Sep 05, 2017 - National Geographic Islander
We have had an absolutely spectacular day today in the enchanted islands of the Galapagos! And once again our guests were amazed that each and every day has been different from the previous one. But today, of all the fantastic days so far, will be hard to surpass. We had dolphins at dawn, dozens of sea turtles in the cold clear shallows before lunch and to top it all off, the eerie red glow of a volcanic eruption right after dinner!
We awoke in the northern hemisphere and thus we are all now “shell backs,” having crossed the equator at sea. We navigated along the northern coast of the large seahorse shaped island of Isabela. I spotted seabirds feeding in the distance and we took the ship closer and found a pod of a couple hundred common dolphins feeding among noddy terns and shearwaters. We also recorded two species of storm petrels and to guest lecturer Dr. David Wilcove’s delight, he observed and pointed out a waved albatross! We followed the dolphins and feeding seabirds for about 20 minutes and they were breathtakingly beautiful in the early morning light as they leapt and splashed around us.
We anchored at Punta Vicente Roca and took a cruise in the Zodiacs where we saw a long list of species and behaviors. There were sea turtles and cormorants, huge male iguanas fighting, and smaller iguanas feeding, fur seals, sea lions and diving boobies. A flightless cormorant came to the surface with a fish in its beak and flipped and turned it until he could swallow it whole.
Back at the ship we quickly wiggled into our wetsuits and went out to snorkel among dozens and dozens of graceful sea turtles, and we saw marine iguanas and cormorants in the water with us, too. The water was cold but clear and to snorkel among the totally fearless wildlife was amazing. Some of the guests spotted a huge manta ray!
In the afternoon we anchored off Punta Espinoza, Fernandina Island. The afternoon’s walk on rough barren pahoehoe lava was delightful. There were marine iguanas sprawled and sunning everywhere; we had to watch our step so as not to tread upon them. Sea lions entertained us with their antics and as one young pup searched for its mother, we found and photographed a couple flightless cormorants and two juvenile hawks. The setting and the landscape made one think of the beginning of life on earth.
But the highlight of the day was still to come. As soon as we returned to the ship Captain Patricio had the boson haul up our anchor and we navigated three hours south along the coast of the island of Fernandina to witness one of the most impressive shows in nature: a volcanic eruption. La Cumbre, as the huge shield volcano on Fernandina is called, began erupting yesterday in the late morning. Tonight we drifted just a half mile off shore and watched as lava spurted skyward from vents far up on the caldera rim, and a wide orange lava river flowed down the steep slope towards the sea. By the time we left the area around 2200, the lava had not yet reached the ocean. We took photos as best we could from the ship and we thoroughly enjoyed the incredible view!
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