Rachel Dane, May 1, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rachel Dane
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
April 29 – May 10, 2005

Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Date: May 1, 2005

Personal Log

Following 16 hours of travel that brought me to Guayquil, Ecuador, a 2 hour flight has transported me to the northernmost tip of Baltra Island in the Galapagos.  The Galapagos Islands is the name given to this isolated group of volcanic mounds, which consists of 19 major islands and scores of inlets located 1000km west of mainland Ecuador.  From the air I could observe most of the land mass of the archipelago, which covers 7882 square km.  That these islands have so profoundly influenced scientific thought is astounding! The handful of animals that made their way out here have, through isolation, developed into completely unique species without fear of predation.

After a 10 minute ferry ride from Isla Baltra to the northern tip of Isla Santa Cruz, I am driven 42km south to Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the archipelago.  The population of this town is growing (too fast!) due to immigration from mainland Ecuador, and now numbers about 12,000 individuals.  During the drive I was observing the vegetation and wildlife, and noticed many plants with brightly colored flowers ranging from deep red to vibrant pinks and purples. Also present were a plethora of small, lemon yellow butterflies. Soon, Academy Bay was stretching far out to the east, and anchored peacefully in the turquoise water I spotted what was to be my home for the next 12 days: the NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana (Hawaiian for “Ocean Seeker”).

Once dropped off at the pier, I was ferried out to the KA’IMIMOANA (KA) via a local “panga”, or water taxi. I was welcomed by Doc, Joe and Sean (more to come about my crew mates!) and given a brief tour of the ship.  Eager to explore Isla Santa Cruz, Joe and I headed back to the island with our panga.  One of the most popular visitor sites in Puerto Ayora is the Charles Darwin Research Station, which is where I met the giant Galapagos tortoises face to face!  The station directs a captive breeding program for several of the 11 remaining subspecies of tortoise, and I was happy to learn that the captive bred animals are generally released to their home islands when they are about 4 years old.

Tired but elated after spending the afternoon at the research station, I enjoyed a meal of delicious fresh sea bass at a local restaurant.  My first day in the Galapagos closed after the short water taxi trip back to the vessel, and meeting several more of my helpful and welcoming ship mates.  I was lulled to sleep by the gentle rocking of the anchored ship, and the comforting view of stars from the window of my berth.

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