Bartholomew Island

After a fantastic breakfast on Day 2, we boarded Zodiacs in groups at 7:45AM to visit Bartholomew Island, a 0.5 square mile volcanic promontory with wooden steps climbing 375 feet to its summit. From the boat we spotted a pair of Galapagos penguins sunning themselves on the rocky shore. The boat driver simply parked the inflatable right next to the birds, and we spent the next 5-10 minutes taking incredible cell phone photos and videos from about three feet away as they simply ignored our presence. While the Galapagos is all about wildlife, the deeper story here is geology. What makes the Galapagos so special is that the islands are young, with the oldest likely formed only about four million years ago and land still being created today. They are a natural laboratory to study and understand evolution not because they are welcoming to life, but because they are so harsh with very little fresh water and many areas can’t even support vegetation. Life has almost no margin for error here, and species must adapt to fit very narrow niches if they are to survive.

We were blessed with cloud cover though it was still hot for our hike up barren Bartholomew, among the red, rocky new terrain, probably created less than 500 years ago (exact scientific dating is apparently difficult). We hiked up wooden steps along a series of 30-50 foot dome shaped protuberances, all but one collapsed, that show the volcanic forces that built the island as our guide explained the details. In other areas lava tubes, again some covered and some hollowed out with the decay and collapse of the covering rock showed a record of how the molten rock flowed down hill From the top we took more pictures of the incredible scenery, looking forward in time over the water to the peaks and valleys of lusher islands that have had a few million years to break down rock into soil and welcome pioneering plants and animals.

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