T minus 8 days. We leave for the Galapagos on May 6th. Once there we will spend 2 weeks on Santa Cruz working with the Galapagos National Park (PNG) getting ready for the trip to Pinta. PNG has put years of effort into this - it is really their project, we're just helping with the monitoring of the tortoise release. PNG has worked together with the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) to select the tortoises that will be released and prepare them for their journey to Pinta (which is more of a process than you might expect!).
Thirty-nine tortoises have been selected to go to Pinta and are now housed by PNG on Santa Cruz. When we arrive, we'll be attaching different types of movement monitoring devices (satellite transmitters, GPS loggers, and VHF radios) to them. It was a long process deciding what devices to use, but we think we have the right combination now to balance good data collection, remote monitoring, costs, and ease of attachment. It seems like every equipment purchase we've had to make has been a compromise like this, and we've bought a lot of equipment. From laptops to GPS units to tents to plant ID books, it seems like I get a new package of stuff and put in a new order form everyday. And the stuff is piling up! It will be interesting to see how we get it all down...
While on Santa Cruz, we'll also need to buy all of our food, water, and kitchen necessities for Garrison, Francisco, Ben, and me to survive on Pinta for 2.5 months. We'll be dropped off on Pinta with the tortoises in mid-May, and we won't see another boat again for the whole time, so we'd better be well stocked! That's about 650 pounds of food, and over 2000 liters of water (Pinta doesn't have a reliable source of fresh water on it). We'll be eating lots of rice, beans, canned meats and vegetables - anything that is non-perishable and is available on Santa Cruz. I have it all planned out so we'll have the right balance of energy, protein, and nutrients (I hope!).
It's been a lot of preparation, and will be a lot more, but it will be worth it to not only participate in this historic event (the return of tortoises to Pinta), but to be released along with them...to be isolated in the wilderness with them, to be far away from the lights and noises of the civilized world. An experience that few people are afforded in this modern era.
-Elizabeth, Syracuse NY