J. P. Lundh 

T H E  G A L A P A G O S :

A  B R I E F  H I S T O R Y

ISBN 82-92294-00-7

© JACOB P. LUNDH, 1999, 2001


OBS. All rights to the present work belong to the author. You are however welcome to use any part of it provided you mention its source, a courtesy I would expect from anybody who is provided with free access to another’s work. I hope you enjoy reading this and find it interesting and useful. Any comments you may have are appreciated.

J. P. Lundh

e-mail: jacob@lundh.no 

I would like to thank my daughter, designer Ingrid Lundh, and our mutual friend photographer Erik Thallaug for their offer to help me with the copying of slides and other photographic material for these pages, which will be used in the future. J.P.L.

J. P. Lundh:



INTRODUCTION: Authors background, his life and contacts with the Galápagos Islands. On how this book came to be written, and thanks to different people who gave their support and information.

I. THE ISLANDS AND THEIR NAMES. A brief discussion about the names of the main islands and their areas.

II. THE ARRIVAL OF LIFE. The islands’ position and origin. Climate and seasons. The arrival of plants and animals to the islands. Relationships of the flora and fauna of Galápagos to plants and animals on the mainland. The evolution of some species.

III. THE ALTITUDINAL ZONES. A brief description of the botanical regions that exist at different altitudes on the greater islands and their fauna.

IV. THE DISCOVERERS. Tupac Yupanqui’s legendary voyage and the chances that he did not visit Galápagos but other, more distant, islands. Heyerdahl’s Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to the Galápagos. Discussion on the material found and its origins. Heyerdahl’s conclusions and the author’s.

V. THE SPANIARDS. Reasons behind the voyage of Fray Tomás de Berlanga and his accidental visit to the Galápagos. The wars among the Spaniards in Perú and how they led to the second European discovery of the islands by Captain Diego de Rivadeneira. Other Spanish visits to the islands.

VI. BUCCANEERS AND PRIVATEERS. The Spanish commercial monopoly in the Americas as a stimulus to piracy and smuggling. The route of the galleons. Visits of the buccaneers to the Galápagos. The privateering expedition of Woodes Rogers and the conquest of Guayaquil. Rogers’ visit to the Galápagos. Clipperton’s visit in 1720. End of the buccaneering era.

VII. THE WHALERS. The beginnings of commercial sperm whaling. Captain James Colnett’s voyage and the first post barrel on Floreana. The first known Galápagos settler -- Patrick Watkins of Floreana. The frigate Essex and Captain David Porter. The defeat of the Essex outside Valparaíso at the hands of the British. End of the whaling era in the Galápagos.

VIII. THE VILLAMIL PERIOD. General José Villamil’s background, and his arrival to Guayaquil. Villamil’s role in the wars against the Spaniards. Ecuador’s separation from Gran Colombia and Villamil’s efforts towards the annexation of Galápagos. Villamil’s colony on Floreana. The exploitation of tortoises for trading with visiting vessels and for oil production. Darwin’s visit and the charting of the islands by Captain Fitzroy. Villamil resigns as governor in 1837. Villamil’s return in 1842. Decline of the Galápagos settlements.

IX. BRIONES THE PIRATE. The bandit Manuel Briones and his gang. Capture and banishment to the Galápagos. The seizing of the American whaler George Howland by Briones and his men. . Capture of Briones and his gang and their public execution in Guayaquil. Visit of the Swedish frigate Eugenie to the Galápagos. State of the islands at the time of the visit.

X. VALDIZAN AND COBOS. The Compañía Orchillera and its breaking-up. José Valdizán settles on Floreana. The murder of Valdizán in 1878. San Cristóbal, a summary of its colonization. The establishment of Cobos on the island and his sugar plantation. The Floreana uprising and Valdizán’s death give Cobos the opportunity to bring over about one hundred settlers to his island and begin his project. The sugar harvest from «January to January» becomes a reality in 1889. Elías Puertas’ uprising and the murders of Cobos and Governor Reina.

XI. ISABELA. Antonio Gil’s Floreana colony. Its removal to Isabela and the founding of Puerto Villamil. Gil’s property and the earlier inhabitants of the island. The products from the Gil settlement -- tortoise oil, sulphur, hides, dry meat and fish. Decline of the colony. A penal colony is established on Isabela in 1944. The uprising of the convicts and the capture of the American yacht Valinda. The last convicts leave in 1959

XII. FLOREANA. Norwegian interest for the islands as a place for migration. August Christensen organizes a colonization enterprise that becomes established on Floreana. Failure of the project. Captain Bruun and his fishing project. Bruun’s death. Dr. Ritter and Dore Strauch. Arrival of the Wittmer family in 1932. Arrival of Baroness Wagner and her companions the same year. Problems among the settlers. Disappearance of the Baroness and her partner Philipson in 1934. Ritter’s death. The shipwreck of Lorenz and Nuggerud.

XIII. SANTA CRUZ. Earliest known inhabitants. Capt. Olaf Eilertsen organizes a canning cooperative, which settles on Santa Cruz. The schooner Alatga and her adventures. Reduction of the Santa Cruz settlement to four bachelors in 1929. Increase of the population from 1931. The project of Captain Lundh and Gordon Wold. Arrival of new Norwegians in 1935. Increase of the Ecuadorian population in 1937.

XIV. SAN CRISTOBAL. Continuation of the sugar plantation after Cobos’ death. Uprising of the convicts in 1924. Harry Randall’s Norwegian colony of 1926. Its short life and failure. Sale of the plantation by Cobos’ heirs. Decline of the plantation and destruction of the cane fields.

XV. FOREIGN INTERESTS. A brief diplomatic history of the islands. Various proposals for the sale of the islands. The «discovery» of guano on the islands and the motions of several nations to obtain concessions or to prevent exploitation of the guano. Renewed American interest in the islands as a defensive base for the Panama Canal. Interest in the protection of the flora and fauna. Projects for a national park, nature reserves and research laboratories. The war and the American bases on the Santa Elena Peninsula and the Galápagos.

XVI. THE WAR AND AFTER. The relations between the settlers and the American military. Limited effects of the American presence. Change from Ecuadorian army to navy administration. Increase in the number of schools. Health services. Hospital projects. Activities of the Franciscans. A new Norwegian colonization project on Santa Cruz and the shipwreck of the Thalassa near Vigo, resulting in the death of the prospective settlers. Decline of the Norwegian colony on Santa Cruz and its final disappearance. Other foreign settlers. Fruit Trading Corporation’s projects. The gradual change to civilian administration and the appointment of a civilian governor in 1959. The American colonization project on San Cristóbal and its collapse. The establishment of the Charles Darwin Research Station. Beginnings of Galápagos tourism.

XVII. THE STRUGGLE FOR CONSERVATION. State of the flora and fauna and the observations of Dr. Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt. Founding of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galápagos Islands and the building of the research station. The official inauguration of the station and the Galápagos International Scientific Project. The production of tortoises hatched in captivity is initiated under director Dr. Roger Perry. Establishment of the National Park. Installation of the marine laboratory. Creation of the Marine Reserve. The National Park’s many problems.

XVIII. CONFLICT OF INTERESTS. The islands are declared part of Humanity’s Heritage. Problems caused by the increase in tourism and colonization -- wastes, contamination, introduction of diseases and small animals such as insects and geckos. Illegal fishing of sea cucumbers, lobsters and sharks. Illegal camps in restricted areas and the danger of introducing animals, destroying the environment. The illegal killing of tortoises, the introduction of goats to places where they were not found before and acts of violence by the illegal fishermen and their protectors from the mainland, including some politicians. New laws and controls, which are not applied.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Books and articles consulted by the author.  

ADDRESSES FOR INFORMATION: Several addresses of institutions and groups that are interested in the conservation of the flora and fauna of the Galápagos Islands.


My love affair with the Galápagos goes back to my first visit to the islands, in 1932, at the age of three and a half years. My mother, Helga B. Lundh, and I left Guayaquil on the ancient schooner Manuel J. Cobos, which had recently been renamed San Cristóbal, a name she would keep for the rest of her long life, which ended in the early 1940’s. Among our traveling companions were the Wittmers, a German family headed for Floreana, and the Dane Knud Arends, who would be shot and wounded a couple of years later by the notorious Baroness von Wagner.

At Wreck Bay, we moved over to my father’s ship, the cutter-rigged «Santa Inez», and sailed to Santa Cruz. This island, which is about the same size as Tahiti, had then a permanent population of about a dozen people. After spending a few weeks at Academy Bay, we visited several places around the islands, ending up in desolate Sulivan Bay, on the east side of mountainous Santiago.

We remained at Sulivan Bay for a long time, prisoners of a prolonged calm. Water had to be rationed, and things began to look bleak, until a breeze allowed us to set sail. However, this breeze was no blessing. We became its plaything as it alternately blew and ceased, causing the strong current to finally carry us to the shores of arid Marchena, where we miraculously managed to avoid being shipwrecked.

In 1934, my father, Captain Herman H. Lundh, returned to the Galápagos in time to spend a weekend as a guest at «Hacienda Paradiso», Baroness von Wagner’s property in the Floreana highlands. This was shortly before her mysterious and much publicized disappearance. Later, in 1936, we returned to the Galápagos as a family, with a new member, my brother Eric, who had been born in Guayaquil three years earlier. I shall never forget those delightful eight months on Santa Cruz. It was then that Kristian Stampa, one of the Norwegians from the 1926 cannery project, taught me how to fish.

One evening, coming from my daily bath, riding piggyback on Gordon Wold, my father’s partner, I discovered an enormous fire that suddenly lit up the dark, velvety tropical night, standing out against the somber background of the cactus-crowned cliff across the lagoon. The former cannery building had gone up in flames, the sunbaked Norwegian fir planking burning like tinder. Soon, the burning upper floor began to collapse into the ground floor, where the garrison kept its supplies and ammunition. This latter went up in a series of impressive explosions to the great excitement and joy of us children. Early next morning, the embarrassed-looking young commanding officer came to our door, dressed in his underwear and an officer’s cap -- all he had managed to save from the fire -- to ask if he could borrow supplies for his soldiers, whose food had gone up in smoke.

Another event that made a great impression on me was one of the visits made by the American millionaire Vincent Astor on his yacht Noormahal. While at Academy Bay, he invited my parents and the Raeders, a Danish couple, for tea. Eric, my brother, and I went along. The yacht was large and had been equipped for scientific expeditions. There were aquaria around the afterdeck for keeping marine specimens, a gymnasium, a large library and a laboratory.

After going to school for a few years, Eric and I returned to Santa Cruz, in 1946, to visit our father, who had remained when we returned to the mainland, in 1937. Except for a larger population -- about a hundred and twenty people -- little had changed. Both Eric and I missed some of the comforts and foods we had been used to, but we took to the primitive, Spartan life with no serious problems. We enjoyed a much greater freedom than we had been used to, we were happy to live in close contact with nature, and found hunting, fishing and exploring exciting. Towards the end of the 1946-47 fishing season, I went out with Kristian Stampa. Since he was looking for new fishing grounds, I had the opportunity to visit many places that most local fishing boats never went to. The next season I went out again. Unfortunately, this would be Stampa’s last one.

Because of a fall from an avocado tree -- he had stepped on a rotten branch -- my father died at the age of seventy-one, in August 1947. We were undecided on what we should do. Mother also loved Galápagos, but had always considered it a dead end for two youngsters who could do much better for themselves elsewhere. In 1949, with all the legal paperwork cleared away, we returned to the mainland to collect our inheritance. We started to look around for a suitable property or something else in which to invest. Finding nothing promising enough, we returned to Santa Cruz ten months later. After a month-long cruise around the Galápagos on the schooner Chance, Eric and I built a house on what a few years later would become the site of the Charles Darwin Research Station.

In the end, things did not work out as expected. I was offered employment at the office of Sociedad Nacional de Galápagos, at the freezing plant in Wreck Bay, where I spent several months (1952-53), experiencing a rather wet «Niño year», renewing our old friendship with the Cobos family and other old-time settlers of San Cristóbal, and enjoying the visit of Thor Heyerdahl’s Norwegian Archaeological Expedition, while he and his companions waited for a ship to return them to Guayaquil.

