Wild Tortoises and the Pirate Cave
00 deg 45'S
Longitude: 90 deg 18W
Wind Direction: S
Wind Speed: 7 Knots
Sea State 1
Swell(s) Height: 2 Foot
Sea Temperature: 69°F (20.6°C)
Barometric Pressure: 1014.0 MB
Visibility: 10-18 Nautical Miles
Eggs and potatoes
Bacon, ham and sausage
(Dried cereal is always available in the pantry)
OJ in a bucket
Tuna fish and crackers
Cheese and vegetable cream soup
Chicken, Fish or beef with salsa and potatoes
September 21, 2001
by Christina Reed
We met early this morning in Puerto Ayora and jumped on a bus
to tour the Galápagos National Park near the summit
of Santa Cruz Island. Our guide for this adventure, Harry Robinson,
is a natural historian of the Galápagos who grew up
in Villamil, Isabela Island.
As the garaú, or mist, of the high elevations enveloped
the bus, we passed papaya, avocado, banana and orange trees
on our way up the volacano. When we stopped to visit the twin
craters, Los Hermanos, the mist filled the craters like soup.
Yellow warblers and vermilion flycatchers darted from branch
to branch through the Scalecia forest. Galápagos doves
perched on the fences around the craters, which dropped 66
Along the National Park trails we followed
the same paths as the tortoise de
cupula, or dome tortoises. Each species of tortoise in the Galápagos
has evolved to the specific conditions of the island it lives on. More than 1,200
individual dome tortoises call Santa Cruz home. Once, 14 different species existed,
but since the time when pirates roamed the islands three species have gone extinct.
Admiring one of the six tortoises we saw today, Harry says, We dont
know how old they can get, probably at least 170 years. At 70, they are still
a sprightly teenager.
Our excursions near the summit also included
a journey not unlike the one Jules Verne wrote about in Journey to the Center of the Earth. Our journey
started by climbing down rickety wooden stairs into a lava tube, known locally
as The Pirate Cave. Once inside, we clambered, crouched and strolled
through the lava tube, which is nearly a kilometer long. Many years ago it formed
as an underground tunnel that transported magma away from the summit vent.
With electric lanterns guiding the way and
flashlights in hand, we followed the course of the lava that
once flowed in the tube. Collapsed portions of the roof gave
us access into the tube from the grassy meadow. In some places,
the lava tube seemed close to pinching off with only a small
gap between the ceiling and the floor that forced us to bend
down low to avoid bumping our heads. Other times the lava tube
expanded to the size of a racquetball court.
The owner of the property, Miguel Angel Aria,
led the way through the lava tube, which is on his property.
He discovered the tube several years ago when one of his horses
went missing. Unfortunately the horse wandered off and fell into
one of the skylights of the tube and was killed. A week later
he discovered the horse (from the smell!) and the tube. The lava
tube is now a tourist attraction on Santa Cruz and, conveniently,
Mr. Aria opened a lovely restaurant near the exit of the tube.
We emerged from the lava tube, and celebrated the adventure with
a relaxing lunch at his restaurant, El Chato.
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