To Arrowview Elementary School Room 3 Gr2-3: Hi every body! Here's a picture from our hotel room window.
Today we went to Vancouver. On the ferry we saw a guy who made a leg out of a pogo stick. He broke off the bottom springy part of the pogo stick and fixed it to his upper leg so that he can walk around. It is his own invention! He said he is part of a company that now makes pogo legs like this. He said that it is much more stable and springy than a typical fake leg.
During our two day stop in Miami we travelled to the Florida Keys. We stopped at a place called Robbie's Beach. It's not as much a beach as it is a dock, but the dock is the main attraction because there are so many pelicans and these great big ugly fish called Tarpon. We fed the Tarpon and the pelicans tried to steal the fish. One pelican stole a fish from Thomas! The pelican was almost as big as Thomas.
February 7 - Alligators in the Florida Everglades!
We spent the morning in the Everglades, which is a large, grassy, swampy area measuring about 150 by 110 kilometres in Florida. The average depth of the water is 5 to 60 centimetres, and is home to many birds, fish and alligators! We learned that alligators live in fresh water (crocodiles live in salt water), have pretty tiny brains, and need to be warm to digest their food. The male alligators basically do nothing, and try eat the baby alligators, and the females have to protect the babies. The females lay eggs every two years, and the babies stay with their mum for about two years. We held a four year old alligator named Larry. We don't think he liked it because his mouth was taped shut, and he tried to attack his handler. We were told that the differences between alligators and crocodiles (Florida has both) is that alligators are much darker and much less intelligent than crocs, and that alligators will swim away from you while crocs will go after you. Who knew?
February 8 - We've Arrived in the Galapagos Islands!
After more check points, tarrifs and baggage checks than we care to record here, we finally arrived in the Galapagos Islands! We landed at the airport on Isla Baltra, bussed to a small ferry, and then boated to Isla Santa Cruz, which is where we will make our base for the next 10 days. It is midsummer here, which is very hot, rainy and full of fertile new life. Tortoises, iguanas and birds are all looking for a mate (or two or three or 80, depending upon the creature!) We are staying at a bed and breakfast in the highlands, along with several other guests and three giant male tortoises who live on the property. We are lucky that they are still here as the arrival of the rains is their signal to head the ten kilometres down to the coast to find some lovely ladies. Pictured above is the biggest of the three tortoises, and he is absolutely huge (over 250 kilograms). You can see he has a GPS device glued on his shell. His movements are monitored by researchers and assist in understanding the behaviours of male tortoises.
After settling in, we went to the Darwin Research Station in search of Lonesome George. He was extra lonely today, and did not come out.
February 9 Isla Bartolome
We saw penguins today! No kidding – and we swam with
one. It was tiny – about a foot
long. A long time ago the penguins came
up on a cool current from Antartica to the Galapagos Islands, but now it’s all
hot, but they don’t mind. They might
like the warm water and they might have adapted to it.
Also today we swam with a couple of sea lions. It was a
little scary because they swam right up to us and are bigger than our parents!
February 10 - Isle South Plaza
Hooray! Finally an Iguana for Room 3!! Hey classmates, iguanas are very weird. They like to push other smaller
iguanas off rocks and then they do head bobs because they are showing that they
are better than the smaller iguanas. I’ve seen about 30 iguanas – both land
iguanas and marine iguanas (different species) and also baby iguanas. Sea
iguanas like land better than water even though they are called sea iguanas.
Charles Darwin used to throw them into the water and they would always swim
back to the land to warm up.
Also today we saw white tooth sharks. One came
by when we were swimming in the water
and it was bigger than us! Our mum was a little worried as we are smaller and
tastier than the adults. Later, a shark
was circling our boat hoping to catch a sea lion for lunch. Hasta Luego! Thomas.
Male Iguanas and A Cactus Pear
On Isla South Plaza these two male land iguanas are squaring off - but not over the tasty, prickly cactus pear (upper left), but over territory.
