Day Eleven (4/9) — Floreana

Warning: Today’s Blog Photos are Rated R

Once again we tried to be on the islands at the first possible moment. Here at Punta Cormorant—which ironically, doesn’t have any cormorants—there’s a short trail from the panga landing spot across an isthmus to a second beach frequented by green sea turtles. Our goal was to try to catch any female who had dallied laying her eggs in the dunes of that beach. Even though we arrived early, we weren’t quite early enough. We found very fresh tracks and could see a few turtles just into the water when we arrived, so we didn’t get to see any egg laying. That’s not surprising, as most of the egg laying takes place just after midnight. 

We did spend a bit of time with some dive-bombing boobies, though:


As penitence the beach did give us a pair of blue-footed boobies doing the entire mating dance. The male does a circle lifting his blue feet in a very deliberate march, lets out a whistle with his beak to the skies, and shows a little wing. The female will quack and do some beak touching, maybe do a little march of her own. At some point in this repeated ritual, the male will pretend to be uninterested and fly away, but he just circles and comes right back and repeats the dance until the female is ready. The mating, as with most birds, is something that takes all of a few seconds. So there’s a heck of a lot more foreplay than actual intercourse involved in booby mating. 

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We did some snorkeling at Devil’s Crown, but it was fairly uneventful. More fish I can’t name ;~). 

In the afternoon we did the quick walk over to the Post Office. For over a hundred years a barrel on Floreana has served as an informal postal system. You leave off mail you want to send, and pick up any mail addressed to places you’ll be going soon and deliver it when you get there. We sorted through the sacks of mail in the barrel and easily found locations near us. There seemed to be a high concentration of coastal US, UK, and Europe, but I was surprised by some of the addresses. Maldives (the other place with giant tortoises), for instance. 

We also had someone who thought that it Match.com Bay, not Post Office Bay. She left a note with her email address saying she was seeking a life partner. An interesting choice. Filters out the destitute I suppose (it takes money to get to the Galapagos, no matter how you do it).  

After delivering the mail we took the pangas through the coves around Post Office Bay. The sea lions were playing. There was a shark here and there. Turtle heads bobbed around the beach. Unfortunately, we had our second equipment loss of the trip on this ride: a Coolpix AW120 was consigned to the waters after falling from a pocket out of the panga. We heard the plop. Billy dived down to try to find it, but the camera disappeared into the deep sediment on the bottom, and he couldn’t find it. 

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Of course, the camera has GPS, so it knows where it is. Only problem is we don’t know where it is. This is why I use a floating wrist strap on my underwater cameras. Even if the camera is heavy enough to sink with the strap, the strap tends to stick up out of the bottom where you can see it, especially since I use orange floaty straps.

The exciting spot of the ride were penguins. I don’t remember seeing them before on Floreana, but here they were, swimming around the boat. 

We also had three boobies that attracted everyone’s attention. This is a good exercise in position and timing. To wit:

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While everyone has a shot of the three in their files, I like Robert’s timing the best. When you have three of a thing you have three choices: (1) all the same; (2) one different; and (3) all different. I’ve seen all three variations on this gang of blue-footers, but #2 seems like the best choice in this case. 

Floreana has a long, bizarre history of settlement. The story is too complicated to tell here, so if you want to learn about it, I suggest a book by one of the participants: Floreana: A Woman’s Pilgrimage to the Galapagos [Affiliate link]. Note that no one agrees on the story of what happened, though fisherman still believe that the shores of Floreana are haunted by ghosts. There’s also an out of print book and film called “When Satan Came to Eden.” 

Landings: Cormorant Point is a mild wet landing, as is Post Office Bay.


© Thom Hogan 2014 — All Rights Reserved