. It seems it will last forever while you have it, then once it's gone, you realize how fleeting it was.

    1. Right, EvKa. Tempus fugit? The only antidote is Carpe Diem. I was really fortunate to have learned that at a young age. Lucky me, as I say VERY frequently.

  5. Such wonderful photos. Thanks for posting them.

    The one of you with a seal is great.

    Love all of the animals, and the blue-footed boobies are famous. Glad you saw all of these creatures. What a trip!

    1. Thank you, Kathy. That photo is a favorite of mine. I had an even closer encounter with a seal: The people on the trip including David, were all snorkelling, something--though I love swimming in the sea--I never got the hang of. I stayed on the beach alone, sitting on a log, and and writing in my journal. There was a bull in the water having an amorous tryst with one of his ladies, when another bull came on to the beach. The guy in the water, seeing his harem invaded, came out, barked like crazy, chased his females in my direction, and challenged the intruder.

      One of the females hurrying by, stopped right in front of me, her nose only a few inches from mine. My heart was pounding. But her eyes were so beautiful and sweet. I said, "Hiya, Sweetie." She moved her head from side to the side, dragging her whiskers across my face. And she toddled off.

      Later I watched the female greeting each other the same way she greeted me.

      When the Desiree Cruz, our naturalist guide, came back with the other passengers, I told her that, though I followed the rules and never tried to touch an animal, that other animal evidently had not read the flyer on how to behave in Galapagos.

  6. Men! What behavior! Even by seals. No manners.

    1. Yes, Kathy! Male aggression =strength, leadership Female aggression = Bitchiness. ‘Twas ever this in men’s eyes.

  7. Those are some times you shared, Sis. God bless you both. I couldn't help but smile at your "whiskering moment" with the she-seal, because all creatures, two-legged and up, seem to find you irresistibly charming. I wonder what Darwin would have to say about that? Hmm, perhaps it would be better to ask Dr. Dolittle?

    1. Thank you, Bro. {{blushing}}. I am not sure what Darwin would have thought of me, but I know that he was brilliant and a splendid prose stylist to boot!

  8. I love the the pics, I also remember China. I miss you both so. Stay well. I think of David and you often, our trips, dinners, visits. XOXO S

    1. Thank you so much, Sharon. I miss you very much. I will do a China blog too, soon. Love to you!!