In 1954, I went to Colombia, where I gained my first experiences in the prawn fisheries as first deck officer of the Jay Bee, a large trawler with packing and freezing facilities, doubling as mother ship to a number of smaller vessels. Our search for new fishing grounds along Ecuador and the Pacific coast of Colombia gave me much useful information for some of my future activities. A year later, I spent a little over a year in the Norwegian merchant marine, mainly sailing between Colombia and the United States, then returned finally to work both at sea and on land in the now flourishing Ecuadorian prawn industry.

It was shortly after my marriage to María Isabel Alava, a society belle of Bahía de Caráquez, that I returned once again to the Galápagos. In 1959, I made two visits to the islands for Folke Anderson, chairman of the Astral Group. At the beginning of 1960, he appointed me his representative in the islands.

The period of 1960-65 was an exciting time for me. I followed closely the development of the Charles Darwin Research Station, keeping in frequent contact with its earliest directors. In fact, I still have had occasional contacts with the first one, Dr. Raymond Lévêque, and still keep in touch with Dr. Roger Perry, who was director during six years and initiated the captive breeding of tortoises. It was for his predecessor, Dr. David Snow, that I went on two excursions into the San Cristóbal highlands, finding evidence that the local tortoise race had reproduced successfully well into the 1950’s, though it had been assumed to be extinct many years earlier. I also collected specimens for several botanist friends, and came across an until then unknown giant cactus, which I collected, described and named (Opuntia megasperma var. mesophytica. J. Lundh ).

Much was going on in the Galápagos at the time. When we had arrived in February 1960, we decided to remain on the ship for the cruise around the islands, which included such remote places as Iguana Cove, Tagus Cove (both on Isabela), and California Cove (Fernandina). During that cruise my friendship with Dr. Raymond Lévêque was established. On our return to San Cristóbal, we met the American tuna clipper Alert at Wreck Bay. The first group of settlers of Filiate Science Antrorse Island Development Company had arrived from Seattle. I had met one of their representatives, Clarence Elliott, in Guayaquil the previous year. Several members of this group became my friends and I was in constant contact with them for as long as they remained in the islands and, in a few cases, after they had left.

There were also a number of «official duties» as well, originating from my friendship with the various officials. Governor Enrique Vallejo appointed me member of the committee that was to select a flag and a coat of arms for Galápagos from a number of submissions -- a difficult task, considering their good quality. Commander Reinaldo Vallejo, CO of the Second Naval Zone, recruited me to teach in the course for fishing vessel skippers he had organized for the islanders. Lt. Commander Fausto Alvear, a later military governor, asked me to take charge of the search for a tourist from a yacht, who had lost her way on Floreana. However inconvenient some of these «duties» could be at times, they gave me the pleasure of being useful.

When the official inauguration of the Charles Darwin Research Station finally took place, I was on my monthly tour of the islands. When I arrived to Santa Cruz, Dr. David Snow, who was then Director at the Station, took time to introduce me to the more important members of the Darwin Foundation. One who left a lasting impression on me was the Foundation’s president, Professor Victor Van Straelen. This kind old gentleman seemed to irradiate goodness. I am grateful and happy to have met this extraordinary gentleman, who had done so much for the cause of conservation. Unfortunately, he died shortly after his return to Belgium.

A symposium with the participation of sixty-six scientists took place at the same time as the inauguration. In this group were several good friends, like Dr. Robert I. Bowman, at that time Secretary for the Americas of the Darwin Foundation, whom I had first met in 1953. Dr. E. Yale Dawson, who would succeed Bowman as secretary a few months later, was also present. I had befriended Dawson in 1962, and had since kept in touch with him, until his unfortunate death in Egypt, in 1966.

Then, came 1965 and with it our return to the mainland, where I took charge of a fishing operation in the northern part of the Gulf of Guayaquil. This was followed by three years of teaching science and biology at the American School of Guayaquil, then a year as sales manager for Librería Científica, at the time the largest distributor of technical and medical books in Ecuador. After a cruise across the Pacific, with stops at the Marquesas, Tahiti, Vanuatu and Noumea, came eight years in Australia, with various activities, the last of them as inspector on a pipeline construction job, in charge of supervising the restoration of the right-of-way and erosion prevention. Then, the circle was closed. In 1978 I was again back in Norway, from where I had left forty-six years earlier as a small child. Now, I had returned a mature adult, accompanied by a wife and four children, two of them born in Galápagos.

So much for the background. During all those years, after reaching the end of my ‘teens, I had been collecting information about the Galápagos -- the flora, the fauna, the history. In recent years I have discovered with surprise how much I have accumulated about the history of the islands. It was Dr. Stein Hoff, author of Drømmen om Galápagos -- «The Dream about Galápagos» -- that outstanding history of the Norwegian settlers in the islands, who made me aware of the fact, and suggested that I organize my data and write it all down.

One cannot of course hope to write a complete history of the Galápagos. There are too many voids in the source material. One could naturally play it safe, writing about the history of their exploration, as records about the whalers, sealers and scientific expeditions are available to those who have the time and the opportunity to go through this abundant material. Joseph R. Slevin produced an excellent book (Slevin, 1959) on this subject, making a good selection from what must have been an overwhelming amount of material.

I have of course omitted much material, weeding out what I believe to be irrelevant, dropping suspect information and what is outright slanderous and sensationalistic. On the other hand, I may have been somewhat generous with the background material on the Spaniards and the buccaneers, mainly because I found this kind of information wanting elsewhere and thought it to be useful to provide a clearer picture of these two subjects.

In most of our sources, few details are given about the spectacular escape of Briones and his gang from Floreana in 1852. I was fortunate to find two contemporary Swedish sources that give more detail about this interesting episode in the islands’ history, and could not resist the temptation of sharing this information, which would otherwise have remained out of reach to the great majority of readers. Another person who is given more space than she really deserves is the notorious Baroness von Wagner. The reason is that she keeps reappearing in books and articles about Galápagos, too often against a background of unjustified sensationalism.

Some space has been given to the Norwegian settlers, though the great majority of them did not stay, and those who did are no longer there. At a time, they did have a certain impact on the inhabitants of Galápagos, and their history has nearly always been told with many errors, no doubt because there have been no reliable sources . An outstanding exception to this is the book by Dr. Hoff (1985), which unfortunately, at this time, is only available in Norwegian. An English translation, made by the late Mrs. Elfriede Horneman of Kirkenes, Norway, a former resident of Santa Cruz, Galápagos, has not yet been published.

Throughout the text I have used the names of the islands that were currently in use among the Galápagos settlers. In most literature in English, until fairly recently, the English names, most of them given by the buccaneers, were generally in use. The official names of the islands have gradually come into use in the more recent literature, largely through the influence of Ecuadorian scientists, who have increasingly participated in the activities of the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Darwin Foundation. A list of island names with their synonyms follows.

Before ending this introduction, I wish to express my deep gratitude to people who have generously provided information that has made it possible to bring the last chapters up to date. To Captain Eric G. Lundh, my brother, for his report on his visit to Santa Cruz in 1995, and to Dr. Roger Perry (Director of the Research Station from 1965 to 1970) for keeping me informed on the Station’s activities in recent years. Other people who have been generous with information are Engineer Alfredo Carrasco, former Secretary General of the Darwin Foundation, and Dr. Ole Hamann, until recently Vicepresident for Europe of the Darwin Foundation. I am also very thankful for the interest that Dr. Hamann and the present Secretary General of the Foundation, Dr. Fernando Espinoza Fuentes have shown for the present history. Information about many of the settlers has reached me thanks to Dr. Stein Hoff, the late Mrs. Elfriede Horneman, and Mrs. Liv Cobos de Dávalos. I feel special gratitude towards Engineer Martin Krafft of Krafft Design, Oslo, who has shown great interest in my work with this MS, providing me with one of his PCs, assistance, data from the Internet, and finally getting me hooked on the world of Multimedia.

Two important sources for updating my information have also been the Noticias de Galápagos (the publication of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galápagos Islands) and the Galápagos Newsletter that is published by the Galápagos Conservation Trust in London. Last but certainly not least, I wish to thank Dr. Robert I. Bowman of the Department of Biology of San Francisco State University for the generous amount of information that he has sent me regarding the latest and deplorable developments in the islands.



Baltra is officially known by this name, but was formerly called Seymour or South Seymour to distinguish it from the low islet to the north of it by the same name. It is about 25 kms2 reaching an altitude of about 100 meters. The anchorage used by the American base is in Aeolian Cove, in the SW part of the island. This bay was formerly known as Birs Cove.

Barrington, officially known as Santa Fé, is about 25 kms2 and reaches 259 meters at its highest point. Its main anchorage is a small, shallow cove in the NE, sheltered by a rocky islet.

Culpepper, officially known as Darwin, has also been called Guerra and los Hermanos. Its area is about 2.5 kms2 and it reaches an altitude of 168 m.

Duncan, officially known as Pinzón, was originally named Dean and has also been called Camperdon. The best landing is in the NE, in a small bight protected by a steep, rocky islet. About 18 kms2 in area, it reaches an altitude of 458 m.

Fernandina is this island’s official name. Its original name was Narborough and it has also been called Plata. With an area of about 640 kms2 it is the third of the Galápagos. The highest point is 1490 m, at the rim of the main crater. The most used anchorage is California Cove, at Punta Espinoza, in the NE.

Floreana, officially called Santa María, was at a much earlier time known as Charles. It has also been called Santa María de la Aguada, Isle de Santé and Tejada. At 170 kms2 it is the sixth in size of the Galápagos. Its highest mountain is Cerro de la Paja, at 640 m. Main anchorages are Black Beach, on the west side (known among the whalers as Pat’s Landing and in Spanish as Playa Prieta, though it is officially called Puerto Velasco Ibarra), and Post Office Bay in the NW. This latter place is uninhabited.

Hood, officially called Española, has also been named Mascarin. With an area of about 60 kms2 it reaches an altitude of about 200 m. The best landing is at Gardner Bay, in the NE, a bay of considerable beauty and a good anchorage.

Isabela is called so officially, though its oldest name is Albemarle. It has also been called Santa Gertrudis. With its area of about 4,600 kms2 it is the largest of the Galápagos and comprises more than half the land area of the whole archipelago. It also has the highest volcano, Volcán Wolf, in the north, with 1707 m. Cerro Azul, in the SW is only slightly lower. The only inhabited anchorage is Puerto Villamil, in the SE, but the two best bays are Cartago Bay on the eastern side of the Perry Isthmus and Elizabeth Bay on the western side.

Jervis, officially known as Rábida, has also been named Nuestra Señora de la Esperanza. With an area of about 5 kms2 it reaches an altitude of 367 m. Its best anchorage and landing is on its northern side.

Marchena is the official name of this island that was formerly known as Bindloe and Torres. It has an area of 130 kms2 and reaches an altitude of 343 m.

Pinta is officially called by this name and was formerly known as Abingdon and Geraldina. Its area is 60 kms2 but it reaches an altitude of 777 m which makes it the only of the lesser Galápagos with a moist zone.

San Cristóbal is officially known by this name, though it formerly went under the name of Chatham. Its oldest name is Dassigney, but it has also been called Grande, Mercedes and Solano. Its area of about 550 kms2 makes it the fifth in size of the archipelago. Its highest point is the San Joaquín, at 715 meters, in the SW. Inhabited Wreck Bay is officially called Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Some of the oldest settlers still call it Puerto Chico and its oldest Spanish name is Bahía de la Servida. General Villamil named it Puerto Cabello. It is a small bay in the SW end of the island, sheltered by Schiavoni Reef. Other anchorages are the large Stephens Bay (Puerto Grande) to the NE of Wreck Bay, at the head of which lies the shallow but sheltered Sappho Cove, and Freshwater Bay, an open roadstead on the exposed south side of the island, where a small steam of fresh water runs down from a nine-meter high cliff.

Santa Cruz has long been known by this, its official name, though it was also widely known as Indefatigable. Its oldest known name is Norfolk, but it has also been called Porter, Bolivia, Chávez and Valdez. Its area of about 980 kms2 makes it the second largest of the Galápagos. Its highest point is Mount Crocker with 864 m. Its inhabited anchorage is Academy Bay, officially called Puerto Ayora and formerly known as la Aguada de Chávez. It is on the south coast. Other good anchorages are Conway Bay in the NW and Bahía Baquedano on the north coast. This latter was named Turtle Cove by the Americans at the Baltra base.

