Walking to the End of the Year

What a difference a year makes! Last year at this time, I was sailing in the Southern Indian Ocean having left Cape Town, South Africa bound for Wellington, New Zealand – alone aboard Bodacious Dream on the desolate sea at Christmas time, but fully alive and living my dream. Maybe some of you remember those Christmas posts. The year before that, found me in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean bringing Bodacious Dream home to the U.S. from Portugal. While holidays at sea often bring up emotions of sadness and loneliness, being away from family and friends – for me, it’s also an occasion for gratitude, and a chance to focus on the surrounding natural beauty and so by-pass the distractions of our crazy world.

Dave_Franklin_550Dave, Franklin and Christmas Dinner 2013!

This year I’m home in Indiana enjoying the holiday season closer to family and friends. I will admit though that on occasion, and most often late at night, my thoughts wander back to the dark wide-open ocean under the grand canopy of stars. There is always that essential beauty and power in nature which if you allow it to work its magic, can reconnect you to life in all its splendor.

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A Southern Ocean Sunset

Enjoying Christmas as I do, I find myself re-playing a few favorite tunes from one of my favorite holiday albums, Christmas Goes to Sea by Lee Murdock. I especially like the song about the Christmas Ship – which tells the tale of the schooner Rouse Simmons that brought Christmas trees down from the northern end of Lake Michigan to Chicago in the early 1900’s.

lee_murdock_200Another favorite, Blessed Christmas Morn, is about leaving harbor on Christmas morning … and the feelings of the departing sailor who was leaving behind his folks who were growing old. (The link to the sing is here!) …

(Click on the “listen” box to the right and then close the popup windows - click “leave the page” and you should be able to listen to the music. :)

Those of you that followed Oakcliff Racing, (Class 40 #118 formerly named Bodacious Dream) know the young men from Oakcliff did an amazing job, winning their section and placing second overall in the first running of the RORC Trans-Atlantic Race! Congrats goes out to that crew for such a great performance. As I shared with them, Bo knows where she’s going. Get her going in the right direction and she will make her way. Bodacious Dream always showed me her spirit and her urge to lead—not just on the racecourse and across oceans, but in life as well. She has done so once again, leading these young men on the great adventure of their first trans-oceanic crossing … and taking a top prize at the same time!

In keeping with the spirit of Bodacious Dream and leading forward, we are starting to ramp up our future. The book that everyone keeps asking me about is coming along, slowly, but coming. I now understand why it takes so long to get books written! I hope to have it done this spring. In the meantime, Franklin and I along with a 4’ inflatable globe have been asked to do a number of talks. Some of these are specifically for kids of all ages and Franklin and I agree, these are the most important talks. Once again, it’s kids we need to help lead forward. I’ll send out another note soon with upcoming dates should you be nearby and care to attend.

Atlantic CupAdvancing our interest in sharing with kids, and carrying on the Bodacious Dream, we will this year be  expanding our involvement with The Atlantic Cup, by collaborating with 11th Hour Racing on their their Kids Pages and their educational outreach program. This is going to be great fun as Manuka Sports Management seeks to expand the reach of the learning programs tied to the Atlantic Cup.

So, there’s a lot going on for us in this coming new year, but what I’m looking forward to most now is what has become a tradition for me over the past 25 years – that of taking a midnight walk on Christmas Eve wherever I am.

bd_winter_225This year, I’ll be at home and will walk the chilly shores of Lake Michigan where my learning of the natural world began some 50 years ago. This walk will be different than the past few years when I walked laps around Bodacious Dream’s deck – but no less significant. Regardless of where on the globe Christmas finds me, if you are near, you’ll most likely hear me humming Silent Night. (Lee Murdock does an especially nice version of this on his CD as well. The link to that song is here!)

So, I’ll leave it at that … and close by wishing you all Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays … and to one and all, an especially full and wonderful New Year! May it be healthy and full of wonder!

- Dave, Bodacious Dream and the snow-lovin’ Franklin

Stonehenge and Winchester Cathedral

Back again after another long delay. As promised, I want to share my visit to Stonehenge, but before that, I want to let you know about a few new published pieces. First off, Sailing Magazine has published my article on Bodacious Dream and the circumnavigation in their new November issue.

sailingmagSailing Magazine has its home in Port Washington, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan, my home waters. It’s a well-respected magazine that shares the beauty of sailing and racing through photos and stories, along with a lot of great information and advice on equipment as well as boat reviews. We’ll let you know if and when they publish it online, but if you come across a copy of the magazine, check it out!

Hurrican Island Outward Bound SchoolAlso, this month the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School (HIOBS) Blog has posted an interview with me where I talk about the circumnavigation, but also about how the time I spent at HIOBS in my teens prepared me for facing the various mental and physical challenges that attend to ocean racing and distance sailing. The new interview on their blog is right HERE! And if you’d like to dip back into the archive, an earlier post from March describes my whole Outward Bound Story.

So now, onto Stonehenge!

When last we left it, Matt Scharl and I had sailed Bodacious Dream to Hamble, England where we finished taking care of her, preparing her for her stay. With a spare day before my return to the US, I drove to Stonehenge, about 45 miles from Hamble. I punched the coordinates into the GPS and followed the gentle, British-accented female voice, turn by turn through the beautiful countryside, trying hard to stay on the “wrong” side of the road! Fortunately, many of the roads are less than two lanes wide, making it much easier to stay in your lane!

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Late in the afternoon, I came over a rise on the motorway and off to the side of the road you could see that great and iconic circle of stones we instantly recognize as Stonehenge. A few more miles drive to the visitor’s center gave me time to reflect on the amazing history I was about to witness.

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The history of Stonehenge has fascinated me since I first learned of it, at some point in my youth and likely through National Geographic magazine. On this day, the broken overcast, grey blue skies and late afternoon light against the bright green rolling hills cast a perfect backdrop for me to explore up-close the mystery of Stonehenge. It was easy to imagine ancient peoples gathering here to commemorate and celebrate events in their community’s lives.

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The building of Stonehenge began some 5000 years ago and evolved over the course of the next few thousand years. The original layout of upright wooden logs was eventually replaced with the large stones moved some 250 miles to the present location. At various times in history, stones were moved or rearranged and additional stones brought in, which modern historians believe provided “healing” inspiration for the people at Stonehenge. The surrounding countryside is dotted with burial mounds and depressions indicating roads or avenues connecting the river to Stonehenge. All these mysterious ruins give sustenance to imaginative debates on what actually happened there… and unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, the mysteries remain largely unanswered.

Pictures tell more of the story and in the presence of the intimidating intentions of these ancient people, my staying quiet, listening and feeling the earth seemed the wiser course than going off on wild speculating. The greatest things in life are often not very loud!

