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Destination: Galapagos Islands Cyber Field Trip

Sherri Steward's Expedition Journal
Day Four

Click here to see Sherri's video journal.

Click on the photo to see an enlargement.

After a late dinner last night, I worked on our video and finished around midnight. I never mind getting up early here, because it is so incredibly beautiful. It's always a pleasure to see the sun come up on the islands. Each night, we sail for our next day's adventure on a new island, so every day is a new, exciting and breathtaking experience. This morning was especially good because I got to drink my morning coffee (Ecuadorian coffee is very strong) on the teak deck with Isabela Island as my backdrop.

After a huge breakfast of potatoes, eggs, sausage, ham and lots of good, strong, Ecuadorian coffee, the Scientific American Frontiers crew and other new friends from the boat headed off for the coast of Isabela for a look at some magnificent volcanic cliffs, home to many species of birds, including lots of blue-footed boobies. There are lots of brown pelicans here also, as well as the magnificent frigate bird. The males of this species attract the females by inflating the bright red pouches on their necks. The great frigate bird is another endemic species, of which we saw plenty today.

Pahoehoe lava flowsOur destination for today is the westernmost and youngest of the Galapagos Islands, Fernandina, and is the island that receives the most visitors each year. Isla Fernandina is still geologically active and its last eruption occurred in 1995. Evidence of the island's very young age can be seen in its bare lava landscape, with Pahoehoe lava flows near the shore.

On this barren rock, evolution begins by a process known as primary succession. The organisms arriving first, such a lichens and other simple forms of life, are called the pioneer communities. Fernandina is literally an island in the making; each time a volcanic eruption occurs, new land is formed and the evolutionary process continues as it has for eons.

Lots of marine iguanas with Polaris in the backgroundOne of the most interesting animals in the Galapagos, and the world for that matter, is the flightless cormorant. Fernandina and Isabela are the only places in the world this bird is found, and they provide us with an in-depth understanding of the process of biological evolution. The cormorants descended from birds possessing the ability to fly, but once they reached the Galapagos, they found no natural predators. The cormorants that now exist in the Galapagos have very small wings and are flightless birds.

South American Conference of Marine IguanasFernandina is well known for its many marine iguanas; there are hundreds of them lying together in great masses on the lava. Unfortunately, El Nino had a tremendous impact on these creatures, and there are also many carcasses on the lava as well. It is, of course, the policy of the Ecuadorian government to allow nature to take its course, so everything is left as is, just as nature would have it.

Tomorrow is going to be a very exciting and busy day for the Scientific American Frontiers crew. The crew consists of Andy, our producer; Graham, head of the Chedd-Angier Production Company; Karen and Peter, a father and daughter camera team; Mark, our soundman, and Alan Alda. We are all becoming good friends and they all have very exciting lives and many stories to tell us. Andy, a very talented, Emmy-winning and patient man, whom we have come to call our "bossman," has informed us that we will be packing up all our gear and moving to another boat tomorrow. Andy has become our life's blood...we follow him around like little puppies and he is constantly helping us out of our daily techno-jams.

Tomorrow is a day we have dreamed of...seeing the giant Galapagos tortoises and the Charles Darwin Research Station.

Oh yeah, did I mention the moon has been full?

Read Mandy's Day Four Journal

Day 3 new entry Day 5


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