Sunday, July 25, 2010


The computers here in Puerto Ayora tend to stretch out the pictures, so I will wait to post more pictures with another computer, but I thought it important to post this ¨after¨ picture of the crew (courtesy of Francisco). Smiling faces all around, and you can hardly tell how battered our bodies are. Just looking at it fills me with nostalgia and longing. Half the crew (Francisco and Ben) left the Galapagos this morning, which was a very sad moment for me. Many complicated emotions involved when you have had such an intense experience with a small group of people and gone through so many trials together.
Elizabeth, Santa Cruz

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Return to civilization

After an interesting day-long boat ride back from Pinta (thrilling for some: tropicbirds, albatross, jumping sting rays!; agony for others: sea sickness, and cold, wet winds), we are back in the Galapagos brand of civilization. As a person who can easily experience culture shock, this was a shock I should have been prepared for, but wasn´t. All the noise, the people, the smells and lights - my brain did not like it at all and at moments I felt paralyzed. On the positive side, it is good to see some friendly faces, and Ecuadorian 3.5% beer has never tasted so good. Now for some time on Santa Cruz to get used to reality again before returning to the U.S., and also to begin the process of understanding all of the hard-won data that we collected on Pinta. As Pinta faded away from us yesterday, I thought of the tortoises, alone at last.

I´ll update with pictures soon...the modem has been glitchy and did not allow it for a while.

-Elizabeth, Santa Cruz

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Goodbye Pinta!

Modem on the fritz, one last telegraph from Pinta. Leave tomorrow, two months have gone so fast. Sad to leave the animals and freedom, but civilization has its appeal too. It will be strange to see the island fade into the distance. Goodbye Pinta!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Good news, bad news

The good news is that we were able to successfully download the information from all of the loggers that were damaged (the screws covering the download port had been rammed off, and the ports were clogged with debris). With much careful attention with a needle and in one case even taking a knife to the connecting cable, we were able to make the connection on the 5 damaged loggers. The bad news is that although we have managed to get the data from 19 of the 20 tortoises with loggers, Floreana (the last logger tortoise) has gone missing! Last we heard from her a couple of weeks ago, she was moving quickly to the northeast. Now there is silence from her, even from our best listening places – the peak and the line of calderas to the east of the peak. We’re able to hear just about everybody from the peak, which leads us to believe that something might have happened to her logger. Or she’s hiding in a crevasse somewhere. Time is running out and we may not find her…

-Elizabeth, Pinta

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Free Klever

Yesterday Francisco and I hunted down Klever to free him from his logger. The logger radio had been giving a triple beep signal, which means that the battery is dying! It’s supposed to last almost three years, and it’s been only 2 months…I hope this one was just a dud and the rest will keep working. Klever has moved around the peak now to the northeast. It took us most of the day to get to him and then almost an hour to cut the logger off, resulting in a broken leatherman and a traumatic experience for all parties. I think a hacksaw will be required for the future. But we got it off, along with his temperature datalogger, and now he is truly a free tortoise. It was kind of strange watching him walk away into the thick of the forest, knowing that I would never see him again.

-Elizabeth, Pinta

Tortoise Love

Here is one of the roving mate-searchers that I mentioned in the previous post…attempting a perpendicular mount.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tortoise movements

We’re in our final round of downloading the tortoise GPS loggers. Some of the tortoises, including Klever mentioned previously, are proving difficult to get because of their distance up the peak. Fabricio has now claimed the title of highest elevation tortoise at 580 m! The trek combined with the rain makes it so that we are only able to get to and download one logger a day… Just four left. We are seeing some patterns in a few of the tortoises movements. A few of the large males are making large circling patterns and returning to the introduction point. What are they searching for and why do they return? A couple of them are apparently looking for mates as they will mount anything in sight. Javier, one of the biggest tortoises with a satellite transmitter, has been hanging out near the introduction point for a few days after a jaunt to the north. He lies about most conspicuously in the area where we prepare ourselves for our work. We can’t tell if he is saying goodbye or asking us to take him with us.

With one week left, we are pushing the limits of our field gear…everyone’s boots are falling apart in various ways. Either the leather is ripping or the soles are flopping off or just wearing through. All the rain and wetness doesn’t help, I’m sure. Our shoe glue has been expended, now we must trust to duct tape!

A short-eared owl has been gracing us with its presence at camp. They aren’t residents on Pinta, and we’re not even sure if they’re common visitors. What does he eat here? Maybe the ten-inch centipedes…

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Why man live in box?

After nearly 2 months of living outside, I can't say that I'm looking forward to returning to walls and infrastructure. I only miss a few things from civilization - my ankles miss sidewalks, my knees miss toilets, and my stomach misses sandwiches. The rest of me, though, loves the island - my lungs love the fresh air, my heart loves the hiking, my eyes love the vistas, my ears love the waves crashing on the coast and the silence of the slope, and my brain loves the freedom and tranquility of it all. Ah, Pinta.

We have had some success rigging up a system where we can leave the solar panels out in the rain in the morning, so that they can collect the sun in the afternoon when we are still in the field. Power crisis averted? We'll see.

The hawks are becoming ever more vigilant as their chick grows. I swear they would slam right into my head if I didn't duck. There's something thrilling about this wild animal recklessly attacking...maybe that's just my perspective.

-Elizabeth, Pinta

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Season changes

We have now fully entered the garua season here on Pinta, which is supposedly the cool, dry season, although we’ve had more rain in the past few days than in the rest of our time here. All the plants are drying up now, it seems like fall in a strange way. The clouds and rain threaten our whole operation – we rely on power from our solar panels for everything we do, including finding tortoises, mapping cacti, downloading logger data, and writing in the blog! The sun is shining right now, though, and hopefully it continues so that we can finish all of our work successfully. We have less than 2 weeks left on Pinta! I feel a heaviness in my heart when I think of that, as I have grown to love this place. I will try to write as often as the sun shines!

-Elizabeth, Pinta

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Scenes from Pinta

Tortoise and cactus

Finding tortoises using telemetry

Seed dispersal in action

A typical evening