12/20/15 – Lava

We wake absurdly early at 5:40am for a dry landing before breakfast. Our group of 12 ascends wooden stairs over the rocky slab that is Isla San Bartholeme to greet the rising sun. This little new island has just a few land critters: grasshoppers, lizards, and small snakes. We take many group photos from the island’s summit. A rare hawk lands quite close to us. Is this raptor an auspicious omen?

After breakfast (egg, bleah), we snorkel around the island. Because of the water’s clearness, the snorkeling is excellent. Twice, I see underwater beach trash to have it dissolve into a tightly-packed school of black, gray, and silver fish. Julio spots a shark lurking on the ocean bottom. I am quite scared, although yesterday’s amazing aquamarine parrotfish already bore me.

After lunch, we land on Sullivan’s Bay, located on the neighboring island. For an hour, we wander a scorching 130-year old lava field, still quite geologically fresh. The ropey pahoehoe almost flows. Amidst the black desolation, I meditate on plans for 2016 and solve engineering problems. I like blasted, forsaken places for perspective.

We bake so in the noontime sun. At least I wear a floppy hat and a long-sleeved shirt. This is perhaps the first time I have ever been grateful to get back into the water so I don the wetsuit and dive (flop) off the beach. We see sea cucumbers and a hungry grazing turtle. Just before I get out, a shark swims within a few feet in shallow water.

The boat hauls ass in late afternoon back towards the airport. We supposed to look for large sea mammals, like whales, but I sleep below decks to get through the heaving. Julio’s bell rouses us to “dolphin! Dolphin!” A pod of 30-50 dolphin cavorts off the port side. Adriene spots a giant shark. Frigate birds hover above and follow our journey. I take sunset photos. A panga brings aboard two new passengers, an older Spanish-speaking couple that we eye warily.

Dinner is late because the chef kindly waits to serve until anchor. We are all so tired that there are no after-dinner activities. I skip 300 pages ahead in my Darwin book to the sole chapter he wrote on The Galapagos. Darwin carefully itemizes all the reptiles, birds, and plants. He is amazed at the extremely localized diversity of species on The Galapagos and almost reaches his theory of evolution. I’m shocked how cavalierly sailors and soldiers killed tortoises by the thousands.

There’s little to do when the ship sails – far too bouncy for reading or writing. I don’t want to chance seasickness. So I sleep lots. I’m grateful for the enforced periods of rest and thinking.