island isabela


View of the caldera of Sierra Negra volcano, Isabela Island, Galapagos. The entire floor of the caldera is covered by lavas erupted in 2005.

PR Update #2 (9/23/17)

The first part of this post will be about Isabela, where my family is from, and the information comes from a handful of people who have been able to visit and/or make it to San Juan, where there’s limited wifi.

  • Once again, there are no fatalities in Isabela!
  • The media, in absence of actual information, largely exaggerated the number of people needing to be evacuated from the area surrounding the Guajataca Dam. I’m assuming they used the combined populations of Isabela and Quebradillas (70k people), when in reality, only a little over 300 people lived in the evacuation zone. 
  • Supermarkets, restaurants, gas stations, bakeries, and even one of the banks are open for business. Walmart will be open as soon as they replace their broken door.
  • Everyone is helping each other. Most people got out and cleaned their streets as soon as the hurricane passed.
  • Someone on my FB feed posted a short video of their drive through town. The roads are clear of all debris that doesn’t need heavy machinery to move. There are some power poles lying flat on the road, but there’s enough space to drive around them. 
  • The coastal area got wiped out by the storm surge, but everyone was evacuated ahead of time.
  • There are already crews working on restoring communications in the city.
  • All in all, you can definitely tell that a hurricane came through, but compared to other places on the island, Isabela has it very good.

Now here’s a bit more general information to clear up any misconceptions people might have.

  • FEMA is already on the island. FEMA has been on the island since Hurricane Irma. Stop harassing them.
  • Thanks to Hurricane Irma, Puerto Rico was prepared for a large scale disaster with generators, food rations, and water. For now, they’re actually in pretty good shape!
  • The Reserves have been activated and are being deployed to Puerto Rico to help. Volunteer organizations have sent people as well.
  • Barges filled with food, water, equipment, and manpower have already arrived.
  • If you’ve seen posts along the lines of “Puerto Rico is about to go 72 hours without a government,” that is complete and utter bullshit. Our local leaders, police officers, and military personnel did not suddenly disappear during or after the hurricane. As soon as it was safe to go out, they immediately began assessing damage, helping those in need, and trying to get in touch with other towns. Mayors and police went door to door in many places to check on their citizens. Some even brought satellite phones for people to call their families. 

That’s all from me. When things have calmed down a little more, I’ll make a post on how people can help Puerto Rico. (And probably in the future I’ll write an epic rant about misinformation and social media in the face of natural disasters, because the rage has been building since Harvey and it needs to come out or I’ll have an episode.) Please accept these nuggets of good news and have a nice night.


Lonesome George, the Galapagos tortoise who was the last of his kind, is on view at the Museum through January 4, 2015. Below is a quick rundown of everything you need to know about Lonesome George.

Species: Last documented member of Chelonoidis abingdoni, native to Pinta Island

Age: Thought to be more than 100 years old

Diet: Cactus, shrubs, grasses, and broad-leaved plants

Turtle vs. tortoise? Tortoises are turtles that live exclusively on land.

Did you know? Lonesome George—the lone tortoise of his species for at least 40 years—was named after a famous 1950s American TV comedian, George Gobel, who called himself “Lonesome George.”

Notable traits: An extremely long neck and a “saddle-backed” shell that rises slightly in front, like a saddle

Weight: About 165 lbs (75 kg); males of various species of Galapagos tortoises can exceed 660 lbs (300 kg) and are the largest living tortoises

Discovery: In 1971, a Hungarian scientist spotted Lonesome George on Pinta Island. The discovery surprised researchers who thought Pinta Island tortoises were already extinct. A year later, George was taken to the Tortoise Breeding and Rearing Center on Santa Cruz Island, where he lived for the next 40 years. 

Saving Lonesome George: Staff at the Galapagos National Park and Charles Darwin Research Station tried repeatedly to mate Lonesome George with females from closely related species. Those efforts failed, but a new strategy to revive the species is underway. The discovery of hybrid tortoises partially descended from Pinta Island tortoises on Isabela Island, where whalers or pirates likely moved them long ago, provides the opportunity for establishing a breeding colony whose young will initiate the recovery of a reproductive population on Pinta.

Can’t get enough Lonesome George info? Head to the Museum’s website for more.