Sunday, August 25, 2013

Saturday July 20th Urbina Bay and Tagus Cove

The world keeps getting smaller. At breakfast I was talking to Scott Stiles, the head of the scenic dept at Pickerington North. I got to know him a little bit when I did the costumes for Legally Blonde. Scott's brother Todd and sister in law Melanie were sitting with us and I found out they were teachers. I asked what subjects (english and social studies) and where (Fairfield Career Center). I mentioned I have a friend who teaches at Eastland and they asked who. Turns out they know Eddie quite well, they are part of the same teachers association and have been to conferences together. So, on our hike today I got Juan Carlos to take a picture of the 3 of us so I can surprise Eddie. 

This morning the dingies took us to Urbina Bay. Getting on and off the dingies can be an adventure in itself, depending on how choppy the water is. But like everything else, the crew has it all down to a science. The dingies pull up to a ladder at the side of the boat and first they put all our bags on, then we go one by one. The idea is that we always have our hands free to hang on to the ladder and grab the person on the other side. I noticed that the dingies have a protective cover on the bow, it is rope knotted almost like macramé. The crew says they are made by the fishermen of the islands from the same rope as the fishing nets. Urbina Bay is unique in that until 1954 it was a shallow cove. Due to volcanic activity the island was uplifted and brought the cove above sea level. A later La Nina phenomenon washed much of the salt away and now there is a lot of vegetation here. This time we did a wet landing, which consists of the dingy getting as close to shore as possible while we slide off the side into knee depth water, then wade ashore. We saw nests of sea turtle eggs, clearly marked so we could avoid disturbing them. I also saw the trail of the mama going back down into the sea. Neither the turtles nor the tortoises stay with  their eggs after they lay and cover them up. The tortoises lay fewer eggs, their young are a little more protected by the vegetation, while the baby turtles have to travel from the nest to the water and are easy prey for many other animals. Both species eggs are gender neutral when they are laid, the temperature will affect how many males vs females develop. I think more females in cooler weather, but am not positive. So much information every day. We did see a couple of big tortoises and some land iguanas. The iguanas dig burrows for protection and also to keep cool in very hot weather. Our guide says that sometimes the land iguanas and the marine iguanas mate (interesting because the land iguanas are WAY bigger than the marine iguanas), they are usually black with yellow spots. But the hybrids do not reproduce as they are sterile. Having so many teachers along is great, Sheri teaches biology and is my go to for all my crazy questions. Today we talked about why the land iguanas  have a HEMI PENIS and why the hybrids can not reproduce.

 Indira talked a lot about controlling the invasive species of animals. Goats were a big problem as they ate the eggs and young of the turtles and tortoises. A couple years ago the park services hired hunters from Australia and New Zealand to help eradicate the goats. They brought dogs to help, but had to put rubber boots on their paws to protect their paws from the rocks and plants. It took them 2 years to get rid of all the goats.  There are still feral dogs and cats that attack the endemic animals.  People who live in the cities are allowed to have pets but they are encouraged to have them neutered.  They have to be licensed and micro chipped. After they  are neutered they clip the  tip  of an ear so they are easily  recognizable.  We saw 2 giant tortoises plus the shell of about a 50 year old who had died not long before.  It gave  us  a  chance to  see  what  the  underlying  plates of the shell look like and also pieces of the keratin  covering. We also saw a bush that has a berry with ooze inside that can be used as glue and leaves that are rough enough to be used for sand paper.

After our hike they took us in the dingies to an area where we could snorkel.  We had wet suits, but still the water was  cold when we first got in. It  took  me  a  little  while  to  calm  my  breathing  down,  it  always  takes  me  a little  while  to  get  used  to  breathing  with  my  face  in  the  water,  but once  I  did  I  mostly  just  floated  along. I  found a huge sea turtle floating along on the current, eating here and there.  The  scuba  dive  hover  came  in  handy, I just floated over him and  watched him  feed, trying to  avoid  touching  him  when  he  changed  directions.  Because  they  are not  hunted, they do  not  fear  us,  so he  just  went  about  his  business  with me  within 2  feet of him.  Pretty  special  day. 

After lunch and a little nap we went on a dingy trip to Tagus Cove. We cruised along the shoreline for a while, saw nesting cormorants, crabs, iguanas and a small colony of penguins. The geology of the rocks on the shoreline is very interesting, in areas it has sheared off so you can see many different strata of rocks. We went up into a very small protected area and saw a sea lion swimming. Darwin was here in 1835 and it was a favorite place for whalers and pirates as it is semi protected from the motion of the waves. Until the national park was established in 1959 it was very common for sailors to write their names or the names of their ships on the rocks. It was a steep dry landing and then we climbed 100 steps and up more trail. From the higher ground you can see Lake Darwin, created by a crater and filled with sea water by seepage thru the rocks. Due to evaporation, the water is very salty so nothing lives in it. Indira showed us a very unusual small round lava rock.  These were formed when there was rain just after an eruption, the ash was in the air, the raindrops collected the ash and it cooled and solidified before it hit the ground. On the way down the trail we saw a fairly large male sea lion in a shallow rock overhang.  How those guys climb up the rocks with their flippers is unbelievable.

Saturday evening we crossed the equator on our way to Isabela Island.  There is a tradition to pay homage to King Neptune when you cross so after dinner we had a little skit with passengers playing King Neptune, his princess, pirates and animals. The skit ended with music and dancing, everyone seemed to be having a good time. 




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