Day 7…Celebrity Xploration…The Galapagos Islands…Avian flu kills three birds in Galapagos….Tom stayed on the ship with me today…

Tom took one of my favorite photos: a pelican with a pouch filled with fish. The brown Galapagos pelican has a thick layer of skin located on the lower mandible and connected to the throat – this is a gular pouch. The bird uses this flap of skin to scoop fish out of the water, to hold its catch like a dinner plate of regurgitated fish for its chicks, and even to cool itself on a hot day!

In the past week on this ship, Celebrity Xploration, there were islands we didn’t visit that may have been included in past cruises due to the incidence of avian flu discovered in three dead birds. See the article below from this site:

Another pelican in rough seas.

“Catastrophic avian influenza reaches the Galapagos for the first time

Almost 200 years on, when Charles Darwin observed his Galapagos Islands finches, which became the emblems of his theory of evolution, birds in the region are again in the news for what many scientists warn could be the source of the next pandemic.

A lovely photo of a pelican, taken by Tom, is in rough seas.

Three out of five dead birds have tested positive for avian influenza (H5N1), according to the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), which is the first time the deadly virus has made it to the Archipelago. It’s a worrying sign for scientists, who have sounded alarms since the pathogen moved from a seasonal concern to a potential pandemic spillover in 2021.

Notice the frigate with the red pouch…Males have a bright red pouch on the throat, inflating like a balloon to attract females. Females, unlike most other seabirds, look different than males with their white chests.

In the last two years, more than half a billion farmed birds have died or been culled due to the virus, and conservative estimates suggest hundreds of thousands of wild birds across the globe have died. It’s also killed thousands of sea lions in South America. Skunks, mink, dogs, and some humans have also been infected.

On a tour of the bridge with Captain Marcos.
Ship captains often still use handwritten logs, although they have plenty of computers they could use.

While H5N1 has now spanned the globe, its presence in the Galapagos highlights how difficult this virus is to contain, mainly since it is so prevalent in shorebirds and migratory birds. In the Galapagos Islands, 80% of birds are endemic. The arrival of H5N1 makes all bird species incredibly vulnerable.

There are cameras throughout the ship, which the captain and his staff observe throughout the cruise.

While avian influenza has been circulating for decades, intensive farming and virus mutations have seen it spread in novel ways, and scientists have sounded the alarm it’s the most likely source of a new pandemic.

More equipment on the bridge.

To date, Antarctica and Australia are the only continents without reported avian influenza outbreaks among wild birds.

This is known as Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock), which we sailed around in the ship at happy hour.

Source: Galapagos Conservation Trust”

Sure, three birds dying from this flu doesn’t sound like much, but three birds could have eventually impacted the entire bird population, which could have entirely affected the ecosystem of these fantastic islands. Hopefully, they’ve caught it in time to save the birds that have been such an integral aspect of our time spent here on the islands.

Amazing rock formations.

Today was a hectic day planned for the passengers, starting at 8:45 am and returning at 6:00 pm, which would include hours of walking while visiting a village on Santa Cruz island, the most populated of the islands in the Archipelago. A lunch at a local restaurant and a visit to a farm with lots of giant tortoises were planned. The remainder of the day would be spent shopping in the village, a favorite pastime of many travelers.

An alternate view of the rock formation

Unbeknownst to me, last night, Tom decided he was going to stay on board with me. There was no way I could have walked about for nine hours. Last night, when he chose to stay with me today,  he didn’t tell me until this morning since he didn’t want me to worry about him staying behind while I was trying to sleep on yet another night of rough seas and seasickness. Surely, I would have attempted to talk him out of staying behind, but he insisted he wanted to be with me. What a guy! I am so lucky.

Another view of Kicker Rock at sunset. Beautiful!

After dinner and conversation, I headed to bed when I became seasick and couldn’t keep my head up. Anticipating rough seas, I didn’t eat or drink much at dinner, and just like that, at 8:30, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Tom had to hold onto me to escort me to our cabin and help me get into my pajamas. Once my head hit the pillow, I felt better and could eventually fall asleep for an hour.

Kicker Rock at sunset.

But, when the rocking and rollin’ became worse, I awoke and never went back to sleep until around 3:30 am. During that time, I was going back and forth with my web guy and our hosting company while they were attempting to fix some issues on our site that I’d been dealing with for the past five days. They were in a different time zone, and it was daytime where they were.

Last night’s sunset.

After dozens of email messages back and forth, by about 3:00 am, they resolved the issues. Most likely, few of our readers would notice any of the issues, but they were evident to me while I was trying to upload posts daily. Then, a few nights ago, when we put our laptops on the floor during brought seas, as recommended by staff, somehow my laptop got banged around on the floor, and the screen came loose from the base of the laptop.

Sea lions love to sleep on rocky surfaces as well as soft sand.

It appeared that it could be fixed when plastic pieces had broken off. Wouldn’t you know, four staff members gathered around my laptop while I tried fixing it and offered to help? It was Agustin, the hotel manager, and Christopher, the cabin attendant, who performed a miracle getting it entirely fixed. They even fashioned some new parts from bits of metal they had on the boat.

Alternate view of last night’s sunset.

Not only will we be tipping the 12 members of the crew in the passenger’s collective tip basket, but we’ll be giving extra tips to Agustin, Christopher, Jonathan (the superb chef), and the two naturalists, Juan Carlo and Orlando, who fussed over me every chance they got, sharing tidbits of information about the wildlife that I have presented here in the posts.

Sailing away from Kicker Rock.

We’ll have to share many more photos and continue to post them until we feel we’ve shared the bulk of them. It may take a few days or even a week until we’ve exhausted the supply of photos and videos from this exciting experience.

What a unique sight to see here in The Galapagos Islands.

Tomorrow, Saturday, we’ll disembark the ship and fly back to Quito, where we’ll again stay at the gorgeous Marriott Quito until Sunday, when we’ll fly to Manta, where we’ll stay overnight for one night to begin our drive to our new home on the sea on Monday morning, making a quick stop at a market for some groceries along the way.

From left to right, starting with Alexis in the wedding dress and her new husband Seth. Then, continuing to the right are Emmanuel and Ann, Anthony and Colleen, and Jackie and Michael.
Last night at dinner, our group of eight sat at one of two tables in the dining room. From left, with her back to us, Gill, her husband John, Jeff, Nadine, Tom and I, Karin and Stephen.
Us, last night at happy hour on the upper deck.

Although the boat is anchored right now, we’re still rocking back and forth, making me queasy, but Tom is fine. Go figure. Jonathan will have some lunch at noon since I haven’t eaten anything yet today. Tom didn’t want lunch when he’d had a big breakfast this morning. When the passengers return tonight, we’ll celebrate our final night with the crew over another spectacular dinner. I hope the seas aren’t rough tonight.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, October 20, 2013:

We are babysitting their two little dogs with Hans and Jeri gone for the Kenyan holiday this weekend. This is Jessie, whom they inherited when a nearby homeowner didn’t want her. She is an entirely outdoor dog, never sleeping indoors and spending all her days and nights outside. It was hard to close the doors on her last night when we went to bed, leaving her looking at us. I wanted to pick her up and put her in the bed with us, but we knew not to upset her routine. She’s a sturdy little dog and an excellent watchdog. For those who knew us in our old lives, does this remind you of anyone? For more photos, please click here.