Galapagos Sunbeam

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The Galápagos Islands is a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. It’s considered one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife viewing. A province of Ecuador, it lies about 622 miles off its coast. Its isolated terrain shelters a diversity of plant and animal species, many found nowhere else on the planet.


This photo, “The Galapagos Sunbeam,” was taken on Day-Three of my 10-day photography and hiking adventure in the Galapagos Islands. 179 years earlier, 1835, Charles Darwin visited these same islands and kept a detailed journal of his observations. This experience inspired his theory of evolution.

Unfortunately, the emergence of photography, as we now know it, was five years into the future. What I was able to digitally capture on that magical Monday morning, and throughout my journey, could only be viewed by Darwin and his contemporaries as fleeting moments in time. And, I’m certain, as frequently stirred and stirring memories.

Pretty heady stuff to walk the path of Darwin; to observe and PHOTOGRAPH the magnificent frigate birds, the Galapagos tortoise, land and sea iguanas, lava lizards, blue and red-footed boobies, striated heron, Darwin’s finches, yellow warblers, brown pelicans, and oh, so much more.

Of course, I did not travel that photographic path alone. I was part of an expedition of approximately 60 backpack-camera-tripod-towing nature lovers. Everyone took home versions of the photos that I was fortunate to capture. That is … all but one:

“The Galapagos Sunbeam.”

We were advised not to be on the observation deck before dawn or after dusk without a companion. These were understandable safety precautions. Usually, I am as compliant or more compliant than the next person, however, not that morning. Sunrise was 05:54. An early morning person, I woke up around 05:45. My cabin, #124, was on the upper deck next to the stairs leading to the observation deck. I was determined to witness and record the sunrise. Once topside, alone except for the skeleton crew, I walked the deck and shared the hum of the engines and the sound of the bow-slapping waves with the trailing, attentive, hopeful gulls. It was a heavenly respite.

Prior to this trip in 2014, our family suffered the loss of a precious, tiny, child. I needed the warm wrap of solitude. I needed to quietly sigh, reflect, and weep for my loved ones. Then, at that moment, off the port side, the sunbeam appeared. Very faint at first, more like a sleuth mist. Gradually, it grew brighter and brighter as the rays broke through the clouds.

Not to worry. Once again, I was compliant. My precious little companion looked up at her grandpa, smiled, and nudged my arm.

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