lunes, 17 de marzo de 2014

The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are one of the greatest treasures we can find in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are also called “Colon Archipelago”, its capital is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

The Enchanted Islands, the archipelago designation earned in the sixteenth century by the great biodiversity of flora and fauna for generations inheriting the name, are 19 islands and hundreds of small islands where life takes on a special dimension, known in the whole world by its endemic and studies by Darwin's theory of evolution species.




The archipelago is one of the most active volcanic groups in the world. Many of the islands are only the tips of some volcanoes and show an advanced state of erosion.
A study in 1952 by historians Thor Heyerdahl and Arne Skjolsvold, ceramics revealed that some people may find Incas before the arrival of the Spaniards, however there were no graves, vessels and to disclose any old building settlements before colonization.
On March 10, 1535 -discovered by the Bishop of Panama Tomás de Berlanga- while traveling from Panama to Peru along the west coast of South America, wind and ocean currents gradually pushed the boat too westward reaching what we now know as the Galapagos Islands.
In a letter to the King of Spain -Tomás de Berlanga- recounts his arrival in the islands:
"Once the boat docked, we all went down and some of the crew were given the job of making a well and others were sent to get water inside the Island. Within the Island men could not find a single drop of water for two days.

The thirst was too much and as a last resort people attended a similar fruits prickly pears, and juicy as they were somewhat, but not very tasty, we started eating them, and squeezing out to extract as much water as possible and men drank of this fruit."

The Galapagos were used as a hideout for English pirates on their trips to plunder Spanish galleons carrying gold and silver from America to Spain. The first recorded pirate who visited the islands was Englishman Richard Hawkins in 1593. Since then many pirates came to the archipel.
An interesting anecdote in the history of the Galapagos Islands was when Alexander Selkirk, whose adventures in the Islands "Juan Fernandez" inspired Daniel Defoe to write the novel Robinson Crusoe, visited the Galápagos in 1708 after it was rescued from Juan Fernandez Woodes Rogers.

Rogers was fixing their boats in the Galapagos after looting the city of Guayaquil in Ecuador.
The first scientific mission arrived in Galapagos in 1790 under the leadership of Alessandro Malaspina, who was a Sicilian captain whose expedition was sponsored by the King of Spain. But this expedition records were lost.
In the seventeenth century is beginning to populate the area when the navigator James Colnett describes the place as some islands rich in flora and fauna, which attracted the first settlers, mostly English, with interest in whales, sea lions and mainly for the Galapagos tortoises to extract their fat, fat discovery of sperm whales also attracted many whalers which led to a makeshift post office where boats left and collected letters believed.
Ecuador annexed the Galápagos Islands on February 12, 1832 under the government of General Juan José Flores, baptizing as “Colon Archipelago”.
The September 15, 1835 the ship Beagle brought aboard the British expedition under the command of Captain Robert Fitz Roy Galapagos to investigate isolated places hardly visited by boaters. This list of places include Valparaiso, Callao, Galapagos Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Cape of Good Hope and anchored back in Falmouth on October 2, 1836. The captain and others on board, including the young naturalist Charles Darwin made ​​a scientific study of geology and biology on four of the islands before continuing his expedition around the world. The ship remained afloat for 5 weeks in the islands, but Darwin was on the ground just for two weeks, there investigated animals from the region would lead in the future to make Darwin's Origin of Species.
An Irish man named Patrick Watkins was a hermit and was the first person who lived in the Galapagos Islands, specifically on Floreana Island in 1807.
Watkins lived alone and was famous for providing vegetables to the whalers in exchange for Ron for many years until he left the island in an unknown direction.
Then the General José Villamil arrived in 1832. Villamil (Ecuadorian general) founded a penal colony for political prisoners and common criminals who exchanged meat and vegetables with the whalers.

In the late twenties Dr. Friedrich Ritter arrived at the Islands with his wife. The story says he extracted his teeth before going to Galapagos to avoid having to take them off after it.
The second group were the Wittmer´s, a family from the city of Cologne in Germany.
The final group and one of the most talked about were three lovers who escorted the Baroness von Wagner Bosquet who had plans to build a luxury hotel.
The earlier settlers were appalled at the arrival of this new character who later called himself "Empress of Floreana".
But the story ends on a mystery as all settlers from Mrs. Strauch Doer and the Wittmer family began to fade and die along with Dr. Ritter who died eating poisoned meat which was very strange because he was a vegetarian.
The Baroness also disappeared with one of her 3 lovers.
A book published in 1961 and was a best seller is based on the life of Margaret Wittmer who was one of the oldest survivors of the Galapagos. She died in 2000 aged 95.

