Sunday, November 16, 2008

Galapagos: The Enchanted Islands

BBC has another interesting documentary to add to its already superb list. This one is a three part film on the Galapagos Islands, once known as the Encantadas, or the Enchanted Islands. The Galapagos sit on the equator in the South Pacific about 600 miles west of South America. They were first discovered in the 16th century by a ship that was traveling down the west coast of South America and was carried out into the South Pacific by a strong current. More than a century passed before they were found again.

The first part focuses on the geological history of the islands and the various forms of plant and wild life that inhabit them. Part Two relates the story of Charles Darwin's visit to the islands in 1835 and the influence it had upon his thinking about the formation of new species. It, however, was 25 years later that he finally published his revolutionary work, The Origin of Species. The third part considers the various forces, geologic, climatic, and human, that have affected the islands in the past and those that are presently influencing the plant and wildlife on the island. One dismaying point brought up was that on some islands, non-native plants now out number native species.

Darwin wasn't the only one to write about the Galapagos. Some five or six years after Darwin's visit, during the early 1840s, the islands were visited by an American whaling ship, one of whose crew members was Herman Melville. While Darwin took nearly 25 years to publish his work on the Galapagos in 1860, Melville published his novella, The Encantadas, in 1854, approximately ten years after his visit.

I found the documentary to be excellent, and my only gripe is that it wasn't longer. The photography was superb, and the information was presented clearly and straightforwardly. The narrator occasionally came across as though she was bestowing the sacred mysteries upon us, but I didn't find this to be as intrusive as I have in other documentaries.

Highly recommended.

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