No Fear

The Body in BalanceAwesome Moments
Artwork by: Jack Taylor

Just hours before I had been in Ecuador and now I was floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I heard my cousins, Sam and Greg, calling my name and I was pulled from my thoughts of excitement and fear of this new place. Sam, Greg, and I had just finished settling into our “expedition size” room aboard the National Geographic Endeavor. The boat was not as big as a cruise ship but it was the biggest one that my cousins and I had ever been on. For our 13th birthdays, our grandparents had decided to take us on an educational trip to the Galapagos Islands.

I flipped the three switches under our room number so that instead of showing green they showed red. A red switch meant that the guest was out of the boat for whatever reason. At the same time Greg did the same for my grandparent’s switches. As we boarded the ten-foot-long inflatables, known as “zodiacs” in this part of the world, my grandmother, who had already been to the Galapagos, asked:”Are you guys excited to see all of the animals and get really close to them?”

We all nodded in approval. The truth was, though, I had a bombardment of emotions and thoughts flying through my mind. I was excited about finally getting to go on my first hike on the trip that I had been anticipating for about a year and a half. I was scared to see just how close these supposedly “fearless” animals would get to me. I thought about how I was about to take a hike in one of the most amazing national parks in the world. Above all, I hadn’t yet wrapped my mind around how far away I was from home.

Suddenly, over the next half hour, there was a flurry of new bird species, pictures, and many more descriptions from the guides about the landscape, animals, and even some of the plants from North Seymour Island. As we were about to leave the forest I saw something moving back and forth, it looked almost like a bright red balloon.

Photograph by Jack Taylor

“What is that?” I asked the guides as I pointed out what I had found.

“Great spotting” said Tommy, one of our guides. “We are lucky to be seeing a frigate [a type of bird] at this stage in its mating ritual.”

Dora, the other guide, continued for Tommy saying to the group, “You all saw the frigates — the birds with the ‘V’ in their tails.”

The group nodded.

“When frigates mate, the males blow up a chin sack that normally stays hidden inside its neck. The female simply chooses the male that has the biggest and the brightest chin sack and then they mate,” finished Dora.

Everybody in the group started looking through binoculars at the bird that was about 30 feet away and then started taking pictures. I could hear all the cameras making the noise that signified they could not zoom in anymore. All the pictures that were taken were either too far away from the bird or too pixelated.

“I guess this will just be a memory,” said my grandfather from behind his huge telephoto lens.

Why had I ever been worried about fearing anything in the Galapagos, let alone the animals that had no fear?

After almost everyone in the group had taken some pictures, we heard the guide calling for us down on the beach. We all got onto the first zodiac. As the zodiac pushed off, I watched pelicans, lava gulls, frigates, and even the occasional blue-footed booby flying over the island. As I turned around and faced our boat, the Endeavor, I gasped. Before my eyes was the first equatorial sunset I had ever seen and its beauty took my breath away. I saw the many hues of red, yellow, orange, and purple in an amazing semicircle with an almost square island at the center. I took a few pictures of the sunset and then saw how the boat was lit by it. Everything I had seen on my first day in the Galapagos had been strikingly beautiful in all sorts of different ways. Even the manmade boat was gorgeous. Now as the small zodiac sped over the dead calm ocean lit up by the sunset, I couldn’t help thinking: Why had I ever been worried about fearing anything in the Galapagos, let alone the animals that had no fear? These islands are perfect.

Jack Taylor is 14 years old and was in 8th grade when he wrote this essay. When he is not in school he enjoys playing lacrosse, downhill skiing, and reading.

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