Thursday, May 21, 2009

Isabella and Fernandina - April 28
I was up before the wake-up call with first light, still motoring along between Isabella and Fernandina. Impressive high peaks, calm seas, and a slowly burning off fog made the morning magical. White-vented Storm-Petrels drifted by the boat, searching the surface for delectables; numerous encounters with Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish) as well as Pacific Green Sea Turtles.

Our first stop was to launch the pangas just north of Tagus Cove on Isabella's west side. We traveled the cliff side, ducked into a couple of caves, and saw wonderful fish, crabs, our first Galapagos Penguins and Flightless Cormorant. The caves hosted Brown Noddy and Blue-footed Boobies and much marine life including schools of fish and sea turtles.

Letty was already anchored deep in Tagus Cove by the time we arrived. We headed for a "dry landing" and short but steep hike up to the rim overlooking Darwin's Lake; a medium sized lake resembling a salt rimmed Margareta. Legend has it that Darwin upon seeing the lake exuberantly went looking to sample what he thought would be fresh water only to find it very briny and many times saltier than the nearby sea water.

After the hike and a quick stop back on Letty, we headed off for some "deep water" snorkeling off the sides of the pangas. It was clear to all the the highlight of the day was swimming with the many sea turtles and for some swimming with a group of four penguins. the water was the coldest we had encountered yet, but the wetsuits did a nice job of taking the bite out.

After lunch, we found ourselves anchored just off of Fernandina's Punta Espinosa, an incredible landscape of 100 year old lava floes and carpets of Marine Iguana. Large and small were stacked and lay side-by-side in an almost comical sun bathing display. Frequent sounds of iguana clearing their nostrils of salt were accompanied by the complaints of interacting sea lions. American Oystercatcher, Semi-palmated Plover, and Wandering Tatler were familiar to most. A lone sea turtle rested on the beach allowing us the chance for great photographs. A Bryde's Whale skeleton was striking, its bleached white bones on the dark background of the lava.

Back on board, we motored west across the north end of Fernandina to the site of the current volcanic activity. About 2-3 hours later we sat off shore to enjoy the show. About 2 kilometers up the slope was the main vent where with binoculars one could see some good detail of the lava shooting into the air, great clouds of smoke, and some closer glowing lava right down to the shore; a first volcanic experience for many.

Sally Lightfoot Crab

Marine Iguanas

Pacific Green Sea Turtle

Galapagos Penguin