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May 25, 2003

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The Spaniard, Fray Tomas, discovered the Galapagos islands in 1535. Exactly 300 years later came Charles Darwin aboard the H.M.S. Beagle. In 1859 he published his "The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection: The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life." A title only a scientist could love. The Galapagos provided the inspiration for what is "arguably the greatest revolution of all time concerning man's view of himself in relation to the world and to God."
Besides varying wildlife, each island offers a different landscape. This morning we made our first landfall on Isla Isabela, by far the largest Galapagos island, which looks as if it just emerged from an eruption. Brittle volcanic rock covers the ground. The Sierra Negra volcano has the second largest crater in the world.
With the land looking like a moonscape, it's best to examine the tidal pools for wildlife. In one large pool we find man-sized reef sharks swimming about.
Turtles are one of the best attractions for snorkelers because they don't swim away (although they can jet off if they want to). Mating green turtles are a common sight in the early months of the year; we found tracks on the beach at Floreana left by an egg-laying female (the female digs a hole on the beach and leaves the eggs to incubate under hot sand).
Where else can you swim with a penguin? Most northerly of the world's penguin species, the Galapagos penguin breed on Fernandina and Isabela islands. The penguins look a little awkward on land yet they literally fly underwater. When you're in the water with them you can get close enough to give them a boost onto the shore.