I’ll start by saying it is impossible to do a real and true accounting of our trip. Each person’s pilgrimage to Darwin’s evolution lab will be necessarily different, as it should be. Nonetheless, as the intrepid Skepchick on the scene, I’ll do my best.
The Galapagos Islands are MADE OF WIN. Sunny but not too sunny; full of wild animals all cute and wonderful and not afraid of humans; beautiful skies at night and lots to see during each day. This trip had all that PLUS an all critical-thinking charter. Is it possible to be double MADE OF WIN?
You’ve probably seen photos, as our group alone must have taken 50,000. Mine are at my Flickr page, but here are shortcuts to Blue Footed Boobies, Sea Lions, Marine Iguanas, Penguins, Tortoises, Crabs, Skeptics, Karaokers, Octopus, and Blue Steel.
Every day underway was a new island, a new animal we’d not yet seen, a different challenge. Hiking across lava plains, snorkeling in rough water, cut-throat games of Apples-to-Apples, meeting a bunch of new cool folks… it was all I could do to keep up.
Randi proved his Amazingness was still in full force (even a few days after his 80th birthday) by joining in most excursions, and never getting his khaki pants or leather shoes even the slightest bit wet or dirty. While most of us looked like over-sunned wet rats coming back from the twice-daily outings, he looked invigorated and ready for work.
The trip was so jam packed with things to do and see that there wasn’t much time for formal skepticizing. A few brief talks from PZ, Phil and Randi. A couple of stellar George Hrab performances, too, but that was it. (George is the consummate performer: smart, so funny, charming, impossible to fluster, totally engaging. Don’t miss a chance to see him perform. Trust me.)
Smaller scale skepticizing happened during the in-between moments: hiking with about 30 folks wearing Darwin ’08 tees, watching Randi do magic tricks before dinner, or stargazing with The Bad Astronomer (and his cool green light saber, which is awesome.)
I saw the moons of Jupiter for the first time (thanks Fred!) and lots of folks got their first look at Alpha Centauri and the Southern Cross. It was comforting and exhilarating to share these mind-blowing moments with critical thinkers, who felt just as amazed as I did, but were less at a loss for words. I was awed by how connected I felt to the timeline of Life-on-Earth, and how small that made me feel.
Like every TAM or skeptic event, there wasn’t enough time with the people I don’t get to see as often as I’d like. Brian and Joe might think otherwise, but my favorite quiet moment of the trip was watching sharks, sea lions, sardines and pelicans (plus maybe a penguin) frolic and play off the starboard side in the early morning hours of our last day at sea. I can only hope that’s how lifelong friendships are made.
Oh, about the monkeys and cows: The first day we did a Quito city tour, then a trip to the equator (where I took photos of Wil Wheaton’s latest chapbook Sunken Treasure, since I’m a True Fangirl) and a late lunch at the rim of the local volcano. Two important things happened at the volcano:
1) Fan-of-Skepchick and all-around cool guy Fred Bremmer let me know he’d brought a present for me, and the only hint he’d give me was “it’s not a high-hat!” So, everybody, meet Darwin. He’s a screaming, flying monkey (note the cape) and he became the unofficial mascot for our journey. (I also hit Phil Plait square in the face with him on the flight home, but this was a regrettable accident. One I’m sure I’ll pay for dearly.) I will have him with me at Dragon*Con too. He is awesome, swell and maybe just a little too loud- just like your friendly Skepchick bloggers.
2) A nasty, ill-informed rumor was started by an otherwise terrific, skeptical guy. JREF forumite and SkeptiCamp presenter Joe Albeitz incorrectly concluded I have a bovine aversion. He’s a good guy, a rational thinker, a quick wit, a physician… but pitifully deluded. Don’t fall prey to his misinformation. Remember argumentum ad verecundiam is a logical fallacy, so don’t let his scientist cred fool you. I tell you sincerely: I have no beef with cows.