art prose & rhyme

Mushtaq Bhat

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Cement, Granite, Sand and Acrylic on Hard Board
100 x 70cm. 2008


Heaven and Hell at Galapagos

Where the sheep and the lion live together, like the frigate bird and the blue footed booby. Concerning the profoundly analytical observations of Charles Darwin and the poetically felt experiences of Herman Melville.

An extract from my article: Heaven and Hell at Galapagos

"Hell!" felt Hermann Melville, taking in the volcanic landscape, where nature seemed to reveal her viscera and where she had her wounds still open, and as yet uncovered by life's benign skin.

"Heaven!" observed Charles Darwin confirming his slowly "gestalting" epochal insights into nature's great mysteries, acquired and inherited traits, reproductive isolation, diversification, radiation and convergent-evolution although probably not fully aware of the magnitude of resources, that the nutrient-rich cold currents from South bestowed on many of its inhabitants; that could have additionally contributed to harmless predatory behaviors of the species at the top of the food-chain. The blue-footed boobies breed on the ground, fully exposed, in the immediate vicinity of their "hunters" the frigate birds _ the latter building their nests in trees next door, each tolerating the other. All the "hunting" takes place in high skies and the boobies are robbed off only a part of their prey (the fish) with skills that every young frigate bird has to learn from his/her parents (sic! after having witnessed the scene myself I have problems using: its parents). Apparently due to abundance of the fish, there is no need to develop behaviors like robbing eggs or eating each other or one's defenseless brood. Of course the constraints imposed by isolation of the islands and the great distance from the mainland that favored avian and marine migration and excluded the land-carnivores or egg-robbers (till the introduction of domesticated animals by man) has contributed to this benign sort of behavior amongst the avian fauna here, who have persistently showed a remarkable degree of tameness and lack of fear of the greatest hunter of them all (man), from the times when the buccaneers first visited the islands until the dawn of last century.

Things are changing now. The trained personal that I got to know, for conducting the tours unfortunately did not seem to fully grasp the importance of adhering to the rather strict regulations imperative to keep the endemic fauna intact as long as possible, especially since the tourists access in short time areas, which probably nobody from the islands would normally access at regular intervals, this includes also trails leading through the breeding grounds of the blue-footed booby. The guide, we had seemed to have actually other interests more on his mind, like flirting with some young spoilt girls, whose reasons for visiting these islands is still a mystery to me, for they apparently confused the place with some Spanish Riviera, where you talk almost non-stop about private life & boulevard gossip, get drunk and giggle as loud as possible, so you could hardly hear the birds, with total disregard for what they left behind or for the ecology of the island. Maybe they were young and naive enough to believe that the island had a municipality and a cleaning task force like at home! It would have probably not mattered to them if they had been transported unawares to a Disney land. They would not have noticed the difference. They were almost unaware of the place, only occupied with each other. True one can forgive the follies of the youth, but one can not help wondering, why one chooses of all the places in the world, Galapagos for such past time! I think, I am not being too harsh, in expecting, anybody coming to this place, to have more than a passing interest for the ecology of the island. Anyway, this is a indication of what sort of crowd may find its way to the island. It would be banal to go into details of what I witnessed, but certainly these fellows (the guides) needed a more thorough training and no doubt they would realize that it is the ecological peculiarity of the place that is the primary source of their income and the wealth of their islands and perhaps exhibit a more concerned attitude rather than almost a total callousness toward taking some basic precautions for not jeopardizing the endemic flora & fauna in an abrupt and unnecessary manner. Tourists will always leave their mark. For those who earn through tourism, a tax for the cleaning of the visitor trail could be imposed, with which to pay the personal who may regularly check for such misdeeds (for it may be, that someone disposes off amongst other things his/her used batteries at the breeding grounds!).

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