Galapagos News

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Finally, Amazing Shark News in Galapagos

Marine scientists from the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) have made the first recording of the presence of two additional shark species in Galapagos waters -- the broadnose sevengill shark (Notorynchus cepedianus) and the bluntnose sixgill shark (Hexanchus griseus). As stated in the press release by the CDF moments ago, the research was done in collaboration with the Galapagos National Park Directorate, National Geographic Society, Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) Media Lab Open Ocean Initiative, and Lindblad Expeditions (LEX).

We are delighted as well, that the lead scientist on this, Salome Buglass, is an old friend from the Galapagos days and certainly an incredible young researcher. Although she has not been in this scientific field for very long, she's an up-and-comer with more accomplishments under her belt than many seasoned researchers. (Not to mention, she's proudly part Canadian too!)

We welcome you to read the CDF's full press release here: 

Two shark species newly registered in the deep waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve

 

Photo Credit - CDF

 

All of the research and conservation work carried out by the Charles Darwin Foundation at the Research Station is only possible through donations. While there is an inclination to think that Galapagos, being such a famous and incredible "living laboratory", scientific work must all be sufficiently funded already -- sadly, that it not the case. The CDF/Research Station would benefit greatly from any and all donations. As a company that values first and foremost the conservation of and scientific work being conducted in Galapagos, we ask that you please consider donating towards their work. (www.darwinfoundation.org

Whale Shark Disappearance

A female whale shark (Rhincodon typus), named Esperanza (or “Hope” in English), has disappeared off the radar around Galapagos; perhaps not coincidentally at the same time that a flotilla of 260 Chinese fishing vessels have been observed in the area (see our previous blog piece on that flotilla, here). The fins of sharks, especially whale sharks, are extremely valuable in many parts of Asia. Millions of sharks, many of them of endangered species, are killed each year solely for their fins. Esperanza was last seen between the Exclusive Economic Zone and the Galapagos Marine Reserve. 

 

A diver installing a transmitter on a whale shark. Photo credit: Galapagos National Park. 

 

Esperanza was tagged in September 2019 as part of a scientific monitoring project looking at the habits of whale sharks in and around Galapagos. The signals from her tags stopped transmitting on May 20, 2020. Norman Wray, the President of the Galapagos Governing Council, announced the disappearance of Esperanza’s transmissions and included his worry and suspicion of the flotilla’s possible involvement. Wray shared the news via a tweet.

Transmission sent from Esperanza, prior to May 20, 2020. Map used by Norman Wray in tweet announcing disappearance. Credit: Galapagos Whale Shark Project.

 

Whale sharks are the largest fish species on the planet and are classified as “Endangered” on the IUCN Red List. The vast majority of whale sharks found in Galapagos are not only female, but pregnant females (almost 99% of them, according to researchers). They gather around the North Westernmost most islands of Darwin and Wolf during their gestation period. Jonathan Green and Dr Alex Hearn, those referenced in Wray’s tweet, are co-Founders and leading researcher in the study of whale sharks in and around Galapagos through the Galapagos Whale Shark Project.

We, along with many of our dear friends in Galapagos (and around the world), are extremely concerned and saddened by this news. Watch this space for more information as we monitor the developing situation in the waters of the Galapagos Marine Reserve.

 

Photo credit: IUCN Red List (Pedro Vieyra)

NEW Book Alert! – Tui de Roy Has Released Another Stunning Oeuvre

The incredible wildlife photographer, conservationist, and writer, Tui de Roy, has just released a new book, titled “A Lifetime in Galapagos”.

 

This new oeuvre of hers comprises not just her astounding images but also some of the stories of the moments behind the photos, as well as detailed insights into her childhood in Galapagos. We would of course highly recommend getting yourself a copy not just to gaze in wonder at the photos, but perhaps also to help you either reminisce or dream about Galapagos.

Photo: Galapagos hawk, by Tui de Roy

 

Tui and her family moved to Santa Cruz Island in Galapagos, from Belgium, when she was just a toddler. Living first in the highlands of Santa Cruz then by the sea shore on Angermeyer Point, Tui is as “Galapagueña” as the tortoises themselves. She was always fascinated by the natural environment that surrounded her in Galapagos and was introduced to photography at 16 – she quickly became a top guide and wildlife photographer in the islands.

