Villamil,Isla Isabela, Galapagos, became the homeport for the Volcano Crew. We assembled in the rain at the Darwin Center office and met Mario Ruiz and Daniel Pacheco, our Ecuadoran colleagues. Then we quickly divided up and went our separate ways. The Boat Crew had six more stations to install, and the Volcano Crew had eight. We had gained Daniel for the boat. Mario headed up the volcano with Cindy and Dennis. Each group faced some uncertainty and risk, traveling by boat, horseback, truck and foot through mud and lava. Aboard Pirata, our first challenge was seasickness (see video).
Each seismic station was different, challenging and beautiful in its own way. We were on an adventure in the Galápagos. At Installation Site GS03, our landing was dependent on the tide. We loaded the panga and surfed through a tiny opening into a cove filled with sea turtles. At GS04, Elizabeth Bay, the panga drifted carefully along a narrow channel to a tiny pool filled with sea lions and sea turtles. On the way out we swam alongside the panga with the sea lions. At GS05, we finished at sunset and faced the possibility of navigating through a lava field with our Petzel headlamps. In near dark, the Panga guided us back just a few feet from rocks covered with penguins, flightless cormorants, sea lions, iguanas and crabs settling down together for the night. They must know they are the tops of the food chain. Fish beware! At dawn we watched the same predators slip off the rocks to find breakfast. GS06 took hours and provided us with an experience that earns a separate description (see Geophysicists and Geologists). But, there was still time to install station GS07 on a narrow arc of pahoehoe surrounded by a sea of treacherous aa, and for some photos of penguins at dusk. On July 27, our panga brought us to Caleta Iguana at the western tip of Cerra Azul Volcano for GS08. Passing a white shrine to the Virgin Mary,we entered another tiny cove filled with sea turtles. Already rain soaked, we climbed and passed from the bobbing panga up, onto a cement dock. The rainy mist, garua, and lack of lava made Caleta Iguana mysterious, as did the poisonous trees. We knew that the biggest trees were the ones we shouldn’t touch. But, surrounded by a jungle of unknown bushes and trees, we were apprehensive. Donning red wool gloves, we scrambled into the mist and pouring rain. We trekked along a tortoise’s trails to locate station GS08. When we encountered him he didn’t seem pleased. We were so wet and busy that we didn’t have time to take a picture of our first wild tortoise, but I later got one of his scat. With the last of our seismic equipment installed, we shooed a sea lion from the dock and returned to the Pirata. It took hours to sail away from the garua and into the sunshine.
The Boat Crew had completed its mission. We had shared experiences and become a team. After a hike up Sierra Negra, Eliana and I returned to our other lives. Falk and Daniel joined the Volcano Crew and had further adventures.