We started the day on Isla Santa Fe. A modest climb up the lava edges led us to a plateau. The soil was bone dry and cacti littered the landscape. No leaves yet on the palo santo trees, but soon it will start to rain. We did not spot any porpoises but they have been reintroduced to the island.
Land iguanas were cooperative and we spotted several of those guys. One of them even smiled to us. Could have been gas though. However, this is a smile only a mother would love – sorry iguana.
I must post some more iguana photos – they are just so cool.
On returning to our boat in the dinghy we saw a sea lion that had just given birth. The hawks were monitoring the situation and momma sea lion was nervous. She decided to head for the beach with the pup in her mouth. Immediately the hawks swooped down on the afterbirth, and then it was total mayhem. The “Nature red in tooth and claw” comes to mind. Usually attributed to Tennyson’s In Memoriam.
Next stop was the tiny Isla Plaza Sur – just east of of the much bigger Isla Santa Cruz. The scenery there was just stunning as you can see in the picture below. This is one of the most amazing places I have been to. We witnessed restoration project i.e. the small cacti have to be protected until they reach a certain hight. The iguanas are vegetarian. The lava rocks someplace were turning white – called Galapagos marble the guide joked. The bird droppings will have their effect.
Next on the menu for us was to observe the swallow tailed gull. Note how big those eyes are – it’s a night-feeder and the end of its bill is florescent. For Icelandic readers – lundi (Puffin) also has a florescent beak.
https://everyjonahhasawhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/0BA31D89-FFC2-4112-B37F-372C5DD9DB56_1_105_c.jpeg7461054Jonas Magnussonhttps://everyjonahhasawhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/FFI_9846_Logo®_Casting_Instructor_CMYK-600x476.jpgJonas Magnusson2019-11-13 13:14:292019-11-13 15:52:31Isla Santa Fe - Isla Plaza Sur
Punta Cormorant was our first destination. There is a brackish lagoon there with a Flamengo sighting possibility. Two coves are accessible on each side of the Punta with a short hike through the Palo Santo forest. The Palo Santo trees were bare, waiting for the rainy season. We were lucky with our sightings – flamingos – green turtle – nursing sea lion – penguin – plus the usual suspects! We sure ticked all the boxes for that location.
We spotted a Green turtle ambling up onto the beach. The turtle will crawl above the high-water mark and dig a hole there whereupon the eggs are deposited. The eggs are covered with sand and the turtle makes its way to the ocean again. Curiously the sex of the turtle is temperature dependent – over 31 centigrade in the nest will produce females – under 28 Centigrade males and in between a mix. I have seen news that there are now more female turtles hatched. https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/temperature-dependent.html
On the brackish lake there were indeed flamingos snacking with their heads upside down finding their food in the mud. The Palo Santo trees are waiting for the rains to start. The hillside will turn green and conditions will become more tropical. https://animalcorner.co.uk/animals/galapagos-flamingo/
On our way to the ship we had a stroke of luck and spotted a Galapagospenguin. This little guy was cleaning up on a lava outcropping and our guide spotted him. The Galapagos Penguin is of the banded variety (relatives in Patagonia and South Africa), and the only penguin to venture north of the equator.
From Punta Cormorant we sailed to Corona Diablo, that is a volcanic crater half submerged. This turned out to be a fantastic snorkeling experience. However, my skills at shooting underwater photos is limited, but the wet suit sure is dressy.
On to Post Office Bay. Whalers started the tradition of leaving letters in a barrel in Post Office Bay. When it was time to return home they stopped by the collective post office and took letters heading for the same destination and hand delivered them to the addressees. – https://www.galapagosislands.com/blog/post-office-bay/
The usual suspects.
The Mangroves are vital for coastline ecology. This tree has adapted to saline environment and excretes salt on the underside of their leaves. If you do not believe me lick a mangrove leaf. Their importance will increase with rising sea levels. Let’s hope this shoot will make it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangrove
Isla Espanola is a volcanic island, as are the other Galapagos islands. The islands sit on the so-called Galapagos microplate, which in its turn sits at the junction of the Cocos – Pacific – Nazca tectonic plates.
At tectonic plate junctions there will be volcanic activity. I am used to lavas coming from Iceland. The lavas and the craters are familiar, but decidedly not the flora and fauna. The igneous rock is softer than the metamorphic one. The Pacific ocean pounds away relentlessly, thus the Galapagos have been formed and eroded in cycles over the eons.
These photos are from Punta Suarez. The hawk and the sea lion from Bahia Gardner.
