A chain of undersea volcanoes
Rumbled and then rose
Erupted on the equator
And thousands of years later
We call the islands Galapagos.
Birds flew in and built their nests
On shores sea lions came to rest
Reptiles by way of floating plants
Sharks and rays swam through by chance
And us. But we are merely guests.
Like Darwin we should go explore
But unlike him, not on the shore.
The underwater world waits
With fish, seahorses, nudibranches,
Corals, whales, sharks and more.
Because from fire these islands were born
Fumeroles the bottom adorn
These bubbles seep from the seascape
As volcano’s breath seeks an escape
Six hundred miles from Ecuador’s shore.
To understand life in the sea
You must grasp its nativity
Plankton and algae take their place
At the ocean’s food web base
On which marine life feeds.
This sunning sea-faring fauna
Is the algae-eating marine iguana
Who stores heat before the urge
To plunge and dine in the cold surge.
These vegetarian reptiles need a sauna.
The yellow-tailed damselfish
Cultivates algae in her niche.
Intruders to her algal farm
Make her angry, panicked and alarmed
And she gives a feisty tail swish.
A green sea turtle paddles in
And curious of guests, performs a spin
The Galapagos green turtle population
Is the largest of all the nations
They nest here, feed and swim.
The green sea urchin covers itself
Not for fun but for its health
Using seashells, it has learned
It can prevent its own sunburn
And avoid hot painful welts.
One large hammer and two beady eyes
Due to their stealth they can be a surprise
But these sharks are not trouble
In fact, they are timid of bubbles
So hold your breath as they saunter by.
In their rookery a group of sea lions mate
Offshore males bark to defend their terrain
The sea lion pups hassle each other
Under gaze of their watchful sea lion mothers
Who know their chasing and biting is play.
A knobby head adorned with luscious red lips
Earned this species the name of red-lipped batfish.
Rather than swim, they crawl on the ground
Their large painted lips in a perpetual frown
As if waiting for a mate to kiss.
The tuxedo clad Galapagos penguin
Is the furthest north of all its kin
He spends up to three hours a day
Pruning his plumage and acting vain
To charm the lifelong mate he hopes to win.
Corals reside in the same place
But without legs, head, or face
These animals are not conceited
And lifelong mates are not needed
Because corals reproduce in space.
A shadow looming and dark
Belongs to the mammoth whale shark
But “shark” seems like a misnomer
For this plankton-eating loner–
That all sharks eat meat is a lark.
Many don’t live in water that eat from the ocean
Seabirds peer down for fish-like commotion
This 6-foot wingspan belongs to an avian boss
A pilot none other than the Waved Albatross
Hunting seafood for its chick with devotion.
After the sun sets and swallows the day
Bioluminescence might light a boat’s wake
Starts emerge in the celestial sky
The North Star and Southern Cross shine
And in the sea vast wonders remain.
ALL PHOTOS BY R. WOLLOCOMBE