Living Galapagos Trailers Released

April 12, 2012 § 1 Comment

Face Off PREVIEW from UNC | Carolina Photojournalism on Vimeo.

Living Galapagos the project from the journalism school at UNC Chapel Hill has released a number of trailers from their work in the Galapagos Islands.  The films feature a number of different subjects and do a remarkable job telling the story of the people who make the Galapagos their home.

The site and full versions of the videos are scheduled to be released in early May currently the videos and blog posts can be seen at


Galapagos Living

March 13, 2012 § 1 Comment

“Living Galapagos: The impact of man in the Galapagos Islands” is a student-authored multimedia website intended to become the primary source for Galapagos multimedia, containing a mix of science and human interest content and presented to multiple audiences worldwide for education, awareness and entertainment.

Based off the 2009 JOMC project, the new site will have annual editions, presenting a mix of science and human interest content in an engaging way for viewers in the U.S., Ecuador and worldwide. It will also provide bilingual educational resources.

The annual class will learn about the islands and then travel there to produce stories with documentary video, animated information graphics, data visualization, 3-D modeling immersive media text and more. The project will have a searchable database of content, showing change on the islands over time.

“Living Galapagos” will be produced by JOMC with support from centers and institutes at UNC and University San Francisco de Quito (USFQ,) including the Center for Galapagos Studies, RENCI, the Water Institute, the Center for Global Initiatives, The Research Institute, the Institute for the Environment, and the Galapagos Institute of Arts and Sciences.


New Fish ID App for Iphone for the Galapagos Islands and Eastern Pacific

February 15, 2012 § 1 Comment

A great new iphone app that to download before heading to the Galapagos…

By Bernd F. Laeschke

A new application for the iPhone allows users to identify shore fishes of the tropical Eastern Pacific. The app is a powerful tool for scientists, divers and tour guides. It includes unique fish-finding and list-making tools, in addition to range maps. The tropical Eastern Pacific, spanning the area from Mexico’s Baja California to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, is one of three great global centers of marine biodiversity. Until the 1990s there was no guide to the fish in this region. The iPhone app evolved from “Fishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific,” a guide published in 1994 by Gerald R. Allen, a consultant for Conservation International, and D. Ross Robertson, a Smithsonian staff scientist. The book featured detailed descriptions of nearly 700 species and led to the first Spanish-language guide in 1998.

“Now, not only can you carry the means to identify almost 1,300 species in your pocket, this application surpasses many of the currently available field guides in its ability to create and share lists that correspond to specific regions or field trips,” said Robertson. “We also made it portable: The information is all in your phone so you don’t need to be connected to a server to use it…important when you are out at sea.”

iPhone users can browse alphabetic lists by species and family, use identification keys and perform a combination search on name, location, shape, pattern and color characteristics to identify unknown fishes. The notebook module serves two functions: users can keep track of the species that they have recently seen and keep annotated lists of fish from different sites that are then organized in folders; they can also export lists by email.

Each species page includes common and scientific names, images of the species, a detailed description, key features used to distinguish it from other species and a map of its range in the tropical Eastern Pacific. The information is also stored in the app’s database and can be used for specific searches. A glossary of scientific terms makes the guide accessible to students and lay-people, and information about the extinction risk status, based on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List, is available to resource managers and conservationists.

The iPhone application, created by Robertson with funds from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, is available as a free download in Apple’s App Store.

Ecuador’s parliament begins debate on amendments to law on Galapagos Islands

February 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

From lainformacion

A Commission of Ecuador’s National Assembly today began debate on a draft amendment to the special law that applies in the Galapagos Islands, which includes regulations for tourism in the archipelago declared Natural Patrimony of Humanity.

The draft law suggests the formation of a Governing Council in the Galapagos (which is also one of the 24 provinces of Ecuador), headed by a delegate or governor appointed by the Executive.

