And onto some of the newest earth there is. An undulating field of black lava, about 100 years old, stretched out before us. The ropy formations of the flow before it solidified were clear in the rock, as were bubbles solidified and bubbles solidified then burst. Some areas were like basins where others had cracked and collapsed in the frequent earthquakes the area experiences or had fallen when flows subsided and left empty space underneath. Lola compared the land to Dante’s Inferno, and indeed some of the lava had congealed into fantastic, modern- art-like forms that were easy to imagine as trapped condemned souls.

standing here, looking for basic needs. But there is no food, water, or shelter. Instead only this dry, black, otherworldly expanse, home to only the occasional scurrying lava lizard, and the voice of nature saying, “Turn away, human. There is nothing for you here.” And there won’t be for hundreds or thousands of years until winds and rain and uncountable generations of hardy plants convert the rock into soil suitable to sustain the basic elements of mammal life. We walked from the lava fields onto a pleasant white-sand beach, passing about an hour snorkeling from shore, or just lounging in the water or on the beach. There were some fish, sea turtles and rays to be seen in the water—one ray could even be seen swimming along the beach in about 4 inches of water—but it was more about relaxing than wildlife viewing. Back on board, we passed through the already-familiar evening routine of showering and changing, hearing about and selecting the next day's activities, and listening to a brief wildlife lecture. After another great dinner, the crew invited us to the top deck for a special treat. Once we were all assembled above--Spanish speakers on one side and English on the other--they turned off all of the lights on board, and as our eyes adjusted to the darkness, we watched the stars come out.

Despite the irony of arriving with every creature comfort, pampered onboard a luxury yacht, being in such a remote place as the Galapagos can put one in the mindset of an early explorer coming to this place on a simple wooden ship. It was easy to imagine

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