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January 2015 Newsletter

- 28 Jan 2015
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BOOBIES, CHIPS AND HUMANS – EVOLUTION IN THE GALAPAGOS

Type ‘Galapagos Islands’ into Google Maps and click ‘street view’. What you see is a scrubby, non-descript landscape, a thousand kilometres from anywhere and littered with large, guano-covered boulders. Perched atop the rocks are strange sea birds with unimaginably blue feet, staring back with a slightly dazed, uninhibited gaze. Take in the info-panel with a few facts about Charles Darwin, finches, and the theory of evolution and most people’s distant perceptions of the volcanic island chain are confirmed.

However, if  you were to put on your adventure boots, board a plane, then another plane, then another plane and then … another plane, 45 hours later you would find yourself high above a patch of the Pacific Ocean that is so much more than rocks, strange animals and a once revolutionary theory.

Seeing the Galapagos Islands from the sky, on one of the very few flights each day, is one of life’s great delights. The water is crystal clear, deep and intensely turquoise. It crashes against rugged coastlines, bordered with black volcanic rock, uninterrupted except for the occasional pristine sandy beach. The lowlands, almost devoid of vegetation and beaten by a hot sun, are Martian-like whereas inland, ascending high above the coast and shrouded in low-lying cloud, is a damp, mossy,  impenetrable interior. At sea level, far in the distance and barely visible even on the clearest of days, is the next island in the chain, hinting at yet another wondrous world.

Thanks to evolutionary isolation, a collection of distinctive animals call this place home. Sea lions, blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, giant tortoises, penguins, great frigatebirds, finches, lava lizards - the list goes on and on. You might think the archipelago’s remoteness would mean these animals have the place to themselves. However, like so many nooks “off the beaten track” in this modern world, 25,000 locals call the island chain home and almost 200,000 sightseers visit each year, creating the need for souvenir stores, pizza restaurants and Magnum ice-creams.  Fortunately, the locals are contained in three towns and the tourists are limited to 60 strictly monitored locations; the remaining 97 per cent is national park and almost completely inaccessible.

Not that the animals take note of park signs and boundaries. Maybe they’re just very personable by nature, maybe they’ve totally miscalculated the danger, but the native animals certainly have no qualms about meeting and greeting the humans. 

The sound of a chip packet being opened attracts Darwin’s famous finches in volumes. Hopping quickly around your feet or, when the opportunity arises, alighting on hands and heads, no stray crumb is overlooked. In the right part of the island chain – and contrary to Darwin – beak size matters less and less in our modern world.

In the absence of seagulls, the great frigatebirds willingly snap up any piece of fish thrown their way. With their black plumage, bright red gullets and two-metre wingspan, the frigates are an imposing seabird and, because they rarely land, there is a knack to feeding them. Food has to be lobbed into the air, allowing the birds hovering just above head height to swoop and snatch it – it’s far more fun than feeding a rabble of squabbling gulls.

The marine iguanas offer a glimpse into an ancient reptilian era, yet they reside amongst the volcanic rocks that line tourist-laden beaches. Despite the rocks forming a human thoroughfare from beach to beach, the iguanas remain contentedly sunbaking, shaking their heads gently, silent except for the occasional violent sneeze as they expel a plume of salty spray from their nostrils (quite a beautiful site when backlit by a setting sun). They amble out of the way ever so slowly even when a tail or claw is in danger of being stepped on.

Then there are the sea lions. They are, quite literally, everywhere. Great collections of them, groaning and burping, are scattered on beaches, on walkways, in between boats, in front of cars, out the front of the police station (keeping watch beside the officer in charge), and on any bench not already claimed by a human. They cheekily use tourists’ beach towels as their own, include snorkelers and scuba divers in their games of tag, catch waves with far greater ease than any of the sunburnt, dreadlocked surfers and, grinning widely, approach to within tantalisingly pattable distances (a problem for anyone trying to respect the rangers’ rule of remaining at least two metres from the wildlife). Then, when it all becomes too much – the tourist gets too close, the towel isn’t big enough, the best bench is occupied by an elderly local – the sea lions show their dominance and, with a bark and a snort, give chase. There’s nothing quite like the shrieks of an unsuspecting tourist as an overweight, screaming sea lion charges up the beach towards them.

The Galapagos is a truly wondrous place where evolution goes right on evolving. It has an incredible and world-redefining history, it is magical, hilarious and stunning and, with luck and a great deal of care, it will have a future.

Romilly Spiers    

RETURN OF THE GRADUATE

Sam Bond has found his way back to Keogh, this time as chief executive of the consulting group.

Two decades ago the boot was on the other foot. Sam was exposed to the Keogh experience during the formative part of his career in the energy sector as he advanced from field technician to global operations chief at EDL, a specialist in remote and renewable power generation.

Sam was a regular participant in Keogh programs back then and describes himself as living testimony of its impact. “I am a product of the Keogh Way,” he says. Loads of innate intelligence, technical on-the-job training, and a Wharton management course should be acknowledged too.

EDL also provided the global launch pad for the go-getter from Sale on the Victorian coast. He shifted to Houston in Texas as part of the overseas expansion of the niche energy specialist. In 2002 he became chief of an energy services and advisory group and then in 2010 he was headhunted by financiers to help found a US renewable energy group.

He returned to Australia last year to help ensure the family had a real connection to Australian life and the large family base here. He’s a very proud father of five children, ranging from young adults to a seven-year-old.

Sam has a strong record in steering companies through growth phases. It is part of the attraction of joining Keogh. His role will also enable principal consultant Allan Keogh to focus on consulting projects.

MISTER ZIG AND MASTER ZAG

There’s an air of serendipity about the career path of Andrew Roberts, the new team member in charge of the Brisbane office. Only in hindsight does there seem to be a thread running through all the zigs and zags.

The Brisbane boy with a Scottish ancestry started out as a detective in the Queensland police (and a sniper in the tactical squad), he had a short but sweet stint in the Royal Australian Air Force, he worked as a safety manager (and then marketing manager) at Australian Post, and then he took on roles as a risk manager in the construction phase of the mining boom. In the process he picked up experience in mega projects and guiding teams and organisations through periods of cultural change.

Along the way the can-do man also picked up a wife and three children, and three Masters degrees (in Arts, Education and Psychotherapy).

Andrew acknowledges the profound impact that his wife Adrien and family have had on his life. It is the defining juncture and he expresses it succinctly – he’s turned from a trained killer into someone who doesn’t like hurting anything.

Looking back as a wiser, more mature gent, he sees “engendering change” as the thread that draws his helter-skelter life together. Others might also say he is centred on serving the public well.

INSIGHT

The best way to predict the future is to create it.   Peter F. Drucker

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