Santiago, officially called San Salvador, was named James by the buccaneers and was also called Gil, Olmedo, Isle de Tabac and York. With an area of 570 kms2 it is the fourth in size of the Galápagos. It reaches an altitude of 907 m. There are two good bays on this island, Sulivan Bay on the east side, and James Bay in the west. The latter is divided by an enormous lava field, the part south of the latter being known as Puerto Egas, while the part to the north is called la Espumilla.

Tower is officially called Genovesa, and has also been known as Ewres and Carenero. Its area is 17 kms2 and its altitude only 76 m. Large Darwin Bay, the remains of a huge crater, provides a good anchorage and good landing on the south side.

Wenman, officially called Wolf, was also named Núñez at one time. It has an area of only 1.3 kms2 reaching 253 m at its highest point.



The Galápagos Islands, while commonly known by this name, are officially called Archipiélago de Colón, a name given them by the Congress of Ecuador, the country to which they belong, on October 12, 1894, when the fourth centenary of Colombus’ first voyage was being celebrated.

The islands are located on the equator, spreading from almost 160 kms north of it to a little over 180 kms. to the south. There are about 950 kms. from Punta del Este (San Cristóbal) to Cabo San Lorenzo, on the coast of Ecuador. The shortest distance to Central America is 1,150 kms. from Culpepper, the northernmost island, to Punta Sal Si Puedes, Costa Rica. The land area of the islands is about 7,850 km2 of which Isabela, the largest island, takes up all of 4,600 km2.

The group may be conveniently divided into six larger and nine smaller islands, not counting a number of islets and rocks. All the six larger islands lie south of the equator, except for the northern end of Isabela, the only place where the line crosses land in the archipelago. The nine smaller islands are arid, except for Pinta, which happens to be the only one north of the equator having a moist highland area.

Galápagos sits on a submarine plateau that rests on the Nazca Tectonic Plate. There is a drop of over one thousand fathoms from this plateau to the surrounding ocean floor. The drop is greatest and most abrupt in the W and SW, there being depths of seventeen hundred fathoms as close as six to eight nautical miles off Fernandina and Isabela, the two westernmost islands. (Shumway & Chase, 1963).

The archipelago is of volcanic origin, consisting primarily of basaltic lava and tuff, with volcanic scoriae and ashes. There are also some sedimentary formations, such as the Pliocene layer of marine shells found in the Cerro Colorado area, on the NE side of Santa Cruz, and the shell sand area, about 40 feet above sea level, NE of Puerto Villamil (Isabela), believed to go back to the Pleistocene. (Dall & Ochsner, 1928). It has been suggested more recently that the Cerro Colorado deposits may be much older than previously thought, going all the way back to the upper Miocene. (Cox, 1966). Soil has formed in many parts by the decomposition of volcanic rock, pumice dust and decayed plant material, especially in the moister inland areas.

There is evidence in many parts that the islands have been rising, as can be seen from the shell deposits mentioned above, those found on Baltra, and others. Puerto Baquerizo, on the SW side of San Cristóbal, has been partly built on a limestone formation that consists of loosely cemented sea shells. Marine shells encrusted on wave worn pieces of lava are common on somewhat higher ground, behind the village.

Other evidence of rising are the tall cliffs between Iguana Cove and Point Essex, in the SW of Isabela. In some parts, on the top of these, are stones that appear to have been smoothed by wave erosion. It seems likely that the cliffs at Iguana Cove itself were also formed during the same upheaval, but evidence for this is now hidden under the soil and vegetation.

This rising is still going on, though on a smaller scale. The bottom of the old anchorage at Puerto Villamil, which was much closer to the shore than the present one, rose so much in 1905, that it became too shallow for ships to anchor there. In early 1954, part of the bottom of Urbina Bay rose so abruptly, that fish were left high and dry. Both these locations are on Isabela, an island that still shows much volcanic activity.

There are few who will still maintain that the Galápagos were ever connected to South and Central America, though the relationships of the flora and fauna have been used to support this view. The evidence we have at present points clearly to an oceanic origin for the islands, a fact that helps explain the absence of plant and animal forms that should otherwise have been present in the Galápagos.

For their latitude, the Galápagos have a moderate climate. This is mainly caused by the Humboldt Current, which deflects towards the islands from Cabo Blanco, in the NW of Perú. A smaller part of it continues up the coast of Ecuador, also deflecting eventually towards Galápagos, at Cabo Pasado, on the equator.

As it does on the mainland coast, this enormous mass of cold water affects the sea life, the climate and the landscape, creating a semiarid lowland in the archipelago, that comprises most of the insular surface. In fact, the climate of this lowland is like that met with on the Santa Elena Peninsula and in parts of the Province of Manabí, on the mainland, where the coast goes out to meet the cold currents and the mountains are some distance inland.

The influence of this cold current is strongest during the second half of the year, weakening towards December. This part of the year is called the «dry season» by English-speaking authors, because of the appearance of the lowlands. The local people call it «verano» (summer), which is also the name used for this season on the mainland coast. Both names are misleading, as it is rather wet in the highlands at this time, and the season is the coldest of the year. During this period, the SE trades dominate. The lowland vegetation remains dormant and leafless, save for a few hardy species. Even these are partly defoliated.

During much of the second half of the year, the skies remain overcast. Great masses of cloud are pushed against the mountains by the trade wind. As the clouds are forced up, they cool and can no longer hold all their moisture, releasing much of it as a drizzle. This drizzle (garúa) often falls with varying intensity during several days at a time. It is this phenomenon that makes agriculture possible on some of the larger islands.

As should be expected, the greater extent of the moist highlands is on the windward side of the islands where they are found. On this side, the moist region usually begins above an altitude of two hundred meters. The two most remarkable exceptions to this are found inland from Puerto Villamil (SSE side of Isabela) and between the middle of Iguana Cove and Point Essex (SW side of Isabela). In the former location, the moist zone begins at an altitude of one hundred and ten meters, while it reaches sea level at the latter place. On the leeward sides, the moist zone begins at considerably higher altitudes than on the windward sides and is narrower.

By December, the climate has become perceptibly warmer. The winds turn increasingly unstable as the season progresses. The doldrums, the low pressure area outside Central America, moves south. The wind direction can vary, even coming from the north. This last wind is often associated with heavy swells. Calms are frequent. The sea water also becomes warmer, for the cold current weakens, and some of its chill has been reduced by the southern summer. There is also a warm current coming in from Central America, the Corriente del Niño -- the Child’s Current. This current receives its name from the fact that it appears around Christmas.

There is a marked change in the climate. Heavy showers, often very localized, fall both on the highlands and the lowlands. While the skies are mostly clear in between, there is often a hazy horizon. The air temperature is noticeably higher than in the cool season.

The arrival of the warm season rains and their frequency for any given year are variable, but their effect on the lowlands is always dramatic. The dry zone is totally transformed wherever any vegetation can find a crevice in the lava or a patch of soil in which to grow. Annuals seem to appear overnight from the dust. The trees and bushes sprout leaves in a surprisingly short time. The lowlands are filled with the buzz of insects and the song of birds. This hectic revival of an apparently dead world is in most ways reminiscent of the feverish spring and summer of the arctic regions. This period is the «rainy season» of the English-speaking writers, and the «invierno» -- winter -- of the local people and those living on the mainland coast.

In some years the warm season may become extremely rainful. These are called «Niño years». The warm current flows then with unusual strength, moving farther south than usual. The low pressure area off Central America also moves farther south than in normal years. The most extreme case on record is the warm season of 1982-83. It rained so much then, that many arborescent cacti fell over, their roots having become rotten in the prolonged wetness of the ground. The rains continued almost halfway into the next season, and some lowland trees blossomed several times instead of once.

Don Manuel Augusto Cobos, a long time resident of San Cristóbal, whose father started a sugar plantation on that island in the 1860’s, wrote the author that he had never witnessed nor heard of such a rainy season before, though he was by then in his mid-eighties.

Unfortunately,. such rainy seasons are followed by drought, the severity of which seems to be proportional to the abundance of the previous rains. This particular «Niño year» thus brought the worst drought that is known to have hit the Galápagos. We had the opportunity to see photographs and a film taken in the normally fertile highlands of Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal. It was shocking to see how defoliated and wilted the vegetation was. Not even during the driest years we have experienced in Galápagos have we seen anything approaching this.

The increased temperature of the sea met with during the more extreme «Niño years» causes considerable damage to the sea birds and other animals that depend on the sea for their survival. Those sea birds that can migrate do so. Others, like the flightless cormorant and the penguins, lose most of their young, while the mortality among the adults is greatly increased. The same happens with the fur seals, sea lions and the marine iguanas. However, in the following years these animals recover, no doubt with the help of an increased food supply that has become available by a decrease in competition. Among land animals, especially birds, the situation is reversed. The enormous increase in insects and plant life brought about by the abundant rains provides food for increased populations. However, the following year, the inevitable drought cuts back on these increased populations by starving the young and the weaker adults.

More recent data indicate that this periodic imbalance in the climate of Galápagos and the nearer parts of the mainland coast is part of a more extensive cycle, affecting a great part of the Pacific region; but there still remains much to be learnt before the underlying causes can be fully explained. However, the importance of these cycles to evolution is obvious. The population of animals dependent on sea life build up until a «Niño year» arrives, killing off the weaker and less well adapted parts of those populations. On land, the effect is at least equally radical -- even in average «Niño years». The abundance of all sorts of life enriches the food chain, producing a population increase along it. Then, comes the inevitable drought, killing off the weaker specimens in each group.

It was into this variable world that life had to arrive and find a foothold, after the long and hazardous voyage from Central and/or South America, and even the Caribbean, before the Central American land bridge rose, in the latter part of the Tertiary, separating that sea from the Pacific. The first colonists to succeed in establishing themselves must have been marine organisms and the sea birds preying on them. The next would have been the earliest plants.

In the jet age, the distance between Galápagos and the mainland seems modest. However, many a biologist has found it an almost insurmountable barrier. But it is not, if we consider that much greater distances had to be covered by organisms that populated other oceanic islands, such as the Hawaii and the Marquesas, and other islands elsewhere in the Pacific.

Still, the distance is there, and it is very much of a problem. It must take its toll of dead plants and animals, making the process of establishment of life on the islands a very long and painful one. It also explains the voids that exist in the flora and fauna of oceanic islands, including the Galápagos. For this process is at best a hit or miss proposition. The number of spores, seeds and other propagules, plants and animals lost for each that managed to arrive must have been staggering. Then, there must have been an enormous loss of life among those that managed to come ashore at all. The successful survivors must have been few, which also explains the genetic isolation in which the majority of their descendants have lived, leading -- together with the pressures of a frequently hostile environment -- to the development of the many endemic forms that exist today.

The dangers to life forms on such a voyage are numerous. If rafting on one of the big masses of vegetation that are swept to sea by the Guayas River system, to be carried along on the ocean currents, or voyaging on a floating log, the living organisms would be exposed to the saltiness of the sea and the heat of the sun for a rather long period of time. Then, on arrival, they might reach the wrong place or the right place at the wrong time of the year. Eruptions and flowing lava must also have taken their toll. This may also have been the end of already established life forms, such as the Fernandina tortoise, which is believed to have met its extinction because of the great volcanic activity of its native island.

Another form of travel, suitable for insects and some seeds, would be in the feathers of birds. There are a number of migratory birds that visit the islands regularly. There are also many that are occasional visitors. Spores are known to travel considerable distances on air currents. This fact no doubt explains why our fern flora, which is relatively rich in species, should include so extremely few endemic forms. Obviously, these plants do not live in sufficient genetic isolation from mainland species.

The Galápagos flora and fauna are closely related to plants and animals found in the NW of South America. Many plant species are identical. This is nothing strange. The current that predominates during most of the year passes the coasts of Perú and Ecuador, and the prevailing winds also favor dispersal in the same direction. The Central American affinities are fewer, if we leave out those forms that are common to both continental areas. This is also to be expected. The Caribbean element is the smallest of the three, and is mainly found among some marine organisms. As far as the Central American element is concerned, it should be kept in mind that the Niño Current is at its strongest when the Galápagos lowlands are at their most favorable to receive any arriving life forms.

The necessarily haphazard distribution of life forms from mainland sources to the islands explains in great part the total absence of species and even whole groups of plants and animals which one could expect to find in the Galápagos, had they in any way been connected to the mainland. While reptilians are very much in evidence, amphibians are totally absent even from the moist highlands. The latter could hardly be expected to survive the long sea voyage, while the former are hardy enough to live through extreme conditions.

