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Galapagos Greetings

An excerpt from Around the World in 80 More Movies highlights the Galapagos, a place I visited with a company called ROAM (Rivers Oceans and Mountains). I just booked another trip (to grizzly country in British Columbia) with ROAM, which inspired me to go back in the files for memories of that first fabulous trip with the company. These prove enlightening should you get the chance to visit Galapagos.

Creation, 2010, with Paul Bettany showing what Charles Darwin learned on various islands in the Galapagos Islands. Though Darwin’s findings on Galapagos affect any story about how he wrote his most famous book (with the tongue-challenging full title of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Rules in the Struggle for Life), the production team from Creation never set foot on the archipelago. Yet Darwin’s voyage toa set of islands way off the coast of Ecuador infuse action, filmed primarily in such Great Britain locations as the author’s home at Down House and Pinewood Studios. Darwin’s 1830’s voyage involved only a five-week stay at Galapagos with 19 days on shore, so it took later evaluation at home for Darwin to realize what his findings meant. Creation deals with these later assessments as the explorer interprets his data and deals with pressing family issues that question the existence of a loving, caring god. Well-produced and acted, the movie’s understated, honorable tone never grabbed box-office audiences or critics but provides useful background information for those seeking more history about Galapagos and its impact on humanity. That whole creation theme took a more traditional, religious tone decades earlier when director John Huston used the Galapagos for scenes of the earth’s start for The Bible: In the Beginning. Darwin: The Voyage that Shook the World, 2009, with a religious take on what evolution means. Funded by Christian Ministries International, the dramatized documentary inspired controversy when several historians interviewed for the film issued a formal statement that the project distorts their views becausei ts makers hid their agenda during production. While not completely negating Darwin’s theories, narration says too many questions remain. Regardless of its stance, the project features excellent camera work taken on many of the islands on various islands in the Galapagos chain, with shots of the endemic birds, iguanas, and tortoises that frequent the area. Locations include Galapagos’ Charles Darwin Center on Santa Cruz Island, a popular stop for most visitors. The project’s production values remain high and include location filming throughout South America (see “March of the Penguins in Patagonia” chapter in Around the World in 80 More Movies book chapter) Darwin… screened in Australian theaters and remains available to stream. Galapagos 3D, 2010 with naturalist David Attenborough using evolving technology to showcase what he calls “one of the wonder places of the world.” Attenborough’s production team demonstrates precision packing skills, bringing along seven-tons of specialized camera equipment fit into a dedicated supply boat. The team used land vehicles, a boat, and helicopter during six months of aerial, underwater and time lapse photography. Celebrating his sixtieth year in broadcasting, Attenborough returned to Galapagos for the fourth time in his career, seeing it as the ideal place to appreciate the fullness of 3D photography. His assessment proved correct a s team members photographed unique visions ranging from a school of hammerhead sharks fleeing an orca to the rare sunfish. Pink iguanas, yellow ones, plus blue footed boobies, and sea lions contribute their share of impressive action. The series features four episodes: “Origin,” “Adaptation,” “Evolution,” and “The Making of Galapagos 3D” and all look impressive in their flat versions. While few visitors get Sir David’s royal treatment and access, many can find some of the sights shown, including the Charles Darwin Center and private ranches where tortoises roam free. Rancho Manzanillo on Santa Cruz provides good access to a varietyof tortoises. Master and Commander: Far Side of the World, 2003, with Russell Crowe chasing a ship to Galapagos and beyond. Inspired by Patrick O’Brien’s best-selling series featuring Captain Jack Aubrey and his cohort, Dr. Stephen Maturin, director Peter Weir combines multiple elements from various books to create an intelligent, exciting, and unified work. The plot required numerous locations and effects, with key sea action filmed in tanks at Fox Studios Baja in Rosarito Beach. The production also used a full- scale ship, which Weir took to the Galapagos, a major achievement since the region aptly suits the movie titles “Far Side of the World” component and provides limited access and services for large groups. The unique look of islands and their animal inhabitants gives added distinction to the intricate richness of sets and costumes. The location choice allowed filming actual endemic creatures to astound the ship surgeon’s inquisitive mind. While many tourists today expect to see flightless cormorants or

swimming iguanas, first-timers will likely share Dr. Maturin’s amazement as birds,

lizards, and other forms of wildlife ignore people and casually wander by.

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden, 2013, with Cate Blanchett recounting mysterious occurrences on Floreana during the 1930s.The real-life story of escapees from society benefits from footage taken at the time by one of the couples involved in a still-unsolved mystery—or mysteries, since two died and three disappeared. The two-hour documentary provides plenty of background information for a stop on Floreana, which most modern Galapagos visitors do because of the island’s famous “Post Office.” Stuck on a metal pole, a wine barrel with a door serves as a drop off point for visitors to leave and retrieve mail sans stamps. People rummage through cards left in the barrel, pulling out one or more from their hometown or a place where they can deliver the card in person. Though Fred and I found no post cards suited to our schedule, we left two from Reno. Both were hand-delivered to us within six months.

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