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Destination: Galapagos Islands Cyber Field Trip

Sherri Steward's Expedition Journal
Day Three

Click here to see Sherri's video journal.

Click on the photo to see an enlargement.

A special note to all aspiring scientists: in science...chaos rules! Last night was no exception. We were up until long after midnight attempting to work out some complications in sending our data to you. If you're reading this, we made it!!

A view from the boatWe sailed overnight to Floreana Island, one of the south-central islands in the archipelago that is inhabited by a species that is not so rare, Homo sapiens. There are about 100 or so humans here on Floreana Island and they have had an enormous impact on the endemic wildlife, mostly as a result of introducing non-native species, such as goats, pigs and rats. In fact, we have been told today that one local man is responsible for the introduction of thousands of goats on one of the Galapagos Islands. He brought in only five, but over the years they increased their numbers to 40,000!

Alan Alda and crew getting ready to filmSoon after breakfast, we loaded up the pangas to head off for Champion Islet, a small volcanic outcropping about one-half mile from Floreana, and a good place to see sea lions and do some snorkeling. The sea lions seemed to be taking the morning off from all of the tourists, so we headed to Punta Cormorant, named for the cormorant, one of only two flightless seabirds found in the world, both of which are endemic to the Galapagos. Interestingly, there are no cormorants on Floreana, they are found only on the coasts of Isabela and Fernandina.

The Galapagos penguin is the northernmost residing penguin in the world. Most penguins live in the colder regions of the southern hemisphere, but the Humboldt Current's cool temperatures allow the penguin to survive in the Galapagos. Unfortunately, we missed the penguins today on Floreana, but some of the Scientific American Frontiers camera crew were lucky enough to get a glimpse of them. The other flightless bird, the flightless cormorant, is the tallest of the world's 29 species of cormorants, and the only one which has lost its ability to fly. The cormorants had no natural predators from which it had to escape and they became flightless. Unfortunately, the El Nino of 1982-83 had disastrous effects on the cormorant population, and today, only 700 to 800 pair exist in the world.

Lynn and sea lionAt Punta Cormorant, the Scientific American Frontiers camera crew began filming Dr. Lynn Fowler, our naturalist and wildlife expert, and Alan Alda. Of course, the usual array of Galapagos friends turned out to greet us -- a very sleepy Galapagos sea lion posed for a picture with Dr. Fowler.

After filming, Mandy and I collected data for the students back home, completing our Water World experiments, in which we measure dissolved oxygen, pH and salinity. We then loaded up the pangas and headed for Devil's Crown, a sunken, water-filled volcanic crater that is known for its great snorkeling. Yesterday we saw a beautiful green sea turtle from a distance of no more than five feet or so. We also saw some very beautiful fish, like the Moorish Idol.

sleeping sea lionIt looks like the captain is calling us to the galley for another tasty meal. Today we were lucky enough to have a traditional Ecuadorian lunch. Wow! Being a scientist is a tough job ... but someone's gotta do it!! You know, when in Ecuador, do as the Ecuadorians do. After dinner, I think I'll get some z's like my new-found friend here from Floreana Island in the fabulous Galapagos!

Read Mandy's Day Three Journal

Day 2 new entry Day 4


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.