Saturday, 26 November 2011

Habitar Galapagos 
Habitar Galapagos photographs by Javier Andrade and text by Pedro A. Cantero y Esteban Ruiz Ballesteros, is the most beautiful publication that I have seen about the Galapagos Islands.  It came across my desk at the library one day and I was immediately captivated by the intimacy of the photography and how the magic of islands is captured from an anthropological perspective.  I haven't seen a single book here that focuses so strongly on photographing the inhabitants of the islands and attempts to tell some of their story.
Most photo-essay/coffee table type books are filled with images of the wildlife here with the occasional distant image of tourists, fisherman, or park guides.  However, this book literally gets into the faces of the Galapagos inhabitants in a way that no tourist or amateur photographer would ever dare.    

The subtitle of this work is "encrucijada de Naturaleza y Cultura" which means 'the crossroads of nature and culture' and I think it is telling a very timely story about the interaction of the people who live on these islands and their connection to nature. There are so many issues at the moment with the large population growth and the demand that it is putting on the land, the people and the animals here.

Most of the work that is being done here is trying to understand the how a balance can be reached between the needs of the people and the conservation of nature on the islands. The questions abound and the answers are slow coming, however, it is through intimate representations of the Galapagos, like in this book, that the support for the work being done here can spread. As I heard the CDF scientist M. Gardener express in a Sixty Minutes episode, most people think that the point of conservation is to capture nature in a moment of time and not let it budge one way or another but it's possible to have a functioning ecosystem with the majority of its biodiversity in tack. And this can be done in the presence of permanent inhabitants and visitors.

I was inspired to write about this book for a couple reason, first it is just a beautiful book but also I cannot find a copy of this book anywhere!  I have asked in several stores over the last several weeks and no one has it.  I just happened to be talking to Godrey Merlen, who I will be posting about soon, about it and he said he was just recently at a presentation about this topic and he thinks it was by the authors of the book.  So, upon looking for this book for sale online I came across some pictures of a presentation that just occurred on the 22nd of Nov.  In these pictures was a man who was just in the library this past week and I remember thinking to myself, this man looks like someone important.  He had the most wonderfully white hair and beard to match.  In the picture online I could just make out his name on a name card and it said Pedro Cantero -- the main anthropologist that worked on the text of Habitar Galapagos.  I am so frustrated that I didn't know this before and I could have made him more welcome and actually told him how beautiful his book is.  Opportunities lost.

I will post an update if I ever find a copy.  I am going to ask at the Municipal Office where presentation occurred.  Hopefully they know.

Friday, 18 November 2011


Patecones, pat-ay-cone-ays, are a typical South American side dish.  
They are made from plantain bananas which are not sweet like the bananas in regular Canadian supermarkets.  They are bought green and are used in this state; way before any North American common sense would tell you.  Removing the very tough peel, with some practice it's not so hard, exposes the sturdy plantain fruit.   Once cooked the fruit becomes soft and tastes sort of like a potato, so adding a little salt or some sauce helps to add some flavour.

I was shown how to make these early on in my stay here so I thought I would take on the challenge myself.  I was pretty happy with the result, aside from burning them a little they tasted really great.  We ate them with a little bit of curried chicken.  Anythings goes!

Cut plantain into thick pieces and
boil for a few minutes in 1" oil.
Take out of oil and let cool a bit
than SQUASH them.
Fry in a pan with a bit of oil
for a few minutes
and serve.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


The word for turtle in spanish is tortuga.

The Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park manages a turtle program that raises various species of giant turtle, from various islands, until they are large enough to be released into the wild.  They do this because there are rats that predate the eggs and small turtles.  The turtles are marked with numbers that are colour coded according to the island that they come from.  The workers take the eggs from fresh nests, put them in a cooler with sand to protect them while they are transported to the "turtle sanctuary."