Notice the dry, dusty, rubble on the ground. Although not visible in the photo, these two iguanas are under a pear cactus.
Land Iguanas are able to negotiate the prickles of the pear cactus in order to get to
the fruit inside.
When it's not the rainy season (as it is now) the
iguanas rely on the moisture in the cacti to survive.
February 11 Isla
Alison’s Turn: Today saw
yet another spectacular cruise from
Puerto Ayora to the ecologically sensitive and significant island of Santa Fe, where humans can touch
only a very small portion of the arid landmass. Scientists may apply for
special access to certain parts of Santa Fe at a cost of US$ 1,000 per day. Our
tour of 12 people (Americans, British and Russians) had access to one bay,
bordered by two small beaches and a 300 metre long marked trail along the
cliffs. Despite the small area, our experience was incredible. First, we
visited the beaches, where there were herds of what were originally Californian
Sea Lions (now genetically altered such that they are a separate species and
considered endemic to about half of the Galapagos Islands). We stood within 3
metres of the mothers, fathers and
babies ranging from newborn to 3 years old. Incredibly, we watched and listened
to the suckling of the babies – and have video to show you upon our
return! The females give birth to one
calf each year; the young nurse for three years before they are developed
enough to fend for themselves. Mothers will go away to hunt for up to six days,
while the male of each herd guards the young.
One male sea lion will be the patriarch of up to 80 females and
their young. We then walked along the cliffs and saw
several land iguanas whom, like the Sea Lions, are unique
to Santa Fe. One male land iguana seemed to wait for our arrival before
eating the lone pear that had fallen off of the pear cactus that he was sitting
under. Nearby were two Galapagos Doves presumably in some sort of courtship
dance, and several Darwin Finches. In the distance, we watched as Blue Footed
Boobies coasted in the sky and then dove into the ocean.
Upon our return to our boat, we snorkelled along the rocks,
and experienced two amazing things. First, we watched as sea lions swam back
and forth along the rocks, observing their movements underwater. One curious
Lion came right up to Darryl and Thomas, peering into Darryl’s mask. A little too close for comfort given that
there were young around. And second, we swam with a sea turtle – and discovered
that with flippers, we were all able to keep up with it. The turtle was about 70 cms in diametre and
seemed a little bewildered by our presence.
I wondered if it thought that we were predators.
February 12 – Fungus, Feces and Las Grietas!
What a day!
Kaeden’s turn: This
morning we went on a fungus hunt on the property where we are staying to get
pictures for my Five Kingdoms project (Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protists and
Monera). I found about 10 or 15 different kinds of fungus but I didn’t get any
pictures. Later in the day we came back, and more than half of them had died in
the heat! I still got some good pictures, but I’m going to go back to get good
photos before it gets too hot. The most interesting fungus was a little white
one growing on a tortoise guano. It had a very long stem and a small bulb that
looked kind of like a deformed mushroom. But the real shocker was when I came
back with my camera only wilted stems were left.
In the afternoon we went to the beach. It wasn’t that great.
It was pretty dirty and we think someone
was pumping sewage into the bay! It didn’t make for the best snorkelling, and
my mum was really grossed out. Then, we took a 20 minute walk over volcanic
rocks and rubble, past a couple of lagoons, and at the end of the walk there
was a pool of brackish water (where salt water and fresh water mixes and forms
two layers). It was a volcanic fissure called Las Grietas, and it had very
steep cliff sides and was very deep. We got a good deal going down there as
about 30 people left as we were getting there, and we had the swimming spot all
to ourselves. Imagine what it would be like if there were 30 or 40 people down
there all at once because it wasn’t that big! Some people were jumping off the
cliff into the water. It was pretty scary to watch. I think they were 30 or 40
February 13 – Isla Seymour and Isla Santa Cruz
Kaeden’s Turn: Today we saw Frigate Birds on Isla Seymour in
their mating season. We knew it was their mating season because, one, there
were many females circling overhead. Two, there were many males with their red
throat pouches inflated to attract females. And three, the guide told us. They
only have one chick at a time and both parents take care of the chick. The male
sits on top of the female when they m***.