DR_stonehengeFinishing my walk around the perimeter of Stonehenge, I drove off again across the English countryside, past the various burial mounds that seem nonchalantly placed in no particular pattern. What had taken place here? Why here? Was there something more significant to this particular plot of land? Was this a place of worship or celebration? There are so many wonders in the world… isn’t it fascinating that we get the chance to exercise such questions and feelings?

winchester2I awoke early the next morning with a plan to return to London and Heathrow Airport for my flight home, but had one more stop to make. Winchester Cathedral is an amazing building and the location of the grave of the famous English author, Jane Austen.

As a builder, I remain forever amazed at the ingenious engineering and workmanship that went into building the great Gothic-era cathedrals of Europe. These astonishing buildings, some over a thousand years old, were built over the course of generations by villages of craftsmen as a testament to their communities, their religion and their skills.

Here are some more photographs of majestic Winchester Cathedral.

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westminster3As I drove off to catch my flight, it occurred to me that perhaps both Stonehenge and Winchester Cathedral stood as monuments to people’s faith and belief in providence. Though each was so entirely different in  design, they felt to me equal in how they spoke to mankind impulse to challenge itself in extraordinary ways. Though Stonehenge stands small in comparison to Winchester, it felt equally grand when you consider the technology and engineering of its time.

So, I will leave you with this last question that still haunts me. We know the history of Winchester Cathedral. Is the historical speculation around Stonehenge similar to it, or might there be something much more intriguing (and still unknown) going on in earth’s history to which we are no longer aware?

For now,

- Dave

A Map to the “Treasure”

I know I repeat myself, but thank you once more for following along on our journey around the world. There are so many people without whom this voyage could not have happened in the way that it did.

As I write this, Bodacious Dream is getting some fresh maintenance from the great folks around Narragansett Bay - namely Hall Spars and Rigging, Hinckley Yachts, North Sails and others.

dr_100For now though, I am heading back home to the Midwest to recoup my energies and put back in order the parts of my life that were paused for the circumnavigation.

Before I do that though, I wanted to leave you with a map of where the “treasure” is buried. And by treasure, I mean links to the bounty of sweet fruits and memories of the journey… that were the words we wrote, the photos we took and the videos we shot, as well as the various learning and discovery initiatives that we undertook, and all of which when combined, form an online trove of storied artifacts.

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1) LEG RECAPS

First off, all our circumnavigation content resides on BodaciousDreamExpeditions.com

circum_leg_iconBelow are the summary recaps for all four legs of the circumnavigation (plus the pre-circum period) which can be found directly at the following links.


:-: Pre-Circumnavigation 
- Prior to October 2013 – Newport, RI
:-: Leg 1 – 10/02/13 – 12/03/13 – Newport, RI to Cape Town, S.A.
:-: Leg 2 – 12/21/13 – 2/08/14  - Cape Town to  Wellington, New Zealand
:-: Leg 3 – 3/26/14 – 5/1/14 - Wellington, NZ to the Galapagos Islands
:-: Leg 4 – 5/07/14 – 6/14/14 – The Galapagos Islands to Newport, RI 

2) OUR BLOG UPDATES

bdx_logo_70Our many blog posts can all be found in reverse chronological order on the Bodacious Dream Expeditions website at bodaciousdreamexpeditions.com/live-updates/. These posts are are also sub-divided by “categories” of subject matter AND by “date.” Select any category or month to see a list of relevant results.

3) FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

dave80Upon arrival back in Newport, I began to gather and respond to some of the more frequently asked questions that were put to me over the course of the voyage. We consolidated them all together on one page, which can be found right here!


4) 
CIRCUM PHOTOS

facebook-icon_30Links to our many photos can be found here on our Circum Photos page, while our actual 18 Photo Albums, broken down by “Legs,” can be found here, on the Albums page of our Bodacious Dream Expeditions Facebook Page.

flickr-icon_30For larger format photos in one complete set, you can also view a curated 123-photo “best-of” slideshow over on Flickr.


5)
 CIRCUM VIDEOS

Youtube_iconA selection of our videos from the Circumnavigation can be found on our Circum Videos page, but all of the videos we have uploaded so far can be viewed on our Bodacious Dream Expeditions YouTube Channel.

6) TEGAN’S SCIENCE NOTES 

tegan_70Throughout the voyage, our Earthwatch scientist, Tegan Mortimer provided us wonderfully insightful science “notes” in support of wherever in the world we were and whatever we were encountering. There were eleven of these reports in all, on a wide range of subjects and a list of those can be found right here!

7) CITIZEN SCIENCE RESOURCES

citizen_scienceTegan was also responsible for helping us set up a wonderful Citizen Science Resources Page, where folks could learn all about the amazing online resources that presently exist to help lead you into the world of citizen science projects. Our various sightings were also added to the Bodacious Dream Expeditions Projects Page on iNaturalist.

8) CIRCUMNAVIGATION EXPLORER GUIDES

bdX-100Learning and Discovery have always been a primary intention of the voyage. To that end, throughout the expedition, we encouraged those of you who were following our adventure to explore more deeply the wonders and beauty of the natural world that we were traversing by referencing our custom-made Explorer “Study” Guides/ Worksheets. There were eight guides in total and can be found at the links below, where they can also be downloaded in printable form.

:-: Our Watery World
:-: Wind & Weather
:-: Math
:-: Sea Life
:-: Oceanography
:-: Glaciers
:-: Sailboat Glossary
:-: Mentor Guide

9) EXPERT INTERVIEWS

Over the course of the voyage, it was also my pleasure to conducted three sets of interviews with some very knowledgeable friends and sailors, each of whom is an expert in some area of sailing. For true devotees of the art and science of sailing, I think you will find these interviews most enlightening. Thanks to the guys for their participation.

:-: Sailing Navigation - interviews w/ John Hoskins & Matt ScharlJohnH_150MattS_150

:-: Rigging Technology - an interview w/ Alan Veenstra
Alan Veenstra

:-: Composite Materials Technologies - 
an interview w/ Lapo Ancillotti
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And I think those are the key links. Feel free to contact us with follow-up questions. And we’ll keep you posted when we add anything new and of note.

And a very happy summer to all!

- Dave Rearick

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Tegan’s Science Notes #11: Voyages of Discovery

citizenscienceThe ocean is one of the last unexplored frontiers on earth. We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about the bottom of the ocean. For thousands of years, humans have been undertaking voyages of discovery. Whether the goal has been to find land beyond the horizon, to map the ocean currents or to find new animals unknown to science, the ocean has always been and will continue to be a deep source of knowledge which will always change the way we view and understand the world around us.

Today, science is moving in many new directions at once, and a great civic awakening is happening as everyday people armed only with some time and a passion to explore begin to help shape the future of scientific discovery. I have spoken many times in my previous “Science Notes” about what’s happening in the area of “Citizen Science,” but in this post, in recognition of Dave’s incredible feat of single handedly circumnavigating the globe, I’d like to look back at the relatively brief history of oceanic exploration.

