Day 6: Green Mountain – Christen Nagy & Tolga Babur

Today we hiked Green Mountain, which is given its name due to the vast plant population upon it. In their experiment in 1800s, Darwin and Hooker decided to green the landscape and brought in exotic species such as bananas, ginger, ferns, papaya, dates, mint, and berries. Unfortunately, this is now an example of how not to bring foreign species into a closed habitat. Most of the plants were invasive and spread much farther than they expected, impeding on the endemic population. One endemic species of fern is extremely endangered with only six plants left in the wild. Efforts are being done to try and regrow the population in shade houses and we were lucky to see the few plants left in their natural habitat.

Although Darwin and Hooker’s experiment didn’t end up ideally, it did produce some beautiful scenery and created a distinct habitat on the island. The mountain stands out from the rest of the landscape when observing the local terrain, which eerily resembles Mars. We all enjoyed the trip and hiked two different trails while there: Dewpond and Elliot’s. Both trails ended with letterboxes and we got closer to completing our stamp collection.

To reach Dewpond, which was a source of fresh water for the inhabitants of the island but now houses goldfish and frogs, we climbed the mountain and hiked through a bamboo forest. Among all of the invasive species, the bamboo created the densest vegetation and the path that lead to the pond cut through 5-meter tall bamboos.

In between hiking the two trails, we stopped for a picnic lunch on a paved hill that was used as a water basin during the Second World War. The water flow was directed through cement tunnels that could be followed down to the shade houses, however, they were closed due to a recent collapse in one of the entrances. The top of the water basin overlooked where the green hills met the blue water and produced an extraordinary view.

Elliot’s trail also had stunning views of the entire island and we got to take great pictures as we circumnavigated the mountain. This trail took us along the ridge of the mountain and through multiple caves. It was abundant with ginger and mint.

At night, we separated into three groups and went to observe the turtles on Long Beach. We were surrounded completely by nesting turtles, which was beneficial for us to work on our independent projects. We took measurements of the carapace (shell) lengths and widths as they laid their eggs. It is safe to do so as they go into a trance while laying the eggs. For the turtles that “false crawled” and went back to the water without successfully laying, we measured the distance to the water. We then went back early at 12:30 am to get some much needed rest after the long days past.

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