Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Finding Real Beauty In The Galapagos Islands

On our last evening on the MS Islander, we all met in the lounge and the microphone was passed around to give each of us a chance to tell our most lasting memory of our week cruising The Galapagos Islands. My turn came early, but the pattern had already been set -- animals, birds, fish – no surprises here. But I recalled our visit to the Tortoise Center, and the tortoise egg incubator.

When it had been decided that endangered tortoises would get human help to hatch eggs in the Center, the goals were to increase the percentage of hatching success and infant tortoise survival, and by incubating the eggs at a higher temperature, to increase the ratio of female to male tortoise hatchlings. More females, a few viral males to service them, a recipe for a tortoise population explosion.

To further help nature, an expensive incubator was designed and built at a stateside university, shipped to the center and installed, and immediately started failing for a variety of reasons, mostly associated with the incubator being unsuited for the primitive Center environment – frequent power outages and fluctuations, salty air, wind driven sand and dust, the long lead time to get and install spare parts – in other words, the incubator worked perfectly in an environment that did not exist within thousands of miles of the Center.

What did the Center researchers do? They took a hair dryer, a simple thermostat, and a pan of water, put it in the egg boxes, and their locally designed system worked perfectly. Making repairs and getting spare parts was easy. A triumph of the human mind!

So while my fellow passengers were impressed by the beauty of this bird, that sea lion, those fish, I was profoundly impressed once more by this display of the beauty of the human mind at work. It is still the greatest of all creations, by whatever creator you wish to credit. The human mind can both comprehend evolution, create God in its own image, and carefully hatch and raise baby tortoises. It is the most beautiful and remarkable thing on Earth, and for all I know, in the Heavens too.

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