Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Penguins

We heard yesterday afternoon that this sort of weather, heavy rolling seas from the north, is very unusual, and hasn´t been like this in five years.

Our landing on Bartolome Island was supposed to be dry, but with seas high, it was mostly wet. We basically had to jump out of the boat and move as quickly away from the pier as we could to avoid getting soaked. Bartolome is a very young volcanic island. You could see the solidified streams of lava, and lava bombs with their crinkly, colored folds, lying on top of pumice and basalt. It was a hot, sunny afternoon, and I was a little concerned about my father. He hasn´t been sleeping all that well because of some congestion, which wakes him up to cough. He can´t take benadryl or pseudofed, but he´s going to take a claritin tonight. Anyway, he took his time up the mountain, but he made it all the way to the top. Great views of volcanic splatter cones and a thin mangrove swamp. They filmed the movie "Master and Commander" here.

Back at the bottom we reboarded the boat, but this time the guide was soaked. The wave was so large he disappeared in the white sea foam and we feared he might have been washed away. Everyone get on board dry. Then we toured the coast where we saw three families of penguins (including one with a young penguin). The guide and one of the passengers named the families (e.g., the Dominguez family, the Gonzales family, etc).

The big excitement last night was crossing the Equator. The ship´s crew put on a very mild and cleaned up version of the Shellbacking ceremony (google it to find out what the navy does). King Neptune showed up with a trident and toy otter. His henchmen were dressed as pirates. First they took away an officer to kill her (she snuck back in 2 minutes later). Then, after "terrorizing" the passengers, they grabbed one to be Neptune´s queen. When asked her name, she said "Barbara," apparently a different member of her group (they are a group of some 12 people who eat and drink together). Then they decided they needed more victims so they grabbed six more people, including my father. They all had to kneel before Queen "Barbara" and then perform tasks. Dad was ordered to walk like a penguin. Then they had to kiss "Peppino" -- they toy otter on Neptune´s staff. Then they returned to their chairs and we all received certificates noting that we crossed the Equator.

We slept much better last night. No heavy rolling like the night before. This morning we went to Isabela Island. We hoped to see land tortoises, but they´re still up in the highlands. The area we walked through was uplifted 55 years ago through volcanic action. We landed on a black volcanic beach. Dad didn´t want to get shoes wet, so he took his shoes and socks off and then put them on afterwards, but very slowly and we had to catch up with our group. We saw the nesting sites of land iguanas and several of the 4 foot yellow ones. Afterwards, we returned to the beach where I went snorkling.

At first, the sea was very murky, but as I got further out it cleared up (also when the sun came out, we could see more). I saw more king angelfish and some more blue and yellow fish. There was a school of silvery Jacks {?}, but not too many fish. Then I saw a large ray on the ocean bottom. On the way back in, a green sea turtle swam right by me.

Lunch was a buffet on the back deck. Dad particularly likes the cheeses. Tonight we´re all getting the grilled lobster appetizer.

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