This way tourists are able to amble along a gravel path that leads them through the development of the turtles.  At first the small young-of-year turtles are seen, cute and as cuddly as they will ever be.  They gradually get larger along the path until you get to the massive turtles that have shells that are almost the size of a vintage Austin Mini.  The largest of the turtles at the station, which are about 550lbs, are not part of the turtle program.  They are permanent residences.

The size of these turtle is absolutely astounding.  As one stands there and watches them slumber in the midday sun it is hard to imagine how they can even lift their massive shell off of the ground.  But slowly and surely they stretch their surprisingly long limbs out, place them firmly on the ground and give the ground a slow push.  Sometimes there is even a creak and groan made by their shell and legs as they dislodge themselves from the jagged lava rocks.  All of that effort and the result is usually just a few feet of movement.  But who can blame them, it must be tiring to move 500 plus pounds.

You may have also heard of Lonesome George.  This massive turtle has been with the station since the seventies.  He is the last of his species from Pinta Island.  The GNP and CDF have made many efforts to cross breed him with other species but all efforts have failed.  Lonely George is pretty old, so who knows how much longer he will be around for.  The likely reason for his populations demise is from over use for food and trophy.  Turtles were relished by ship crews for their ability to live without food for up to a year.  Making a great emergency food source for long voyages.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Everyday I take a 2 hour lunch. Okay, wait. Let me rephrase that...

It is customary in Ecuador that most businesses close from 12-2pm everyday. Save the restaurants. This is generally called almuerzo, which means 'lunch'. So everyday I oblige this tradition and take the time to go home, make lunch, have a coffee, read a bit and then sometimes I will take a bike ride down to the coastal street in town, aptly named Charles Darwin Ave.

Lately, we have had amazing sunny weather which makes everything glow with coastal delight. I was enchanted one day by this sea lion that was waiting so patiently for this man to throw him some fish. I swear he was thinking "c'mon dude, I swam all this way, look at my cute whiskers...okay, now I'm beggin' here!" They remind me so much of dogs. The look on their face, the barking.

They don't show up all of the time, just occasionally, so it is neat to see them. Even if it is technically out of their natural habitat. After this begging session, seen here in the picture, the sea lion laid down for a nap under the table. Surely just a charade to make the fisherman think he had moved on. Any dog owner would know better than to fall for this trick.

The great weather lately has been really appreciated, mostly, as I said, because the colours just glow here when the sun shines. It is hard to stay indoors when there is the crystal clear ocean to drown all your thoughts away. It is truly mesmerizing.

This little egret thinks the ocean is pretty cool too!

But it hasn't been all fun and games. I have been busy working on learning how to catalogue using Koha, an online open access catalogue. Elizabeth, the other librarian who is actually leaving tomorrow morning, has just finished organizing the bulk of the archives here at CDF. I have helped with this initiative by creating the records in the catalogue that will allow this collection to be searchable in Koha. This will allow access to a very important collection of documents that holds a lot of the historical institutional memory here. For anyone that has ever been involved in, well, anything remotely related to an organization will know that it is very important to know what has been done in the past so efforts or not duplicated unnecessarily in the future. It is important to build on ideas, not spin wheels.

We are very excited about these archives and already have people using the records and thinking up ideas about how their contents can influence current activities here.

Now that Elizabeth is gone, I am the only librarian left! So the adventure starts! It's sink or swim!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Angela Asked...!

Mangrove, Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz

Marine Iguana (asleep not dead!), Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz 
Hey Angela!  Glad you asked! lol!

Angela Pause said...
What are you reading? What's the oldest book there? How does the climate affect the collection? What sort of technology do they have/need in order to preserve and disseminate their collection. Are their kids hanging about?

Are you DIY WODs?

I am currently working on Nino Ricci's The Origin of Species...of course not to be confused with the non-fiction title On the Origin of Species... by Darwin.

The oldest thing we have here is from 1535.  It's actually an article written by Tomas Berlanga called Carta al Emperador Carlos V, Dando Cuenta del Descubrimiento de Las Islas.  From my rudimentary translation skills, I believe it is an account of the discovery of the islands.  Cool eh!