ENDEMIC SPECIES

Endemic reptiles

Galapagos tortoise
• Previously there were 14 species of Galapagos tortoises, three became extinct in the nineteenth century and ended on June 24, 2012, with its last issue “Lonesome George”.
There are still ten species of giant tortoises (Galapagos turtle or terrapin) belonging to the genus Chelonoidis.
• Land iguanas (Conolophus subcristatus, Conolophus Conolophus pallidus and pink).
• The marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus), the only species of iguana that seeks its food in the sea.

Endemic mammals
• Galapagos Sea Lion Galapagos sea lion or (Zalophus wollebaeki), related to the California sea lion (also described as Zalophus californianus wollebaeki, a subspecies of the California sea lion).
• Lobo furrier or fur seals Galapagos Galapagos (Arctocephalus galapagoensis), which is the world's smallest (Salazar 2002).

  
Endemic Bird

Galapagos Penguins
• Lava Gull (Larus fuliginosus).
• 13 endemic species of finches, of which the best known is a kind of vampire bird that feeds on the blood of infected birds and is known as Darwin's finches, which inhabits the most northern island of the archipelago named Wolf.
• Galapagos penguin or booby of the Galapagos (Spheniscus mendiculus), the only penguin species that has been recorded in the northern hemisphere, in the northern part of Isabela Island.
• Cormorant or Galapagos Cormorant (Phalacrocorax harrisi).
• Kestrel or the Galapagos hawk (Buteo galapagoensis).
• dwarf Galapagos Heron (Butorides sundevalli).
• Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata).
• Leg stuck (Pterodroma phaeopygia).
• Burrito Galapagos (Laterallus spilonotus).


jueves, 21 de noviembre de 2013

EDWARD WHYMPER in the Ecuadorian Andes

EDWARD WHYMPER - British traveler and explorer
(London, 1840 - Chamonix, 1911)

He made his first ascents, conducted with a group of climbers, for illustration of an attempt to climb Mont Pelvoux. Once he was passionate about the mountains he made a series of climbs that improved knowledge about the Dauphiné Alps, the Pennines and the Montblanc Massif. After some failures he managed to reach for the first time on July 14, 1865, on the summit of famous Swiss Matterhorn, a victory that cost the lives of four of his colleagues. The narration of such attempts is the largest part of his book “Climbing in the Alps”, published and illustrated by himself in 1871.
Some years later during an expedition to the Andes of Ecuador he ascended first Chimborazo (6310m) and other major peaks. He left the story of this new venture by the Great Travel Andes of Ecuador (1892). He conducted a final expedition to the Rocky Mountains of Canada (1901-1905).

In Ecuador
Whymper next organized an expedition to Ecuador, designed primarily to collect data for the study of altitude sickness and the effect of reduced pressure on the human body. His chief guide was Jean-Antoine Carrel, who later died from exhaustion on the Matterhorn after bringing his employers into safety through a snowstorm. During 1880, Whymper made two ascents of Chimborazo (6,267m), also claiming the first ascent. He spent a night on the summit of Cotopaxi and made first ascents of half a dozen other great peaks. In 1892, he published the results of his journey in a volume entitled “Travels amongst the Great Andes of the Equator”. His observations on altitude sickness led him to conclude that it was caused by a reduction in atmospheric pressure, which lessens the value of inhaled air, and by expansion of the air or gas within the body, causing pressure upon the internal organs. The effects produced by gas expansion may be temporary and dissipate when equilibrium has been restored between the internal and external pressure. The publication of his work was recognized on the part of the Royal Geographical Society by the award of the Patron's medal. His experiences in South America having convinced him of certain serious errors in the readings of aneroid barometers at high altitudes, he published a work entitled “How to Use the Aneroid Barometer” and succeeded in introducing important improvements in their construction. He afterwards published two guide books to Zermatt and Chamonix.

The Ecuador expedition summarized:

1879  
09th of December              Landing in Guayaquil
13th-17th of December        Travel to Chimborazo
21st of December               he found out that Chimborazo has two peaks
1880
04th of January                  Summit of Chimborazo
06th of January                  Summit of Chimborazo (highest point on Earth 6300m)

After some weeks of relaxation next project were:

08th of February                Summit of Illinizas

17th of February                Summit of Cotopaxi
18/19th of February            Observation of the Vulcano Crater
Until March                       Observation of Cotopaxi Nationalpark

02nd of March                    Back in Quito
03rd of March                    Whymper received presidential greeting
04th of March                    New goal is the Antisana Mountain
10th of March                    Summit of Antisana
21-23st of March               Rucu y Guagua Pichincha

01st of April                      Summit of Cayambe         

In the following weeks and months he climbed Altar, again Chimborazo and Cotopaxi


Back in EUROPE
Back in Europe and dedicated to spice up his notes of travel, and had considered as one of the largest elevator operators in the world, lived in his hometown, but every summer he went Alpine climbing.