Like all oceanic islands, the Galápagos have a rather poor mammalian fauna -- two species of bats (Lasiurus), six species of rodents (Oryzomys and Nesoryzomys), and two species of pinnipeds (Arctocephalus australis galapagoensis and Zalophus californianus wollebaeki). Of the last two, the first, the Galápagos fur seal, has its origin in the Southern Hemisphere, while the other, the Galápagos sea lion, is closely related to populations found along the Pacific coast of North America and the Sea of Japan. (Orr, 1966).

The dispersal of life among the islands themselves does not appear to have been much easier. At least some species have been able to live in sufficient genetic isolation to develop characteristics peculiar to an island and even a locality. The opuntia cacti are a good example as far as plants are concerned. These cacti are found forming six different species that are divided into twelve forms. To make our point, we shall only mention those found on the southern and south-central islands, as they will sufficiently illustrate the situation.

The southern islands, San Cristóbal, Hood and Floreana, have the same species -- Opuntia megasperma. It occurs in three varieties -- megasperma (Floreana and adjacent islets), mesophytica (lower San Cristóbal highlands), and orientalis (San Cristóbal lowlands and Hood). The south-central islands have another species -- O. echios, with five varieties: echios ( Baltra, Daphne, Plazas and most of the Santa Cruz lowlands), gigantea (southern lowlands of Santa Cruz), barringtonensis (Barrington), inermis (SE Isabela), and zacana (N. Seymour). (Dawson, 1962; 1965; Wiggins & Porter, 1971).

One of the several examples that come to mind among the animals is that of the mockingbirds. They are found forming four different species, the most widespread being Nesomimus parvulus. Each island where this last species occurs has its own form, a total of seven having been described. (Swarth, 1931). The southern islands have one species each -- N. trifasciatus (islets near Floreana, the bird being extinct on the latter), N. macdonaldi (Hood and adjacent Gardner), and N. melanotis (San Cristóbal). (Harris, 1986).

Territorial isolation is not of course the only factor behind the formation of new species and varieties. Local conditions may vary considerably from place to place, even on the same island and in the same botanical zone. Such factors as age difference in the lava formations, available soil, exposure to prevailing winds, etc. are no doubt of importance. So is the presence of populations already established in a niche that could have been occupied by a newly arrived species. The presence of suitable insects for pollination could be critical or their absence a stimulus to adaptation, the latter in the case of a species that is both entomophilous and self pollinating. In this case, it would be likely that the plant became increasingly adapted to self-pollination. (Rick, 1966; Linsey, 1966). The pressures stimulating adaptation and change are many.

One can be tempted to think that those groups showing the greatest adaptive radiation would be the earliest to have arrived to the islands. Here, the Galápagos finches come to mind. These have divided, in the Galápagos, into five genera with thirteen species. (Bowman, 1961). It appears that the finches moved gradually into several unoccupied niches, adapting to various feeding habits and thus becoming increasingly specialized. However, most of these birds are not over-specialized, and will eat a variety of foods, which may suggest that their adaptation is still going on. None is strictly vegetarian or strictly insectivorous. The most specialized of them is Certhidea olivacea, the warbler finch, which both in structure and habit is basically insectivorous, though it may feed on pollen sacs (Bowman, 1961), and young leaves and nectar (Lack, 1945).

Genetic evidence indicates that the Galápagos finches could have begun to diverge from their ancestral stock in a matter of less than one million years. On the other hand, the Galápagos iguanas, which have only divided into two genera -- Conolophus, with two species, and Amblyrhynchus with only one -- seem to have separated some fifteen to twenty million years ago. (Carson, H.L., 1992).

The differences between the two genera of iguanas are considerably greater than those between the various genera of finches. The land iguana (Conolophus) has remained in a terrestrial habitat like its mainland relatives, but under far harsher conditions. The marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) has however undergone great adaptations. It is a good diver, remaining under water for long periods, while feeding on algae, its main food. Marine iguanas also eat carrion, such as dead fish that has been washed up by the tide.

That the Galápagos iguanas must have needed a much longer period to develop than the supposed age of the islands has created a problem to biologists. There is always the possibility that these reptiles descend from two different mainland species -- of which we have no evidence, fossil or otherwise -- or that they developed on islands older than the Galápagos. This latter possibility has received some support by the discovery of several sea mounts east of the Galápagos Islands. There is evidence suggesting that these are drowned islands, for these sea mounts have features that suggest wave-cut terraces, and stones recovered from them show signs of wave erosion -- both characteristics that could not have developed under the sea. (Christie et al., 1992).

However,. the real age of the Galápagos is still a matter of speculation. We have already mentioned that the supposed Pliocene age of the Cerro Colorado sediments may be an underestimate of their true age. We must also point out that young and old volcanic formations exist side by side even on such young islands as Isabela, where the tuffaceous formations at Tags Cove are overlapped by fairly recent lava, the hills being about all that can now be seen of them. In fact, all the tuffaceous formations we have seen here and elsewhere in the Galapagos are overlapped by younger lava formations. San Cristóbal, supposed to be one of the oldest islands, seems to have originated during two different periods of volcanic activity. The SW side, which is the highest, looks considerably older than the rest of the island, where rather bare and jagged lava fields are common. What may be buried under the various formations we do not know.



The differences caused on the climate by the altitude have been mentioned earlier. Here, we shall look a little closer at the latitudinal zones that result from this. Many early visitors have remarked on the great contrast between the dry lowlands and the moist highlands, especially during the cooler part of the year, when their differences are greatest. However, it was the botanist of the California Academy of Sciences 1905-06 Expedition, Dr. Albania Steward, who divided and named the Galapagos botanical zones. (Steward, 1911; 1915). We consider that his divisions are still valid, though some recent authors have changed some of the names, neglecting to give any evidence for the need to do so.

THE SHORELINE. The ocean water surrounding the Galapagos Islands has a rich marine life, which has provided the basis for a large sea bird population and, in the past, an abundance of sea lions and fur seals. The commercial value of the Galapagos fisheries has also been great when it comes to pelagic species like the Thuds. Their value when it comes to the more sedentary species, which are exploited by the settlers, has on the other hand been greatly exaggerated.

The shore region, which provides nesting places for most of the sea birds and gives them a place to rest, as it does to the sea lions and the seals, is a very variable environment, offering different conditions that often attract different species. Recent botanists have named this the «Littoral Zone». The word «zone» is however misleading, if we consider the absolute lack of continuity and the variable character of the shoreline. Some years ago, before it was recognized with a name of its own, we reluctantly called it «the shore region». (Lundh, 1959; 1965). Dr. Alban Stewart seems to have found the shoreline too unimportant to deserve being called a botanical zone. Though he collected there, he does not mention it as a separate botanical area.

Cliffs are numerous in the Galapagos. Quite often, they are too high or are found in sheltered places of the coast. In both cases, the sea spray will not reach their upper parts, and such cliffs will only show a typical dry zone vegetation on their tops, except at Iguana Cove, where the vegetation is more medic. In such cases, at least botanical, the «littoral zone» would not exist. However, there are also other cliffs, lower and more exposed, which have the seas breaking heavily against their foot and the breeze carrying up much of the spray. This is the case of the southern Plaza Island, which has cliffs on its windward side. Here, the vegetation is halophytic on the ledges and even on the top. The plants found here and in similar locations consist of only a few species of small size -- creepers like Sesuvium portulacastrum and its reddish endemic relative S. edmonstonei, both locally known as «monte salado» (salty weed) -- strand pigweed. These frequently grow associated with a coarse grass (Sporobolus virginicus ).

The Galápagos cliffs provide refuge and nesting sites to a number of sea birds, like boobies (Sula sps.), the beautiful endemic swallow-tailed gull (Creagrus furcatus), and the red-billed tropic bird (Phaëthon aethereus). The Galápagos martin (Progne modesta) is also found nesting in holes on cliffs. Another bird that likes to nest on sea cliffs is the Madeira storm petrel (Oceanodroma castro).

The low parts of the coast, whether beaches or rocky shores, make up a different habitat. The vegetation here is slightly richer in species. Here are generally found, especially above sand beaches, a thick carpet of Sesuvium and/or Sporobolus grass, as well as dense, light green thickets of a woody vine (Cryptocarpus pyriformis), frequently associated with stunted bushes of manchineel (Hippomane mancinella). White mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa) is also common in the form of bushes or small trees, usually prostrate. There is also a small tree (Maytenus octogona) present, forming little groups or standing isolated among the other vegetation. A little farther in, these plants are joined by shrubs of a buckthorn (Scutia pauciflora), often hidden in the thickets, where its innumerable long, rigid spines provide an unpleasant surprise to the unwary.

The low trees in such coastal stretches, wherever there is some shelter from the wind, often support the nests of brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) and boobies. These low coastal areas are frequented by the migratory shore birds that visit Galápagos, fleeing the cold of the northern winter -- Franklin’s gulls (Larus pipixcan), the wandering tattler (Heterosclerus incanus), and the ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpes), to name a few.

Other birds of the low coastal areas, especially those that are less exposed, are the herons, which wander about, usually solitary, from place to place, in search of prey -- the yellow-crested night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) which also hunts in the daytime, the small endemic Galápagos heron (Butorides sundevalli), and the great blue heron (Ardea herodias).

In many parts, at high tide, the black rocks are decorated with the bright orange red of the Sally Lightfoot crabs (Grapsus grapsus) or «zayapas», once so abundant even near some of the inhabited places. When the tide is in, the marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) will be warming themselves in the sun, after their long diving expeditions in search of seaweeds, looking like small dragons of weathered bronze.

The sea lions (Zalophus californianus wollebaeki) form their colonies on this type of coast, especially where sand beaches occur. The Galápagos fur seal

(Arctocephalus australis galapagoensis) prefers more exposed locations, where it lives in small groups. Another inhabitant of these shores is the lava gull (Larus fuliginosa), found solitary or in groups, mostly inside bays and on beaches. This noisy endemic scavenger is quite numerous on the sandy flat land of Puerto Villamil (Isabela), where it wanders among the houses, competing for food with the dogs and chickens. Unlike its relative the swallow-tailed gull, which feeds by night, over the sea, the lava gull stays away from exposed cliffs.

Two remarkable sea birds should be mentioned. Both of these live in the western parts of the archipelago. They are the flightless cormorant (Nannopterum harrisi) and the Galápagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus). Both have lost their ability to fly, but the former still has atrophied wings with feathers, too small for the bird’s size. The penguin’s wings have been modified into flippers. The Galápagos penguin is the only species of its kind found north of the equator, its habitat extending to northern Isabela.

In the few places where sand dunes occur above the beaches, these offer few forms of animal life, except for some insects and arachnids, a few lizards and snakes. The vegetation is usually scattered, with occasional bushes of Cacabus miersii, a species of morning glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae) -- sometimes up to ten meters long -- and, close to the high tide limit, a low shrub (Scaevola plumieri). There are a few species of dry region plants too -- small herbaceous plants with some resistance to salt spray, which also grow above beaches elsewhere.

It is usual to find a belt of mesquite (Prosopis juliflora) behind such dunes. This species is known in Ecuador as «algarrobo». Where brackish water is present, these stretches between the dunes and the dry region have associations of manchineel with Cryptocarpus, a small evergreen bush (Alternanthera echinocephala) and the taller Tournefortia rufo-sericea .

The most striking parts of the insular coasts are those supporting mangroves, because of the dramatic contrast these provide to the dry lowlands next to them and behind them. Such places are often associated with briny ponds and small salt marshes, two formations that are sometimes met with behind beaches and mangroves. The typical Galápagos mangrove formation consist of an outer fringe of red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), which begins halfway up the foreshore and is supported above the high tide by numerous prop roots. When the tide is in, this part of the mangrove formation looks like a great mass of floating vegetation of a glossy green color. Behind this fringe and along the shore itself grows the white mangrove (Laguncularia racemosa) with an equally dense foliage of a duller and darker green.

Where there are salt flats and marshes on the inland side of this vegetation, one is likely to find individual trees or small groups of the taller black mangrove (Avicennia germinans), with its numerous pneumatophores sticking up from the surrounding muddy ground.