This is the island to visit to see the waved (Galapagos)albatross and the only island they nest on. When an albatross pairs up for egg discussion and nest building, they dance. They extend their necks then lower their beaks. Then there will some beak “fencing”. The following video show some great moves. Now if the dance is accepted, they pair and nest and raise their chick. After that they leave the island and each other and stay away and apart for 2 years flying wast distances over open seas. When it is time again for nesting the male birds will arrive first. Then female birds come back one after the other and the only way the pair can find each other is to do their signature dance.
Here is a gallery of the smaller birds. I can’t identify the finches, so I lump them into “Darwin’s finches.” These finches are famous for the work Darwin did when he visited the islands, and led him to the theory of evolution
Now for the lizards. Lava is porous and water just seeps through the top layer and disappears, that fact has important repercussions for all life on the islands. We can imagine a long drought – land iguanas going hungry – an enterprising individual starts foraging in the wrack on the beach, and little by little over a long time we have marine iguanas
The boobies are are in the same family (Sulidae – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sulidae -) as the northern gannet (ísl. súla) which Icelanders know from their shores. These birds are magnificent and their dives into the sea are spectacular. At PuntaSuarez there are breeding colonies of both species.
The Galapagos archipelago is a fantastic place to visit. The trip generated many good and some great photos. I have chosen to simplify the presentation by recounting each day with the corresponding pictures as we sail along.
We arrived in Isla San Cristobal in the afternoon for our Galapagos adventure. We flew in from Quito with a stopover in Guayaquil. Isla San Cristobal has a small town, and where there are people there will be cats and rats. After arrival the group was promptly rounded up by our crew and our guide. Tourists live aboard boats during their visit, and some boats are bigger than others. We were quartered on a boat for 16 tourists. The boat then sails between the various islands. Inflatable dinghies are used to get ashore. The boat is anchored further out. The small islands we visited were all regulated in number of visitors each day. There were marked paths we were allowed to take, and the guide was vigilant in herding us and making sure we were not transgressing. You can’t come closer to an animal than six feet, but generally they show no fear of humans.
The guide system.
No one is allowed to visit the islands without a guide. After meeting the guide, he was with us at all times. Our guide was a fantastically knowledgeable naturalist Fabian Sanchez. His website is http://galapagossealife.com He has profound respect for the fauna and flora, and was able to convey the facts, but also able to convey his respect and love for life forms in the Galapagos. All the guides working with tourists are employed by the national park. The park collects 100$ from each tourist visiting. https://www.galapagos.org
I am older than 18 “anos” for sure (but for some reason I am getting ads for hearing aids – shame Google. Unripe fruit is still ok – I think).
For my Icelandic readers – Icelandic has only one word “skjaldbaka” but English has two words, one for the land animal i.e. tortoise, and one for sea animal i.e. turtle. In San Cristobal we had some time to visit a tortoise hatchery where work is being done to conserve and reintroduce the Galapagos giant tortoise. https://www.galapagos.org/conservation/our-work/tortoise-restoration/ for instance on Isla Santa Fe. Small tortoises can’t make it where there are rats. Now they are nursed until they become four years old and then they are released into the wild. Efforts are also being made to rid some of the islands of vermin and cats. The afternoon we were visiting it was rather cold. Consequently, the tortoises were seeking shelters and burrowing, thus it was difficult to get a good picture of them. You can believe me when I tell you “they are big.” Notice how the carapace has an upward notch – the tortoise munches on plants and this way can reach higher. Their necks are long (see below). The Galapagos islands sit on the equator but are colder than you would expect. The culprit is the cold Humboldt current – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humboldt_Current – that sweeps up alongside South America’s coast.
The islands and ocean around are a national park. The waters around the islands are protected from fishing, and visible in the harbor the Coastguard had rounded up some sinners and confiscated the boats – then they will be auctioned off I was told.
I moved to the Florida Panhandle ten years ago, and when it was time to go fishing I found Baz’s website, and off we went. I was into fish on my second cast, so all the jitters were settled quickly. After the trip I paid my bill, but I was unaware of the tipping culture. Sorry Baz, you are never getting that money. Baz and I were on insulting terms from the get-go and have since made countless fishing trips together and have since become friends. Baz has a keen sense of humor which is required when dealing with me.
I had learned a little bit about fishing in the salt living in Corpus Christi for two years. Since I moved here, Baz has taught me all I know about fly fishing the salt. Which rod to use – fly lines – leaders – knots – flies – the whole shebang. And how to catch the different species of fish found here, etc. The tidal movement is an issue too. It has been a tremendously rewarding apprenticeship for which I am grateful. I can now do most of what is required, except I don’t see the fish in the water as well as he does. Sometimes he sees fish that don’t know they are there. He is like a pointer, I swear, but curiously sticks his rear end out a bit when he spots a fish. When beginners look for fish in the water, they have a mental image of a fish and expect to see something like that in the water. Forget that and look for a dark moving spot, sometimes you only see the shadow of the fish. Dark spots that do not move alas will be stones or vegetation.