The Great Voyages

Until quite recently scientific knowledge of the oceans was very limited. During the 1700s and 1800s, the British Royal Navy dominated the world’s oceans, which made surveying coastlines and mapping the oceans a practical priority for both the navy and for commerce. It was during this period that accurate navigation (and mapmaking) became gradually more dependable in locating precise positions on the earth, using a combination of latitude and longitude, celestial readings and chronometers. Many of these survey voyages carried additional passengers who acted as naturalists collecting botanical, biological, and geological samples which greatly expanded European scientific knowledge of the natural world.

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The most famous of these ‘gentlemen naturalists’ was Charles Darwin. I referenced him before in my science note on glaciers, as he was first and foremost a geologist. Over the course of the five years from 1831-1836 that the HMS Beagle surveyed the coastlines of the southern part of South America and tested the accuracy of 22 chronometers at pre-determined points, Darwin was collecting copious observations and samples of geological, biological and botanical nature in these far-fling regions. It was Darwin’s unique ability to weave his observations together into a theoretical whole that so challenged the accepted thought of the day and elevated the Beagle’s second voyage into one of the most famous scientific voyages made in history.

darwin_200Nearly 40 years after Darwin sailed on the Beagle, a dedicated scientific expedition set off on board the HMS Challenger with the aim “to learn everything about the sea,” – a lofty goal indeed! Findings from this Challenger Expedition laid the groundwork for what would become the science of oceanography. Over the course of five years, Challenger traveled over 70,000 nautical miles conducting scientific exploration with freshly designed equipment and discovering over 4,000 new species of plants and animals.

Mapping the Ocean

captain_cook_200No one person has explored and mapped more of the ocean than James Cook. Captain Cook came from humble origins but his skill at mapmaking and navigation led him in 1769 to be put in command of the HMS Endeavour on an expedition to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun. Cook’s mapmaking skills were so accurate that an early map of Newfoundland was used for more than 200 years after he drew it and differs little from modern satellite images.

cookmap_300After visiting Tahiti, the Endeavour continued west to locate the famed “Terra Australis.” There Cook mapped the entire coastline of New Zealand before continuing east to Australia as the first European to land there. Over the next 12 years, Cook would make three voyages on board the HMS Endeavour and HMS Resolution, which explored and mapped previously uncharted areas of the world. As well as providing accurate charts for navigation, Cook’s expeditions also carried scientists who made important observations, especially related to botanical discoveries.

newport_300There is a second special connection of Captain Cook’s expeditions to Bodacious Dream. Both his ships, the HMS Endeavour and HMS Resolution are fairly certainly believed to lie as wrecks at the bottom of Narragansett Bay! The Endeavour, after coming out of Cook’s service, was renamed the Lord Sandwich and is one of several vessels which were sunk to blockade Newport Harbor during the American Revolutionary War. The HMS Resolution was sold and rechristened La Liberté, a French whaling vessel, which was damaged in Newport Harbor in the 1790s and left on the shore. Efforts are ongoing by the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) to map and locate not only the Endeavour but also other shipwrecks in Rhode Island waters. You can visit their very informative website, and learn about RIMAP’s work right here, or go to the page on the sunken ships here.

Marshall Island Stick Charts

stick_chart_300Not all voyages of discoveries (that we know about) were made by Europeans. The Polynesians and Pacific Islanders had been navigating the South Pacific for thousands of years and likely explored the entire region, an area of over 10 million square miles, well before the period of written history. Along the way, they developed a complex system of navigation, which used stars, the sun, the moon, planets, weather, winds, currents, tides, and natural phenomena like bird migration to help them to travel between the many islands.

An important addition to the history of ocean mapping was the discovery of “stick charts” used by seafarers from the Marshall Islands. These are deceptively simple grids made from small sticks and coconut fronds, which represent the major ocean swells in the South Pacific, with small shells showing the location of islands. The charts showed how the swells interacted with the island shores, the undersea slopes, and currents coming from different directions. While the stick maps were easy to construct, it took many years of study to be able to accurately interpret the real ocean dynamics which they represented.

Mapping the Gulf Stream

As you are well aware from Dave’s journey, the Gulf Stream is a major current in the North Atlantic, which carries warm water from the Caribbean north to the northeast Atlantic and is the strongest surface current in the Atlantic. The impact that the Gulf Stream can have on the length of voyages is tremendous. The first reference to the Gulf Stream is found in a written account of Ponce de Leon’s voyage from Puerto Rico in 1513. American fishermen and whalers plying the waters off the American colonies knew of the current in the late 1600s.

franklin_300It actually took the insights of none other than Benjamin Franklin, the colonial deputy Postmaster General to make clear the existence of the Gulf Stream when in 1769 he published a chart that showed the direction of the flows. His chart of that time is still remarkably accurate. You can read more of Franklin’s very interesting writing about the Gulf Stream and other marine topics in NOAA’s historical archive right here.

Pathfinder of the Seas

Before the late 1800s, there were few comprehensive charts that showed wind and currents across the whole globe. This changed owing to the efforts of one man, Matthew Fontaine Maury.

maury_200Maury joined the US Navy as a young man in 1825 and was posted to the Naval Observatory in 1842, where he began to study ocean currents. By studying and compiling thousands of ships logs he was able to map and calculate the speed of ocean currents based on the deflection of ships from their intended path. He was able to produce maps of average ocean speeds for much of the ocean, which allowed vessels to dramatically reduce the length of their voyages. Maury was nicknamed the “Pathfinder of the Seas” and was integral to the creation of international cooperation in producing accurate hydrological charts for all mariners. He is also referred to as the father of the modern oceanography as well, and his book, The Physical Geography of the Sea, published in 1855, is one of the first books on oceanography.

Modern ocean mapping: Satellites, robots and sonar

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Even today, we have only begun to map the ocean. Fortunately, today we have technologies that help us to see below the waves, to scan the ocean floor, to analyze the composition of the water, and to observe how the currents work in real-time. Satellites use the reflectivity of the ocean surface to measure chlorophyll content and sea surface temperature changes. Unmanned robots explore the depth of the ocean collecting readings of temperature, pressure, and salinity. Sonar is used to create high-definition maps of the sea floor. Computers are used to model the movement of currents, the future conditions under changes to currents, temperature and sea level.

Check out these cool websites: Perpetual Ocean and Ocean Motion.

“Standing on the shoulders of giants”

Modern science knows so much more and can do some much more than our predecessors could ever have imagined, but our greater knowledge is only possible because of the amazing feats of those ‘giants’ who set off to explore the world and to challenge the commonly held beliefs and superstitions of their day.

Darwin and the rest, they figured out how the world worked in a more complete sense. Today we are finding out how in flux the natural world is, and how delicate is the balance necessary to sustain life. We now can see with factual accuracy just how fast the natural world is changing.

Every observation Dave logged on iNaturalist (click to see all his sightings listed) or eBird is an important scientific finding, which adds to the wealth of scientific knowledge, now being collected by citizen scientists all over the world. Collecting the type of data needed to understand the broad scale patterns of change occurring all over the globe is increasingly difficult for individual scientists to collect on their own, but by relying on citizens (like you!) to help collect this vital information, it becomes easier to approach important questions.