Along the shores of salt ponds and marshes, where these are found behind the mangroves, there are frequently extensive low masses of a succulent shrub (Batis maritima). Near such places, a little farther in, appear the first Jerusalem thorns (Parkinsonia aculeata), with their few long and slender branches. This tree is also found scattered throughout the lower reaches of the dry zone. In this same salty-dry area thrive small groups of Maytenus octogona, tangled masses of the spiny Scutia and dense thickets of Cryptocarpus. In the low areas behind Puerto Villamil, where pools of brackish water are common, there is also an abundance of sedges.

The Galápagos mangroves attain their greatest extent on both sides of the Perry Isthmus, at Cartago Bay and Elizabeth Bay, on Isabela. However, the largest area of marshes, brackish pools and salt lagoons is that extending from Puerto Villamil as far west as the vicinity of Cape Rose, along the south coast of the same island. There is a fairly large area of mangroves on the north coast of Santa Cruz, at the head of Bahía Baquedano, better known as Turtle Cove, a name that was given to it by the personnel of the American base on nearby Baltra. This is not to be confused with Tortuga Bay, a lagoon to the west of Puerto Ayora (Academy Bay), on the other side of the island.

The marshes and ponds are the favorite haunt of birds like the white-cheeked pintail (Anas bahamensis), the moorhen (Gallinula chloropus), and certain waders like the whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus). The different herons, already mentioned, are also common in such places. Where the salt water is briny and shallow, the pink flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber) is found. It is nowhere numerous, despite the fact that it nests in the islands.

It is in such areas that one can find some of the Galápagos land birds, such as the yellow warbler (Dendroica petechia), the mocking bird (Nesomimus sps.), and some of the Galápagos finches, like the small ground finch (Geospiza fuliginosa). These birds are attracted by the insects in such places, which offer an abundance of tiny flies, gnats, mosquitoes and gadflies.

While the coastal wetlands and mangroves of the Galápagos provide such a dramatic contrast to the dry region immediately inland from them, especially in the cool season or in such desolately barren areas as the Perry Isthmus, their extent is very modest when compared to the true mangrove swamps of the mainland, like those straddling the border between Ecuador and Colombia, where the innumerable mud

mud bars and miry islands, held together by the roots of the red mangroves, extend mile upon mile, forming a maze of tidal creeks and channels that are the delight of smugglers and the despair of customs officials on both sides of the border.

THE DRY ZONE. Along the shore, we have found plants that are mostly identical to mainland species of the corresponding habitats there. The dry lowlands also have a considerable share of mainland plant species, though the endemics are more numerous here than along the shore itself. The climate is like that of the Santa Elena Peninsula, on the mainland. The most conspicuous tree of this region, the palosanto (Bursera graveolens) is also found on the mainland, as are the porotillo or caco (Erythrina velutina), the algarrobo (Prosopis juliflora), the aromo or faique (Acacia macracantha), the espino (Scutia pauciflora), the «arrayán» (Maytenus octogona), and many others, large and small.

To the uninterested layman, the two landscapes will look very much alike, except for the soil , which on the mainland is of sedimentary origin, while that of the islands is volcanic and largely rocky. Also, the underbrush will seem denser in most parts of the mainland, with the trees and the bushes growing closer together.

To the naturalist, professional or amateur, there are more differences. The species that are so conspicuous in Galápagos form on the mainland an almost insignificant part of the whole, being nearly lost in the wealth of other species, most of which are totally absent from the Galápagos. It is here that one feels strongly that there can never have been a land connection between the islands and the mainland; that the Galápagos must have received their flora in a haphazard and most incomplete manner. There is far too much missing from the insular flora, even if we allow for the differences in soil composition that could have been detrimental to some species.

The palosanto, such an important component of the Galápagos lowland forest, is here only one of many trees, as are the porotillo, the matasarno (Piscidia carthagenensis) and the rest. On the other hand, while the cacti are conspicuous in many places, they are not the same, the Galápagos cacti being all endemic to the islands and of different appearance. However, they are more closely related to certain mainland species than is apparent. Jasminocereus, a large arborescent island cactus, is close to Monvillea maritima, a slender mainland species. The short, clustered Brachycereus nesioticus of Galápagos is close to the large Armatocereus cartwrightianus, a candelabrum-like arborescent giant. (Dawson, 1966).

After seeing the mangroves, the dry lowlands, which make up most of the territory of the Galápagos, may appear like a rather lifeless country. The bare trees, the rocks, and the dry, dusty soil -- in those few places where there is any -- give little promise of life, except after the rains of the warm season, and then but for a short period.

However, life is there in abundance, and all of it is not dormant, like the leafless trees and the seeds that rest patiently in the ground, among the rocks, waiting for the first rains. Much of the insect life survives the dry months in the form of eggs and pupae, but there is still enough of it around to provide food for the lava lizards (Tropidurus sps.) and the geckoes (Phyllodactylus sps.), which in turn serve to feed the Galápagos snakes (Dromicus sps.). Nor do the mockingbirds suffer want, nor the yellow warblers (Dendroica petechia). The occasional large-billed flycatcher (Myiarchus magnirostris ), which prefers the highlands, also finds suitable prey here.

Finches are always numerous in the arid lowlands. There are small ground finches (Geospiza fuliginosa), medium ones (G. fortis), large cactus finches (G. conirostris), and woodpecker finches (Camarhynchus pallidus). This last species uses twigs and spines to pull grubs and other prey from dead wood, when its beak proves insufficient for the task.

The dry region is also the home of the cute little Galápagos dove (Zenaïda galapagoensis), which is now reduced to the uninhabited parts of the archipelago, its tameness -- so typical of nearly all Galápagos species -- having made it an easy prey for man and cat.

But native predators also exist. There is the Galápagos hawk (Buteo galapagoensis), and the short-eared owl (Asio flammeus). Both these feed on smaller sea birds, rats, mice, centipedes and snakes, as well as on land birds.

One cannot leave this zone behind without mentioning the land iguana (Conolophus subcristatus), one of the hardiest dry zone inhabitants, which has disappeared from or been greatly reduced in numbers within its former extensive habitat. On Fernandina, the westernmost of the Galápagos, this reptile migrates from all over the island towards the rim of the main crater to lay its eggs, probably because this is the only place with enough soil for it to dig its burrows.

The dismal gray of the lowland vegetation gives an impression of sameness, which in turn makes many think that there are but few plant species in this region. As we have seen above, when compared to similar regions on the mainland, this is so, but there is more to this region than meets the eye of the superficial observer.

The cacti form a striking feature in many places, though nowhere to the degree as do the opuntia trees that are such an important part of the lowland forests of southern Santa Cruz. This cactus (Opuntia echios var. gigantea) is by far the tallest cactus in the Galápagos, often reaching heights of ten to twelve meters.

The candelabrum-like Jasminocereus thouarsii, of which there are several varieties, while remarkable, is much less abundant than the above, as it is reduced mostly to rocky outcroppings, cliff edges and more or less bare lava fields. It seems to be very sensitive to the shade produced by other large vegetation, but not to such an extent as Brachycereus nesioticus. This very low, exceedingly spiny species, found only on the most barren lava fields, thrives only where nothing else will grow.

On most islands, the dominant tree in the lowlands is the palosanto (Bursera graveolens), with its short, grayish trunk and wide, spreading crown of flexible branches. It is often found in association with the porotillo (Erythrina velutina) and matasarno (Piscidia carthagenensis), on the islands where these occur.

Small trees, often reaching the size of mere bushes, are also found scattered throughout the lowlands -- the Jerusalem thorn (Parkinsonia aculeata), the muyuyo (Cordia lutea), the manchineel (Hippomane mancinella), the aromo (Acacia macracantha), the algarrobo (Prosopis juliflora), and Castela galapageia. Small bushes of Alternanthera echinocephala are also common, as is the more abundant chala (Croton scouleri), this latter often forming a very important part of the vegetation.

Thickets of buckthorn (Scutia pauciflora) and of algarrobo are frequently met with, especially at the bottom of canyons. Small groups or isolated trees of the so-called «arrayán» (Maytenus octogona) give a rare touch of greenery here and there.

As one ascends towards the interior, changes take place, most of them imperceptible at first. Such trees as the Jerusalem thorn and Jasminocereus are left behind in the lower parts of the dry zone, while the snakes and the lava lizards will rarely be seen in the upper reaches of the dry lowlands. The only reptiles that are still seen here are geckoes and the occasional land iguana, where these latter still survive. Towards the upper parts of this zone, the first few hardy ferns make their appearance, announcing by their presence that one will soon enter the transition zone.

Though some of it may give that impression, the dry zone is not homogenous. There are open areas of dry soil, which support grasses and other annuals after the first warm season rains, there are desolate lava fields with little or no vegetation, there are areas where Croton scouleri is dominant. There are variations in conditions due to soil, exposure and/or terrain. An example of this last is the area in the north of James Bay, on Santiago, where the steepness of the mountain seems to favor the condensation of moisture at a lower altitude than is usual, though to a lesser degree than is the case at Iguana Cove (SW Isabela). There may also be places where ground water exists, which would explain the presence of well developed pegapega trees (Pisonia floribunda) behind Sugar Loaf Mountain, in James Bay, and in some parts inland from the shore, at Puerto Ayora (Academy Bay), though these trees belong more in the transition and the moist zone.

THE TRANSITION ZONE. Quite often this has been described as a zone where the vegetation of the lowlands mixes with that of the moist highlands, the latter becoming increasingly dominant as one ascends. This is largely true, though this region has its own characteristic flora that makes it unique. The lichen flora is at least as abundant here as lower down. In places, a pendent lichen (Ramalina usnea) hangs in such abundance from the branches of trees and bushes, that it lends its grayish green color to the whole landscape. Farther into this zone, the lichen flora is partially displaced by liverworts and mosses. Another plant that is characteristic of this altitude is Croton scouleri var. brevifolius.

About midway into the transition region, the opuntia cactus has disappeared, after having become rapidly smaller and more scattered, except on San Cristóbal, where Opuntia megasperma var. mesophytica appears at this altitude and continues into the lower reaches of the moist zone. This cactus is now very rare.

A small tree, Croton scouleri var. grandifolius becomes increasingly common. Thickets of rodilla de caballo (horse’s knee), Clerodendrum molle, which is found scattered lower down, become very common. The Maytenus trees and the manchineel are still with us, but will become scarcer and finally disappear as the forest changes higher up. The palosanto has been replaced by pegapega (Pisonia floribunda), uñagato (Zanthoxylum fagara), guayabillo (Psidium galapageium), and, as one approaches the moist zone, the tall lechoso tree (Scalesia pedunculata). This last species may reach a height of around twenty meters.

The lechoso makes it first appearance as a small tree, then rapidly increases in height, forming extensive forests in the upper parts of the islands where it occurs. Other Scalesiae are found in the dry lowlands, even down by the shore, but these lowland species are usually small, stunted bushes, though they usually resemble in some ways their relative in the moist highlands.

THE MOIST ZONE. As one ascends farther up, there is increasingly more soil, and more of the vegetation remains green throughout the year. Liverworts, mosses, ferns and, farther up, species of Peperomia and club mosses become abundant -- on the ground, on the rocks and on the branches of trees. A tank orchid (Tillandsia insularis), which is also found in the transition zone, becomes increasingly abundant, growing mostly as an epiphyte.

The abundant undergrowth, consisting of bushes such as Psychotria rufipes, Chiococca alba, Darwiniothamnus tenuifolius, and a number of other bushes as well as vines -- of these last, several morning glories (Ipomoea sps.) and Cissampelos pareira -- increase in density.

The difference between the upper transition zone and the lower moist is more one of degree of luxuriance than in a difference in species. The plant life is much the same, but the trees are larger, the undergrowth denser, and the herbaceous flora and the epiphytes more abundant in the latter region.

In the moist zone there are also open areas with a dense herbaceous vegetation or brakes of different species of ferns. The latter become more common in the upper parts of the forests, where the most conspicuous fern is the rather large Pteridium aquilinum var. arachnoideum, a bracken, which also forms brakes in the more sheltered parts above the tree line.

Recent authors have preferred the name «Scalesia Zone» to Stewart’s «Moist Region». The former name is misleading. The forests of the moist region vary from place to place, and while it is true that the lechoso may be dominant and even form almost pure stands in many parts, we have also seen extensive areas where the guayabillo tree was dominant, with little or no lechoso present. Such areas were considered by the early Norwegian settlers on Santa Cruz to have a soil that was shallower and of inferior quality as compared to that of the lechoso forests. In other areas, there were mixed forests, consisting of guayabillo, pegapega, uñagato and some lechoso.