After they, well, you get the idea, the male’s red pouch can no longer
be inflated and becomes less red. The males who do not get selected (the
females chose the males) lose the colour in the red sack and have to wait until
the next mating season to get the red colour back. There are two types of Frigate Birds on Isla Seymour (I’m
pretty sure it’s not three): The Great Frigate Birds and the Magnificent
Frigate Birds (no kidding – these are real species!). The difference is that
the Magnificent Frigate Birds have glossy green feathers on their shoulders and
upper back, while the Great Frigate Birds do not. They do not cross breed (and possibly
cannot crossbreed) because they are different species. Frigate Birds are some of the most magnificent
and interesting birds on Galapagos, but they are pirates – scoundrels of the
air! They steal other birds’ eggs and food (seriously).
Also today we saw BOOBIES! Blue Footed Boobies, to be
exact. The booby part apparently comes from the a Spanish word
for clown (bobo), although we couldn't find that word in our
dictionary. The Boobies are amazing as they dive-bomb into schools of
fish when they hunt. There were lots of them along with the
Frigate Birds, and I saw two Boobies doing the courtship dance. It
looks like they are making heart shapes with their beaks and necks, and
lift their big blue feet up like clowns
as though they’re dancing. I saw one dancing Boobie scratch its back
with its foot during this dance (although it could have been its mate’s
We also saw giant male land iguanas on Isla Seymor. They
looked overgrown, but the size, shape and colour of land iguanas varies
island to island.
I also saw female iguanas protecting their land nests on
Isla Seymor. Basically what I saw was a bunch of female black marine
iguanas guarding holes that they had dug
in the sand and were obviously filled with eggs . I saw two of them
bobs” at each other, and then one of the iguanas got chased off by the
other. When we got back on our boat it started to rain – and our
next stop was the beach, but nobody really cared because the water was
than the air. Before we got in the water we crossed over a sand dune
there was a pond. In the dry season it always filled with flamingos.
Flamingos. Luckily, and unluckily, there was only one today. The
its pink colour from the shrimp that eats. The shrimp live in the pond,
they eat algae (protists/monera?) that forms in the pond during the dry
season. There must have been some algae
and shrimp left in the pond as there was still the one flamingo there.
Upon our return to the beach we passed fresh
seaturtle nests. You could still see the tracks made by the sea
turtles). The sandunes reminded me of Rathtrevor Beach on Vancouver
they kind of looked the same and because you are not allowed on the
either place. But, enough about the land! Lets get down to the
sealife. Next we went
snorkelling. I saw many fish but the water was a bit murky. I saw lots
fish and a fish that looks like Dory from “Finding Nemo”. I also saw a
fluorescent fish. It looked kind
of funny as it looked like it had electric blue streaks on it. It was
cms long, very skinny and had a long belly. The rain had stopped when
swimming but started up again when we got in the dingy to go back to
(we were wet anyway so we didn’t really mind).
Februay 15 – The Joy of the Rainy Season
Alison's Turn: February is the wettest, hottest month in the Galapagos Islands. It is also the mating season for many Galapagan creatures –
including sea turtles, tortoises, most species
of iguanas and, of course, the birds. Given the heat (over 30 degrees celcuis
except in the two hours either side of the sunrise) and humidity, I very
much doubt that humans are included in this massive assembly of new life. Further, the moisture and heat have left the
vegetation bulging with fruits and shining in glorious shades of green. The
smell is drenched with a fresh sweetness. Each morning we awaken at sunrise (around 6:00
am) and watch from our beds as the colours of the moist canopy grow in the changing
light, and the white egrets move northward to the inland of Isla Santa Cruz.
