Day 2: Geology of Bartolomé and snorkeling at Sullivan Bay
Today’s adventures included observing the geological makeup of the island of Bartolomé, and studying the marine life while snorkeling in nearby Sullivan Bay.
During the boat ride to the island of Bartolomé, we were able to see a close up of the island Daphne Major. We have heard so much about this island from the book that we read in class, The Beak of the Finch and all the finch research that has gone on on this particular island.
Daphne Major is famous for the fact that it is this first place where natural selection has been observed and recorded, and the characteristics of the finches on this island can be attributed to providing evidence for evolution. Although we have seen Daphne in the distance on many of our boat rides in the last few days, it was our first time seeing the dull gray color of the steep volcanic island up close.
Passing by, we could see the sea lions seeking refuge from the sun under the overhang of eroded lava rock, as well as many Nazca Boobies standing still in the brambly bushes that overtook the otherwise barren, crater topped, island. Reading about Daphne Major in our book could not have prepared the class for the sight we saw over the side of our boats today.
After the two hour boat ride, we arrived at Bartolomé and were greeted on the landing steps by a very stubborn sea lion who refused to give up his sunbathing spot to let us through. The island had a reddish tint to it made up of a combination of the lava rocks and finer lava sand.
Our guides lead us up 365 wooden stairs all the way to the top of the highest peak in Bartolomé. Along the way we were told about the lava cactus, the gray mat plant, and an evergreen that are the main colonizers of the island. Our guide informed us that the smaller peaks, or cones, that protruded from the island were a result of different temperatures of magma that had risen to the surface, the most famous one being Pinnacle Rock.
We were able to pick up large chunks of lava rock that were deceivingly light, and learned that this was due to pockets of gas getting stuck in the magma that were cooled and trapped by water. The only animal species that we were able to observe on the island were the lava lizards and the endemic Galapagos hawks that soared overhead. During the descent, we were able to get a group picture in front of the most photographed scenery in the entire archipelago, so beautiful!
We then motored over to Sullivan Bay where we took out the fins and snorkels for yet another exploration of marine life. We saw many species of fish including the Giant Puffer fish, Damselfish, Guineafowl Puffer fish, King Angelfish, and many more.
The underwater sightings of the day were definitely when we were able to watch the White Tipped Reef Shark swim circles underneath us, as well as watch a Marine Iguana feed on algae while being poked at by territorial Damselfish. We briefly saw a penguin dart by, and another Marine Iguana proudly swimming through our group of snorkelers with its head above the water.
We finished up the day with a great pizza dinner with the company of two researchers from Patty Parker’s lab at the University of Missouri St. Louis. While we enjoyed dinner, we got to hear about all the interesting research they are doing in Isabela with the Galapagos Hawk and avian malaria. Afterword, we spent the time before we headed back to the hotel enjoying yummy gelato and trolly rides on the main street of Port Ayora.