In the summer of '06, Linda and I put down deposits for our long awaited trip to New Zealand and Australia in March/April of '07. Two weeks later I received a flyer from the Center For Inquiry about an Explorers Club trip the Council for Secular Humanism was planning. It would charter a ship and take ninety members to explore the Galapagos Islands in May of '07. The trip would be led by Council founder Paul Kurtz, and his special guest would be Richard Dawkins.
The Galapagos Islands are part of Ecuador and are about 600 miles west of Quito. They are mostly a national park and the government limits the number of tourists who can visit. The islands are known largely for their role in the development of Darwin's theory but are also unique as one of a very few ecosystems still relatively unspoiled by humans. Soon after the trip they were added to the World Heritage Danger List. (Great article on them by one of our members: http://www.tbo.com/life/travel )
Any chance to tour these islands was wonderful and to go with a group of fellow humanists made it even more so. To go with Paul Kurtz and Richard Dawkins took it completely over the top. Both men are long high on my list out of those I respect for what they have done. If you aren't familiar with the Center for Inquiry, the Council for Secular Humanism, Paul Kurtz or Richard Dawkins, you can learn about them at:
But how could I afford to make the trip a month after our other one? Linda said she would have to be in Seattle then and couldn't go, and she also said "You can't afford not to go. This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance and you know it." She was right. I had for so long wanted to visit the Galapagos and there would never be a better way to do it. I signed up and placed my deposit. It severely warped the plastic, but my only real regret is that Paul Kurtz was unable to go because of surgery shortly before we left.
Still, the trip was wonderful and I met a lot of really nice people. (Humanists generally are - - only a few of us have horns and a tail) One of them was Vince Furno, my "roommate from heaven" (sorry, Vince). He was one of those hard hit by the virus (?) that afflicted about 25 passengers mid-week while I was one of those it missed. If the gods were watching over me, why not over a nice guy like Vince? (There I go again . . . )
Among the great folks that work for the Council was our coordinator, Toni Van Pelt. She worked hard and effectively to make the trip a success. Toni recently moved from the Florida branch of the Council to our new Washington DC office. Along with other duties there she will put together more trips like this. Her former career as a travel agent qualifies her well. Toni is good at herding cats.
Still another was Eddie Tabash, an attorney from California who is a CFI board member. I was familiar with Eddie's articles in Free Inquiry and knew him to be a strong defender of the first amendment. It was great to find him to also be fun guy with a sense of humor and a great collection of Jewish jokes. His lecture on the ship was the best summary of the status of our nation's church-state relations I've heard. You can view it at:
Dawkins holds the Charles Simonyi chair for the Public Understanding of Science
at Oxford University. If anyone is doing a truly important job well, it's
Richard. He is a world authority on evolutionary biology, a brilliant writer,
and is considered by many (including me) to be England's leading intellectual.
His books bring real understanding of the beautiful workings of evolution to
lay persons who are willing to read with an open mind.
Richard Dawkins holds the Charles Simonyi chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. If anyone is doing a truly important job well, it's Richard. He is a world authority on evolutionary biology, a brilliant writer, and is considered by many (including me) to be England's leading intellectual. His books bring real understanding of the beautiful workings of evolution to lay persons who are willing to read with an open mind.
Richard is beating back the forces of ignorance and faith and showing the world the far greater beauty to be found in reality. I had read many of his articles and books and had seen him on PBS and the BBC in presentations about science and religion. In person he was even more impressive but also proved to be a fun guy with boundless enthusiasm and energy. Besides doing what the rest of us did, he gave three great lectures, worked with a video crew for an upcoming BBC feature, and spent his "free" time writing and on the internet and phone. Sleep? He's apparently evolved beyond any need for it.
My trip began with a flight from Dallas to Miami to join the others for an American flight to Quito. We spent two nights and a day in Quito then flew to the Galapagos on Tame' Airlines. The airport where we were to land on San Cristobal Island was closed for repairs, so we landed at another one on the tiny island of Baltra just north of Santa Cruz Island. This required a complete change from the planned route of the ship, but Metropolitan Tours adjusted and we were off.
These links go to web pages with the photos.
|1 - Wednesday, May 09 - Dallas to Miami to Quito|
|2 - Friday, May 11, AM - Quito to Baltra then Santa Cruz|
|3 - Saturday, May 12, AM - Espanola (Hood) Island|
|4 - Sunday, May 13 AM - Fernandina (Narborough) Island|
|5 - Monday, May 14 - Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island|
|6 - Tuesday, May 15 AM, Bartholomew Island|
|7 - Wednesday AM, May 16 - Rabida (Jervis) Island|
|8 - Thursday AM, May 17 - San Cristobal Island|
|9 - Friday AM, May 18 - Baltra Island back to Guayaquil|
Photos from New Zealand and Australia: http://www.teleporttelescopes.com/NZOZ)