Galapagos Islands: Santa Cruz - Darwin Center & Lonesome George
By Elizabeth Hart
Quick Island Facts:
Area: 986 km2 or 381 mi2
Maximum Altitude: 864 m or 2835 ft
Human Population: Approx12,000 residents
The island of Santa Cruz is located near the middle of the Galapagos archipelago. Santa Cruz is the tourism center of the Galapagos - probably because of its close proximity to Baltra, the main hub of the islands with the only public airport. Perhaps the largest tourist attraction in the Galapagos - besides the incredible pristine nature of it all - is the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island.
Brief Island History: Since its volcanic formation, Santa Cruz has had a long history of human settlement and agriculture. Settlers came from the United States and Europe during WWI and WWII to establish military centers. In the humid uplands they raised cattle and grew avocados, coffee, sugarcane, bananas, oranges, and lemons. With the longest paved road on any of the Galapagos Islands, Santa Cruz is the best opportunity to see the true uplands of a Galapagos.
Charles Darwin Research Center & Lonesome George
A trip to the Darwin Research Station is often included with many cruises. At the visitor's center there are educational exhibits about the climate, geology, biology, and conservation efforts. The research center works in conjunction with the Galapagos National Park conducting research, assisting with conservation efforts, and providing technical assistance.
One of the Center's conservation programs is the 'Giant Tortoise Recovery Project.' The giant tortoise population on many islands is in danger of extinction. In 1972 a giant tortoise (Chelonoidis spp.) was found on Pinta Island. This was very exciting as they were thought to be extinct on this particular island. The giant male tortoise was relocated to the Darwin Center - Lonesome George had made his debut. The researchers were hoping to find a female giant tortoise from Pinta Island to breed with George and re-establish the Pinta tortoise population. No such luck. Lonesome George was the sole survivor.
Lonesome George is left tortoise in this picture.
On the morning of Sunday July 24, 2012 Lonesome George was found dead in his comfortable corral at the Darwin Center. I feel privileged that I was able to "meet" such a remarkable creature. Lonesome George's age was estimated at over 100 years old.
The Galapagos Conservancy posted an article about Lonesome George: "The World Loses Lonesome George."
Clothing Note: I had the best outfitters in town when I was preparing for this trip! To see my clothing recommendations check out the Travel Clothing for Expedition Cruising Collection!
I also wrote a helpful blog about the 10 Clothing 'Must Haves' for Expedition Cruising.
Please enjoy some of my pictures from the Darwin Center on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos:
This blog article is dedicated in loving memory to Lonesome George. May he forever graze in an endless heaven of green!