THE RACE: Our Botanists “Run The Table”
Gulf of Guinea Expedition XI is now at the midpoint. When we arrived two weeks ago, one team stayed on the big island while our botany group proceeded almost immediately to Principe, the smaller and most ancient in the archipelago (31 myr). Two of the botanist only had a couple of weeks, and the team was entering highly inaccessible parts of the southern half of the island for the first time. The title of this blog refers to Pico Mesa (table), the most arduous and final botany destination of GG XI.
I have decided to construct this blog report as a series of Andrew Stanbridge’s magnificent photos made during expeditions into four rather remote parts of Principe Island. The botanists were introduced in an earlier blog.
I. Day hike into Morro De Leste in the Obo National Park. A relatively easy access point into primary forest in the northwest corner of the island.
Jim Shevock (California Academy of Sciences)
Dr. Tom Daniel (California Academy of Sciences)
II. Praia Seca to Rio Porco. A beach on the extreme south coast of Principe and hike to the ridge overlooking the Rio Porco (overnight). There are no roads here, and the southern reaches of the island must be accessed by boat. The botanists joined a group researchers and trainees from the Principe Trust that was searching for individuals of the recently discovered Principe scops owl and teaching forest mapping techniques to local participants.
Traveling down the east side of the island in a boat from Belo Monte.
Dr. Cesar Garcia of the University of Lisbon. Cesar is a specialist in bryophytes: mosses, liverworts and hornworts, as is Jim Shevock of CAS.
III. A day expedition on the north coast-Military Caverns to Praia Banana
The field team. left to right: Balo (head guide), Dr. Tom Daniel, monkey hunters, Drs James Shevock and Cesar Garcia. Photographer Andrew Stanbridge not pictured.
IV. Assault on Pico Mesa
Route from Roca Belo Monte in the north, south to Pico Mesa by boat.
Pico Mesa. below, route from Rio Sao Tome to the mesa and back (overnight).
Below: “The Father” one of the many ancient phonolite peaks on Principe.
Above: An exhausted Dr. Cesar Garcia after reaching the summit of the mesa.
Below: Dr. Shevock in a forest of endemic screwpines (Pandanus sp.)
Below: Balo demonstrates how to stay hydrated using the jungle’s resources
Below: Dr. Shevock collects his 50,000th career sample!
Return to Belo Monte (above); below, Cesar sorting out the bryophyte collections.
Some flowers found along the way
All of the botanists returned home at time of writing. The next posting will be on the various activities of the remaining six expedition members.
Straw-colored fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) Photo: Cesar Garcia
Our research and educational expeditions are supported by tax-deductable donations to the “California Academy of Sciences Gulf of Guinea Fund.”* On the islands, we are grateful for ongoing governmental support, and especially to Arlindo de Ceita Carvalho, Director General, Victor Bonfim, and Salvador Sousa Pontes of the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe for their continuing authorization to collect and export specimens for study, and to Ned Seligman, Roberta dos Santos and Quintino Quade of STePUP of Sao Tome, our “home away from home”. The upcoming GG XI has been funded in part by a generous grant from The William K. Bowes Jr. Foundation, and substantial donations from Rod C. M. Hall, Timothy M. Muller, Mr. and Mrs. John L. Sullivan Jr., Mr. and Mrs. John Sears, and a heartening number of “Coolies”. Once again we are deeply grateful for the support of the Omali Lodge (São Tomé) and Roça Belo Monte (Príncipe) for both logistics and lodging, and to the Príncipe Trust for partial sponsorship of our ongoing primary school education program.
*California Academy of Sciences
55 Music Concourse Dr.
San Francisco, CA 94118