This morning our target was Urbina Bay on Isabela Island. Isabela is the largest island of the group and one of the youngest at about one million years. Younger islands are on the western edge of the group, probably because the hot spot under them is moving that direction. Made up of six shield volcanoes, the landscape is pretty barren as the plants have not had enough time to colonize the island with a great deal of diversity. Five of the six volcanoes are still active and the island experienced a major uplift in 1954 stranding some of the marine animals inland as the coastline moved about ½ mile out.
After landing on the shore, we walked along a trail far enough that we were able to see the old coastline. Along the way we were treated with excellent views of land iguanas and giant tortoises along with several finches, our first Galapagos flycatcher, and a glimpse of one yellow warbler. We also got our first view of flightless cormorants along the shore. These birds, having no predators on the islands, have lost the ability to fly. They are, of course great swimmers. They are somewhat threatened today by fishing and the introduction of dogs, cats, rats, and pigs to the islands. Dogs were eradicated a few years ago; the others are not currently a problem, but with a population of only about 1500 on only two islands, they should be considered endangered.
I also did a bit of snorkeling in the murky waters after the hike. The waters here are warm enough to swim without a wetsuit although most of the snorkelers did rent one from the ship. One person told me he was still cold; he must be very warm-blooded because I didn’t feel any cold at all in the water even when we went out into some deeper waters.