Galápagos: Tour Through Time
Bright sun penetrated the deep water near the rim of the volcano, and the water appeared a rich aqua behind my mask. I was snorkeling with my video camera in a waterproof housing and listening to the sound of my breathing. Aware of the others in our group, I was lagging behind, along the steep wall, trying to zoom in on some colorful reef fish. Then I heard the muffled call-"Shark!"-and surfaced to see my wife, Rachel, pointing just to my right. I ducked my head down again and pressed the "start" button: A moment later, a five-foot hammerhead glided toward me, about 20 feet below the surface, veering away from the wall a few seconds later and quickly fading out of sight. Strangely, I wasn't scared. OK, I was wide awake, but I was mostly frustrated that the view was so brief. Not only did I want to see the hammerhead again, I realized; I actually wanted to get closer.
I'd landed barely 24 hours earlier, but I could already feel that when it came to getting nose to nose with the wildlife, the Galápagos could have a powerful effect on you.
In the past, if someone mentioned Ecuador's Galápagos Islands to me, I'd think of giant tortoises fed upon by early seafarers; the voyage of Beagle and its famous passenger, Charles Darwin; and his book On the Origin of Species. Once I visited the islands, however, I was confronted not only by the stunning array of animal species but equally by the platform itself-this ecological laboratory-in reality a slow-moving train of volcanic islands that are working their way southeast at a rate of one inch per year.