No matter who or where you are, YOU too can be a scientist!

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Join an Earthwatch Expedition. Join iNaturalist or eBird yourself and start tracking what you see around you.

LOGOS2Build a Secchi Disk and use the Secchi App to record your data. Download the mPing App and record your weather. Join Zooniverse and be a scientist from the comfort of your couch. The possibilities are endless!

Explore, discover, and most importantly… have fun!!

For myself, I would like to say that I have had a great time sharing my enthusiasm for the natural world with all of you over the past nine months. Thank you to those of you who reached out and contacted me with thoughts or questions. Keep the Bodacious Dream going and get out and discover!

Wishing you fair winds and following seas,

- Tegan Mortimer 
teg.mortimer(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Dave Interviews the Experts

During my time here in Florida, I’ve been able to get some important repairs done to the boat’s mast. I also caught up with some old friends that live down this way and I delved into the endless well of photos and videos I’ve accumulated in the last 25,000 miles. But now it’s time to depart and to sail the last 1000 miles home to Jamestown, RI.

Screen Shot 2014-06-06 at 1.52.46 PMLast week, just after arriving here in U.S. waters, I met up with an old friend Tim Kent. Back in 2002, Tim competed with his Open 50 in the “Around Alone” race, sailing the world singlehanded. Part of our discussion centered on the tools and technologies that I used to make a journey similar to the one he made 12 years earlier. He told me that from his boat at that time, he was able to send off daily email reports, which was fairly recent technology back then. Now – depending of course on the connectivity (which is pretty darn spotty in the more remote parts of the ocean) – I was able to send videos and photos off the boat. One day before long, it will no doubt be possible for sailors like Tim or myself to stream HD color video and high-quality audio from anywhere in the world. Imagine the windows on the world that will open!

Changes in technology always bring with them very interesting shifts in how we carry on with our daily  routines. How I use electronic navigation hardware and software today is quite different than it was for Tim in 2002. The types of rigging we use on today’s boats are a world away from the heavier and more quickly worn lines that were around in the last century. Perhaps most dramatically, how boats today are constructed and of what type of new materials… is pure progress in action.

capt_dave_ac_215Why not I thought, for the sake of our BDX Learning and Discovery agenda, interview some of my friends who are more knowledgeable than I in specific areas of new sailing-related technologies. So, that’s what I did … and I must say I was knocked out by the results. I would like to share with you here all three of the interviews that I conducted recently with a group of the most skilled folks I know, in the areas of Navigation, Rigging and Composite Technology.

I asked each of them to share with us how recent changes in technology are being applied to and altering ancient methods.

If you are at all interested in the finer points of sailing, I highly encourage you to check out these interviews. Here’s who and what we have.

1) John Hoskins and Matt Scharl each tell us about advancements in sailing navigation systems

JH: “The GPS of course is tied into a host of things… a chart plotter, (this is a computer-like monitor with nautical charts imbedded in it), the wind instruments, sea temperatures, an automatic identification system (AIS), expedition navigation software, and the uplink Sailor 250 satellite for access to the Internet for GRIB files, that store tide and weather information.”

JohnH_150MattS_150

2) Alan Veenstra catches us up on new rigging technology, and how the principles of old are being modified by new lighter and stronger fibers and materials.

AV: “Modern cordage is so strong that it has made traditional hardware nearly obsolete on high-performance sailboats. The current technological revolution is in creating strong, light hardware from composites of carbon, ceramics, and epoxy.”

Alan Veenstra

3) Finally, and in the longest interview, my good friend and chief builder of Bodacious Dream, Lapo Ancillotti takes us on a journey through composite materials technology, from the early days and how advances in that field have brought us to a world where “carbon fiber” is a commonly used term for anything light, strong and amazing.

LA: “3D printing is a suitable technology for light articles and prototype production only, at least until new material like “printed carbon fiber” become available – which might be happening soon… as experiments are already under way!”

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So, as I take off here on Saturday, sailing the last 1000 mile up the Eastern Seaboard to Jamestown, RI, I’ll have a lot to think about and reflect upon.

I will follow up here soon with some interesting perspectives of my own. In the mean time, here’s one more video clip of a pod of False Killer Whales that came across my path just north of Cuba. Quite graciously, (though it may be hard for you to see) one of them flaps their tail a bit in what I understood to be a gesture of good luck for these final miles of my journey.


False Killer Whales

More soon,

- Dave, Bodacious Dream and (the compositely constructed) Franklin

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Tegan’s Science Notes #10 – Protecting Marine Biodiversity

This is the tenth in a series of “Science Notes” from from our ocean scientist colleague, Tegan Mortimer, who works with Earthwatch Institute. These postings follow from encounters with nature that I have on the water. Links to all her Science Notes can be on our Citizen-Science Resource Page. - DR

Tegan MortimerLike gigantic conveyor belts, the tropical oceans span the areas closer to the equator where water temperatures are over 75°. These warm and clear waters tend to have low levels of oxygen and nutrients, the opposite of the cold, nutrient rich waters I’ve written about in earlier Science Notes. This means that though tropical areas in general have low productivity, there are distinct ecosystems in tropical areas like coral reefs and mangroves that have very high productivity and are in fact, some of the most bio-diverse habitats on earth.

:: Coral Reefs: Gardens Under Siege

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Despite the lack of nutrients and oxygen present in these warm waters, tropical areas play host to one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth: coral reefs.

Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 11.59.50 AMA coral reef is made up of many colonies of coral polyps which build the reef structure out of calcium carbonate. Tropical corals contain zooxanthellae, which is tiny algae that lives inside the coral where it photosynthesizes, creating food from sunlight. These algae are also what gives coral its brilliant and diverse colors. This means that coral can only occur in the “photic” zone, where sunlight penetrates the water. Corals polyps feed by extending stinging tentacles outwards to capture small prey and particles in the water column. Corals are related to other stinging animals including sea anemones and jellyfish.

The complex physical structure of a coral reef, some of which are thousands of years old, creates an ideal habitat of many other animals to thrive – from small invertebrates to large animals like sea turtles and sharks. The productivity of many tropical marine areas as well as the related economic activities that center around fishing and tourism are highly dependent on the health of coral reefs.

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In today’s changing ocean, coral reefs are under siege. Sea surface temperatures are increasing, atmospheric carbon dioxide is driving up ocean acidity, and overfishing is removing critical fish and invertebrate species at the same time that coastal land development is increasing in many coral reef areas. All of these pressures are contributing to the unprecedented and rapid collapse of coral reefs along with the loss of the unique ecosystem that goes with them. Scientists are racing to learn more about how these ecosystems are functioning under speedily changing conditions and how we might increase the resilience of corals, and help them cope better under a variety of different stressors.

Dr. Carrie Manfrino is an Earthwatch scientist studying just this area, but with an exciting twist called “coral gardening.” A great obstacle to coral resilience is that when large areas of corals disappear, it greatly reduces the ability of larvae to successfully settle in to form new baby corals in new areas. Staghorn and Elkhorn corals are branching corals which are a critical part of the coral ecosystem, but in the Caribbean these corals have decreased by as much as 90% in some areas, due to climate change and development pressures.