However, the impression one receives in the highlands today, as compared to what was experienced before and shortly after the war, is quite different. We have all been inclined to use the south side of Santa Cruz as a model, since the botanical regions are there more clearly defined than elsewhere in the islands; but increased colonization has changed the landscape in most parts of the highlands. The western part of the moist region, where extensive guayabillo stands existed until the early 1950’s, has since become farmland, and most of the highland forests have been cut down to plant pasture. Going even farther back in time, there used to be extensive guayabillo areas just above present day Bellavista, while the flat lands around the latter were covered mostly by lechoso forest. Ascending above the guayabillo forest, there was an area where the pegapega trees were dominant, forming a conspicuous area in the middle of an otherwise mixed forest.

At higher altitudes, the trees tend to become smaller, the lechoso trees have become scarce or disappear altogether. Here, brown festoons of hepatics (Frullania sp.) hang from the branches of the trees and the undergrowth in such abundance, that Williams (1911) called it the «brown zone», a term that Bowman (1961) found appropriate. The open spaces with ferns and other herbaceous vegetation are met with more frequently, until one reaches a belt of shrubs, ferns and other low vegetation, marking the end of the forested region. Here, there are very stunted uñagatos, mixed with bushes of Darwiniothamnus, Tournefortia, and a few other species which like these were already a part of the «brown zone».

THE MICONIA BELT. On San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz there is a tall bush that grows only in this transition belt that has been described above, which separates the highland forests from the grasslands. This strikingly beautiful species, the cacaotillo (Miconia robinsoniana) rises above the stunted bushes and the dense fern growth. Because of its presence, this transition belt has been named by some authors the «Miconia Zone», though the term can only be rightly applied on the two mentioned islands. While this transition belt exists on Pinta, Isabela and Santiago, cacaotillo is not known to grow on these three islands.

THE GRASSLANDS. Above this low belt of vegetation extends, on the islands where it is found, a region of more or less open grasslands, the «pampas» of the local people, with an abundance of sedges and ferns in most parts. In sheltered places like the lee side of hills, the beds of intermittent water courses, and depressions, ferns and stunted bushes form impenetrable thickets, covered with an abundance of mosses and hepatics. In many places, one meets with the Galápagos tree fern (Cyathea weatherbyana), which can be quite abundant in places. Occasionally, there are also large areas covered with mosses.

Bowman has called this area the «upland region» (Bowman, 1961), a name that is more accurate than Stewart’s «grasslands» and the «fern-sedge zone» of some recent authors. Bowman’s is the only name that can be used without reservations for all the higher islands, whether they have open grasslands or not.

The grasslands are quite extensive in the southern highlands of Isabela, and well developed both on San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz. On Santiago and Pinta, the uppermost parts are covered by ferns and shrubs, while the highest volcano on Floreana has only a tiny grassy area on its summit, which gave origin to its Spanish name of «Cerro de la Paja» (Hill of Straw).

THE HIGHLAND FAUNA. As one ascends into the moister parts, the animal life also changes. As we have seen, snakes and lava lizards are limited to the lower parts, the land iguanas prefer the dry zone, and the mockingbird, while found well into the moist region, is noticeably scarcer there than on the coast. On the other hand, the dark-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus melacoryphus), locally called «inviernero», becomes increasingly common as altitude is gained.

The vermilion flycatcher or «brujo» (Pyrocephalus rubinus) and the large-billed one (Myiarchus magnirostris) increase in numbers with the altitude. The Galápagos martin (Progne modesta) is another bird that seems to prefer the highlands. Barn owls (Tyto alba) are also found, and the Galápagos rail (Laterallus spilonotus) is common. It is in the highlands that the dark-rumped or Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma phaeopygia), the «patapegada», digs its nesting burrows.

Several species of finches are more or less common, some of them living also in the lowlands. Of those that seem to prefer the moist region, we can name the large tree finch (Camarhynchus psittacula) and the warbler finch (Certhidea olivacea).

On islands that have a moist zone, the giant tortoises (Geochelone elephantopus) spend much of the year in the highlands, where there is plenty of food and numerous mud holes to wallow in, as well as pools of rain water. On such islands, there is a seasonal migration, when the great chelonians move towards the dry lowlands to lay their eggs. Ideally, at that time of the year, the warm season rains have brought to life an abundance of green vegetation and filled up the many places where rain water pools can be formed. However, these animals, with their considerable fat reserves and their water-filled bladders and pericardia, can survive for an incredibly long time, should a drought set in before they can return to the highlands.

The fauna of the open grasslands is poorer than that of the areas below it, but whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus), white-cheeked pintails (Anas bahamensis), and occasional moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) can be met with here, especially near rain water pools and on marshy ground. Rails and martins are also common, and, in dry weather, so are ground finches, both the small and the medium one.

And into this world of islands with misty mountains and forbidding rocky lowlands, man arrived. First, as an unwilling visitor, brought there by the currents; later,. as an exploiter of one or more of the very few resources the islands had to offer. These visits would increase after a few centuries had passed, leading finally to the rape of Galápagos.



We shall never know who discovered the Galápagos Islands. The identity of this human being, the first man to set foot on their shore, will forever remain a secret, lost in the mists of the distant past. There is no evidence of prehistoric settlements on the islands, but there are enough remains of camping sites that were used for limited sojourns. Though the very first visitors undoubtedly found this land beyond the sunset by accident, carried there by the currents, much of the archeological evidence indicates that many or most of the visitors must have had some knowledge of local conditions and that they had come for some specific purpose.

Quite often, the discovery of the Galápagos is attributed to the Inca Túpac Yupanqui, which is absurd, since the tradition this is based on specifically states that the great Inca heard about the islands from people who had been there before he set out on his voyage of supposed discovery. The tradition also disagrees in most of its details with those who claim that the Peruvian ruler traveled to these islands. If he ever stopped there at all, it must have been on his way to some other place, far beyond, as the trophies he brought back could never have come from the Galápagos. The two sources of the story about Tupac Yupanqui’s voyage are the Spaniards don Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa and Father Miguel Cabello de Balboa, both serious and reliable scholars. Their versions can be said to complement and confirm each other. Below, we translate Sarmiento’s version, from his Historia de los Incas:

«And as Topa Yupanqui went conquering the coast of Manabí, and the Island of Puná, and Túmbez, there arrived some merchants who had come by sea from the west on rafts, navigating by sail. From these he informed himself of the countries from which they had come, which were some islands, the one called Avachumbi and the other Ninachumbi, where there were many people and much gold. And as Topa Inga was lofty of spirit and thought, and was not content with what he had conquered on land, he decided to attempt this happy adventure across the sea. But he did not readily believe the seamen merchants, for he said: ‘The Capacs (lords) should not trust merchants, for they are people who talk much.’ And to get more information, and as this was a matter on which he could not inform himself anywhere, he called to him a man whom he had taken with him during the conquest, called Antarqui, who all claimed was a great necromancer, so great that he even could fly through the air. Him Topa Inga asked if what the seamen merchants told about the islands was true. Antarqui replied, after thinking it well over, that what they said was indeed true, and that he would go there first. And, so they say, he went there with the aid of his arts, found the way, and saw the islands, the people and their wealth, and returning confirmed everything to Topa Inga.

«He, with this assurance, decided to go there. And for this, he had a most numerous quantity of rafts built, on which he embarked more than twenty thousand chosen soldiers. And he took with him as captains Guamán Achachi, Cunti Yupanqui, Quigual Topa, (all Hanancuzcos -- i.e. from the upper part of Cuzco), and Yancan Mayta, Quizo Mayta, Cachimapaca Macus Yupangui, Llimpita Usca Mayta (all Hurincuzcos -- i. e. from the lower part of Cuzco); and he took with him as general for the whole armada his brother Tilca Yupanqui, and left Apo Yupangui with those who remained ashore.

«Topa Inga sailed, and he went and discovered the islands Avachumbi and Ninachumbi, and returned from there, from where he brought with him black people and much gold and a chair of brass and a hide and the jaws of a horse, these trophies being placed in the fortress of Cuzco until the time of the Spaniards. This skin and jaw of a horse were kept by one of the main Incas, who lives today, and told this, and when the others gave witness was also present, and he is called Urco Guaranga. I stress this for it may seem a strange case and one hard to believe for those who have some knowledge of the Indies. Topa Inga used more than nine months on this voyage, others claiming that it took a year, and since he took so much time, everybody believed him to be dead, but to cover up and pretend that he had news from Topa Inga, Apo Yupangui, his captain of the people who were ashore, acted as if he were happy, though this was later twisted, it being said that he rejoiced because he was pleased that Topa Inga Yupanqui did not appear, and this cost him his life.»

Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa had traveled extensively in Spanish America before writing his history, and was thoroughly familiar with the region. He also made good use of the available sources -- the nobles and wise men of the Inca’s court, many of whom were still alive and were versed in their people’s oral traditions. For the sake of accuracy, he went so far that, once finished, he had his manuscript read by an interpreter before an assembly of more than forty prominent Incas, chosen from the twelve Ayllus (clans) of Cuzco, so that they could testify to its veracity and remark on what should be added or changed.

Sarmiento’s contemporary, Cabello de Balboa, was an equally careful scholar, who also made use of the Amautas -- the wise men -- who were the best sources for this kind of information. The slight differences between the two versions may be explained by the fact that Sarmiento collected all his information in Cuzco, the old imperial capital and seat of the deposed Inca Huáscar. Cabello de Balboa, on the other hand, lived many years in Quito, and may have obtained much of his material from the Amautas who had belonged to the rival Inca Atahualpa’s court. The latter was Huáscar’s half brother, who had defeated the forces loyal to him, during the violent and long civil war that broke out after the death of Huayna Cápac, their father.

Cabello de Balboa provides some details that are not mentioned by Sarmiento, telling among other things about how TúpacYupanqui divided his forces, having them camp at Manta, «Charapoco» (Charapotó) and «Piquara» (Picoazá). This was most likely to avoid straining too much the resources of the local chiefs, who had to feed them. One may get the impression from Sarmiento’s version that the Inca followed the coast up to Manta, but Cabello tells how the great ruler came out to the coast of Manabí (where Manta is located) and, seeing the ocean for the first time, fell on his knees, worshipping it, and calling it Mamacocha, mother of lakes. (Cabello, in Larrea, 1960).

However, this does in no way contradict Sarmiento’s version. All depends on the route followed by the Peruvian armies. Túmbez was, at the time of the Incas, inside the shallow bay where Puerto Pizarro is today. When following the shore towards the Gulf of Guayaquil, one does not get a full view of the ocean until before reaching the SW and W coasts of Puná Island. However, if navigating the inner waters of the gulf, the Inca would have missed seeing the Pacific in all its greatness. Apparently, he followed this route, then marched overland into Manabí, coming out to the sea somewhere south of Manta. Here, he could not have avoided seeing the Pacific Ocean in all its overwhelming size, extending beyond the distant horizon.

So far the tradition. If we eliminate such obviously impossible details as Antarqui’s aerial scouting expedition to the lands across the sea, and the presence of a hide and a jaw of a horse is explained -- some authors assume these were the remains of some unfortunate sea lion, an animal the highland Incas would have been unfamiliar with -- we are still left with a few highly embarrassing facts. Túpac Yupanqui also brought back some black people, gold and a chair of brass (or copper, as Cabello de Balboa has it). None of these could possibly have come from the uninhabited and volcanic Galápagos Islands.

Then, Túpac Yupanqui’s visit to the Galápagos is based on rather weak evidence. One is the erroneous belief that the rafts used by the Indians were completely unsuitable for ocean travel, and that even having them reach the Galápagos was stretching things a bit too far. This fallacy completely ignores the reports left us by early travelers who visited the western coat of South America, and others who came after them. In fact, rafts were still plying the coast of Ecuador as late as the turn of the century, and were considered so safe and seaworthy, that the prosperous Spanish merchants of colonial Guayaquil preferred them to their own country’s sailing vessels when they went to Manta on holidays with their families. (Loor, 1956).

Even if we allow for the fact that few modern people bother to read old travel books, it is hard to understand how they can ignore the evidence provided by Thor Heyerdahl’s epic voyage on the «Kon-Tikki» and the several rafts that have crossed the Pacific since. Heyerdahl also carried out some experiments with a sailing raft in the Gulf of Guayaquil, rediscovering the long lost secret of the «guaras», those centerboard-like pieces of planking that can be manipulated into various positions so as to keep the raft on a given course, and even make it tack and sail into the wind. (Heyerdahl, 1955; Estrada, 1955).