As a teenager she was even hired by visitors to lead expeditions and by visiting scientists to help guide them during fieldwork. She gained the majority of her knowledge of the very nooks and crannies of the Islands from self-led expeditions with her family, as they often explored the islands (this was, of course, before strict restrictions were put in place by the Galapagos National Park).

Sea lions with a tuna, photo by Tui de Roy

 

 "Star trails", an incredible piece created by Tui de Roy, of the stars zooming over the Opuntia Cacti of Galapagos 

 

I had the incredible honour and privilege of spending three weeks in the field with Tui, on Alcedo Volcano on Isabela Island. We were volunteers as part of a small research crew, joining an ornithologist from the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) and a park ranger from the Galapagos National Park. We were on Alcedo to observe the feeding patterns of Vermillion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus nanus) parents, as part of the CDRS Landbird Project. Below, two photos of Tui on the edge of the crater during one of our observation set-ups, with a rare male Vermillion Flycatcher in the foreground (spotted by its red head).

 

Tui de Roy on the inner rim of Alcedo Volcano, with a rare male Vermillion Flycatcher in the foreground. Photo by Kelsey Bradley (CDF 2017)

Getting the shot... Photo by Kelsey Bradley (CDF 2017)

 

Below a few other shots of mine, capturing Tui in action on Alcedo, in between Vermillion Flycatcher observations. The time doing field work on Alcedo was one of the best experience of my life and I truly appreciated every little bit of wisdom received from Tui there – I would certainly return to that isolated volcanic rim in a heartbeat! Her new book might be the next best thing to that.

 

With a juvenile Galapagos hawk. Photo credit Kelsey Bradley (CDF 2017)

 

 

Early morning near the fumaroles with the tortoises of Alcedo, (sulfur, not as great a smell as coffee in the early morning). Photo credit Kelsey Bradley (CDF 2017)

 

After a day of observations, finding a juvenile tortoise in the (very warm) fumaroles. Photo credit Kelsey Bradley (CDF 2017). 

 

 

The Casanova of Galapagos Returns Home

The true Casanova of Galapagos, Diego, a giant tortoise, has been returned back to his home island of Española. This return has been many years in the making and was only done now as he has retired from being the primary re-generator of his entire species (Chelonoidis hoodensis). In truth, Casanova didn’t actually have a leg to stand on compared to Diego.

Hitching a lift (Photo courtesy of the Galapagos National Park Directorate) 

 

The Galapagos giant tortoise breeding program, originally created on Santa Cruz Island in the 60s as a joint effort between the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station, has been an enormous success. Upon initiating this program, the Española species specifically had only slightly more than a dozen individuals. Thanks to all those involved, especially Diego and his various partners, his particular species now has nearly 2,000 individuals. Diego made his way from the San Diego Zoo in the U.S., to the Research Station on Santa Cruz Island in Galapagos, and now to Española.

Yesterday, park rangers from the Galapagos National Park (GNP) and a lead scientist, moved Diego (and some of his offspring) from the Research Station on Santa Cruz Island back to Española Island.

How did Diego travel home? Well, it’s not like he checked his luggage, grabbed his boarding pass, then waited in the departure lounge for a flight to Española. The rangers and scientist first placed him (and others) in a GNP pick-up truck, for the short drive to the pier. From there they were loaded into dingys (also referred to as Zodiacs), to be brought to the ship that made the traverse to Española.

 

 

Out for a ride (Photo credit - Galapagos National Park Directorate)

 

Once unloaded onto Española Island, they then had to carry them up to the correct vegetation zone and area of the island. (Grown males can weight more than 400lbs/227kg -- luckily Diego is about 175lbs/80kg.) How exactly did they carry them? The GNP kindly shared photos of that brilliance…

 

 

Above Photos - courtesy of the Galapagos National Park 

For most of the CNH Tours group (Heather, Marc, and Kelsey), we all at one point or another had Diego as our neighbour at the Research Station. It was a pleasure to see him often just down our local path, but we are all certainly glad he’s now back home.

 

 Lead scientist and park ranger, after the long trek -  Photo courtesy of the Galapagos National Park 

 

 

Glimpses of What Awaits You in Ecuador...

We are delighted to share this short video, created by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Tourism, which highlights some of the incredible sights of Ecuador that awaits us all. 

 

The first time I saw a man in drag in Quito…

 

With all the wonderfully varied traditions and holiday activities all over the world, I would say that it’s hard to come across one that truly surprises you anymore. With the rise of online media and digital storytelling from all the corners of this great Planet, we have the ability to see intimate moments and celebrations anywhere, no matter where we’re from.