I can emphatically say that Baz is my saltwater muse. At first I was not able to deal with the conditions here casting wise. The wind was an issue and the boat movement was troublesome when casting. So, I had to go and learn how to cast properly. That done, Baz was pleased with the outcome and now prodded me to become a casting instructor – so I did. I have derived a great deal of pleasure from teaching fly casting. There is some truth in “if you want to learn something – teach it.”
We have fished from boats out in the Gulf and in Pensacola Bay. We have fished the flats from the boat where poling is required. Baz has even started teaching me how to pole a skiff. That is not a task to be undertaken lightly. On top of that he has introduced me to bonefish in the Bahamas. I am not sure I should thank him for that because it is going to be a seriously costly addiction for sure.
Our latest endeavor is to wade the flats around here and then cast to the fish we spot. We go minimalistic – light tackle – couple of flies – skinny wading (water still is 75-80F). Most commonly we are after redfish and to have a chance of catching them you must move very slowly. Just creep along the flat and be on the lookout for dark spots that move. Baz has taught me to pay attention to the position of the sun. Mostly have it behind you – sometimes it works sideways but never into the sun. The glare from the surface just makes it impossible to spot fish.
10/21/19 we went wadefishing for a couple of hours. When we had covered some 200 yards of flat and seen some reds, but mostly too late, they were already wise to our presence. Having gotten a few hits but no serious takes and we called it a day. I was ready to go but Baz was in the process of winding up his line when we see a black drum come cruising in 2′ of water about 3′ from the water’s edge. Even I saw it clearly. The fish was just in front of us, and Baz lobs out the small Clouser just for fun. The drum just ate the fly and off it went. Black Drum are very difficult to catch on the fly. The fly needs to be put just in front of their noses, and then they might take it, but mostly don’t. They are bottom feeders.
https://everyjonahhasawhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/F6190B91-5373-4609-8394-F56C7A849004_1_105_c.jpeg7671024Jonas Magnussonhttps://everyjonahhasawhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/FFI_9846_Logo®_Casting_Instructor_CMYK-600x476.jpgJonas Magnusson2019-10-24 07:18:522019-10-25 10:39:22Capt. Baz does it again!
This list of natural wonders is in itself enough to keep anyone full of awe and profound respect for the forces of nature.
In Zion I spotted some vultures soaring in their familiar fashion. I suddenly noticed a much bigger black bird cruising in the canyon. I immediately thought “it’s a condor” but nay – they are so rare. Probably the rarest extant bird in the world. My wife got in two shots with her 200 mm lens (you need more, but it will have to do) and when we blew up the image the case was settled. The white coloring on the wings’ underside clinched the diagnosis. A condor it was, and we were suitably impressed and thankful for getting to witness this majestic bird cruise effortlessly in Zion canyon.
Humans are capable of immense destruction of nature. We are in a period of extinction of animals and moving towards a climate catastrophe. However, humans are also capable of immense feats when we choose to. When we understand that we are a part of nature – not its outside masters – it is possible that we can solve the environmental problems we have created and survive and even thrive. On my positive days I am a pessimist and I do not harbor much hope that we as a species will come to our senses. However, the condor story gives me hope. I choose to recount my condor story because it is positively amazing, and it underlines what we are capable of when we set our minds to it.
The Condor Project
1987 Californian condors were nearing extinction. The US government funded an ambitious and expensive plan to breed and then reintroduce the condors. All extant Californian condors were caught and brought to participating zoos. The Condors will lay one egg every other year. If that egg is promptly removed, they will double clutch (i.e. lay another egg). The chicks were hand reared and little by little the stock increased. Now, to make certain that the condors could survive when released, two female Andean condors were released in South California, and they did fine, thereby proving the point. Subsequently those two Andean condors were caught and returned to South America. Now, condors have been released in South California, in the Grand Canyon Arizona, Zion National Park, and North Mexico. In short, the birds are making a slow comeback. Now their biggest threat in the wild is lead poisoning, acquired by eating animal carcasses peppered with lead shot. Hunters in condor areas are now supposed to use lead-free shot.
https://everyjonahhasawhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/IMG_8323.jpg22223333Jonas Magnussonhttps://everyjonahhasawhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/FFI_9846_Logo®_Casting_Instructor_CMYK-600x476.jpgJonas Magnusson2019-06-08 10:26:232019-06-08 16:27:46The Condor in Zion National Park
You can look, but don’t touch! Oh, how wise that advice is. We start out looking at the opposite sex – but beware!– we can’t resist! Then it seems we end up looking at cookies we shouldn’t touch, but then we do. Same goes for ours life savings.
