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A Guest’s Deliveries from Post Office Bay, Galápagos

Today’s blog post was written by Jeanne Govert, who joined us in the Galápagos Islands last October. 

…stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed

In days of old, when large masted ships and their intrepid crews sailed the oceans, those waiting at home were rewarded for their patience with a letter delivered by a ship heading back home. Sometimes these letters were on the seas for many months, even years before reaching their destination.

On a tiny island in the Galápagos chain, there is a mailbox for these letters. It’s not the original barrel used in the 1800’s but a pretty rustic replica that is still used today on Floreana Island. The modern day version works similarly, connecting tourists with their just a tiny bit jealous friends back home, or perhaps even a note sent to themselves delivered by another tourist living near the addresses called out by the crew at mail call.

On our recent trip there we took delivery of four such postcards, three in cities in Ohio and one in Paris. I am optimistic, aren’t I? So on April 16 we headed to the first delivery address in Vermilion Ohio. Since the sender did not include a phone number or an email address, we showed up unannounced and she was out of town, information given to us by her neighbor out walking her dog. But she promised to deliver the postcard and told us Anne would be very disappointed to have missed us. Then it was on to our second destination after a night in a B&B in Tarlton, Ohio.

A side trip to the Hopewell Indian Mounds National Park was a bonus. Sharon and Gary had used their email address along with their home address in Wheelersburg, Ohio, down near the border by Kentucky. We warned them of our coming and they met us at the door with a camera and snacks! We shared photos of each of our trips. They had been there just two weeks before us so this was quite a quick delivery, being sent only six months earlier from Ecuador. We were in what is considered as Appalachia and they kindly offered to treat us to lunch at a place they knew well. They informed us that their county is the poorest in all of Ohio, while they live in a lovely, upscale neighborhood. We departed feeling that we had made new friends with common interests. Travel has a way of bringing like minded folks together and instant friendships are formed, even when you haven’t traveled together, simply to the same place.

The final delivery was to a business address in Sharonsville, Ohio just north of Cincinnati. Our arrival time was late due to the nice lunch with Sharon and Gary, but the card was delivered at 5:05! The door was still open and lots of workers were still in their workstations, all but Chris, the sender of the card. She leaves at 4:30 on Tuesdays! But since the card was addressed to her co-workers, they were thrilled to receive it. They knew of her trip and even of the postcard system because she too, had a few to deliver in the area. My photo was taken holding the card so she could see who drove far and wide, through rain and sun to keep the promise of the postal service. We headed on to Dayton to spend the night in another B&B in the historic district. A Thai dinner along with an after dinner drink at Blind Bob’s (yes, he is really blind) made for a long and interesting day. In the morning we took a self-guided walking tour of the neighborhood which was settled in the 1800’s by craftsmen and shopkeepers of the area known as Oregon.

Our trip started and ended with remnants of the early 1800’s. While these early German immigrants were building their homes and settling in to a land that was foreign to them, adventurous sailors were on the high seas discovering new lands too. Our journey these past three days took us to new parts of Ohio with over 600 miles traveled. But those three postcards traveled 2,954 miles to reach their destination. Now it’s on to Paris to deliver that last postcard.

Photos and story by Jeanne Govert, April 19, 2012

Rare White Killer Whale in Russia

Russian researchers are trying to track down an extremely rare all-white orca last spotted off the coast of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula about 18 months ago. The Far East Russia Orca Project said it was the first time they’ve seen a white orca, though since then two more all-white juveniles have been sighted. See the photos and story on Huffington Post.

Galápagos Undersea Exploration by ROV

Launching the ROV

 

This month our expedition team aboard National Geographic Endeavour unveiled a new tool that allows us to explore the marine environment in greater depth and share it with guests—a remote operated vehicle (ROV). The ROV can dive to 500 feet, far deeper than Scuba divers can safely explore, allowing us a glimpse of deep undersea life that inhabits this Pacific archipelago. While life inhabiting the islands has been well documented, relatively little is known about the deep undersea here.

This is the second ROV in the Lindblad-National Geographic Fleet. The ROV aboard National Geographic Explorer has aided in the discovery of new species in the polar seas as well as cold water corals. By exploring the Galápagos with our ROV on a regular basis, we hope to soon offer new insights into the region’s sea life. Intrigued? Come aboard and join the exploration.

See a short video with Sven Lindblad and the new ROV in Galápagos.

