Archive for August, 2009

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Journey to Galapagos: Diving in Ash

August 8th, 2009 by Gene Feldman

Thinking back on all of the things that have led up to my Journey to Galapagos, I would have never realized the impact that a simple one line e-mail would have. It all started with this note that I sent to Stuart Banks on the morning of 13 April 2009:

To: Stuart Banks
From: gene carl feldman
Date: 04/13/2009 07:52AM

stuart,
were you guys on fire yesterday or is it another eruption?
gene

Within hours, Stuart replied:

From: Stuart Banks
To: gene carl feldman
Date: Mon, 13 Apr 2009 11:02:26 -0500

Hi Gene,
Eruption in Fernandina Island – lava reached the coast in just 1 day
(SW Cabo Hammond), so seems like a big one!
Stuart

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Journey to Galapagos: Thursday, July 30, Tagus Cove and Beagle Crater, Isabela Island

August 8th, 2009 by Gene Feldman

(May I Please Borrow a Cup of Sugar — and your Internet Connection?)

NOTE: This was the journal that I was in the process of writing when I learned that I might have a chance to connect to the internet from the Galapagos National Park Service outpost just south of Beagle Crater so I hastily put a somewhat shorter journal together in case that I actually was able to connect. As you’ve seen, I did indeed get to send that journal and here is a little bit about the story behind that little adventure.

Tagus Cove — the very name conjures up perhaps some of the strongest connections with Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos than any place else. To get a sense of the impact that visiting this land forged by the fires from deep within the very bowels of the earth had on young Darwin, one just has to look at his published work on the Geological Observations made during the Voyage of the Beagle and note that although he spent just one day here of the five weeks he was in the islands, he devoted over a third of its pages (36 in total) to a description of Tagus Cove and Beagle Crater.

Tagus Cove

Tagus Cove, Beagle Crater

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Journey to Galapagos: July 29, Wednesday Morning, 6:00 am, Punta Vicente Roca, Isabela Island

August 7th, 2009 by Gene Feldman

A day onboard the M/V Queen dawns with the rising of the sun and the hum of the generator. While anchored for the night under the sheltered arms of the steep volcanic cliffs of Punta Vicente Roca just a tad south of the equator, the boat goes silent with the only sounds that I hear as I fall asleep being the crash of the waves on the shore perhaps 50 feet away and the bark of the sea lions. Without any lights to draw my attention, one becomes very attuned to the sounds of the night, especially when one is anchored in a little cove with sheer cliffs surrounding you on three sides and any sound is amplified. A splash of wave against rock, a bird’s call from overhead, a sea turtle surfacing alongside the boat, letting out a hiss of breathe before taking in another and diving back below are just some of the sounds that fill the night.

Volcanic cliffs of Punta Vicente Roca and the inhabitants

Volcanic cliffs of Punta Vicente Roca and the inhabitants

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Journey to Galapagos: A short tour of the M/V Queen Mabel

August 7th, 2009 by Gene Feldman

I believe that at least two of the descriptions of the M/V Queen Mabel that I had heard earlier in the week were absolutely correct — cozy and that she has character.  In a space that is 50 feet in overall length (including a wonderful bowsprit that I have my eye on) and with a beam of about 15 feet she manages somehow to fit three full decks of living space and even a penthouse above the bridge deck if one is adventurous enough to share the space with the smokestack and life raft.  Since many folks have not had the experience of spending time at sea aboard a small vessel, I thought that I might take some time to describe what life is like on the M/V Queen Mabel.

M/V Queen Mabel

M/V Queen Mabel

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Journey to Galapagos: Be Careful What You Wish For

August 6th, 2009 by Gene Feldman
SeaWiFs

SeaWiFS

Ever since SeaWiFS was launched back in August of 1997, I had hoped to figure out some way of getting a high resolution satellite receiving station installed on the islands to collect a time series that would once and for all provide a data set for generations to come that would help characterize the ocean’s biological response to a changing environment in this most unique part of the world.  Unfortunately, things never seemed to work out quite right until a cold November day in 2000 when I first met Stuart Banks.  After a number of e-mail exchanges with some folks in Galapagos and Stuart, his travel plans were changed at the last minute so that he stopped off at Goddard on his way down to the Galapagos for the second time and spent the evening at my home and the next day at Goddard where together with John Morrison (see his journal for the details), we hatched a plan that was to profoundly influence the course of both of our lives.  To this day, both my daughters who were 17 and 12 at the time remember the night they had dinner with this very charming young man from Great Britain with the terrific accent.  For me, it was realization of a dream that started back in 1982 when I first started observing these marvelous islands from space with data from the Coastal Zone Color Scanner.  For Stuart, it was the start of what was to become an incredible scientific and personal adventure that continues to this day.

I asked Stuart to try and find some time in between the continuous diving and data logging that has filled his team’s days onboard the M/V Queen Mabel to provide a more personal perspective on his work here in Galapagos.  True to form, Stuart went way beyond what I could have ever hoped for and here is what he wrote.

Sending my best regards while at anchor off the northeast tip of Fernandina.
gene

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Notes from the Field