I took a trip to an undisclosed Bahamian island in January with some of my friends. It is not a famed Bonefish destination. There are Bonefish there, of course, but they are very hard to find. The trip is about escaping the daily grind (feeding the dogs and cats) and enjoying mild weather as the winter rages in the Florida Panhandle. The company of friends is great, of course, up to a point (see picture below).
This time around the weather in the Panhandle was truly nasty, and the Bahamian weather was mild but very windy, with real tough fishing conditions. I seem to be fixated on the weather and I blame my roots in Iceland for that. The weather there is erratic and nasty as a rule. The wind is constant and brisk and it has shaped the way we walk. All really adapted Icelanders lean into the wind as they walk. When there is no wind, they still lean, and once I spotted one of my friends on a busy street in Stockholm just by the way he walked. There is something about the national style of walking that is a dead giveaway. All telephone conversations between Icelanders start with – and you could be at the Taj Mahal – how is the weather? Living at 66 North affects one. But back to the flats… Previously I have touched on the moving parts of Bonefish chasing – so I will not regurgitate that part.
Bonefish are a very exciting fish to chase. Hard to spot – finicky, and if hooked, tremendously fast. In the Bahamas they are protected, i.e., you have to release them. How best to do that? I am guilty of having handled fish and posing for an egotistical picture with the fish and then releasing it. However, the best way to go about this is to let them stay in the water and try to release them without touching them. The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust have a very good web page on this.
There is one reason additionally to not take a fish out of the water. In water they weigh very little (Archimedes’ law), but when out of the water the effects of gravity are stronger than they are used to. This can lead to internal bleeding when the internal organs experience this.
Here is a short video on how I managed to unhook Bonefish.
I gave a presentation on “Matching a Fly Rod to a Flyline” 1/18/19 for the Fly Fishers of Northwest Florida my local fly club. For my effort I was awarded a pair of castanetes by the club’s president Dr. Handley.
https://everyjonahhasawhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Screen-Shot-2017-06-20-at-09.35.52.png443604Jonas Magnussonhttps://everyjonahhasawhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/FFI_9846_Logo®_Casting_Instructor_CMYK-600x476.jpgJonas Magnusson2019-02-26 17:20:572020-05-23 16:16:50Matching a Fly Rod to a Flyline
When running an inpatient surgical ward there is a constant struggle to get the patients home after operations. There is, of course, some reasonable length of stay needed for serious matters etc. However, from my point of view some of my patients could go home sooner than they themselves wanted. There were all kinds of ploys used to hasten their discharge, but the opposition had some tricks up its sleeve, too. For instance, when I would do the rounds on Monday, I expected that someone would be able to go home on Wednesday. So, I would suggest discharge on a Tuesday. Then when the patient began to balk I would suggest: „Well ok Wednesday then,” and everybody was happy. The hospital had a library and the patients used it in their convalescent period (Icelanders are a literate bunch). Then I had the following rule to lighten the atmosphere in the wards where there were a number of patients together. Of course, the patients preferred the romantic genre of books, for example, the Red Series (Fabian bare chested, etc.). The rule: Whenever a book like that was spotted on a patient’s nightstand, they would be unceremoniously discharged (or an attempt would be made on the basis of the evidence). If you can read that stuff you are ready to go home, right? And It would happen that this did not go over too well.
At that time, we had a Surgeon General of Iceland Ólafur Ólafsson, who was and still is a crusty old guy. He sported bushy white hair, and his equally bushy eyebrows were in the Santa Claus class. He was at the tail end of his career at that time. His voice was deep and gravely, and had he been an American he would have been reading the voice overs in the Whiskey and Cigarette commercials. He probably would have put James Earl Jones out of the voice work. As Surgeon General he has a great sense of humor and the ability to see the absurd and funny in just about any setting. He was always a champion for the patients and their rights, and was never a tame tool for the politicians – he was a very unconventional civil servant. He gave me invaluable advice: “Jonas, just be yourself.”
Contrast him with the Suits and apparatchiki that we have met through our lives.
Author‘s addition to the definitions: A Suit – a civil servant totally devoid of any charm, humor or even a face.
