“The Symbol” Part 3: Island of Mystery

Since mid-June, National Geographic Young Explorer Dr. Neil Losin and his colleague Dr. Nate Dappen have been in the Spanish Mediterranean islands of Ibiza and Formentera to create a book about the endemic Ibiza Wall Lizard (Podarcis pityusensis), the symbol of these islands. Learn more about Neil and Nate’s work at www.daysedgeproductions.com.

We visited dozens of islands during our month-long expedition to the Pityusic archipelago to photograph the endemic Ibiza Wall Lizard (Podarcis pityusesis). We photographed lizards clad in brilliant blue, green, and orange, cryptic brown, and even black. But right from the start, we knew our expedition wouldn’t be complete until we visited Es Vedrà. Es Vedrà is an island shrouded in mystery – it is visible throughout the archipelago, a monumental 1250-foot-high pinnacle of rock rising abruptly from the Mediterranean off the southwest coast of Ibiza. But Es Vedrà is uninhabited and off-limits to the public, so few people have a chance to explore it, and fewer still reach the summit. The island has inspired countless legends through the centuries. Some say it’s the remnants of Atlantis. Others, that Odysseus stopped here. Some of the hippies that live on Ibiza and Formentera even claim that it is a frequent UFO landing site – a sort of interstellar airport! Most importantly for us, however, Es Vedrà is home to what may be the most spectacular population of Ibiza Wall Lizards in the entire archipelago.

The Ibiza Wall Lizards on Es Vedrà, with their deep blue bodies and yellow backs, are totally unlike the lizards on any other island we visited.

During the last week of our expedition, we finally had a chance to face Es Vedrà. This short film (above) chronicles our trek to the summit. Besides photographing the Ibiza Wall Lizards of Es Vedrà for our book, our other objective was to capture a high-resolution panoramic image at the summit, so that everyone following our expedition would be able to share our experience and get a sense of what we could see from the summit. Click on the image below to go to the Gigapan website, where you can explore the panorama, see annotated “snapshots” within the larger image, and learn about the surrounding islands.

Panoramic image captured at the Es Vedra summit. Click to explore!

Es Vedrà was certainly the most dramatic island we visited during our expedition, but every island held surprises, and we did our best to capture the astounding color diversity and the behaviors of lizards everywhere we went. You can see some of the amazing lizards we photographed during the final week of our expedition in this photo gallery. Throughout our trip, we have posted weekly photo galleries that feature some of our favorite images. Check out the following links to see photo galleries from Week 1, Week 2, and Week 3 of our expedition.

Nate and I are back home in the United States now, but we still have a few more stories to share from our adventures in the Pityusic Archipelago. We’ll be back in a week or two with some more photos and fun facts about our expedition!

Human Journey

Neil Losin is a National Geographic Young Explorer. He is a biologist, photographer, and filmmaker pursuing his Ph.D. in UCLA’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where he studies the evolution of territoriality in lizards. When he isn’t doing his own research, Neil uses photography and video to help fellow scientists communicate about their work. He is the co-founder and Editor of SustainableFocus.org, a web community and magazine promoting visual communication about science and the environment. You can see his photography at www.neillosin.com, and check out his videos and blog at www.daysedgeproductitons.com.