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In the Cayman Islands, where Dr. Manfrino works, these corals are showing some very promising recovery, and her team is working to find out what characterizes sites where these corals are doing well. Once new sites are identified that match these characteristics, scientists and volunteers transfer baby corals that have been grown in a special coral “nursery” to these new sites. The idea behind this method is to both increase coral cover as well as to maintain islands of coral that are better connected with each other which help increase the production of new coral naturally. This is super exciting science, which is using a variety of new technologies to better understand and manage our impacts on the natural environment. (Here’s a video w/ Dr. Manfrino and her colleagues.)

:: Protecting Special Places

Just like anywhere on earth, special places need special protection. The unique biodiversities supported in tropical areas means that there are many special places in need of protection. This process is usually achieved through the creation of multi-nationally supported Marine Protected Areas or MPA. An MPA usually has one of two purposes, to protect an area that supports rare or important species, or to provide a refuge for animals from fishing. MPAs can vary in size from very small local protected areas to vast areas like those in the map below. The most important thing is that an MPA is large enough to matter and located in the right place so that it can provide the most benefit and achieve its purpose. The idea of designating marine areas to be protected is a relatively new one (2000) when compared to the creation of national parks, which started as early as 1872 with the creation of Yellowstone National Park in the U.S.

Currently just 1% of the ocean is fully protected.
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So that the right places can be protected, scientists are studying how different animals use their habitat. It is important to be able to know what places are used for feeding, breeding, and resting so that these important functions can be maintained.

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On the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, in an area called Gulfo Dulche, Lenin Oviedo, an Earthwatch scientist, is conducting a research project to study how this pristine area is important to resident and migratory species of dolphins and whales. Bottlenose dolphins, Pantropical spotted dolphins, and humpback whales use this area either as their permanent home or as a way stop during larger migrations. Along with mapping how these different species use the gulf, the research team is interested in how boat traffic and boat noise overlaps with important whale and dolphin areas.

It is common that special places for animals are usually special places for humans too. Healthier ecosystems support the wildlife, which also benefits economic activities like fishing and tourism. It is important to understand how these activities impact the environment to see how they might be better managed.

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Farther east in the Bahamas, Annabelle Brooks is another Earthwatch scientist whose research is in studying the spatial movements of juvenile green and hawksbill sea turtles. All species of sea turtle are endangered, so it is very important to protect areas, which are crucial for feeding. This research also allows the team to understand naturally occurring cycles of abundance and movement. As impacts from human activities and climate change become more widespread, this research allows scientists to spot disruptions, which are outside the naturally occurring changes in populations.

Researchers like Oviedo and Brooks use the power of computer modeling to better understand natural change and movement in populations. By combining observations of animals with data about the environment, they create a computer model that tells them which areas are important for specific animals or animal activities based on the environmental characteristics. Then the research team goes back into the field and collects more data which is used to validate the models, to see how good the models are at predicting observations in real life. This technique is very useful for pinpointing large areas that are important for specific animals. The aim of both these projects and many others like them is to better understand essential habitats for these important species so that we can better protect them in a changing ocean.

- Tegan Mortimer <teg.mortimerATgmailDOTcom>

Harmonics of the Great Gyres

Approaching the end of a week in Panama that saw Bodacious Dream transiting the Panama Canal… from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean in just 12 hours!

6013_panama_300It’s early morning on Thursday and I’m heading down to the marina to put final provisions and water onto the boat and hopefully, by the time you read this, I will have departed. Our course will take us north towards the Yucatan passage that runs between Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and western tip of Cuba. From there, I’ll cross the Gulf Stream and skirt the Florida coast as I head to a stop-over in West Palm Beach.

The time here in Panama City has been fascinating. The city is lively and full of folks from all over the world. There is a great rejuvenation going on in the old part of the city where fine old buildings are being restored and renovated to accommodate stylish shops and fancy restaurants. The feel around here is vibrant. However, as all good journeys must continue, so must this one as well.

I expect the next few thousand miles will unleash a rush of memories that have stored up inside me since I departed Jamestown, RI on October 2nd of last year. I have no doubt that among those thoughts will be some more philosophical in nature … reflections on our amazing oceans and planet Earth. The time left on the voyage will pass quickly, but the memories I am sure will remain with me for many years to come – so I will try to share them with you here as they arise.

:: Marine Debris

One of the questions I get asked often is how much debris I see out on the water. I have to say that for most of the voyage and especially in my crossing of the desolate Southern Ocean, I didn’t see that much debris. Remember though, my course has taken me very far from land … except when arriving or departing from my scheduled stops.

Recently however, as I got to about 150 miles from Panama, I began to see floating debris everywhere. I would no sooner spot a floating piece of plastic and watch it trail off behind me, then I’d see another in front of me. One night on the approach to Panama, I heard the sound of something hard hitting the deck. I was below and suspected a piece of mast hardware had come loose and fallen. With flashlight in hand, I scanned around and found an old plastic cigarette lighter that had somehow been tossed up across the bow. I picked it up, and thought to myself …”This is not supposed to be here.”

As I learned on this trip, there is quite a field of scientific study that has built up around how man-made debris moves around in the ocean. Some special learnings for me came from a book I read called, Flotsometrics, written by Curtis Ebbesmeyers and Eric Scigliano.

Curtis spent his life as an engineer and oceanographer, first working on important issues with oil platforms: wave heights, sewage disposal and things of that nature. But along the way, as he studied the waters of Puget Sound in the northwest corner of the U.S., he became more and more fascinated with the general drift of ocean waters and what are known these days as the great “Gyres.” At present, oceanographers have identified five of these great gyres and 5 more minor ones.

World's GyresClick here to get a larger version.

The book was one of a selection given to me, just before I departed by Tegan Mortimer, our scientist colleague from Earthwatch, who thought I might find it intriguing. The book explains how through the centuries “drifters(items tossed into the sea to see where they would end up, like notes in a bottle, etc.) have been used to satisfy people’s wide-ranging curiosities about the world. From Columbus, who in observing various items floating in the sea and washing up on the shore, took it as evidence that there were other continents not that far away, to ancient peoples who commonly gravitated to specific beaches that collected the flotsam of the ocean. In many cases, these items helped provide these people with some of the necessities to help grow their civilizations. I found this book just fascinating, and especially how it was told in such a wondrous and whimsical way.

rubber duckyAs Curtis’ lifetime unfolded, he became more and more focused on these floating objects, and with the help of another software engineer friend, he began to use computers to model and predict the travels of the “drifters.”

Imagine the fun he had following and logging data on the 80,00 pairs of Nike shoes lost when a container ripped open off the coast of California, or that other famous lost container full of 28,800 actual yellow rubber ducky bath toys! Along the way, he also tries to solving the mystery of those duckies that floated upright, guided more by the wind, as opposed to those that floated upside down, more directed by the water.

