IBJOpinion

BASILE: Following in the footsteps of Darwin in the Galapagos

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Frank Basile

Over the next few months, celebrations will be taking place honoring the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birth. These will culminate Nov. 24, the 150th anniversary of the publication of his famous book, "On the Origins of Species by Means of Natural Selection." Indianapolis had its own Happy 200th Birthday Party for Charles Darwin (along with Abraham Lincoln) back in February. Birthday cake was served and films celebrating these two men ran continuously.

While films are great (and I never argue with cake), there's nothing like following the wildly influential thinker's own footsteps, which I had the pleasure of doing by visiting the beautiful, mysterious, isolated and enchanted Galapagos Islands.

With their lunar-like black and ashen lava slopes and white and red and black sand beaches, these islands constitute Darwin's famous "living laboratory" of strange, exotic, otherworldly animals and birds. (For the record, the islands were discovered not by Darwin but by a drunken Spanish priest who drifted there by mistake in 1535.)

The islands, which have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, were never attached to the South American mainland, so the animals and plants adapted to the conditions of the islands, not the continent. Their uniqueness stems largely from their geographic isolation.

About half of the islands' plants and practically all of its reptiles are not found anywhere else in the world. It is a unique oasis for diversity in exotic plant and animal life, including the dinosaur-like lizards and birds in various stunning colors. We walked among the penguins, flamingos, albatross, the Galapagos turtle and blue-footed boobies while learning more about them than we ever cared to know.

We went onto several of the islands in both dry landings and wet landings. In a dry landing, we stepped from the dinghy onto rocks or a dock. In a wet landing, as the dinghy edged onto a sandy beach, we stepped into knee-deep water and waded ashore.

There were several options for our sightseeing, such as observation of the submarine life from a glass-bottom boat, swimming, snorkeling, dinghy rides or short walks. Because the walks were usually over lava rocks, all passengers had to be in good physical condition to thoroughly enjoy the excursions. In fact, all passengers over a certain age had to produce a statement from their physician stating that they were in good health prior to being booked for the cruise.

The total population of the four inhabited islands (including Santa Cruz Island, home to the Charles Darwin Research Station) is about 40,000. There are nine uninhabited islands, which are free of human intrusion with nothing to mar the natural vistas and landscapes, such as billboards and buildings.

The ships that ply these waters are not your typical cruise ship. For example, our ship, the Santa Cruz, with 48 cabins, had no casino, entertainment, dancing, piano bar or midnight buffet. Instead, there were scholarly lectures on all aspects of the land and the plant and animal life and Darwin's research along with a library crammed with technical books on these subjects. The people on these cruises are there to learn, explore and marvel, not to party.

All flights to the Galapagos Islands depart from two cities in Ecuador. The flights are closely controlled by the government and no one is allowed on without being booked on an authorized cruise and under the auspices of a licensed naturalist guide. Strict adherence to these regulations has enabled the islands to stay in pristine condition, unlike many other tourist destinations.

The challenge is to protect the unique and fragile ecosystem by placing reasonable restraints on tourism while providing adequate access for visitors and the locals who accommodate them. They appear to be successful in maintaining this balance.

That Darwin would recognize these islands after more than 150 years is a good, almost miraculous, thing.
_____

Basile is an author, professional speaker, philanthropist, community volunteer and retired executive of the Gene B. Glick Co. Basile can be reached at Frank_ Basile@sbcglobal.net.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Of what value is selling alcoholic beverages to State Fair patrons when there are many families with children attending. Is this the message we want to give children attending and participating in the Fair, another venue with alooholic consumption onsite. Is this to promote beer and wine production in the state which are great for the breweries and wineries, but where does this end up 10-15 years from now, lots more drinkers for the alcoholic contents. If these drinks are so important, why not remove the alcohol content and the flavor and drink itself similar to soft drinks would be the novelty, not the alcoholic content and its affects on the drinker. There is no social or material benefit from drinking alcoholic beverages, mostly people want to get slightly or highly drunk.

  2. I did;nt know anyone in Indiana could count- WHY did they NOT SAY just HOW this would be enforced? Because it WON;T! NOW- with that said- BIG BROTHER is ALIVE in this Article-why take any comment if it won't appease YOU PEOPLE- that's NOT American- with EVERYTHING you indicated is NOT said-I can see WHY it say's o Comments- YOU are COMMIES- BIG BROTHER and most likely- voted for Obama!

  3. In Europe there are schools for hairdressing but you don't get a license afterwards but you are required to assist in turkey and Italy its 7 years in japan it's 10 years England 2 so these people who assist know how to do hair their not just anybody and if your an owner and you hire someone with no experience then ur an idiot I've known stylist from different countries with no license but they are professional clean and safe they have no license but they have experience a license doesn't mean anything look at all the bad hairdressers in the world that have fried peoples hair okay but they have a license doesn't make them a professional at their job I think they should get rid of it because stateboard robs stylist and owners and they fine you for the dumbest f***ing things oh ur license isn't displayed 100$ oh ur wearing open toe shoes fine, oh there's ONE HAIR IN UR BRUSH that's a fine it's like really? So I think they need to go or ease up on their regulations because their too strict

  4. Exciting times in Carmel.

  5. Twenty years ago when we moved to Indy I was a stay at home mom and knew not very many people.WIBC was my family and friends for the most part. It was informative, civil, and humerous with Dave the KING. Terri, Jeff, Stever, Big Joe, Matt, Pat and Crumie. I loved them all, and they seemed to love each other. I didn't mind Greg Garrison, but I was not a Rush fan. NOW I can't stand Chicks and all their giggly opinions. Tony Katz is to abrasive that early in the morning(or really any time). I will tune in on Saturday morning for the usual fun and priceless information from Pat and Crumie, mornings it will be 90.1

ADVERTISEMENT