The Autonomous Government Committee of the Assembly in a statement that will analyze in detail the legislative proposal and did not rule out “socializing” or share the discussion with the inhabitants of the archipelago.

The reform promoted by the government, prohibits the award of a package of tourism operation to a single person and establish a five-year ban on the construction or adaptation of tourist accommodation, while a record is made of operators.

It also suggests conducting a census tourism in the archipelago, that during 2011, according to official figures, received 170,000 visitors.

In the Galapagos is home to about 25,000 people, most of them linked to tourism.

However, that figure is too high for many environmental groups, who believe that people should not be greater than 20,000, to protect the delicate biodiversity of the archipelago.

The project, which contains 58 articles and nine transitional provisions, also includes changes in immigration categories that currently are temporary residents, permanent, tourists and visitors.

It also proposes to fishing regulations and issues related to biosecurity and sustainable tourism in the reserve.

Located a few hundred miles west of the continental coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos archipelago encompasses a marine reserve and land of 132,000 square kilometers, of which less than 3 percent is used by man.

In July 2010 the Galapagos were removed from a list of “heritage in danger” of Unesco, which had entered in 2007 due to increased tourism, immigration and the introduction of foreign species.

Ecuadorian Environment Minister Marcela Aguinaga said then that the output of the danger list did not imply the absence of threat and therefore required a greater response of institutions and the island population to improve standards of conservation.

The Galapagos were declared in 1978 as a World Heritage Site, are named after large tortoises that inhabit them.

Charles Darwin Collection Found After 165 Years

January 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

From CBS News

It is a story of a scientific rediscovery. It’s a tale that includes with the father of evolution and his forgetful friend, as well as an once-in-a-lifetime find by a British researcher.

CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports that it’s the gate to a discovery by one of the world’s great scientists, that’s been lost for a long time.

Howard Falcon-Lang spends a lot of time in a warehouse of the British Geological Survey, where he does research. He says there are always “a few surprises.”

Howard was walking along one row when he spotted an old wooden cabinet hidden in a forgotten corner.

“Well, as any curious person would do, I just pulled open the door without breaking it, and found a series of drawers containing hundreds of rock samples,” Falcon-Lang says.

Normal enough stuff, until he took one out.

“I held it up to the light and tried to make out the words on the slide and there was the signature: C. Darwin, Esquire,” Falcon-Lang says, adding he could “hardly believe it. My heart was pounding all around my body.”

They were actual samples collected by the Charles Darwin during his five-year voyage in the 1830s on HMS Beagle, where his observations of wildlife and fossils, particularly on the Galapagos Islands off South America, lead to the development of his theory of evolution that shocked the world.

Most of the evidence Darwin used has been well documented, but the samples Howard Falcon-Lang accidentally found had been lost because Darwin entrusted them to a fellow scientist, J.D. Hooker, perhaps the original absent-minded professor.

Hooker committed the cardinal sin of failing to number his fossils, and as a consequence this collection has just been stuck in drawers for 165 years.

There are more that 10 million rock samples in this warehouse packed in boxes and stacked on shelves, all of them cataloged, except for some that slipped through the cracks – some of the most important ever found.

They’re now found, and being studied, again.

Building of Ecological Airport in Galapagos to Begin

December 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Corporate America (CA), manager of 49 airports in the world, this morning received authorization from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to build the first airport in the world ecological in the Galapagos Islands.This was announced by the director for Latin America, CA, Ezequiel Barrenechea, during a visit to Guayaquil.Permission was given 8 months after the Government signed an agreement to lift this work, between the Authority and the Corporation America.

“This means that you can perform the civil works. We hope to start with the closing of the land from next Monday, “said Barrenechea.

The concession was awarded more than two years, but the construction had to wait until the contract conditions attaching to the standards defined by the new Constitution (2008). Initially, it should be ready this year, but now the work must be completed by the end of 2012.

