Souvenirs from the Galapagos Islands

A few months ago, I posted about a trip that my wife and I took to the Galapagos Islands. The previous post primarily dealt with the idea of taking a vacation as a sound junkie. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment of trying to capture the unique sounds of the environment that you’re visiting, but that doesn’t always equate to a relaxing vacation. Everyone needs the opportunity to detach from their regular activities. In the spirit of that idea, I took only a Sony PCM-D50 with me and tried not to obsess about capturing cool sounds. If an opportunity arose, I took it. By contrast, I did very little to create opportunities.

Overall, it worked out. I got some interesting sounds for very little effort, and had a great time. I’ve culled through the recordings finally, ran a bunch of them through Izoptope RX2 to clean them up, and thought I would share a couple of the representative sounds from the trip.

While we were on island during our stay (no cruises for us), all of the travel between the islands…well, most of it anyways…occurs by boat. There are boats of all shapes and sizes, for use in travelling different distances. Our first full day in the islands had us on a moderate sized speed boat travelling out to Bartholomew. It reminded me a lot of the boat my grandparents had when I was a kid. It was large enough to live on somewhat comfortably, but you would in no way consider it a yacht. We definitely took faster boats over greater distances, but this one was going at the perfect speed for me to safely hang over the back with the Sony handheld and capture the sound of the engines and wake.

DynIntGF1 01 water boat wake by spfarley

I mentioned in that previous post about the vacation, that most of your opportunities for recording involved birds. One of the islands we visited, North Seymour, was a major nesting area for Frigate Birds and Blue Footed Boobies. [Keep the jokes to yourself ;)]

When we were there, the Frigate Birds were still raising their recent hatchlings…none of which had reached full adolescence yet.

DynIntGF1 07 frigate bird young by spfarley

While there are multiple species of Frigate Birds, these are probably the most iconic. They have a distinctly different call from their young.

DynIntGF1 08 frigate bird by spfarley

The Frigate Birds share the island with a number of other species. One of them being the Blue Footed Booby. There are very few natural predators in the islands: a few hawks (though their population has dwindled to precarious levels), sea-lions, and the occasional shark. In other words, the birds themselves don’t have much to fear. This particular bird was a good example. It had a tendency to scream at anyone that got close, but would not back away from them. Good opportunity you say? I agree.

DynIntGF1 02 blue footed booby by spfarley

Not to to be outdone by the larger birds, it’s easy to see why the Finches and other small birds of the islands were such an inspiration to Darwin. The variety is mind-boggling, both in terms of physical adapations/colorations and vocal characteristics.

Here’s a Large Billed Flycatcher:

DynIntGF1 04 large billed flycatcher by spfarley

And a Galapagos Mocking Bird…again, no fear whatsoever:

DynIntGF1 03 mockingbird by spfarley

The other icon for the islands (besides the Finch’s) are, of course, the Giant Tortoises. The only sounds these guys make are breathing and movement. You get a real sense of just how heavy they are when you hear them take a step (which I didn’t get a good recording of). They’re breathing is remarkably expressive though. When I listened back to the recordings, I couldn’t help but think, “This is probably what dinosaurs sounded like…at least the herbivores anyways.” We had a couple of encounters with tortoises in one area, and I recorded two of them. The one pictured below is a mature male. He was happily chomping away on a guava, and was unconcerned about my presence. The other one I recorded was an adolescent male, and he was decidedly less confident with me around. When threatened, they make this heavy exhaling sound as they withdraw their head back under their shell.

Galapagos Giant Tortoises by spfarley

Of course, these aren’t all of the sounds I recorded, but they are the most interesting from the group. They’re also my souvenirs to you. All of the sounds on this page are available to download for free (in 24-bit, 96kHz) in the sfx store.


Note: All photos are from my wife’s flickr photostream. Head there if you want to see more, though we still haven’t finished uploading all of them. lol

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10 Responses to Souvenirs from the Galapagos Islands

  1. Robert Burns says:

    Cool! Thanks!

    I’ll probably never get to visit physically.

  2. Ann Kroeber says:

    Thanks for posting this. Really enjoyed looking and listening to this!

  3. andrew says:

    Rad trip and sounds!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing those sounds. Amazing recordings of the giants reptiles…

  5. Thank you Shaun! It sounds awesome and it’s always a pleasure to read you.

    Although, can I suggest you a small tip and put “DynIntGF1_01_”, “DynIntGF1_02_” at the end of the files next time? It doesn’t help when you work on a really big session (feature film or game) and all your regions in Porn Tools are too small to read anything. Then you zoom a bit to read what a particular region says and you only see “DynIntGF1_02_”… It really helps the mixer to see first: “BIRD – Frigate Young” for example. Then if you want to search quickly for the file in the region bin, you can type “DynIntGF1_07″ and you’re sure to find the good one right away :-) Some mixers only work with VU meters, barely look at the PT session, but it really helps when you have to do some quick tweaks or go back to the predubs.


  6. Pingback: Music of Sound » Detritus 132

  7. Sam Ejnes says:

    Thanks for posting up these sounds, now I want to take a trip there myself!

  8. James Bryant says:

    Thanks Shaun! That tortoise eating sound is quite something.

  9. robin says:

    Very nice images and sounds. Especially loved the tortoises.

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