Posts Tagged ‘family travel’

Conservation and the Galápagos Islands

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
The Northern Elephant Seal Pup  Photograph by Thomas Schnetlage

Northern Elephant Seal Pup. Photo: Thomas Schnetlage

The Galápagos Islands are known worldwide for their stunning beauty and environmental diversity. Due to their unique location, size, and home to plants and animals found anywhere else in the world, the islands are in need of environmental conservation and were recognized in 1978 as UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a result, tourist organizations are very careful not to harm the sensitive islands while visiting.

Here are some other interesting facts about the islands:

  1. They are one of the few locations in the world that do not have and have never had an indigenous human population.
  2. In 1959, about 1,500 souls called the islands home. By 2006, the population had ballooned to as many as 40,000.
  3. Although there are eighteen main islands that make up the Galápagos Islands, only five are inhabited by people – Baltra, Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz.
  4. The islands have a healthy diverse plant and animal population, but have struggled to maintain them due to species that have been introduced by humans. 700 plants have been introduced by visitors since European discovery in 1535 – compared to the 500 native plants. As a result, there is competition between the two groups for survival.
  5. The same can be said for animals – British pirates first released goats on the islands to use for food. Today, non-native animals still include goats, as well as pigs, dogs, rats, cats, mice, sheep, horses, donkeys, cows, poultry, ants, cockroaches, and some parasites. Dogs and cats may attack birds and damage their nests. Pigs can destroy the nests of tortoises, turtles, and iguanas.

The good news is there are many professionals keeping an eye on the environmental balance of the islands, including the Galapagos National Park and The Darwin Foundation. To help learn, study, and educate yourself about our world’s oceans, we recommend the Smithsonian’s own Ocean Portal, which includes tools for educators, amazing photo essays, and information on how you can make a difference in preserving these precious resources.

What would you do to conserve the Galápagos Islands? Share your ideas.

Visit the Galapágos with your family! Click here for more information.

The Hualapai Nation and the Grand Canyon

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon  Photograph by Steven King

Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon. Photo: Steven King

Have you ever tried to describe how big the Grand Canyon is to someone who has never seen it? It can’t be put into words how far, how deep or just the amazing colors that burst from the rocks at sunset. Now imagine being able to walk across the canyon and look down as if you were a bird.

The Hualapai (pronounced lə-pī‘) Nation of Arizona thought of that, and then decided to make it a reality. They created a Grand Canyon Skywalk, a U-shaped walkway that extends over the canyon with a clear glass bottom that allows visitors to view it from a different perspective. The walkway spans 70 feet over the Grand Canyon’s rim and sits 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. By the time it was completed in March of 2007, the walkway had received lots of positive press and is considered one of the best day trips from Las Vegas, Nevada. It has attracted over one million people from six continents and more than 50 countries.

You may have heard of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, but how much do you know about the Hualapai Nation? Hualapai means “people of the tall pine” and their ancestral land stretches about 100 miles along the pine-filled southern edge of the Grand Canyon and along the Colorado River. The elevation of the land varies widely—starting at 1,500 feet at the Colorado River and then escalating as high 7,300 feet at its highest point of Aubrey Cliffs, located on the eastern end of the reservation. Physical evidence of the group being in the area dates back to 600 A.D.

Today, there are approximately 1,400 Hualapai people, and the area has gone through revitalization, mostly because of the tourism efforts of the tribe. River-rafting, traditional and modern tribal arts, and hunting expeditions have all helped support the local economy. The results include 200 new homes, an improved community water supply and sewage system, and additional street lights—all valuable to create a solid infrastructure for the future.

How would you describe the Grand Canyon to someone who has never been there?  

You’ve never been to the Grand Canyon? Then check out our Grand Canyon Weekend Adventure and go see it for yourself!  Save $100 per child on this family tour.

Galápagos!

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
Blue footed boobies are some of the many striking birds native to the Galapagos.

Blue footed boobies are some of the many striking birds native to the Galapagos.

Some of the most unusual wildlife found on Earth is living on the Galápagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador. From sea lions and tropical fish to penguins and iguanas, the islands are teeming with animals who are as curious about you as you are about them. To the Left, a blue footed booby gets ready for a dance, which he’ll choreograph to impress the ladies, showing off his blue feet and flapping his wings. When a female bird finally chooses him, he’ll mate for life, taking his turn each season to incubate their eggs.

Click here to find out more about our Galápagos  adventure setting sail this July.

Which wild animal would you most like to get close to? Share please!

The Laboratory on the Ocean Floor

Monday, April 19th, 2010

We’ve mentioned before that Smithsonian scientists love studying extremes. But how about living in extreme conditions? To study the bottom of the ocean properly, you would actually have to live down there.

What do you eat? How do make your meals? Where do you get fresh water? Just as astronauts have made adjustments to their lifestyles while they are in space, scientists studying the ocean are pretty adaptable as well.

Paula Lemyre, reporting from Smithsonian Channel’s SciQ, visited the ocean floor (63 feet down) and had 30 minutes to interview and record this story. Any more time on the bottom, and Paula and her crew would face a very painful experience called “the bends” due to the reduction in pressure as they returned to sea level. Also known as decompression sickness, during the bends the body releases dissolved gas (mostly nitrogen) from the tissues and blood. As a result, bubbles are created within the circulation system and create disruptions throughout the human body. Symptoms can range from mild, dull toothache-like pain to the more serious including shock and seizures. Luckily, today we know the gradual ascension steps to avoid these kinds of situations.

Learn more about living underwater on the Smithsonian Channel’s SciQ.

Experience the Ocean Hall at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Would you want to live underwater? Share Below.

It’s Cherry Blossom Season!

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Cherry blossoms frame the Jefferson Memorial in spring. Photo by Laura Campbell

There is nothing like walking around near the Jefferson Memorial when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The entire area is coated in various shades of pink, giving everyone in Washington, D.C. the sense that spring has finally arrived. But how many trees are there? Where did they come from? These are the kinds of questions that kids tend to ask their parents every year. Again, we’re here to provide you with the important fun facts that satisfy your child (or grandchild’s) thirst for knowledge.

1. In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, or “Sakura,” is an exalted flowering plant. The beauty of the cherry blossom epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages, as well as being symbolic of the constant transition of human life.

2. The original 3,000 cherry blossom trees were a gift from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo in 1912 as a symbol of the longstanding friendship between Japan and the United States.

3. The First Lady at the time was Helen Herron Taft. She and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the first two trees from Japan on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park on March 27, 1912. These two original trees still stand several hundred yards west of the John Paul Jones Memorial, located at the terminus of 17th Street, SW. Situated near the bases of the trees is a large bronze plaque which commemorates the occasion.

4. Three years later, in 1915, the United States reciprocated the gift of the cherry trees by sending flowering dogwoods to the people of Japan.

5. In 1965, the Japanese Government donates 3,800 more trees. These are American-grown and the 1912 ceremony reenacted this time by Lady Bird Johnson and Mrs. Ryuji Takeuchi, wife of Japan’s Ambassador.

Visit the original homeland of the trees on Insider’s Japan.

Have you seen the cherry blossoms in full bloom in Washington, D.C.? Share below.