Discover the Enchanted Land of the Giant Tortoises After they were discovered in 1535, the islands of the Archipeligo de Colon were named Galapagos in honor of their original inhabitants - the giant land tortoises. Galapago means saddle in Spanish and refers to the shape of the tortoises' shells.These tortoises regularly live to 150 years of age. They reach maturity at 20-30 years, when they begin reproducing.There were 14 sub-species of Galapagos tortoise that all evolved from one common ancestor. Of these 14, nine evolved separately on nine different islands. The other five sub-species came from Isabela Island, but developed separately within the basins of the island's five extinct volcanoes.Today, three sub-species are extinct. A fourth has only one surviving tortoise, a male called Lonesome George. Estimated at 80-100 years old, George was discovered in the 1950s long after scientists believed his sub-species to be extinct.Lonesome George now resides at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. More than a decade of effort to get him to reproduce has failed.Path to ExtinctionWhalers and other seafarers were primarily to blame for the decline of the giant land tortoise. During the 19th and 20th centuries they killed more than 100,000 tortoises for meat and oil. Visiting crews prized them as a source of meat because the tortoises could be taken live onto the ship. The tortoises could live for two years without food or water. They would then be slaughtered when needed.Further population declines occurred when humans began inhabiting the islands. Not only did people kill tortoises, but domestic animals that were brought along - such as dogs, goats pigs and rats Â¿ would eat young hatchlings. This problem still exists today, as many domestic animals became feral (escaped back into the wild) and now feed on tortoise eggs and young.PreservationIn 1959, the Galapagos were declared a national park. Shortly thereafter, the non-profit Charles Darwin Research Station was established. Today the center breeds giant tortoises for release into the wild. It also does iguana breeding and runs conservation programs for endangered birds, plants and marine animals. They also control introduced plants, insects and animals that can disrupt the islandsÂ¿ delicate ecosystems.To find out more about the good work done at the Darwin Station go to www.galapagos.org or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Exploring GalapagosPerhaps the best way to see the Darwin Center and all that there is in Galapagos is aboard the Lammer Law live-aboard.At 93 feet long on deck by 42 feet wide, her size, shallow draft, and the trihull design provide extreme stability, both at anchor and underway. The name Lammer Law reflects owners and designers, Duncan and Annie Muirhead's Scottish heritage. She is named after a mountain in Scotland. There are eight double staterooms, each can be set up to suit your needs with a double bed or twins, side by side. You won't find cramped bunk beds aboard Lammer Law and you've got plenty of space to walk around.All staterooms have a private bathroom with shower and a toilet. There is a standard 110 outlet, and every bathroom contains an overhead hatch, which helps eliminate the claustrophobic feeling you can get in the bathrooms on some boats. Fresh towels daily and quality linens add the finishing touch.The saloon contains a wet bar, audio/visual entertainment center and several groupings of chairs and sofas for reading and socializing. The man-sized overhead hatches keep the room bright, airy. With wall to wall carpeting, sectional couches and coffee tables, its more like an estate living room than a compartment on a boat.Food and DrinkThe canopied aft deck is where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily. Breakfast and lunch are buffet style. At dinnertime, the mood is more elegant and the meal is served family style. Tableclothes, linens and china are used.Every dinner starts with a delicious tureen of soup, followed by a salad of fresh vegetables and main course with a variety of specialties.Lammer Law has a fully stocked bar so you can mix up just about any kind of drink you choose, or ask the crew to whip up one of their special blender drinks for you. There is a nice selection of beer and a variety of wines, many from Chile, renowned for their excellent vintage.
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