The habits of each of the creatures in terms
of bringing new life to the Islands is truly amazing – and completely accepted
as a part of Galapagos culture. In fact, many serious postcards feature
tortoises, birds and iguanas stacked upon each other in their efforts to produce young. Can you imagine an equivalent postcard being sold in the tourist mecca of Oceanside featuring crabs, bears or
white tailed deer?!
The photo here is of a female giant tortoise. You can tell
she is a female because her shell has been worn down by the movements of heavy male
giant tortoises (200-500 pounds!) on top of her. Usually
during this four hour process the females tuck their heads away inside their shells. No
An afternoon Tour de Bahais
This afternoon we took a wonderful tour of the bays around Puerto Ayora. Our guides, Eduardo and Armando were animated, enthusiastic and comical. We were taken snorkelling, and up close with pelicans, sea lions and Blue Footed Boobies. You might remember Kaeden writing about the Frigate Birds and how they have the reputation for being pirates as they steal anything that they can. We saw this "skill" in action, when Armando held a tiny dead fish, and the Frigate Bird photographed here came from 200 metres in the air to take it from him. Nice photography on the rocking boat, Kaeden.
February 16 – Hanging
out and doing school work in the Highlands
Thomas’ Turn: Hola amigos,
today we are having a bit of a break from our usual hectic pace. After
breakfast we had a stroll around the guesthouse property to take pictures of
fungi and other biota for Kaeden and my school project. I took five (cinco) photos
of various fungi (fun guy). We were for searching for tortoises that live on
the property and we finally came across one. When we got to the guesthouse
there was another one right outside our window. How ironic was that! On our
walk we also saw banana trees and picked some to eat. They were very tangy!
There is coffee growing among trees. Steps to making a coffee berry into a
roasted coffee bean: 1. Pick the berry off the tree. 2. Open up the berry to
get the seeds (bean). 3. Roast the
beans. 4. Peel open the roasted bean and take out the inside part of the bean.
5. Roast the inside part of the bean again until it is the right colour. 6.
Package the beans or use them right away like my parent do 10 times a day here.
Next we are going to go gift shopping in the town and eat
food and drink soda pop. We will most likely (certainly) get ice cream tonight
when it is the coolest part of the day to have it. The town has lots of
restaurants with tasty food. We like to eat in restaurants where to local
people eat. We not eat in the hotels or high price restaurants (for tourists)
were people speak English. There is
tasty beef and chicken cooked on a grill. They use a hair dryer to blow the
heat to cook it faster. They eat lots of rice and beans but I don’t like it
very much so I get french fries (papas fritas) every day.
The town has an awesome ice cream place. They have many many
many different flavours such as vanilla, coconut , passion fruit, etc. Cookies
and Cream is my favourite. We like to sit upstairs and watch activities on the
In town we can see many wild animals. It is really cool because
we can walk down the street and see lava lizards crossing the street, sea lions
resting on the pier and rocks, mantas and marine iguanas swimming in the
harbour, blue-footed boobies near by and pelicans looking for a free meal at
the fish docks.
And as you can tell, I am learning to speak some Spanish.
The sand dunes at Tortuga Bay, where the Tortugas del Marino come up from the sea to lay their eggs. Like Rathtrevor Beach, you are not allowed on the sand dunes.
February 18 – A Long Walk to Tortuga Bay
Tortuga Bay is on Isla Santa Cruz, just to the west of the town of Puerto Ayora. It is accessibly only by foot via a 2.5 kilometre walk or by boat. The name "Bahai de Tortuga" is for the giant sea turtles that lay their eggs in the sand dunes. We did not see any sea turtles (we were told they lay their eggs at night), but we did see several turtle tracks and many freshly dug holes where turtles had laid their eggs. Interestingly, the Spanish "Tortuga" refers to both turtles and tortoises, with turtles being "tortugas del marino" and tortoises being "tortugas de la tera".