This is truly a book that I can see reading and sharing with kids, as it inspires one to think and imagine more grandly the many interesting and serendipitous ways the oceans of the world interact with each other.

FloatsametricsThe part that especially captured my imagination and provoked me to write this came in the final chapter, Harmonics of the Gyres. With the sun setting into the western sea, I squinted to keep reading about how after years of study, he came to see that these gyres spin in predictable revolving patterns – revolutions that could be measured in years, and he saw how each gyre when compared to one another were separated by factors of two.

As he thought about it, it occurred to him that this was also the basis for our typical musical octave – our common scale – do, re, me, fa, so, la, te, do. So he saw that potentially, though far below the audible range of human beings, the earth’s oceans may have a similarly harmonic scale to them; a rhythm by which the watery worlds vibrate and sing to us, even if it is only our subconscious that hears it.

subtropical_gyres_550

It caused me to wonder in new ways about why it is I’ve always been so pulled to the waters of the world. How can I sit on the shore and stare off to the horizon for such long lengths of time? Why am I drawn to do what I’m doing, sailing across the oceans totally immersed in the environment, the boat, the sea and the weather? Perhaps this theory helps explain why some very basic part of me has always been so entranced by the music of the sea.

If you can find the time, grab this book and a map of the world and sit down with your children and explore the world with this whimsical oceanographer as your guide. In fact, I think when I grow up; I want to be an oceanographer too!

- Dave, Bodacious Dream and Franklin (who really liked the rubber ducky part)

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Our Panama Canal Adventure!

Wow… what a day!! Saturday we watched the sun rise in the Pacific and set in the Atlantic! Across Central America we traveled, from the sea to shining sea all in about 12 hours… via the 48-mile Panama Canal of course!

Rob, Pierce, Joe, Bruce – my crew of trusted old friends who had traveled here to be my required crewmates for the crossing joined me Saturday morning at 5 AM CDT, so that we could pick up our pilot at 6:30 close to the Canal’s Pacific entrance. Tito, a local line handler recommended by our agent, Francis from the Panama Agency, also joined us. Tito had taken a night bus from the Atlantic side of the isthmus and was waiting for us at the boat when we arrived.

pan_am_bridge_550Under the Pan-American bridge on the way to meet our convoy mates …

We were soon loaded and ready-to-go, when we got a delay notice. We’d pick up the pilot at 7:30 instead of 6:30. But then, right at 7:30, the pilot boat approached and Raphael, our pilot, hopped onboard and began giving us our orientation on how we would proceed through the canal.

5954_rafael_300Rafael (pictured to the right getting acquainted with Franklin) informed us we would be traveling through the first two sets of locks as a convoy with two other ships; one was a large (over 500 feet long) cargo ship from Singapore and the second, a smaller 95-foot passenger tour vessel named Islamorada, which by the way, originally belonged to the Chicago gangster Al Capone!

With much anticipation, we proceeded slowly up the channel, en route to meet the “big” ship and Islamorada.

5983_big_ship_550
No question which of us was going to get the big bunk …

The term “lock” refers to these various sub-divisions of the canal through which you must pass. Each lock has chambers, which are like steps. So, the first lock (Miraflores) has two chambers. The big ship entered the chamber first, then Islamorada and then Bodacious Dream came in and tied alongside the Islamorada.

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A bit of turbulence as the water floods in … 

At that point, the gates closed and the chamber filled with 100 million liters (26.4 million gallons) of water, which had the effect of lifting all our vessels up to the level of the next chamber.

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This process was repeated with the second chamber. There are two locks on the Pacific side; each with two chambers, which take you up to at 85 feet above sea level and release you into Lake Gatun – an artificial body of water in the middle of the isthmus. We then motored 21 miles across it. Once across it, we entered the single Pacific-side lock (which has three chambers) – which resulted in our descent to the Atlantic coast.

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Joe keeping an eye on a long ship …

The canal is active 24 hours a day, during which time from 33 to 42 ships pass in both directions… every single day of the year! An astonishing volume of commerce and traffic from all around the world goes through these narrow 110-foot wide canals!

Every moment of the trip had us wide-eyed and excited as kids, as we watched the passing of huge freighters and listened to Raphael and Tito tell stories from some of their past trips. We also saw and heard about the construction for the new expansion of the canal which, when open in 2015, will allow much larger ships to make the passage.

5965_Bruce_550Bruce balancing as we motor across Lake Gatun …

Our crossing of Lake Gatun in the middle of the trip also gave us a beautiful view of the interior of the country of Panama. We even saw a crocodile, though it took me too long to locate it in the camouflage to get a decent photograph of it!

Pushing as hard as we could to keep on schedule against an often strong wind, we were running 30 minutes behind in reaching our appointed time at the Atlantic side locks, but somehow Raphael and our agent Francis worked it out so that the authorities waited for us to arrive. At that point, we passed through and gently down the three chamber steps to where the final gates opened up at the level of the Atlantic Ocean, thus delivering Bodacious Dream back into her home waters, after six months of circumnavigating adventure.

5977_big_ship_550Tonnage before beauty …

There is SO much history in the 100 years of the operation of the canal that it’s hard to know just where you might start to tell the story. The displays at the Visitor’s Center Museum do a fine job of depicting the enormous task of cutting a channel through the country from one ocean to another, all the while being forced to invent new construction machinery and new engineering techniques to make that possible.

Panama_Canal_Construction_550One of the Wonders of the World … I believe it …  

The task at that time was so enormous and so full of unforeseeable challenges, that the greatest obstacle was lack of imagination, which could only be overcome by extending the reach of the builders’ imaginations into new and uncharted territory.

The US took over construction of the canal from France in 1904, and it would be a decade before it opened. From that time on, the U.S. was the administrator of the Canal Zone. In the late 1970’s, during President Jimmy Carter’s administration, a treaty was signed which turned operations of the canal over to the Panamanian government by the end of the century.

Since that time, Panama has operated the canal, maintaining it and making improvements to increase it capacities… including the new larger canal I mentioned, which will make it possible for more and larger ships to traverse the Isthmus. This has also spurred much new development and economic rejuvenation in Panama City and the surrounding areas, making Panama an increasingly attractive and popular travel destination. I was also surprised to learn that the Chinese were planning to construct a new competing canal passage through Nicaragua!

Well, as there’s quite a few more photos, we put together a few slideshows on the page here with photos of our day travelling through the Canal. You can also view it in a bigger format as a photo album on our BDX FACEBOOK page … http://on.fb.me/1lBIbz3

SLIDESHOW #1

#1 - Click arrows to advance! Scroll over to read descriptions.

SLIDESHOW #2

#2 - Click arrows to advance! Scroll over to read descriptions.

Now that we’re through, I’m collecting my thoughts and catching my breath, before I resume the final leg of this amazing circumnavigation later this week.

