Monday morning found us anchored off of Floreana Island, one of the oldest islands in the Galapagos where ancient, extinct volcanoes eroded which fed minerals and nutrients into the soil making it rich in plant life, not to mention wildlife. As a result, it’s quite beautiful and lush.
Floreana also has one of the most romantic histories in the islands, with 200-year-old tales of pirates, marooned whalers, colonists and criminals. There’s also an 80-year-old lusty tale of murder and mystery starring a bizarre cast of settlers that included a toothless German dentist—he pulled out all of his teeth before leaving Germany to avoid dental problems on the island—and his German mistress who made the mistake of leaving her dental care to her lover who, soon after arriving, pulled out all her teeth, as well, leaving them with only one set of metal false teeth between the two of them. Needless to say, it’s easy to understand why he gave up his German dental practice.
Then, enter a self-styled baroness with her two young German lovers and their plans to build a luxury hotel, but instead wound up feuding with and terrorizing the dentist and his mistress, not to mention frequent fights between the baroness’ two lovers, all of which ended up with a 50-year-old who-dunnit because the baroness, the two lovers and the dentist all wound up dead or missing and the dentist’s mistress wound up—understandingly enough—in an insane asylum. Today, the descendants—the Whitman family—are prominent citizens of the island, and owners of a small hotel.
We start off the day much more peacefully, however, with an early morning wet landing at Punta Cormorant, where we disembark on a green-tinted beach made up of olivine sand, which is actually iron crystals. From there, it’s a short walk to still another beautiful beach with fine, sugar-white sand leading to the crystal waters at the base of the beach. Here, too, is a large salt pond, a favorite of flamingos, pintail ducks and other sea birds.
Next, it’s back on board the National Geographic Endeavour for breakfast while the ship repositions itself off of Champion Inlet, which is actually an offshore volcanic cone and the only place where the nearly extinct Floreana mockingbird still exists since the invasive rats, cats and other introduced predators decimated the population on the main island.
The rest of the morning is devoted to snorkeling, glass-bottom boat excursions and Zodiac rides along the islet’s rocky shores photographing scores of sea lions, sea birds and searching for the elusive Floreana mockingbird before lunch, when the ships hauls anchor and heads for Post Office Bay.
In the afternoon, kayakers head off for the beach where they’ll meet up with the rest of the passengers when we come in on Zodiacs for a visit to the 250-year-old “post office,” which is actually a barrel used for an old mail system, first utilized by whalers and cited by British Captain James Colnett in 1793. Basically, the idea is to put your mail in the barrel and whoever comes by en-route back to civilization, picks it up and forwards it on to the addressee. You can still do it today and passengers bring along addressed postcards from the ship to deposit and bring back postcards that have been left by earlier travelers.
It was here, too, that Darwin made his second landing on this beach during his five-week voyage to the Galapagos in 1835. All-in-all, a busy day on a beautiful island.
To see more about Rick’s travels in the Galapagos, view his photo essay at recommend.com, and watch for his next article in this series: Exploring Santa Cruz Island and Daphne Major Islet.