Ecuador is no exception to this rich variety of holiday traditions. As mentioned in a previous blog piece (found here), the baking and celebrating of the Day of the Dead is lovely and something I look forward to each year. 

But the man in drag… It was my first time in Ecuador and having never travelled by myself before, I was a bit anxious and I would certainly define it as “on edge” as well. I had a long day of travel and arrived into Quito at about midnight. At the time I also didn’t speak Spanish, but instead thought to myself (as most Canadians do, I am sure), “I speak French, how hard could it be to understand Spanish?” Well, when approached by a man dressed in drag at the airport in Quito with a container of coins, there was no French to Spanish translation that was going to help me in that moment.

It turns out that it was New Year’s eve and traditionally in Ecuador men dress up as women – pretending to be widows – they go around asking for spare change.

 

Men participating in Quito. (Photo credit El Comercio.)

 

While I am not clear on the administrative backing of this, it is said that the money is for charity in the end. There are usually local competitions and in 2017-18 in Puerto Ayora, a pageant of sorts happened during the New Year’s Eve celebrations where several men competed for the prize of “Best Widow”. (The one that brought the doll and cried very convincingly, but also danced well, won.)

So, if travelling in Ecuador around New Year’s there’s no need to feel flabbergasted to have men dressed as woman approach you asking for change. If you’re feeling adventurous, ask them for their story before dropping a coin or two into their container!

 

Halloween...in Galapagos?

In the last few years, the holiday of Halloween as we in North America know it, has started to emerge in Galapagos. This, we are sure, is primarily due to the influence of North American tourists on the islands and the main bars and restaurants beginning to celebrate the day as well. However, what started to happen was that young parents started dressing up their littles ones to go out trick-or-treating. Little bumble bees, devils, ballerinas, and the sort now go from restaurant to restaurant along the main street of Puerto Ayora to ask for candy – quite a sight to see on a rock in the middle of the Pacific!

 

However, there is a different celebration that goes on around the same time of year in Ecuador and out on the Islands of Galapagos. On the 1st and 2nd of November, Ecuadorians (along with many Latin Americans from various countries) celebrate the Day of the Dead and All Saints Day. The added holiday in Ecuador is November 3rd, which is the Independence Day for the city of Cuenca. There are different traditions in each province and city in Ecuador for these days, but in general it’s to honour and remember relatives that have passed away. These days are national holidays, spent with family. As with most holidays worldwide, there is of course delicious food and drink that goes along with it as well…

 

Towards the end of October, many in Galapagos, including local establishments, start making “colada morada”; a thick and drink made of pineapple, corn, Andean blueberries, oats, and sugar. Purple, warm, and perfect for the cool evenings in the Islands at that time of year! The accompanying food item for these holidays is a “pan de wawa”. “Wawa”, or “guagua”, meaning baby in the Ecuadorian indigenous language of Quechua, is bread in the shape of a baby or doll, decorated and filled with something sweet – my favourite being dulce de leche (cue the drooling now…) Combined with colada morada it’s a delicious holiday treat!

 

Image from Laylita.com

 

If you’d like to try your hand at making these treats, or any other Ecuadorian dish or item, I strongly recommend visiting the page Laylita.com. She has fantastically easy recipes to make (or at least try to make) various Ecuadorian food, including pan de wawa and colarada morada – give ‘em a try and buen provecho!

Answer: ICONIC nightly show with ties to Galapagos – Question: What is Jeopardy!, Alex?!

This week on the show Jeopardy! there was an entire category dedicated to our favourite Ecuadorian archipelago – Galapagos!

Jeopardy!, an iconic televised game show in the USA now in its 35th season, quizzes its contestants with answers and they have to provide the questions to win money. For example, in the category of “Islands” you might have the host, Alex Trebek, say, “Answer: An archipelago located 1000km (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador”. The correct way to answer would be, “What is the Galapagos, Alex?” Fun fact: Alex Trebek is Canadian! 

 

The Galapagos category was part of the first round and we must say, quite the challenge! Some of the answers were about swallowed tailed gulls, ocean-diving mammals (sea lions), a type of plant found on many beaches of Galapagos that changes to bright green throughout the seasons (a type of succulent), and a clip of a “Clue Crew” member working to crush sugar cane in the highlands of Santa Cruz – with the help of a donkey too!

