Many of the scenic rock formations around here were caused by piles of ash flying up in the air during a volcanic eruption and then coming back down and congealing in fanciful shapes. You wouldn’t think that ash is all that hard, but these mini islands have been here for millennia and will probably last for millennia more. We zodiaced around one called Eden, pausing in the nooks and crannies caused by the erosion of wind and water. There, the usual assortment of birds, reptiles and crustaceans were gathered, strategically perched to catch the rays of the morning sun. Iguanas are taciturn creatures and its hard to know if they love one another or if they are just all resting closely packed in piles looking for the best sunny spot. The cliffs were white-washed with guano, which made spotting the birds resting on them a bit easier. The wind blew fiercely; Sylvia said it always does. Judging by the gnarly look of the vegetation, she was right.
Each of the islands here have a wet and dry side. We took an afternoon hike to the dry side of Santa Cruz to Cerro Dragon. The hike was pretty flat and dry, except for the landing. We had to leap off the zodiac in the bobbing waves and clamber over sharp lava rocks. Our goal was to see some land iguanas, which are generally larger than the marine iguanas, and buff colored, blending in with the sandy soil. When it gets hot, they burrow into large holes in the ground. We saw plenty of holes, but not many iguanas. A small brackish lake near the hiking trail was almost dry, but two flamingos seemed to still be finding something worth eating. The hike today was pretty easy, but during the rainy season, it must turn into a pile of quick sand.
Then it was back to the cabin to pack: always an easier operation at this end than deciding what to bring when you are at home. Even though I bought absolutely nothing, I had a hard time making it all fit. I wondered if all the excess moisture that everything soaked up made it all swell a bit.
We had a final wrap-up lecture done by Sylvia, and a slide show done by Ken. We’ve been sharing photos with our fellow travelers all week, so he had plenty of raw material to work from. On trips like this the time just flies by, but you also can hardly remember what you did those first few days even without jet lag. Sylvia made it clear that science has learned a lot about this unique place since we were here last. In Darwin’s time, you would shoot a lot of birds and take them home and look at them, trying to see how they were all related to one another. Now that DNA is commonly used, many of the old theories we heard twenty years ago have been debunked. Many more of the birds that were thought to originate in South America are much more closely related to birds from our part of the world. Not something you would deduce from looking at dead bird.