The beach (la playa) is made up of fine white sand, runs for about 1.5 kilometres, and seems to have a constant surf and the danger of riptides. Yes, it is reminiscent of Tofino - although much warmer and less undertow. Because of the vigorous surf, the locals walk the length of the south facing part of the bay, past a small peninsula and into a smaller west facing bay. Here, the water is very calm,and the mangroves provide shade for the human visitors, and local finches and marine iguanas. We spent much of one day in the sheltered part of Bahai de Tortuga, finishing with some body surfing on the south beach.
Cactus Finches While at Tortuga Bay we were joined by many Cactus Finches. The females are brown with spotted chests, while the males are black. Their beaks are formed in a manner that allows them to peck at cacti in order to feed. Cactus Finches are one of 13 separate species of Finches on the Galapagos Islands (there may be a 14th species although this is still being determined). Darwin's research on the Galapagos focused on these 13 species of Finches, and concluded that all of them originated from a a single species of Finch. The theory is that the original Finches either floated or flew to the islands, and then adapted to the myraid of conditions on the islands (from arid, newly vegetated volcanic rock beds to the lush jungle canopy). Each of these 13 species are considered to now be endemic
to the Galapagos Islands, and are protected along with all other types
of wildlife. Of course, Darwin's famous conclusion was that it is not those who are the strongest nor most intelligent who survive, but those who are most able to adapt to change. My opinion is that Darwin got a little lucky in his research on the Galapagos Islands (he spent only five weeks in the area). However, this particular conclusion does seem fitting for many species - including our own.
Kaeden’s Turn: Today we went to Tortuga Bay. Tortuga Bay is,
well, a bay, where sea turtles like to nest. I did not see any turtles or
tortoises for that matter, but I did see finches, marine iguanas and
sandpipers. The finches are very funny
because they are so tiny and cute and hop around and eat any potato or bread
product s that you drop. The signs says no feeding any animals , but the
finches are very hopeful that you are going to feed them, which basically means
that they have been fed a lot! The finches at Tortuga bay range from black to
brown with black spots. The black ones are Cactus Finches, and we have some
good photos. The male marine iguanas were almost the same
size as male land iguanas, and that’s pretty big. While I was there, they walked around and
sunned themselves. But my little brother, who was at the beach two hours
earlier, got to swim with a marine iguana! We could get pretty close to the
iguanas – especially the sleeping ones! One iguana came right up to us and
stayed for about an hour watching us. He
must have been thinking that Thomas’ shirt was green algae and wanted to eat
it. My dad called the iguana “Iggy”, and we noticed that he seemed to be
When the tide came in too high at Tortuga Bay, we walked to
the beach closer to the trail back in to town. It had huge waves, which are
very fun to swim in and jump over. The sign said, and I quote, “Danger. Strong
currents. May carry you out to sea.” But there, were many surfers, and compared
to Tofino, it was a kiddie pool.
A Lava Lizard - These quick little creatures are Thomas' favourite!
Thomas’ Turn: The walk in to Tortuga Bay is very long. I was
very happy that the trail was paved and not all rocky like the trail to Las
Grietas (translated as “the Cracks” swimming hole). We saw lots of finches and
lava lizards on the half hour walk. Dad and I rented a kayak and paddled around
the mangrove of Tortuga Bay. We found a huge manta ray and a sea turtle. There
are three types of manta rays, the Golden ray, Eagle ray Cow-Nose ray (which is
what we saw).
I saw a Marine Iguana swimming close to shore and I ran to
the water to swim with it. I was swimming along the shore but it wanted to come
to the beach. It dove under the water right past me and popped up at the beach.
My dad cooked pasta at the guest house last night. I really
really liked it so I asked to have it for dinner again tonight. We were so
tired that we watched a movie and went to be earlier than most other nights.
Sea Lions! Do you remember that we swam with the sea lions at Isla Santa Fe on February 13? Our friends Ruth and Paul took this photo on that day with their underwater camera. The sea lions seem to be very curious about swimming masks and come right up to your face and blow bubbles!