Every year or so, Alex Trebek and some of his film crew and “Clue Crew Members” go to Galapagos. They film questions there while being hosted by one of the higher end ships. During their 2017 trip, CNH Tours’ own Kelsey Bradley (then working for the Darwin Research Station) went onboard to give a talk about the work of the Station. She fully themed her talk to match the style of Jeopardy! and as a thank you, Jimmy McGuire, one of Jeopardy’s “Clue Crew” members (a presenter on the show) gave her a Jeopardy hat and a special thanks. (See awkwardly funny photo below!)

 

During the episode this week, there was also a “Double Jeopardy” question included in the Galapagos category – answering correctly the contestant would have doubled their wager. The question involved beautiful video footage of two large birds doing their mating dance, and as Alex said from Espanola island, “a waved type of these”. Unfortunately, the contestant didn’t answer correctly, but if you’ve done your research on Galapagos – or if you’re lucky enough to have been – you’ll know that the answer was the “Waved Albatross”.

We always love to see Galapagos pop up out of the blue – even if we spend our days (and nights!) talking about it!

 

This week on the show "Jeopardy!" there was an entire category dedicated to our favourite Ecuadorian archipelago – Galapagos!

Long-Lost Message in a Bottle - An Historic Find in Galapagos!

 

What’s the next best thing to going on Shackleton’s Expedition to Antarctica? Well, sailing through the Galapagos Archipelago of course!

A nearly century-old message in a bottle from sailor Hugh Craggs was recently discovered in Galapagos by 26-year-old Toronto student Grant Peters. It was found buried in the sand on Floreana Island and what Peters later found out, it was written by Craggs during his voyage around the world (this being after missing out on Shackleton’s expedition).

Craggs’s note was dated August 1, 1924 and according to the Daily Mail it read, “Hugh Craggs, Yacht St George RTYC. Will any finder please enclose message bearing date, name of finder, of ship, destination, do a rebury and send a postcard to Hugh Craggs 50 Ruskin Ave Manor Park London E12.”[i]

 

How fitting it was that of all locations in Galapagos, this bottle was found in Post Office Bay on Floreana Island! This location is where for centuries everyone from buccaneers, to whalers to the first inhabitants of Galapagos had sent off their mail. Technically, it is merely a barrel on the shore of Post Office Bay on Floreana Island. Tens of thousands of visitors now visit this site annually as well, which is one of the oldest pieces of human history in Galapagos.

 

As it was reported in the Daily Mail, once back home in Toronto Peters used Reddit to find out more about Craggs. As it turned out, Craggs had been sailing around the world from London, looking for treasure and adventure. He did this aboard the Malaya, a 90-tonne schooner.

 

If you’re ever in Post Office Bay on Floreana Island, be sure to partake in the post card tradition of placing a postcard in the barrel and selecting one already in the barrel to deliver to a recipient near your home. Once there, you can ask your Naturalist Guide all about it. Just make sure to put your postcard in the barrel and not buried in the sand – not only do we discourage littering, it also might not be found for a century!

 

[i] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6046567/100-year-old-message-bottle-discovery-reveals-epic-tale-Londoners-quest-adventure.html

MASSIVE ERUPTION on Isabela Island!

CNH Tours received word this morning from Naturalist Guides on Isabela Island that a tremor was felt in the middle of the night. The information was confirmed by the Geophysical Institute of Ecuador, which registered a tremor of magnitude 5.3 on the Richter scale at 6km depth - the strongest felt in three years.

 

ONLY MOMENTS AGO we received more messages from Naturalist Guide friends of ours saying that the Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island has erupted!

 

 

While these are only a few pictures (for now) this truly breaking news for Galapagos. This news has been what some volcanologists (and volcano-keeners) have been expecting for a while now, since previous tremors were felt over the past year and the crater floor of the volcano had also been seen to rise. (See our previous blog piece on this, found through this link.) For on-going technical information on tremors and volcanos in Galapagos (and Ecuador) we encourage you to check out the Instituto Geofísico of the Escuela Politécnica Nacional (Geophysical Institute in its English form) website, found here. 

 

As always, CNH Tours is proud to have a strong and continued connection to the day-to-day events in Galapagos –which we love to share with our guests and those interested.

 

Stay tuned here for more updates to come! 

 

 

(Images kindly provided by Naturalist Guides in Galapagos) 

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