From all of us on Bodacious DreamJoe, Rob, Pierce, Bruce, Tito, Raphael, and Franklin, who had some great fun rolling with all those new people… thanks for following along.  Back soon with more!

- Dave

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Tegan’s Science Notes #9: The Galápagos

Dave RearickAs I write this, I am less than 100 miles from Panama where I will commence a whole new adventure by traversing the Panama Canal. 

I do have a few more observations to share about my time in the Galapagos, but while I write those up, I’d like to hand-off here to our ocean scientist colleague Tegan Mortimer, who will share with us yet another in her wondrous series of “Science Notes” (See them all here!) – this new one on the Galapagos, naturally… as seen through the awesome lens of science! Take it away Tegan!

________________________________________________________________________
:: Tegan’s Science Notes #9 – The Galapagos

Tegan MortimerSailors called them the Enchanted Isles because strong currents and swirling mists could cause the islands to disappear and reappear right before their eyes. The Galápagos were made famous by Charles Darwin’s visit in 1835 during his voyage on board the HMS Beagle. The observations Darwin made on the islands had a direct impact on the development of his theory of evolution. Today these islands are still an unmatched source of biological wonder and continue to contribute to our study and understanding of the process of evolution.

Despite straddling the equator, the Galápagos do not have a tropical feel. In fact this archipelago is home to the northernmost penguin colony in the world, the only native penguins to be found in the Northern Hemisphere (though the penguins do spend most their time in the Southern Hemisphere, as only the most northern island is above the equator). You’ll remember from my African Penguins post (again, they are all listed on the Citizen Science page) that the KEY is in the water: cold, nutrient-rich water.

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Source: http://cmi2.yale.edu/galapagos_public/data.html

The Galápagos Islands are located in a unique area in which can be found the convergence of several currents of tropical and subtropical waters that upwell around the islands. For a long time oceanographers thought that the cold waters surrounding the Galápagos came from the Humboldt Current (also known as the Peru Coastal Current) which runs along the western coast of South America carrying cold Antarctic water northward. However another type of current, called an undercurrent, which runs below and opposite to a surface current, was discovered in 1956. This current, called the Equatorial Undercurrent or Cromwell Current after its discoverer, is now seen as the reason for the island’s cool waters. The Cromwell Current flows eastward the entire length of the equator in the Pacific Ocean at a depth of about 100 meters below the westward flowing surface currents. As the current approaches the Galápagos, it is forced upwards by underwater seamounts forming an upwelling system. The waters then flow westward again as part of the South Equatorial Current.

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There is a reason why Darwin’s visit to the Galápagos (as well as other islands) had such an effect on his ideas about evolution and natural selection. Islands often have a large number of endemic species, i.e., those that are found nowhere else. The Galápagos are no exception to this. But why do islands have so many unique animals? Geologically, the Galápagos are fairly young, they are volcanic islands formed sometime between 80 and 90 million years ago. In that time animals had to colonize the newly formed islands from the closest landmass, which is the mainland of South America, over 500 miles away. Of all the animal colonizers that reached the Galápagos, only a few would be able to survive and establish populations, which are the animals that still survive today – many of which Dave talked about in his updates.

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When animals colonize islands, a few things often happen. These animals have been ‘released’ from pressures like competition and predation that they were under in their original locale. so they can quickly diversify to take advantage of the many different ecological niches that are available in their new home. These animals often don’t have to worry about predators any longer so they lose many of their anti-predator behaviors. Dave’s story about the baby sea lion illustrates this very point. The parent seals can leave the babies alone while they go hunting, knowing that no predator will attack the vulnerable babies. It may also help explain why the baby sea lion in Dave’s story came right up to the tour group without any hesitation. Among birds, this absence of predators can account for why birds may become flightless (like the cormorant) or lay their eggs on the ground, just as the blue-footed booby does.

These traits make islands very susceptible to the effects that follow from introducing animals like cats, dogs and rats which can easily prey on native animals. Humans too have had a heavy impact on island populations by hunting some animals to extinction. Luckily, today we have come to realize just how fragile these ecosystems are, which has caused many people and organizations to take up the work of protecting such special and “endangered” places… including the Galápagos.

Darwin’s Finches

There’s one group of animals from the Galápagos that needs a special mention. Darwin’s finches are a group of 15 species of birds found throughout the islands which Darwin specifically mentions in his Origin of Species. In this way, these birds became an important part of the scientific history of evolutionary thought, and as I will explain still maintain an important role in our modern understanding of evolution and the ways humans can impact it.

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These birds are the classic example the adaptive radiation I mentioned earlier. A colonizer species to the island, the finches diversified into these 15 species all of which have different shaped beaks, each of which is related to what type of food that particular species eats. These birds are thought to be the fastest evolving animals on earth, which means that researchers can follow them, year to year, and track the natural selection pressures which define which species thrive and which do not.

However, another pressure is being placed on them as well. Human foods, like rice, are now widely available in much of these finches’ range. Birds that feed on human foods can lose the characteristics that make them evolutionary ‘fit,’ as earlier selection pressures are no longer being placed on them. The loss of these characteristics can erode the differences between the various species of finches leading to a loss of biodiversity. So instead of 15 different species, which are highly evolved to eat different food sources, it’s possible we may end up with just a few species that feed on human scraps. It would be tragic loss of such an amazing group of birds.

This study of the finches is actually a research project that my colleagues at Earthwatch are conducting in the Galapagos not far from where Dave moored Bodacious Dream. You can find out more about their project called Following Darwin’s Finches in the Galapagos at the link.

- Tegan 

:: For more exciting science insights and opportunities, please check out our BDX Explorer Guides or stop by our Citizen Science Resources page, where you can also find all of Tegan’s previous Science Notes, Also, we welcome your input or participation to our BDX Learning and Discovery efforts. You can always reach us at …  <oceanexplorer@bodaciousdreamexpeditions.com>

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Stalking the Wild Galapagos #3

Blue Footed BoobieIt seems to me that there are three things that people most immediately associate with the Galapagos Islands; 1) Charles Darwin, 2) Giant Tortoises and 3) Blue-footed Boobies!

Since I’d already made my pilgrimage to the Charles Darwin Research Station to meet the giant tortoises (and land iguanas,) the next stop on my tour was to track down the blue-footed boobies!

At 8AM last Tuesday morning, I (kinda sorta) sprang from bed to meet the bus that would take a number of us visitors on a day-long excursion to North Seymour Island, one of the more ecologically-important islands north of the central island of Santa Cruz. Sparsely populated as it is, North Seymour is famous for its many blue-footed boobies along with its equally legendary frigate birds, land iguanas, marine iguanas and sea lions. We would also have a chance to snorkel along the shoreline. Needless to say, I was pretty excited at what the day would bring.

My fellow touristas on the bus seemed to be from everywhere in the world – South Africa, Holland, New Zealand, France, Texas, London and Indiana (no, not me, someone else!) – all of us equally intent on spotting a blue-footed booby. George was our guide and the boat; the Galapagos Shark would be our vessel.