The airport will work with renewable energy, the roof will consist of solar panels, solar collectors will heat water and generate electricity, light-colored pavement will reduce the heating effect and will have LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

An investment of approximately 24 million dollars will be used to construct the new Baltra Airport.

Building of the Top-Secret Base at Baltra

December 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

Group of Navy Men stationed in Baltra John H Peck is #7

Part II of our series on the World War II base at Baltra with assistance  from John H Peck 

In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s as tensions grew around the world, interest in a military base on Baltra Island grew. The Marshall Documents shows that negotiations between the US and Ecuador for the construction of a military base in the Galapagos were well in place during 1939. United States interests made a base in the Galapagos Islands a priority and Baltra was the ideal island due to its clear skies and lack of rain.

Baltra Base during WWII

In March 1940, local Galapagos residents reported seeing of German U-Boats in the Galapagos Islands. In August the same year Germany admitted loosing an aircraft to the Panama Canal defenses. By the end of 1940 it was publically known the US was in negotiations with both Costa Rica for the use of Cocos Islands and with Ecuador for the use of the Galapagos as military bases to protect the Panama Canal.

US Military Ship at the Dock in Baltra

In September of 1941 a Dutch boat was sank near the Galapagos as did an Australian ship in early December and there were extensive reports of a Nazi Raiders in the region and these Raiders were thought to have been responsible for the sinking of both boats.

US Planes over the Baltra Base

On the South America Continent tensions had been growing between Ecuador and Peru over land dispute in the Amazon Region. During 1939 and 1940 there were a number of skirmishes between along the boarder and finally in July 1941 Peru invaded Ecuador. The 13,000 men who made up the Peruvian forces quickly over took Ecuador’s meager 1,800 men. Peru began bombing the towns of Huaquillas, Arenillas, Santa Rosa and Machala along the southern coast of Ecuador. The Peruvians sent paratroopers into the Puerto Bolivar. Quickly Peru occupied almost the entire province of El Oro and some towns in the province of Loja. A blockade around the port of Guayaquil shut off the supply line into the country.

Control Tower at Baltra During WWII

As the US continued negotiations with Ecuador to obtain a military base in the Galapagos continued, Ecuador wanted part of the negotiation to include the sanctions against Peru and the return land in the Amazon region which amounted to over half of the size of their country.

Eleanor Roosevelt Visiting the Base in Baltra During WWII

However when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor things quickly changed. Within 5 days US troops were sent to the Galapagos to begin a modest refueling station for naval aircraft. In January 1942 an agreement was signed between the US and Ecuador for the use of the Galapagos Islands by the US Military. In March Ecuadorian Contractors began construction of a military base on the island of Baltra and in September the same year the SeaBees arrived to complete the job.

Feral Goats in front of Military Buildings During WWII

Known as Base Beta, Baltra was top-secret military base. According to John Peck who was stationed there “On arrival in CZ (Canal Zone), I was asked to volunteer for duty on an island in the Pacific, I did not know or was told what island. I was told it was for only six months, and when it was up I could return to the CZ.” “We left the first week of January 1944 via seaplane to arrive at our new base. On the flight we were told we were going to Galapagos, which was 600 miles off of South America. All messages were censored and all mail would be censored. On arrival on Baltra we were assigned to our departments and were told the Sea Bees were still in process of building we could only stay on the Navy side of Baltra, as the US Army Air Corps occupied the other side.”

Baltra Base Post Office

Those stationed there were treated very well. Other than a hospital shared by the both the Army and Navy the two bases were separate. A small city was created for those who lived there including a church with services on Sundays, a movie theatre with current releases, a beer garden and bowling alley. Those stationed there enjoyed the beaches, and deep-sea fishing as well as made pets of some of the Land Iguanas and feral goats found on the islands. Mail arrived daily via seaplanes from the CZ and those stationed on Baltra were given the option to take college courses, which could be transferred to universities in the US.

To read Part I see The Role of Baltra in WWII

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