A new statue of young Charles Darwin landed on the campus of the Charles Darwin Foundation’s research center on the island of Santa Cruz in Galápagos. Guests on all of our Galápagos expeditions visit the Foundation to tour the grounds and see the important ongoing work, and you can bet that getting your Darwin selfie will become a regular stop on the walk. The Foundation chose to depict a young Darwin, notebook and magnifying glass close at hand, as he looked when he landed on the islands. Ecuadorian sculptor Patricio Ruales (on the right) created the statue over the course of about a year. Renowned Galápagos scientist and life-long Darwin scholar, Godfrey Merlen (left), wrote about the project, Darwin’s Right Hand Man.
On Monday in New York former President Bill Clinton announced National Geographic’s plans to expand Pristine Seas, the effort to save the ocean’s last wild places. The Society’s goal is to work with world leaders and governments to protect more than 770,000 square miles of ocean from fishing.
Some forward-thinking world leaders have already made great strides in conserving the ocean, including Palau’s president Tommy Remengesea, Jr. He has collaborated on the effort to protect 193,000 square miles of ocean in his country’s exclusive economic zone, representing 80% of the ocean under Palau’s jurisdiction.
At the close of Monday’s plenary session at the Clinton Global Initiative, President Clinton invited representatives of Pristine Seas on stage to share their story and recognize their commitment. The honorees were Former President of Costa Rica José María Figueres, Lindblad Expeditions President & Founder Sven Lindblad, Co-founder and Former Chairman and CEO of Gateway, Inc Ted Waitt, and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enrique Sala.
One of the finest ways to immerse yourself in local cultures while traveling is through dining—sampling regional fare and wine: mixing, drinking, and eating with the locals. In Galápagos, where wilderness reigns, we still find ways to mix the local flavors into our dining experience. One night we host an Ecuadorian buffet, complete with a whole roast pig, that our guests often cite on comment cards as their favorite meal of the expedition. And beginning soon, our Galápagos cocktail list will include tastes of the islands. The San Cristobal cocktail is finished with fresh Galápagos guanabana juice; and the Fernandina cocktail is blended with tamarind, a pod-like fruit found in abundance on the cocktail’s namesake island.
Super Diego, 91 years old, has been a resident at the Charles Darwin Research Station since 1977. He was taken from his homeland on Española Island during the scientific voyage of Allan Hancock aboard his yacht Velero III in 1933. Brought to the San Diego Zoo (hence his name), he became #21 in their collection of 100 Galápagos tortoises.
In the 1960’s the director of the nascent Charles Darwin Research Station found that the Española tortoises, slaughtered by the thousands by 18th-century whalers, were on the verge of extinction. To save this unique species two males and 12 females, the total number found, were brought to Research Station as a hopeful breeding colony, and a search for extant members of the species was launched.
The one male left of the tortoises from the Velero III expedition was identified as the only remaining source of fresh genes, and was sent to the Darwin Station by the Zoo. He arrived in Galápagos on August 8, 1977, 43 years after he was taken, and has proved to be a potent contributor to the successful breeding program returning his subspecies from the brink of extinction. It is estimated he has sired about 1,700 Española tortoises. Super Diego remains active and healthy.
Want to see Super Diego in person? Join us in Galápagos.
On Tuesday the 148-guest National Geographic Explorer once again made history when it became the first passenger vessel to call at Harlingen in the Netherlands. A large crowd of onlookers and the mayor, Roel Sluiter, turned out to watch the ship arrive and greet Captain Ben Lyons. He was presented with a port of call placard to commemorate the first visit by an expedition ship in the medieval port. About two-thirds of our guests chose to enter the town by Zodiac and explore its historic canals, while those who stayed aboard were met by a local news crew. See the footage here (the action starts at about 2:00 with the local pilot coming aboard Explorer).
For five decades scientists and submariners have reported odd quacking sounds in the Southern Ocean, nicknaming the phenomenon “the bio-duck.” New recordings created by NOAA researchers have attributed the sound to minke whales. The researchers say they’ll be able to use this knowledge to help track the migrations of the minkes, of which little is known, though our guests have found them to be curious enough to approach our Zodiacs around the Antarctic Peninsula. See the BBC story on minke vocalizations, and if you’d like to hear them for yourself, join us in Antarctica next season.
The Journey of Giants (“Ruta de Gigantes”) is an exhibition that features a series of large format photographs and videos telling the story of whales and their annual migrations from places like Alaska to Baja California, Panama, and more. Initially installed along a busy foot-trafficked avenue in Mexico City, the exhibit was adapted for the halls of the Miami International Airport. For the next six months it will share the story of sustainable whale tourism to travelers passing through Miami Airport’s South Terminal. Directed by Alejandro Balaguer (Albatros Media Foundation), the bilingual exhibition is sponsored in part by Lindblad Expeditions. Additional funding comes from Copa Airlines, Fondo Mexicano para la Conservación de la Naturaleza (Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature), Ecosolar, and Intinetwork.
Next time you find yourself in the Miami airport bound for – or returning from – a new adventure, we hope you’ll discover a bit of inspiration as you transit through the South Terminal. And, if your travels don’t take you to Miami, catch a glimpse of the video exhibition.
Meet the Grosvenor Teacher Fellows for 2014! From a pool of 1,300, these 25 Fellows were selected to travel in groups of 2 and 3 aboard National Geographic Explorer in Svalbard, Iceland, Greenland, the Canadian High Arctic, the Canadian Maritimes, and Antarctica. Thanks to generous support from Fund for Teachers, Google, and individual donors, we were able to more than double the size of the program from last year. These K-12 educators will enhance their geographic learning through direct, hands-on field experience and bring that knowledge back to their classrooms and communities.
Under bright blue skies on Friday in Auckland we inaugurated the newest ship in the Lindblad-National Geographic fleet, the National Geographic Orion. Jeremy Lindblad, Captain Mike Taylor, and underwater filmmaking legend Valerie Taylor shared a few words from the bow of the ship, as guests watched with champagne in hand on the quayside. Valerie tossed the champagne bottle, as we all snapped our photos and raised our glasses for a toast to the National Geographic Orion and all who sail on her.
Our inaugural expedition is underway right now. You can see the photos and read the reports online.