The Galapagos Shark

The bus ride to the north end of Santa Cruz Island took about 30 minutes. As we drove up and over the center of the island, we rose up to a height of 1600 feet… from which we could see across the tops of the ancient volcano craters out of which the island had originally formed. Then we headed back down to the shore on the north end where we left the bus and jumped into a small inflatable dingy that took us out to the awaiting Galapagos Shark. Once on board, we were given a brief safety talk and description of our day. We learned that the trip to North Seymour would be another 40 minutes passage along a beautiful shoreline pocked with small sandy beaches. Let me tell you, I made the most of my time having someone else drive the boat, by just riding along, sitting on the bow and watching the world roll by!

4883_tree_275At first look, North Seymour looked none too inviting. Dark reddish brown lava rock met us at the difficult landing spot. Once on land, we were introduced to an array of scruffy trees, all about five feet tall… that looked next to dead. We were told that the environment this time of year is very dry and desert-like, and that this is as tall as the trees grow. It was good to know that they weren’t dead at least, but simply in a state of “summer hibernation.”

4880_sea_lion_275Once we were all regrouped on shore, we were in short order greeted by a small and precocious baby sea lion, barking as if insisting that we all come and play with him – right now! Our guide George explained to us that mother and father sea lions travel long distances out to sea during the day to feed and to bring food back for the little ones who stay behind on the island were there (lucky for them) there was an absence of predators.

Soon after commencing our walk, we began to see frigate birds – another iconic species of the Galapagos. These birds are known for their exceptional ability to float and soar for long periods of time, as well as their unique mating habits, all of which are observable there on North Seymour.

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A fully inflated frigate bird …

One fun thing about the frigate birds is that the male bird has this bright reddish-orange sac under its chin which once engaged in its mating rituals, he inflates to a disproportionate size all in the hope of attracting a female, while they in the meantime, are soaring overhead scanning the group of puffed-up male birds looking for the one it finds the most attractive. Once paired off, the male presents the female with a stick as a sort “down payment” gesture to signal his readiness to begin nesting and breeding.

At this time of year, you can see a number of young in the nests who wait for the mother to bring food back to them. At the same time, other frigate birds were just initiating new mating cycles. So, there was quite a visual and sound mix of bloated red chins and chirping baby frigates going on as we tramped about the island.

Towards the northern side of the island, we at last happened into a blue-footed booby neighborhood. I am happy to report that these birds do indeed have very blue feet. I mean it … really blue! I’m not talking blue-ish or fill-in-the-blank blue, but blue like a robin’s egg blue!

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A blue-footed boogie avec œufs …

We walked through their nesting area and among the many nests, there were a number of birds actively incubating their eggs. The boobies use their blue feet to roll the eggs directly beneath them and then cradling them with those big blue feet, they lower themselves right down onto the eggs to warm them and so incubate them to hatching.

While the frigate bird nests up in the trees, the blue-footed booby nests on the ground. As we walked along and encountered both species, it was hard not to see them as eco-friendly collaborators, what with the boobies nesting on rocks just a foot or two off the ground and the frigates nesting in those tress, closer to five feet off the ground!

While it was fascinating to see the bright red necks of the frigate birds and the bright blue feet of the boobies, it was extra exciting to see these fairly substantial creatures ascend to the sky and fly with such grace and power over our heads in ballet-like formations of ten to twelve.

4961_birds_550For these formidable aviarians, the sky’s the limit …

4717_land_iguana_275As if the blue-footed boobies and red-necked frigate birds weren’t enough, from time to time, we’d see large land iguanas as well, moving around under cactuses. As you can see, these creatures are vibrantly colored yellow and orange to blend in with their surroundings. Many of these iguanas live to over 40 years old!

Having had my curiosity about the blue-footed boobies satisfied, it was time to head back to the boat and see about doing some snorkeling along the shore of the island.

While the past several years, I never seem to be far from the ocean, the fact is that it has been many years since I’ve snorkeled – and this didn’t look to me to be a very inviting area to make my underwater comeback. But what the heck… ever the good sport, I donned my mask and flippers and slipped into the warm waters along with everyone else.

Starting in about 25 feet of water, I could see below me some rays slipping along the bottom. As I swam closer towards the rocks nearer to the shore, the water got shallower, and as it did, more and more different kinds of fish started to appear. From tiny darting fish to bigger, slower moving and more brightly colored fish – it was quite the sight to be down there swimming right alongside them. Darn! I’d forgotten how much fun snorkeling was!

eagle_ray_275We had been snorkeling for half an hour or so when out of the corner of my eye I saw something large coming up right alongside me. Suddenly there appeared a rather large and very beautiful Eagle Ray propelling itself along so very gracefully – as if it were a bird in the air. So mesmerizing it was – its body black with white spots on the top and lightly colored underneath. I just floated and let it swim around me, as if I wasn’t even there! Alas, I had decided earlier not to risk bringing my camera … but that was at the cost of not having any photographs to show you of that magical Eagle Ray – except the one above, graciously provided by our dear been-everywhere seen-everything friend, the Internet.

As if this wasn’t enough, and after a great lunch of grilled fresh fish onboard the Galapagos Shark, the Captain steered us towards a sandy beach where we landed and began to investigate the lagoon just inside the shore. On our way there, we saw the remains of a sea turtle nest. These were fairly large craters dug into the sand – some maybe 5 feet in diameter. This is where the sea turtles lay their eggs and from where new hatchlings scurry (if turtles can be said to scurry) across the beach and out to sea.

4985_flaming_450At the lagoon, we were also treated to the sight of two pink flamingos. Elegant and long-legged, with one leg artfully pulled up under its body; they rested and preened their feathers, as all in our tour group fell over each other in the rush to take photographs.

The Galapagos is such a unique marine environment that I would have to say that just showing up by boat on a random Tuesday without some kind of plan in place is not exactly the best way to take in all that’s there. As it was, by the time I began to call, many of the tours were booked and I was lucky to get on the one I did. Should I return, I’ll be sure to plan ahead so that I can catch even more of the deep-in-time experience that awaits you there.

On the bus ride back to town, we stopped for a moment at a huge sinkhole in the middle of the island. It was explained to us that this was not a volcanic crater, even though it looked like one. Nope, this was an actual sinkhole and it was no less than 1000 years old! The ground around it was a honeycomb of volcanic rock, and it was an earthquake that caused the ground to collapse. What a beautiful and amazing site it was.

So much to see on these islands that has remained largely undisturbed for thousands of years – an amazing place to explore… a place where you get the curious feeling that time has slowed down perhaps to better accommodate the great turtles.

Now that I’m back on the water and continuing my sail to Panama, I continue to reflect on the beauty that I witnessed on the Galapagos Islands. I hope that I’ll get the chance to visit once again and to see more of it all at a more leisurely pace. Until then, memories of blue-footed boobies, red-breasted frigate birds, eagle rays and giant tortoises will have to suffice.

- Dave, Bodacious Dream (and the sea lion) Franklin
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3.67462N, 83.3392W