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Published: October 5th 2017
This day was divided between Fernandina and Isabela islands. Fernandina (Narborough) Island is the youngest and most volcanically active of the islands. It began erupting a couple of day after we left. Most of it is not open to visitors because of unsafe conditions, but we were able to visit Punta Espinoza. Our walk was over rough lava and sand through areas of tidal pools. Perhaps the most striking thing of the morning walk was the sea lion pups. We saw them nursing, playing together while their mothers were out fishing, and in one case an adventurous pup tried repeatedly to get to open water, while his mother repeatedly blocked his path. Eventually, she held him down with one flipper as they exchanged words. I am not fluent in sea lion, but I am pretty sure the exchange went something like this:
"You try that again and I am going to make you wish you hadn't!"
"You never let me do anything!"
"One more time and I am going to tell your father!"
At one point, three pups whose mothers were out fishing quit their rough and tumble play and became curious about us. The most adventurous
Or at least until mating season
of the group came over slowly and went up and sniffed at Jennie's pants leg to see what sort of creature she was, while the other two followed along but tried to be inconspicuous. No fear, just curiosity. Magic moment.
Nearby, flightless cormorants sunned and dried their stubby wings (useless for flight), and mockingbirds, finches, and warblers flitted about. By now, we were able to sex finches by body color, a skill I never envisioned acquiring and will probably find virtually useless in the future.
The afternoon was largely filled with a somewhat more vigorous hike into the interior of Bahia Urbina on Isabela (Albemarle) Island. Isabela, along with Fernandina, is one of the two islands still sitting on top of the Galápagos hot spot and therefore still very active. It is the largest of the islands, shaped like a seahorse, and came about as 5 separate islands grew together. Each volcano thus now has its own distinct tortoise population. At Bahia Urbina we landed on a shelf of land that has been present only since 1954. At that time, a survey ship nearby witnessed a sudden uplift of the sea floor that stranded marine animals on shore
and extended the land area out ½ mile, the process taking only a couple of minutes by their description. As a result, you can now walk on a dead coral reef with large coral heads at one point that are several feet tall. Aside from that novelty item, our biggest find was the land iguanas again. These seemed to be somewhat smaller than the ones we saw previously at Cerro Dragon, but that may have been imagination. They were equally unwilling to give way to let us pass. Some of the group took a shorter and easier path, and they saw some tortoises, but we missed them. We were not told about it at the time, but my research since the trip says that this colony of tortoises is the only undisturbed colony in the islands. Not sure about that.
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