by Clare Coppa
The image of vulnerable baby sea turtles struggling to reach the
waves is evoked by the word Galapagos. Translated, it is Spanish
for tortoise, named for the giant creature of stealth and longevity
whose distant turtle cousins were one-time drinking buddies with
pterodactyl and T-rex.
The Galapagos Islands are the main home of the giant tortoise.
Six months ago, Cyrus P. Henry, Jr., Ph.D., journeyed to this
wildlife refuge in the Pacific off the coast of Ecuador. Henry
is a developer of ASTM standards for aviation fuels, a chemistry
research fellow for Octel, America, Inc., the husband of Joan,
and father of seven.
He likes to travel to distant lands to catch native species offguard
with his camera, such as roadrunners in Arizona and brown bears
in Alaska. I came back with about 800 bear pictures, he laughed,
delighted at his getaway scheme. A relatively new interest, hes
mapped out several photography trips over the past 10 years, voyaging
solo with camera and tripod like Homer leaving Greece. His main
objective is a photo he can exhibit with pride; some are on display
On Galapagos, Henry employed a Nikon N90S with an 80-200 zoom
and 2X-teleconverter. The neat thing about Galapagos is that
the animals are very tame, he offered. Thats because for centuries
there were no predators. So therell be blue-footed boobies nesting
right on the trail, and you just kind of walk around them a little
bit and its not a problem. The wildlife in general is not shy
and that lets you get a good approach for photographs.
A tour group flew to the islands from Quito, Ecuador, and transferred
to a boat that became their home for 11 days. About seven in
the morning, wed go out for a few hours, have a landing, come
back, usually snorkel for a while and then the boat would move
and wed have an afternoon landing, he said. They dined on gourmet
meals of freshly caught fish. The boat was a converted trawler,
about 104 ft. long. There were 16 passengers, a naturalist guide,
tour leader, captain, and five or six crew. One night during
rough seas, the boat pitched and rolled so badly, he had to brace
himself to stay in his bunk.
As well as the recent oil spill, pirates, whalers, and soldiers
have affected the region. A big problem they have is introduced
species, Henry described. For example, 100 years or so ago,
people released goats on the big island, Isabella, and they prospered.
There are about 100,000 goats living on this island. Goats eat
the vegetation and its very hard on the tortoises because the
There are also many rats. Thats why the main mission of the
Charles Darwin Foundation Research Station is to raise tortoises.
They found their reproduction rate in the wild was zero, because
of the rats, dogs, and cats that were introduced. So what theyll
do is harvest the eggs before the rats do, incubate them, and
raise the turtles for three or four years til they are released.
From alterations in tortoise shells to iguanas that resemble lava
rock, the secluded islands are a study in evolution. Because
the tortoises and iguanas tend to eat the cactus on Galapagos,
it grows on trunks, like trees. If you look at prickly pear cactus
anywhere else, theyre on the ground. Its an adaptation to keep
from being eaten.
Henry is planning a trip to the everglades to photograph great
blue herons and alligators. I kind of think of it as my art,
he laughed, with definitive satisfaction.
Copyright, 2001 ASTM