The second argument for Túpac Yupanqui’s visit to the Galápagos is that, since one of the islands he went to was called Ninachumbi, Island of Fire, he must have reached some volcanic island while an eruption was going on. The only islands with active volcanoes close enough to the South American mainland are the Galápagos. That is close enough for the «limited» range of the rafts. It has been very hard to explain how he could have reached an island with recent volcanic activity, visited a second island, and not discovered more than two islands.

As for the black people, the gold and the copper chair, these are either conveniently ignored or neatly disposed of as «later elaborations». This is indeed hard to accept. People like the Incas, who had no written records, had to rely on oral traditions. Among such people, oral traditions are shown a deep respect. While it is also true that the Incas systematically destroyed and/or modified the oral traditions of conquered nations, to make themselves appear as the bringers of civilization and order, we must remember that we are here dealing with one of their own rulers. The voyage was an impressive feat in itself, though the twenty thousand men who accompanied the Inca may seem like an exaggeration. Furthermore, Túpac Yupanqui was not far removed in time from the Amautas who told the Spaniards about his voyage. The oldest among them may even have known him personally, for he was the paternal grandfather of Huáscar and Atahualpa, the two last ruling Incas before the Spanish conquest.

Obviously, we must look farther afield for these mysterious islands in the west. The seaworthiness and efficiency of the balsa rafts provide us with most of the Pacific Ocean for our search. The time it took Túpac Yupanqui to return from his voyage is also ample enough for him to have sailed almost anywhere in that vast ocean. Had he only gone as far as the Galápagos, a couple of months would have been more than enough for his round trip.

Heyerdahl (1978) tells about a Mangarevan tradition that describes the arrival from the east of a great chief, who came with a numerous following. He was a «red man» by the name of Tupa. He arrived to Mangareva by the southeastern passage in the reef, which has since been known as Te-Ava-nui-o-Tupa -- Tupa’s Great Channel. This great chief landed on an islet called Kava. As Heyerdahl points out, both Ava and Kava could have given rise to the name «Avachumbi». Another interesting detail in this story is that early European visitors have remarked on the mixed character of the Mangarevan population, many of the inhabitants being as dark as Melanesians. This skin color would naturally have seemed most unusual to the South Americans of that time.

As for Ninachumbi, Heyerdahl (1978) suggests that Easter Island could have qualified for the name. He quotes early European explorers of the Pacific, who have mentioned the custom the Easter Islanders had of lighting fires along the shores of their island whenever a ship appeared in its vicinity. However, the gold and the copper chair cannot have come from Mangareva. There is the possibility that these were obtained in Mexico or Central America.

In 1953, Thor Heyerdahl came to the Galápagos accompanied by two expert archeologists, Arne Skjølsvold of Oslo University and Dr. Erik K. Reed of the U.S. National Park Service in Santa Fé, New Mexico. The fact that Thor Heyerdahl did not believe in Túpac Yupanqui’s visit to Galápagos did not mean that he had discarded the possibility of pre-Columbian visitors to the islands.

While the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition, as it was called, did not make an exhaustive study of the Galápagos, the members managed to find the remains of 131 indigenous earthenware vessels, collected from the several sites that were examined -- James Bay and Buccaneer Cove (Santiago), Puerto de las Chacras (Santa Cruz), and Black Beach (Floreana). About a year later, the Walt Disney Galápagos Expedition found another archeological site at Cerro Colorado (Santa Cruz), which was not investigated. Three large sherds were however sent to Thor Heyerdahl. These turned out to be of Ecuadorian origin. (Heyerdahl & Skjølsvold, 1956).

The area that produced the greatest amount of indigenous sherds was James Bay, where four locations were found, representing at least eight distinct campsites. On the basis of the greater part of this material, the conclusion was reached that the sites correspond to the Coastal Tiahuanaco (Tomaval) period in coastal Perú. All the James Bay material comes from the southern half of the bay, known as Puerto Egas. La Espumilla, on the other side of the lava flow that divides the bay, was not investigated.

Heyerdahl and Skjølsvold conclude that the islands were visited from as far back as the Coastal Tiahuanaco and possibly as early as the Gallinazo period. This latter is one of the so-called «Experimental Cultures» that developed in Perú during the first two centuries of our era. (Metraux, 1965). Other authors consider this period much older, placing it around 750 BC (von Hagen, 1969). The several variants of the Tiahuanaco Culture flourished between 900 and 1200 AD (Metraux, 1965).

Heyerdahl and Skjølsvold (1956) believe the voyages may have continued after the fall of the Chimu Kingdom, which was conquered by the Incas around 1466, when the Inca Túpac Yupanqui threatened to cut of their irrigation channels, thus forcing the Chimú capitulation. They also believe that these voyages may have continued even as late as after the Spanish conquest. It is however significant that the material that could correspond to the last years of the Chimu Kingdom and the Inca domination does not belong to a type that is exclusive to the Inca period. This late material is of La Plata Moulded, which is found both in the Chimú and the Inca periods, and San Juan Moulded, which begins as far back as Tomaval (Coastal Tiahuanaco), continuing through the Chimú period and down to the Inca domination of the coast. No Inca pottery has been found so far in the Galápagos. We are more inclined to think that the presence of a greater quantity of the older pottery and a lesser amount of the more recent material, such as La Plata Moulded, is more likely an indication that the conquest of the Chimú Kingdom brought the indigenous tradition of voyages to the Galápagos to an abrupt end. We shall return to this later.

The fact that the pottery sherds belong to the simpler and more functional types is further evidence that the visits by the Indians were no colonization ventures. There are no remains of ceremonial objects, sculptured stones or other materials that are usually found in graves and ceremonial centers -- the sort of objects that one would expect to find where there had been more or less permanent settlements. On the other hand, the great quantity of sherds suggests frequent visits, since it is safe to assume that only accidentally broken pottery would have been left behind.

The relatively great amount of Peruvian sherds may seem surprising, but we shall attempt to explain this later. However, there is a fair amount of Ecuadorian material. This latter appears to belong mainly to the Chorrera Phase, which means it could be very old. The Chorrera Phase is believed to have started around 1,500 BC, and shows a strong Mesoamerican influence, having much in common with the pre-Maya Ocós Phase of the Pacific coast of Guatemala, near the Mexican border. The appearance of this influence in Ecuador coincides with the introduction of maize and the use of obsidian. (Meggers, 1966). Maize is believed to have originated in the region of Mexico and Central America.

The Chorrera Phase extended rapidly on the mainland, covering such highly different areas as the rich agricultural lands along the Daule and the Babahoyo Rivers, as well as parts of the dry Santa Elena Peninsula, where it spread to the north, beyond Palmar. It includes those parts of the coast of Ecuador with a climate that is closest to that of northern coastal Perú, though the rainfall is probably somewhat greater.

The Chavín civilization of the central Andes of Perú, which began somewhat later, produced pottery similar to that of Chorrera. It is believed that the cultivation of maize began in Perú at the time when the Chavín civilization made its appearance, around 1,200 BC The Chavín civilization declined and ended around 400 BC (von Hagen, 1969), while the Chorrera Phase ended about a century earlier. (Meggers, 1966). The Central American roots of the Chorrera Phase inevitably suggest contacts by sea and the ability to navigate. However, the coastal peoples of Ecuador doubtlessly had an earlier tradition of seamanship, as fishing was important to their survival.

It is of course impossible to tell when the first balsa raft was built, and how it developed to become the sophisticated craft of latter times that plied the coast of Ecuador until the turn of the century. However, we have no doubts that it was an Ecuadorian development, though the rafts have often been called «Peruvian» in old travel books. This term is misleading and meaningless in modern times. Until nearly the end of Spanish colonial rule, the coast from San Mateo Bay, in NW Ecuador, to the south was called «Perú». On the other hand, the name «Ecuador» is of fairly recent origin. The country we know by that name was first a province under the rule of the Viceroy in Lima, becoming later a «real audiencia», a somewhat more autonomous territorial division. Towards the end of the colonial period, the Real Audiencia de Quito, as Ecuador was then called, came under the rule of the Viceroy of Nueva Granada, who had his seat in Bogotá, in what is now Colombia. The name of Ecuador was given to the former Real Audiencia de Quito in 1835, about five years after the country broke away from General Bolívar’s Gran Colombia.

Dr. Wilfrido Loor (1956) maintains that the first raft met by the Spaniards, off the coast of present day Ecuador, must have been from Manabí, to judge from its cargo. According to the Spanish description, this raft was made of thick bamboo, and it is in this description that the «guaras» are first mentioned.

Neither balsa nor bamboo can grow in the extremely dry climate of the Peruvian coast. The bamboo and balsa found in Perú grow on the other side of the Andes, towards the Amazon Basin. However, the rain forests of the lowlands between the Andes and the Pacific, in Ecuador, provide an abundance of both materials, with a number of rivers to transport them out to the sea, as was done with the logs for Thor Heyerdahl’s «Kon-Tikki», which were cut in the Quevedo area, in Ecuador.

With this in mind, it is reasonable to believe that the seagoing rafts were developed in Ecuador, and that at least a high percentage of those plying the NW of South America were Ecuadorian rather than Peruvian. This is not to say that the highly developed civilizations of the Peruvian coast could not have used this remarkable invention. Model craft with «guaras» have been found in tombs in NW Perú, and it would be quite possible for the Peruvians to have learnt to sail rafts from the Ecuadorian merchants who visited their shores. To obtain balsa and/or bamboo for their construction would only have been a matter of reaching an agreeable price with their northern neighbors. The fact that no archeological evidence has been found

of an active trade between the two areas only proves that the merchandise used for bartering was perishable and/or consisted of raw materials of one sort or another. Then, it is most unlikely that we shall ever find remains of the remarkably beautiful Peruvian textiles in the prehistoric lowland graves of Ecuador, for here, even in the driest areas, there is more rain than in the desert-like coast of Perú, where these beautiful goods have been preserved for the admiring eyes of later generations.

As Heyerdahl and Skjølsvold (1956) point out, the Peruvians could also have used their own extremely seaworthy reed boats. Thus, a voyage to the Galápagos presented no transportation problems. What is puzzling is why these coastal aborigines should have bothered to sail so far and why most of them were Peruvian rather than Ecuadorian. Obviously, there must have been something in the islands that attracted the inhabitants of NW Perú more than their neighbors to the north.

It has been stated that there is no evidence of any permanent settlement from pre-Spanish times in the Galápagos. Neither is there anything to indicate that the islands were a place of religious pilgrimage, as was Isla de la Plata, outside the coast of Manabí. The most likely answer may be of a more prosaic nature. Even then, it is hard to believe there could have been something in the Galápagos that these indigenous mainlanders would have needed so badly as to justify the voyage. Sulphur and obsidian, while found in the Galápagos, are neither abundant there nor found at places that could be discovered by chance visitors. Besides, both are far easier to obtain on the mainland, and in greater quantity. Furthermore, neither has been found near any of the investigated campsites. Sea salt is easily produced on the mainland, especially in such places as the dry Peruvian coast. There is no evidence nor any tradition that indicates any tortoise hunting. In fact, it seems strange that no tradition about these remarkable reptiles has ever been recorded. This could of course mean that tortoises held no interest whatsoever to these early visitors.

Heyerdahl and Skjølsvold (1956) suggest that these pre-Incaic visitors may have come to the Galápagos on fishing expeditions, a tradition that they believe may still survive to our own days. This latter is most unlikely, for fishing in the Galápagos in historical times goes only back to the 19th century, when the early settlers resorted to salted dried fish as an additional source of income, to supplement what they earned from archil gathering and tortoise oil.

Fishing expeditions to the Galápagos have also been carried out in recent times, but none originated in Perú. They were organized either by Ecuadorians of Spanish descent or foreigners living in Ecuador, and nearly all had their starting point in Guayaquil. In the years we were engaged in the fisheries of Ecuador and Colombia, and during the years we lived in towns such as Bahía de Caráquez, Manta and Playas, all of them places with pre-Columbian fishing traditions, we were unable to discover any tradition about fishing expeditions to the Galápagos.

