Happy New Year from the Galapagos

January 10, 2008 – 5:58 pm
What a strange and lovely place this is! The other day I walked several miles down a white sandy beach to a place called Tortuga Bay, where huge marine iguanas sun themselves on the volcanic rocks. These are the creatures that Darwin once called "stupid." Not so when it comes to territory. As I followed a footpath, two enormous males began stalking each other. The larger iguana suddenly pounced on the other, and they thrashed around in the sand, biting each others' backs and tails. Then they stopped and stood there nose to nose for a few seconds until the loser backed off one scaly step at a time. The alpha male had reclaimed his territory in a thicket of giant prickly pear cactus. I spent Christmas Eve with friends at a restaurant across the bay in Puerto Ayora. To get there I had to take a "water taxi." Stepping into ...

From “home” in the Galapagos

December 18, 2007 – 6:43 pm
Hello from my casita in Puerto Ayora on Isla Santa Cruz. I am quite lucky to have found such a place on this island. Out on my patio, lava lizards do push-ups on the volcanic rocks, and Darwin's finches peck at seeds beneath an acacia tree with blossoms the color of fire. Up on my terrace (it's just a flat roof, really), I can sit and watch enormous frigatebirds float on the equatorial breeze, searching the bay for sardines. My house is cozy and quaint. Most of the living room has beautiful hardwood windows, some shaped like ovals, and the floors are made of tile. I have cable TV, which is a good way to learn conversational Spanish. Yesterday, I bought a bicycle to get around town. Bikes here don't have kickstands. You ride up to a store, balance the bike by positioning a petal on the curb, and go shopping ...

Greetings from Quito

December 10, 2007 – 8:37 pm
It's Sunday morning and church bells peel across the narrow valleys in this Andean city at 9,400 feet. From my hotel room I can see the patchwork fields of potatoes and grain on Volcan Pichincha, which is still geologically active. Down in the streets, vendors from indigenous villages to the north sell everything from chewing gum to deep fried pig heads. It's "summer" here, but at this elevation it isn't that warm. Storm clouds build to the west, but I haven't seen a drop of rain since I arrived from Eugene, Oregon a few days ago. On Wednesday I fly to the Galapagos Islands to settle in and begin writing my new book, Galapagos at the Crossroads: Encounters with Pirates, Boobies, Creationists and Biologists in Darwin's Cradle of Evolution.