Ólafur could be a handful, especially when he called in the middle of the night (he is a night owl) to discuss some pressing issue. You are fast asleep in some happy dream and then “It is Ólafur” and you began thinking – it must be some damn volcanic eruption. When he was still working, his offices were next to the square where the homeless and unfortunate souls of Reykjavik congregated. To his credit, he always kept a protective eye on his neighbors and tended to their needs. When he retired he palmed them off to another humanist doctor. I just love this guy for lots of reasons.
Now, one of my patients got offended by my Red Series comment and made a formal complaint to the surgeon general. Such a matter needed to be resolved and resolved it was.
I got a formal reprimand letter from the Surgeon General’s Office stating (loosely translated):
https://everyjonahhasawhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Screen-Shot-2018-04-18-at-18.51.12.png465546Jonas Magnussonhttps://everyjonahhasawhale.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/FFI_9846_Logo®_Casting_Instructor_CMYK-600x476.jpgJonas Magnusson2018-04-26 17:52:512021-01-01 09:54:16Reprimanded by the Surgeon General
Icelandic Medical Association centennial – fly casting course
In the fall of 2017 I got an email from IMA’s president asking me to teach a fly casting course to Icelandic doctors. The IMA is celebrating its centennial this year, and the president thought it a good idea to introduce some play into the pomp. I was all for it and started to organize the course. Indoor or outdoor is the first dilemma. Outdoor is a better option generally if we could have some other weather than Icelandic, but it is the only one we have there in the subarctic. There is a near constant area of low-pressure area at our latitudes called the Icelandic low.
We Icelanders never use that word or acknowledge the low’s existence because it is just too damn depressing. Denial is a robust defense mechanism. However, all phone calls between Icelanders start with “How is the weather?”
So, outdoors was not feasible. To get anything done in Iceland it must be before spring (if there will be one that year at all). When the days get longer, and temperatures get into double digits (Centigrade) the natives go nuts. It is impossible to plan anything because now everyone is so busy living and enjoying life – scheduling a course then would be utter folly. In the summers it is even worse to get together a group of people. So, March indoor it was. We secured a good size gym and announced the course, and all the spots we had available were promptly filled. Forty-five persons booked and 42 showed up. What I was most pleased with was that 15 ladies participated. Some of them were intermediate and some beginners at fly casting. Unfortunately, fly casting gatherings can get to look like a Trump rally at times. We need to attract young people and more females into the mix.
Stefán keeping an eye on Gunnar – Guðbjörg doing fine
Gubjörg bringing the rod tip too far back i.e. wristing
I have discovered that it is far easier to teach females to propel the fly than males. Females do not resort to brute strength and are much more limber. They also listen better than males and pay attention. There are some great female casters, and Joan Wulff was the best of both sexes for a spell – her accomplishments were not built on power (Ms. Wulff is still teaching, and her books are great). Usually it takes up to an hour to break down a male and get his attention. Starting out they use far more power than they ever need, and the speed they use is excessive. So, the first hour goes like this: “Slow down – slow down – are you deaf – slow down. God dammit, slow down. Less power – less power – have you got a seizure?” I do not know for certain why males behave this way – I think it might be the testosterone marinade that we males live in. However, when they slow down and go gently a big smile is usually our reward. “Wow I could feel that.” – is the refrain – meaning they felt the rod unload in their hand (a bent rod straightens and counter flexes and then straightens again – you will feel a slight kick in your hand – called unloading). The term casting is perhaps inappropriate. There is no follow through of the hand as when we throw a stone, and we stop the rod tip high – it is the rod tip that propels the line forward – the caster only bends the rod tip with his motion.
Gunnar and Stefán
Þorgerður doing the triangle exercise
Many ways to skin a cat
An old friend of mine Stefan B Hjaltested was a co-instructor, and we got along very well. He did teach differently than I do, but we both got the same results in the same amount of time. He did not use any technical terms – do this – no do not do that etc. – was his way. His approach is “teach them like they are children.” This only proves that there are many ways to skin a cat.
All in all, we taught for 30 hours and we hope that our students had as much fun as we had.
We also hope that all our students learned a lot and will diligently practice new tricks before their future fishing trips.
Pictures – Davíð Valdimarsson
Ready to go
Stefán keeping an eye on Gunnar – Guðbjörg doing fine
Stefán Gunnar Guðbjörg and Þorgerður working
Gubjörg bringing the rod tip too far back i.e. wristing
Gunnar and Stefán
Gunnar and Stefán now smiling
That’s where you stop – high
Hard work being an instructor
Rod tip down – no slack
Rod tip down – no slack
Jonas harping on those straight lines – Stefán takes a Buddhistic approach