Thursday, March 31, 2011

1980 Mona Island, a happy smile in an awful spot, a memory from my AEB times

This is a photo of one of my dearest friends.  It was taken during a trip to Mona Island 1980.  I can hardly believe that thirty one years have passed since we did that trip.  Mona Island is an uninhabited island between Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.  It boasts some of the most dangerous and inhospitable terrain in the Caribbean, its central plateau is dominated by fearsomely thorny, horribly poisonous xerophytic flora.  As hard core biology students we decided to visit one of the eastern Caribbean largest breeding colony of red-footed boobies.   The colony is located in the most remote and inaccessible part of the island.  To reach it we traveled for hours through very difficult terrain and did so enduring air temperatures that in the sun reached up to 120 F.  It is a wonder nobody died.  This photo was taken near Punta del Norte, we had found a cave to take refuge from the tremendous heat and had rested for a time inside it.  The cave was filled by a several feet thick blanket of dried goat droppings.  But we were so overjoyed to be out of the sun that we didn’t mind in the least.  As we rested our tired bones on the cave floor we were thankful for a cool place to rest.  This photo reminds me of the times when life was simpler, when we were alarmingly skinny and when a cave full of dried droppings was another amazing thing to be experienced and not a horrific ordeal to be endured.  So many years have passed and we are still good friends and he is still a very nice person, always with a smile on his face.  My friend went back later to the colony and took with him his future wife.  Now he has two beautiful children and a wonderful marriage.  I suspect that if a girlfriend has the fortitude to endure the heat, the thorns and spines, the endless walking and the awful cave, there is little that can put a dent on this relationship.

One one trip to the red footed booby colony I found a an orchid in full bloom with flowers that I have never seen before.  It looked so delicate and out of place in the arid landscape.  I took a flower back with me and Hector Colon who was quite familiar with the flora of Mona Island identified it as something new for Mona Island.  Later it was identified as Broughtonia dominguensis, this was the first time this orchid had ever been found in the Puerto Rico area.  I was fascinated by the fact that this small orchid could thrive in such a hostile enviroment.  This was the start of my interest for orchids, which continues to this day.

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