Soon we could see the outline of the great fish through the dark water, as it swam slowly along. It was like a barn door just under the surface, a big barn door, with cavernous mouth and two arm-like feeders.
Giant Sea Bats, Land Crabs, Lap Dragons, untouched islands and native villages are visited by Gifford Pinchot the father of modern environmentalism, and Chief of the United States Forest Service under Theodore Roosevelt.
Gifford Pinchot, with his family, explores the Galapagos Islands, the Marquesas, the Tuamotu Archipelago and Tahiti in 1929, before the South Seas was changed forever by modern civilization and war.
The To the South Seas adventure really began when Gifford Pinchot bought a three mast, topsail schooner, 148 feet in length, of steel construction and spent several busy months refitting the ship. As Pinchot wrote: This was to be no mere yachting trip. It was to be a scientific expedition, for adventure seasoned with science is the very best kind.
On March 31, 1929, Gifford Pinchot, his wife, Cornelia Bryce Pinchot, their young 13-year-old son Giff, and his friend Stiff Stahlnecker boarded their ship, the Mary Pinchot, in New York City, along with a crew and experts from the National Museum in Washington and various scientific organizations. Their goal was to collect specimens from the islands they planned to visit. Also on board were a physician and a photographer.
The Galapagos Islands held special interest for Pinchot. These were the islands explored by Charles Darwin in the Beagle, in 1831. Darwin's observations of the animal life on these isolated islands led to his book in 1859, On the Origin of Species, proposing a theory of evolution. As an important and respected environmentalist, Pinchot wanted to examine the varied animal life himself.
The Pinchot Family s adventure was not without accidents. On board a private ship, sailing their own course, they were on their own, totally alone, far from emergency assistance. Leaks kept them in Key West for repairs, longer than planned. A ruined rudder and jammed stuffing box required a dangerous trip of 920 miles out of their way for repairs.
Reviewing Pinchots book To the South Seas, James Norman Hall, co-author of Mutiny on the Bounty, wrote: There is magic in this kind of writing that is its own reason for being. But the most interesting part of the book, to me, was the account of the visit or rather, of the series of visits to the Galapagos Islands.