February 22 - A special hello to Room 3!
Thank you for your message, and for the Valentines. Yes, some fungi seem to grow only at night. We see them first thing in the morning and then they are gone. But the fungus in the photo that we put here is one that was there every day.
We are in Quito now, and will write about it more tomorrow. Hasta luego, Thomas.
February 20 - 3000 Metres
Above Sea Level
Our time in the Galapagos has come to an end, but we are
having a “mini vacation” of four nights in Quito, the Capital of Ecuador, and
basically on the equator. The population of Quito is about 2.2 million, half
the size of the ocean city of Guayaquil, which is Ecuador’s centre of commerce
and shipping. We’re staying in a hotel
that was originally somebody’s house, built in the 1600s, in the middle of the
“Old City” of Quito. It’s a little strange being in such an old, historic
building but able to access high speed internet! The Old City was the first UNESCO World
Heritage Site. Truthfully, this area was a bit overwhelming for us. The
crowded, narrow streets and uniform architecture were a bit of a challenge to
negotiate. And, it was difficult to figure out what exactly was open to the
public and where it was located. We did
tour around the Old City on foot, as well as the Basilica and another church
covered in gold leafing.
What was the most interesting was watching a lot of different
people as they went about their business. We saw a lot of seemingly very poor people
selling things like nuts and limes in the busy intersections, or doing
performances such as juggling and fire-breathing. One boy who looked about seven
years old dragged out a tire and jumped on it in front of cars stopped at a
red light, in hopes of a few coins from his onlookers. We also saw children
Thomas’ age begging, and women with their babies and toddlers strapped to their
backs as they tried to sell their wares along the streets.
Today we travelled
with our new found friends, the Weeks Family, to Mindo, which is a cloud forest
located about two hours North East of Quito.
It is a particularly beautiful area and a popular spot for tourists. Our
friends surprised us with a visit to the area’s original zip line park
featuring 13 zip lines totalling 3.5 kilometres of cable (no kidding!). It was incredible to zip across the valleys of
the mountains on the cables, watching the canopy rush by under our feet. Often, we were 100 metres above the ground –
which was fun but also a scary.
In the afternoon we went to Mindo’s equivalent of Butterfly
World. The charm of the attraction is
that all of the beautiful butterflies (and there were many) were found in that
valley and thrive in their natural environment. The entrance to the attraction
is lines with hummingbird feeders where dozens of different multi-coloured
birds invite you with their beauty. Interestingly, all of the butterflies that we saw today can be found at Butterfly World, including these Owl's Eye Butterflies.
We would like to say a heartfelt thank you to the Weeks Family,
who really took us under their wings during our time in Quito. The Weeks, who are with HCJB Global, have
been in Ecuador for close to a decade, facilitating the set up and operation of
Christian based radio broadcasting across the country. Both their dedication to their mission, and
their welcoming nature were very much appreciated by our family.
February 21 – Standing at the Centre of the Earth
Today was another exciting day.... we stood in the Northern and
Southern Hemispheres – AT THE SAME TIME!
French scientists travelled to Quito in 1736 to take advantage of the
North-South Valley running through the middle of Ecuador in hopes of
pinpointing what is now called the equator.
They used triangulation of fixed points (using 36 triangles) across
dozens of kilometres across the valley in conjunction with three stars of
“Orion’s Belt” to calculate the
curvature of the earth and pinpoint the exact location of the equator. It took them eight years and a strong team
of assistants to find the “Mitad Del Mundo”. Here, Thomas and Kaeden's left feet are in the Southern Hemisphere, while their right feet are firmly in the North!
February 25 - Lonesome George
We're now back home, but we had promised to fill you in on the legend of Lonesome George... As soon as we find our photos of him we'll put them here, along with George's story as the last remaining saddleback tortoise from Isla Pinta.