Wildlife sightings on early dives

In Honor of Earth Day

This Sunday is Earth Day. We’d like to mark the day by honoring our guests, whose generosity and thoughtfulness has done much to protect the planet’s wild places.

Just this month, many of our guests in Galápagos took time off from their expeditions to work with the national park service removing invasive blackberry and replacing it with the Cafetillo, or Psychotria rufpes. This shrub serves as a buffer zone around the last remaining stand of the giant daisy, Scalesia pedunculata, an endemic plant of Galápagos that forms a forest of elfin-like ambience of mosses and lichens.

See a few of the other amazing things our guests have done for the Earth.

iPhone App for Saving the North Atlantic Right Whale

Save the whales? There’s an app for that. The Whale Alert app created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration links real-time acoustic buoy information to an iPhone or iPad. The app is constantly updated with the location of right whales, allowing captains navigating the North Atlantic to be certain of steering a course clear from this rare, endangered whale.

On Nature Deficit Disorder

Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle and friend of Lindblad-National Geographic, has embarked on a cross-country lecture series to spread the word on reconnecting in the digital age.

The Nature Principle offers a vision of the future in which our lives are as immersed in nature as they are in technology. Louv created the phrase, “Nature Deficit Disorder,” which has stimulated a world-wide conversation about the relationship between people, especially children, and nature. He discusses the power of not living with nature, but in it.”

He’ll be in New York City at Columbia University’s Altschul Auditorium on Wednesday, April 11 at 6pm. See a full list of his appearances online.

Meet Don Walsh, the First Person to Dive to the Deepest Part of the Ocean

Lt. Don Walsh, USN (bottom) and Jacques Piccard (center) in the bathyscaphe Trieste

Yesterday National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron broke the solo dive record when his bright green, vertical-dive sub hit bottom in the very deepest part of the Mariana Trench. He now holds the record for the deepest solo dive—but he’s not the first person to reach this extreme depth.

On January 23, 1960, two explorers who reached the bottom of the Mariana Trench, and one of them was a part of Cameron’s expedition team this time around. Lieutenant Don Walsh of the U.S. Navy and Swiss engineer Jacques Piccard spent twenty minutes at the deepest part of the sea in the bathyscaph submarine Trieste that employed gasoline and electromagnetically controlled iron pellets as ballast.

Dr. Walsh was aboard James Cameron’s support ship during his dive yesterday, and he was one of the first to congratulate him back at the surface. And soon Dr. Walsh will be aboard our ship, National Geographic Explorer.

He will be one of our global perspective speakers during our Nov 7 expedition to Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falklands and also our Nov 27 expedition to Antarctica. There are still a few cabins available, join us to explore one of the planet’s wildest places and learn about the pioneering and ongoing exploration of the deepest parts of the sea from Dr. Walsh.

Plastic-Eating Fungi Discovered in the Amazon

Is fungus one of the answers to the world’s waste problem? A group from Yale University discovered a plastic-eating fungus in the Amazon rain forest. The exotic fungus is able to survive by growing on polyurethane in an oxygen-free environment. The discovery holds promise in the discovering new possibilities for managing plastic waste.

If you’re interested in making some of your own discoveries in the rain forest, join us for an Amazon River cruise.

Deepsea Challenge with James Cameron

Photo by Mark Thiessen/National Geographic

National Geographic explorer in residence James Cameron is preparing to dive into the deepest part of the world’s ocean. He’ll descend in a custom-made, vertical-dive sub that was built in secrecy over 8 years in Australia.

If Cameron’s dive is successful, he’ll join a very exclusive club. So far only two other people have made it to Challenger Deep, nearly 8 miles below the surface of the Pacific. Comparably space (500 visitors so far) and even the surface of the moon (12 visitors) seem like well-trodden destinations. Cameron will spend 6 hours of bottom time taking photos and collecting samples to examine back at the surface.

Learn more in The New York Times or visit Deepsea Challenge.

New Species of Shark Discovered in Galápagos

Photo from California Academy of Sciences

Scientists studying the deep sea around the Galápagos Islands have identified a previously unknown species of shark. The 1.3-foot-long fish is a catshark, but when seven of the specimens from Galápagos were compared to known species of catsharks at the California Academy of Sciences, they discovered coloration differences.

Though much is known about wildlife on the islands that makeup Galápagos, relatively little is known about the undersea.