Between 1900 and 1903 he visited the Rocky Mountains of the United States by invitation of the "Canadian Pacific Railway", accompanied by six experienced guides but without attempting ascents.

On 25 April 1906 with nearly sixty years, he married Marie Edith Lewin, just twenty years old and they had a daughter named Ethel who inherited his father's gifts, periodically updating the Alpine Guides of authorship.

In 1910 he learned of attempts to climb the highest peaks of the Himalayas that exceeded their exploits. The character has soured considerably as a result of premature senile neurosis, to the point that his wife and daughter living apart from him.

In August 1911 he undertook his annual trip to the Alps. In September he suffered in the town of Chamonix/France of illness, locked in his room refused all help, where he died on 16th of September 1971.

He established himself as one of the greatest climbers and mountaineers of all time.

Tall, muscular, hardened by the character and the sun in his face, his regular features gave him a severe juvenile poise, blue eyes, blonde – later grey hair. He was the prototype of the Anglo-nineteenth century. In 1921 his book was translated into Spanish by Professor Bahamonde and 1993 published in full, with the title "Travel through the majestic Andes of Ecuador".


viernes, 25 de marzo de 2011

La Laguna del Tigre

Once more we have climbed up the high slopes of the Cordillera de Sabanilla, again with the goal to reach the banks of the mysterious lagoon called “Laguna del Tigre” said to be hidden deep inside the mountains. With the support of two mules carrying our backpacks during the first day - they returned with their owner back home at the ridge where the strong winds and rain made them shiver – we had a good start. On the second day our venture was supported by surprisingly good weather. Even the sun warmed us for a few hours in the morning before the typical afternoon clouds started to come in. Nevertheless, in the late evening hours we reached the valley of the lagoon and set up our camp just below the ridge with sight over the lagoon.

The next day we kept the camp and went down to explore the lagoon and its surroundings but besides an impressive flora found no hints of the ancient cultures that most probably used to hunt in this area but seemed not to live permanently here due to the cold and harsh climate.

Having brought provisions for a week we decided to continue our way further south. So the next day we left the lagoon and hiked along the Cordillera de los Sabanillas, impressed by the wide and untouched mountain scenery with its immense valleys, small rivers and rocky mountain peaks. After two days we reached the “Laguna Los Huicundos” where we set camp in the evening right beside a small stone pyramid. From the ridge we could spot the lights of the small town of Amaluza deep down in the valley. In the morning we found a small path running from east to west which looked like it once was used a lot but now slowly started to disappear.

Spontaneously we decided to drop our original plan to explore the Cordillera further south and instead started to follow the path towards the East. Though the path lost itself several times in the thick mountain grass (Stipa ichu), there were every now and then parts, especially in the higher rockier regions, where it was still clearly visible and we could follow it easily walking on the footsteps of the people who used it in former times to cross the Cordillera along this route (as we should learn days later from an 78 years old farmer on the other side of the mountains they ceased to use this route about 15 years ago!).


Unfortunately, once we crossed the ridge and started to descend down to the junction of the rivers Rio Jibaro and Rio Blanco, forming Rio Palanda, the path more and more faded and we had to cut our way through with the machete. Nevertheless, just before we ran out of provisions we reached the first Finca (farm) on the Palanda side of the Cordillera and from here a comfortable track led us back to civilization, a hot shower and a huge “Churrasco” waiting for us in Palanda...

This tour has been kindly supported by:
Galapagos Cruises
Galapagos Cruceros

miércoles, 15 de septiembre de 2010

The Sabanilla Cordillera - Preparations





This month we will finally return to the mountains of Loja and continue our research in the Cordillera de Sabanilla in the South of Ecuador. Our goal will be this time to reach the mysterious lagoon hidden deep in these mountains as well as to explore the region for further remains of the cultures that lived year centuries ago: the Calvas (Nation of the Paltas). Besides intensive brainstorming over the maps of the area we also prepared ourselves to the physical stress of the expedition in the altitude and did several hikes in the Andes around Quito to Rucu and Guagua Pichincha, Fuya Fuya, Pasochoa, Illinizas and the Angamarca area. I’d like to thank Rolf and Dennis as well as the “Happy Lama” Jan for providing great company and a lot of fun during these adventures. I hope we will be in the mountains together again soon!


