Galapagos Report: now with monkeys and cows!

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.


A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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  1. Great overview, and so glad to have you back A! This was my favorite part:

    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.

    For just a moment I pictured you seeing a shark rip into a population of sea lions and thinking they were frolicking together and making lifelong friendships. Ha ha! The circle of life.

  2. Rebecca – I thought the same thing – sharks and sea lions – playing? Really?!

    A I am glad you had a blast and I’m containing my jealousy as much as possible. I love our new Skepchick mascot! And, Apples to Apples ROCKS.

  3. Very nice summary of the trip, and that’s a feat unto itself.

    It is tragic, however, to see a SkepChick laid low by such a primitive defense mechanism. Denial is unhealthy, A, and sincere denial is perhaps worse. You need to confront this problem head-on, take it by the horns, if you will, before it eats you up inside one of its four stomachs.

    I’m certain your friends throughout the skeptical community will leap at the chance to support you though this trying time as you ruminate on the source of this affliction.

  4. Once again I must bow to your A-ness.

    I was envious of your trip and still am, but now I know exactly what I’m envious of.

    Wish I could’ve been there with you.

  5. You’re mean. I didn’t get to see no sea lions OR penguins this summer. You should have let me go in your place. I could have pulled it off. No one would have know. I wouldn’t tell anyone. Seriously.

    Also, I’m not afraid of cows, so there wouldn’t be that floating around. :P

  6. Looking at stars rock! And it is cool when you observe one of the moons of the planets, though, I have only seen Saturn’s moons.

  7. Rebecca & Masala: no, it’s true… the sharks were not interested in the sea lions as food. Crazy, I know. And it was frakkin cool.

    JAlbeitz Don’t you start. Do you want all these nice commenter to think you’re a fraud? You know the truth deep down in that cold black heart.

    Rystefn Don’t think just because it’s your birthday you can get away with sassing me. I will come right down to Texas and smack that (smart)ass!

  8. A, it was so cool to hang out with you on the cruise (and almost beat you in my first game of Apples to Apples) I’m glad Darwin the monkey is such a hit. I wish I could be at Dragon*Con with you all to continue the fun.

  9. I should probably feel more privileged to live where I do – in tropical north Australia. I can see whales, dolphins, sea lions AND sharks… man, now I’m gunna plan a boat trip for next weekend, I don’t go out there enough! :d But the galapagos trip sounded super awesome.

  10. Do you remember the dates of the George Hrab performances, or at least the dates of the tour? Sometime in April 2008, right? Also, for one of the performances, did he do the entire Occasional Songs for the Periodic Table?


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