The largest issue with the climate here related to the collection is that we are having air conditioner problems.  It is ideal to have a collection siting at less than 50% humidity and closer to 20-22 degrees Celsius.  Right now when the dehumidifier turns off during the night it gets up to 55% and that is not great, and this is during the dry season.  This humidity and heat can cause photos to stick together and just speeds up the process of deterioration in general.

Elizabeth, who is working on the archives here, surprisingly didn't discovered any mould in some boxes that somehow ended up being shoved into a tiny crawlspace where there was a lot of water around.  So, although she bought proper archival boxes she isn't going to use them at the moment because she figures that if they didn't grow mould in corrugated cardboard under extreme conditions than why seal them up.  When a better acclimatized space becomes available then she will use the proper boxes.

Elizabeths archival project will create a more robust archives for the station and the hope is that there will be a major digitization project done in the near future.  That is going to need some specialized equipment for creating documents with the correct resolution. They also need the create a proper preservation plan, and that will involve the long term preservation of digital items...meaning good reliable storage disks and a file conversion strategy.  Digital preservation is tough because it means that the items have to evolve with technology and that is hard to predict.

A faster, larger server is needed too.  That's really the only thing holding us back from making the catalogue readily available on the internet.  Right now, as far as I know the server can't handle the potential traffic.  I don't think that this is just the station's issue though.  They rely on satillites for the internet here and I believe this method is just slower and less reliable.

Kids! Ecuadorian kids are extremely cute.  Yes, there are a lot of kids here.  I´ve been told most people get married and have kids very young.  A girl here told me she was considered an old spinster and she is only 23! haha.

I haven't done a WOD yet!  I haven't found a moment of motivation...there are just too many other things to do! Imagine!  It gets dark around 6:30pm here, so running in the evening is sort of out of the question...well maybe I should just go.  It is pretty safe here.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Iguana video!

I made a video for you!

Everyday I take a walk about 100 m from the library to the boat launch to see these marine iguanas hanging out.  They are really quite cute and aren't afraid of people at all.  Lars said he wants to touch one.  :( Kids!

They just go in and out of the water all day.  I can already predict that they will be heading inland if the weather has just turned warm or the sun is shining brightly.  They will then head back to the water after they have been basking for a while.  It's a routine.

They swim well and it seems that they keep their head above the water most of the time.  They eat a very specific diet of red and green algae that grows on the submerged rocks, so they gotta go down sometime, but I have yet to see them dive.

I saw a swimmer out there today so they are obviously not a threat to people but honestly seeing a little dragon swimming by would freak me out a bit...maybe by December.  If I muster up the courage I will be sure to have someone record it.

See more pic here!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

From Big to Small

Essentially everything here represents a shift from big to small.  I could talk about the space here, the city, even the people, but what I am going to talk about is the library.

The Corely Smith Library at the Charles Darwin Foundation is an extremely small specialized library.  It represents everything that you would imagine from an underfunded, remote, library in a country that struggles with economic and organizational issues.  But from only my short introduction here I can see that the struggles of this library are not so different from the struggles of any library, even those amidst the hustle of the most advanced 21st century academic institutions.  Libraries worldwide are struggling to keep up with the rapidly changing face of publications, communications, and all other aspects of scholarship.  And to take advantage of the vast opportunities proved by online infrastructures.

A major question the CDF Library is asking itself right now is how do we get our information to those who need the information.  Does this sound familiar?  I've obviously simplified this question but this is really what all libraries are asking themselves.  In the case of CDF the library, it has a highly specialized collection that includes documents and publications that are not widely available anywhere else.  The goal is to make their collections accessible to the world, but they also need their information to be accessible by their local population as well.

The solutions to this question include efforts in communication, preservation, knowledge management, collection development, infrastructure, public relations, membership, circulation and the list could go on.

In conclusion, although the CDF library is an underfunded, remote, specialized library its questions are not small, remote, nor specialized.

I hope to be able to share more on the efforts that the CDF library is making to move toward a sustainable solution to this fundamental question.