If plans work out we will leave Quito on the 20th of September 2010 and start the tour from San Antonio de las Aradas on the 22nd of September 2010. We will spend only about a week in the mountains this time as the area we want to research is quite small and we hope to be able to finish the explorations within this time – nevertheless we are already planning on further explorations into the areas further to the south in the near future.

sábado, 19 de diciembre de 2009

2010 – The year of the mysterious Lagoon

Usually the plans for the next year start with a retrospection of the ending year. This year has been really full of travel and exploration, many of which have been planned with good friends accompanied by a cold beer (or two) sitting in the hot equatorial sun at one of Plaza Foch’s cafes in Quito. Planning our tours and expeditions is still one of our favorite pastimes and many afternoons and long nights have been filled with conversation on the best way to explore new routes.
This makes it an ideal moment to thank all the many friends and family members that supported us in our endeavors, our main sponsor EGT and especially our wives once more for their endless patience and backup! We have spent many memorable moments in the wild, camped overlooking the clouds, hiked with old friends, explored with new friends and had great times in Ecuador’s many national parks.
During 2009 we have made several explorations throughout Ecuador with a strong emphasis on the Mountains of Sabanilla in the Province of Loja in the South of Ecuador. We have been very successful and found three different ruins, most probably Pre-Inca sites where the Calvas, a tribe of the Nation of the Paltas, worshipped their gods. Working in Cooperation with the University of Loja (UTPL) as well as the INPC (Instituto Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural) we suggested to name these ruins “Torneados de Sabanilla”. For 2010 we plan to continue the cooperation as well as our explorations of the Espindola Valley and the Sabanilla Mountain, this time also with the support of the Consejo Provincial de Loja (the Government of the Loja Province).
Once more it is local legend that catches our interest: High up in the mountains a lagoon is said to be not only hidden by difficult terrain but also protected by rain, wind, hail and even storms that cast anyone away who tries to get nearer to this mysterious lagoon. So far we have not found one single person that actually stood at its banks and truth to be told we suffered 3 failed attempts in 2009 too. Fortunately we returned always healthy from our explorations and of course look forward to solve the mystery of the hidden lagoon in 2010…

Good luck to all Explorers in the world for 2010 – keep your spirits up!

The Expedition Department Team

jueves, 24 de septiembre de 2009

Ancient Cultures along the Qhapaq Ñan in Loja, Ecuador

Before the Incas conquered the region that today forms the north of Peru and the south of Ecuador this land was inhabited for centuries by the people of the Calvas tribe who were part of the Paltas Nation. During our last expedition we found two archaeological sites of the Paltas in the Sabanilla Mountains. Our next expedition in October 2009 has the goal to find further remains of this lost culture to prove not only the existence of the Calvas/Paltas in this region but also to show that they formed a highly organized culture, similar to other cultures of this period.
We will leave Quito on October 2nd travelling south on the Pan-American Highway to Loja and on to San Antonio de las Aradas which will be again our starting point. We plan to be about 8 days in the mountains and if our theories are correct, we should find at least one more site.
Currently we are preparing our equipment. Though I am jogging twice a week in La Carolina Park here in Quito at ca. 2850m altitude I will climb one of the surrounding mountains this weekend in order to further improve my acclimatization as the expedition will lead us into altitudes between 3200m to 3600m. After the expedition we are going to visit several sites along the Ecuadorian route of the Qhapaq Ñan to learn more about the ancient cultures in Ecuador that lived here before the Incas.

miércoles, 5 de agosto de 2009

Living History in Loja, Ecuador

From the 24th to the 27th of July Flor Maria and I spent some days exploring Loja and its surroundings. Even today, history is alive in many parts of day to day life in Loja and currently many projects involving the research and conservation of archaeological sites are carried out throughout the province; the biggest one being probably the Qhapac Ñan with the support of the UNESCO. Our visit coincided with the bicentennial of the Quito Revolution in 1809, which was celebrated with a lot of music, dancing, reenactments and presentations. On Sunday we visited the Podocarpus National Park. The park exhibits an exceptional range of flora, and has been considered the “Botanical Garden of America”. We entered the park at its main entrance in the south of Loja at the Loja – Vilcabamba road and from here hiked our way across three of the four trails created by the national park staff. The trail “Los Miradores” took us up to 3050m altitude and due to strong wind and rain it got pretty cold but the exquisite scenery made it well worth the effort. Nevertheless we spent Monday a little more easy going, visiting the University UTPL (Universidad Tecnica Particular de Loja) and shopping in the bookstores in the centre of the city. For all who missed the “expedition-factor” in this report: of course we did some successful research for our next expedition into the mountains of Loja which is planned for an October departure…