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Destination: Galapagos Islands Cyber Field Trip

Sherri Steward's Expedition Journal
Day Seven

Click here to see Sherri's video journal.

Click on the photo to see an enlargement.

view from the topWe sailed over night to the islet of Bartolome, which is located centrally in the archipelago, off the east coast of Santiago Island. Bartolome is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in the Galapagos. Today we took a long, steep hike to the highest point of the islet for magnificent views in all directions. Below us were two pristine pocket beaches that are among the most beautiful beaches I have seen in all my travels. Adjacent to one of the beaches is the famed Pinnacle Rock -- a massive volcanic outcropping created by a violent eruption, that sent hot molten lava to the sea.

View from pinnicleThere is stark contrast in the volcanic landscape of Bartolome and the beautiful beaches below. As we hiked down from the summit of the islet (359 feet high), I commented, "This must be what the surface of Mars looks like." There is not much vegetation, and in some places, none at all, only bare volcanic formations. Of course, this is exactly how all volcanic islands begin. I am reminded of the Hawaiian Island of Kauai, its lush vegetation and rainforests, which were once as barren as Bartolome. I can't help but wonder what Bartolome will look like in two or three million years.

Before the end of our hike down, Graham Chedd and Andy Liebman asked Peter Hoving, our cameraman, and Mark, our soundman, to film a segment with Mandy and me for the local television station back home in Dallas, Texas. The Dallas news stations must have heard about our adventure and sent a fax requesting a film clip! Both Mandy and I have been amazed at the number of e-mail responses we have received from the students and teachers back home. I have been especially pleased to receive messages from my son, Dave, and most of my students back at Grapevine High School.

Galapagos PenguinsAfter hiking down, we traveled to Bartolome Beach to film the crew snorkeling. We finally were able to see the Galapagos penguins, which I have really been hoping to see. They are wonderful swimmers, like little missiles cruising through the water. It's great fun to watch them jump off the rocks into the surf, as they seem to be having so much fun performing for us. We came upon several sea lions, some on the beach, some playing in the water. Lynn Fowler, our naturalist, explained that the teenagers really love playing with swimmers and that they often play tag with their human friends. Alan Alda was snorkeling when a young sea lion decided to swim along; I am not sure who was having more fun -- Alan or the sea lion!

Tonight is Captain Penaherrera's farewell party to the Scientific American Frontiers crew and the passengers aboard the MS Polaris. Before the party, I plan to go up to the teak deck and watch the sun set over this breathtaking and mysterious wilderness. I hope it will give me a chance to reflect on my good fortune. As a high school teacher, my day begins and ends by sitting in traffic, with an extremely hectic schedule in between. I have traded the calm, organized lifestyle many people live for one that can be described only as chaotic; every student who has had me as a teacher knows exactly what I mean. I teach, run a nature center and wildlife rehabilitation program, take field trips with students, write grants, give presentations, fundraise for humanitarian causes and conservation and on and on and on. Sometimes I tell myself that I've got to make a change, that I can no longer cope with the confusion and chaos that is my life. In truth, I wouldn't change a thing. The bad things about my lifestyle pale in comparison to the rewards of making an impact on young people and being blessed with opportunities -- such as this expedition.

I would like to send a message to all the students reading this. Wild places, like the Galapagos and its precious diversity of life, are among mankind's greatest treasures. It will require all the vigilance and dedication we humans can muster to save them. Judging from the response I have received from all of you, I am very hopeful that you are not only capable, but also willing to do this.

I would like to thank the super crew of Scientific American Frontiers: Graham, Peter, Mark and Karin, you have taught us so much, as well as made us feel at home. I would like to thank Andy Liebman, who is one of the kindest and most patient men I have ever met. When everyone else was tucked away in their cabins, Andy was awake until all hours of the morning, editing and sending our information. I would also like to thank my school district for always allowing me to march to a different drum. Wendy Howe at GCISD're the greatest! Without the help of Apple Computers and this amazing Macintosh PowerBook G3, this would not have been possible for me. Margoleath Berman, Melissa Amour and Maki Hoashi have helped me for months. I would especially like to thank Jessani Gordon who has guided me throughout this entire endeavor. To my dear friends at GTE, who have stood by my side since 1989, I thank you for everything you have done for me.

Last, but not least, a sincere thanks to the young people who have made such an impact on me, all of which I couldn't possibly name: Dave, Mandy, Amy Christopherson, Justin, Bo, Trevor, Kim, Stephanie, Jerica and all the wonderful students I have taught over the past twenty years. You are why I am here.

Sherri Steward

Read Mandy's Day Seven Journal

Day 6 new entry Day 1


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