Urbina (also spelled Urvina) Bay is situated at the base of Volcán Alcedo, the middle and lowest volcano on Isabela. The eponymous José María Urvina was president of Ecuador from 1851 – 1856. The confusion of the spelling of the name of this bay arose more than 150 years ago, because Urvina’s son began to write the family last name as “Urbina.” So even today, you’ll see these 2 different spellings of the name of this bay. I’ve chosen to use the spelling used by the Galápagos National Park and the Galápagos Conservancy (as well as our naturalist guide)—Urbina.
In 1954, the ocean floor here uplifted and extended the coast line about ¾ mile further into the ocean. As a result, the first part of today’s path lay on former ocean floor. Remnants of the surrounding land’s underwater beginnings abound—e.g., seashells, rounded rocks, sea urchin remains. The trail also passes areas with small pieces of pumice, a light and buoyant volcanic material that also covers the slopes of Alcedo. In fact, Volcán Alcedo is the only volcano on Isabela that has pumice. The retired geologist in our group theorized that Alcedo had more water when it erupted, likening the pumice to “lithified beer foam.” What a great image!
The photo above, from the Galápagos National Park Web page, shows this morning’s path (albeit faintly). It starts at that “finger” of the bay, just a bit to the right of center—you can see the white open areas of the beach. Click on the photo to visit the National Park’s Web page about Urbina Bay and to see its lovely slide show of photos from this landing in the header.
Wednesday, May 15, morning
Since we didn’t have far to travel from Elizabeth Bay to Urbina Bay, the captain didn’t fire up the engine until around 4:45 a.m. Savoring a mug of coffee on the deck as dawn broke, I noticed a number of Blue-footed Boobies flying in the direction we were heading, toward Urbina Bay. Several Galápagos Penguins fished in the waters alongside the boat, looking a bit like tiny dolphins as they repeatedly reared back and dove for fish for their first meals of the day. Fernandina (right) appeared in the early morning sun—our destination for later today. As the captain dropped anchor, I spotted the Angelito, already anchored there as well. I have heard great things about the Angelito—especially her primary naturalist guide/owner, Maja—and I wondered if we might come across this group somewhere on the landing. After breakfast, we headed to the landing at Urbina Bay, wearing our swimming duds and bringing our snorkeling gear so we could snorkel from the beach after the walk.
A group of Ground Finches (at least I assume that’s what they were—I don’t “do” Darwin’s finches very well) greeted us on the beach. A female Galápagos Carpenter Bee (a species endemic to the archipelago) worked on a flower of a Galápagos Cotton plant. Female Carpenter Bees look very different from male Carpenter Bees, which are about half the size and yellowish brown. The males are much less common, in large part because they die after they mate. (What a way to go…) The “fruits” of the Galápagos Cotton plant are dry and break open to produce a white “cotton” that many of the smaller songbirds use to line their nests. (Not unlike the “cotton” of the massive cottonwood trees in our home state. You can see a hint of this on the left of the plant in the photo to the left. Notice that the flower, as it begins to unfold, is a lovely pink.) This plant produces the largest flower of any native or endemic flowering plant in the archipelago (bel0w). An interesting side note—any flower that is not white or yellow is not a native or endemic plant. Not every white or yellow flower is on a non-native plant; but if it is some other color, it didn’t originate in the archipelago.