This is not at all surprising. The coastal aborigines of Ecuador have long since lost their languages, culture and identity, having become integrated with the Cholos (people of mixed ancestry), with whom they identify and are identified. The only indigenous peoples in the lowlands between the Andes and the sea, in Ecuador, are the Cayapas in the NW, on the Santiago River, who build excellent dugouts, though they are no seafarers. In the foothills west of Quito, live the Colorados, who are farmers. These two small ethnic groups are the only ones in the area who have kept their language and culture, the Colorados being well on their way towards assimilation.

Among the Cholo fishermen, out on the coast, such traditional surnames (probably clan names) as Anchundia and Panta are rare exceptions to the Spanish López, Pérez and Apolinario. Until recent years, one could still find fishing rafts in the town of Playas, in Ecuador -- three balsa logs tied together, a bamboo mast and boom, a cotton sail and a centerboard, that despite its appearance and position is most likely descended from the ancient guaras. However, the only reason these rafts were still in use is because they were the only craft that managed to get onto the local beach without being swamped by the rough seas that are so frequent in this open bay.

The sherds so far found in the Galápagos also seem to indicate a break in the aboriginal visits to the islands, since those found are mostly pre-Inca, with a marked decrease in samples of pottery that was typical of the northern Peruvian coast at the time of the Inca conquest of that region. After these, there appears to be a hiatus, before we meet with Spanish colonial and\or more recent pottery remains. There are no remains that belong exclusively to the Inca period. There was probably a long time when man did not visit the islands at all, a time that began with the final expansion of the Inca empire into the north coast of Perú, and the fall of the Chimú nation.

Though there is no doubt that the Peruvian fisheries are exceptionally rich, far richer than those of the Galápagos, there could be circumstances when it would be profitable for people from the northern parts of the Peruvian coast to fish in the Galápagos. The warm seasons in which the Niño Current runs with exceptional strength cause havoc with the fisheries of the Ecuadorian coast. The effect is even more severe in Perú, especially in the northern part, where the coast juts out into the current. We have already mentioned that the Galápagos Islands are also very much affected during such periods, but it is usually to a lesser extent.

For a society depending on fish for most of its protein, such years would be disastrous. However, along most of the Ecuadorian coast, the situation is tolerable even at its worst. Species that thrive in delta areas and in the rivers, such as prawn, catfish, and many others do exceptionally well when the Niño Current rises the water temperature. Thus, the disappearance or decrease in some species is abundantly compensated for by the unusual increase in others. Also, the deer and other game, which used to be abundant -- and still are in some parts -- grow fat and numerous on the abundant vegetation. The only places seriously affected would be one or two, at the outermost part of the Santa Elena Peninsula, which incidentally comes within the area of the Chorrera sites.

In the northern parts of the Peruvian coast, the situation is entirely different. The fisheries here are, except for Puerto Pizarro, near the Ecuadorian border, wholly dependent on the effects of the cold current. An increased water temperature can become a catastrophe.

As we have mentioned, the effects of the Niño Current on the Galápagos marine fauna is, in the more extreme cases, quite serious. Still, we have found some excellent fishing among the islands during most Niño years. The bottom dwelling species such as the several groupers seem to be less affected, while mullets are fairly abundat, feeding as they do inside bays and other sheltered places, where the water temperature is higher than outside even in the cool season. In fact, the mullets may even benefit from an increased growth of the algae they feed on in the rocky bottom of the shallow waters. Thus, the opportunity for good catches is there, and it would have been to the advantage of the indigenous peoples of northern Perú to have come all the way to Galápagos in certain years. On the other hand, far fewer Ecuadorian aboriginals would have felt the need to travel so far for the same purpose. This would also explain the larger amount of Peruvian sherds as compared to the Ecuadorian ones.

The Galápagos lowlands are at their most hospitable during the warm season of an average Niño year, and it is significant that the most rewarding archeological sites found by Heyerdahl’s expedition should be located at James Bay. Here are several intermittent springs that flow abundantly in such years, and one of them even provides water during several months in years with normal rainfall.

The colonial type sherds found in the Galápagos, except those that can be attributed to the buccaneers, are most likely more recent, from the time of the early settlers and tortoise hunters. Some may even be more recent than that. Earthenware pots were used for cooking by the poorer classes in Ecuador as late as the 1940’s, when cheap aluminum ware became available from Argentine and Colombia. By the time it came into production in Ecuador, earthenware pots had practically disappeared from most kitchens, except in the Andean region.

Seen with the eyes of the conservationist, it can be said that the prehistoric visitors to the Galápagos Islands had little or no lasting effect on the environment. If we are right, their visits were relatively short and far between, though they may have covered a period of several centuries. Then, it all stopped. Many years would pass before others followed in the wake of the ancient rafts and reed boats. It was now the turn of the Europeans to discover the Galápagos.



While the empire of the Incas collapsed on the mainland, the Galápagos Islands remained peaceful and forgotten in the loneliness of the vast Pacific. However, rumors and news were reaching Spain which had nothing to do with the islands, but would bring them new visitors. These rumors and news greatly displeased His Sacred Imperial Catholic Majesty, the Emperor Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire, who also happened to be Charles I of Spain. His displeasure set in motion the events that would lead to the European discovery of the Galápagos.

Confrontations and rivalries had been a problem among the Spanish conquerors from the time of their arrival in the land of the Incas. A serious clash between don Pedro de Alvarado and don Francisco Pizarro was barely averted thanks to the adroitness of Pizarro’s partner, don Diego de Almagro. Now, this very same Almagro and Pizarro were seriously at odds.

A great resentment had festered in Almagro’s heart since Pizarro had been in Spain. Here, the latter had obtained for himself a number of privileges, the title of marquis and that of governor over the conquered Inca Empire. But he had obtained very little for his friend, companion and partner Almagro, who had, like Pizarro, risked his life and his personal fortune to conquer these new lands. He was given, it is true, the governorship of the territories south of Cuzco, which calmed his resentment for a while; but there eventually arose a dispute over where exactly Pizarro’s jurisdiction ended and Almagro’s began.

There were other problems too, which had come to the monarch’s attention. Contrary to the instructions issued by the king, the Indians were said to be ill treated. It did not help matters that Pizarro had already greatly displeased the king by executing the Inca Atahualpa. A highly trustworthy envoy must be sent to Perú to mediate between the two conquerors and determine the limits of their respective jurisdictions. He had to be a person whom the king could trust would give him impartial and reliable information about what was going on. Somebody who also could put these high-handed conquerors in their place.

Luckily, there happened to be such a person available, and he was already living in the New World. He was a learned Dominican friar, respected for his honesty, with a rare talent for politics, and skilled in organization. He had a broad mind and many interests, and has been credited, among other things, with introducing bananas to the New World. He was also versed in astronomy and navigation, skills that would undoubtedly be helpful in settling the boundaries of Pizarro’s and Almagro’s territories.

This exceptional friar, Tomás de Berlanga, had been the first prior of the San Esteban monastery, when it was founded on Hispaniola. He had also been the first provincial of his order in the New World. At the time Charles V was worrying about the events in Perú, Berlanga was bishop in Panama. (Larrea, 1960).

In 1534, Charles V sent two decrees to Bishop Berlanga, giving him the necessary instructions and the authority to carry them out. On February 23, 1535, the bishop set sail for Perú, leaving Panama with the aid of a fitful breeze. On the eight day out a calm set in, and the little ship seemed to remain motionless on the unruffled surface of the sea. Not the slightest breath of air relieved the oppressive heat of the burning tropical sun.

But the ship was not really motionless, the Spaniards soon discovered. Used to sailing within the sight of land, so that they could determine their position from known landmarks, they saw with increasing alarm that the shore was very slowly receding into the haze that hung over the still ocean.

As long as the land could be seen, the Spaniards felt hope, but all feelings of optimism disappeared as rapidly as the land vanished from sight. The current -- at that time of the year, el Niño flows -- was carrying them into the unknown wastes of the Pacific. Food began to run out. So did the hay for the horses. Worst of all was that their water supply was decreasing at an alarming rate. Then, suddenly, hope was reborn. On March 10, 1535, they sighted what appeared to be an island. By then, they had barely enough water for two days.

Once they had come close enough to anchor, their optimism cooled considerably, for their eyes saw a strange landscape, barren and forbidding, with grotesquely shaped giant cacti and little other vegetation. Still, a boat was lowered and a party sent ashore. Here, they saw sea lions, turtles, iguanas and giant tortoises. These last were so great, that they could carry the weight of a grown man. But there was no water.

On the day they had used up their last water, they sighted another island, much greater than the first. Its lofty mountains made the bishop and his men hope for rivers and springs. But the fitful breeze and the strong currents made it hard to reach an anchorage near this promised land. During the three following days, suffering from the heat and a great thirst, they made whatever use they could of the fickle and weak wind, until they finally came to anchor in a safe place.

Filled with despair, they all went ashore, where Bishop Berlanga divided them into small groups, one of them being set to dig a well, while the others went inland to search for water. The well did produce water; but it was, according to the bishop, «more bitter than that of the sea». Those who had gone inland were not more successful. Still, two more days were spent in a fruitless search for water. Finally, in despair, the Spaniards began eating the succulent cactus stems or peeling them so they could squeeze out their juice, which Bishop Berlanga describes as tasting like «slops of lye» -- a most apt description as far as Galápagos cacti are concerned.

Then, Passion Sunday came. Bishop Berlanga held a mass on that alien shore, surrounded by the strange landscape. It was the first mass ever held in the Galápagos, and never after would a group of human beings in that land pray more fervently for deliverance than that little band of Spaniards. The Kyrie eleison -- «Lord, have mercy on us» -- must have been repeated with a depth of feeling and sincerity that is seldom experienced in any congregation. Their chances of survival were indeed bleak.

After mass, the Spaniards spread out in twos and threes, in a last desperate attempt at finding water. And one of these small groups found the precious liquid in the bottom of a ravine. Cautiously, they tried it, and it was good. After drinking avidly from the cool water, they called their companions, barrels and jugs were brought, and a supply was taken aboard.

They could have taken much more water with them, but Bishop Berlanga was certain that they were closer to the mainland than was actually the case. In those days, one could only figure out the latitude with anything approaching precision. The longitude was then mostly a matter of guesswork and/or dead reckoning. Thus, the Spaniards sailed in the belief that they would soon be safe and near a more hospitable shore. They had however buried one of their shipmates on the island and lost two of their precious horses.

While they once more sailed over the trackless ocean, they lost a second companion. A total of ten horses died during the voyage, a great loss in those early days, when horses were scarce in the New World, and the Europeans were so dependent on them for transportation.

Before leaving Galápagos behind, Bishop Berlanga and his men sighted two more islands, one of them of considerable size. No attempt was made to reach any of them. The Dominican calculated them to lie between a degree and one and a half degree south of the equator.

Bishop Berlanga’s report to Chalres V is the very first written record about the Galápagos Islands. It is also the first to mention the giant tortoises and the extraordinary tameness of the birds that live there. On the whole, the bishop’s impression of this strange land was negtive. Of it he states that there is not soil enough to sow a bushel of maize «for it is filled with very great stones». Whatever little soil he saw he described as worthless. In fact, he had such a low opinion of this new land he had discovered, that he did not even bother to give it a name or take possession of it for his king.

After eleven days out of the sight of land, the master of the vessel came to the bishop, asking him for a position, and reporting that there was only one cask of water left. The sight of the sun that Bishop Berlanga took and the brief calculations that followed brought a disappointing result. Their position was three degrees south of the equator, and they were headed in a southerly rather than an easterly direction. Bishop Berlanga had their course changed. Then, he ordered half the water set aside for the horses and the other half mixed with wine, to make it last longer. This mixture was divided out in rations large enough to satisfy everybody; but after eight days it was all gone.

However, optimism was still high. On that day, land was sighted, and there was no doubt that it was the mainland coast. However, as so often happens to those who travel with no other aid than sails, Bishop Berlanga and his crew found themselves becalmed within sight and out of reach of their destination. By then, they had nothing to drink but wine.

Finally, on April 9, they found anchorage in Bahía de Caráquez, a harbor that Bishop Berlanga considers -- with very good reason -- one of the loveliest in the world. What happened after this is outside the scope of our story, and has no background value to us. We should however like to mention that the good bishop describes his voyage of discovery in his first report to Charles V, dated at Portoviejo on April 26, 1535. This document is still kept at the Archivo de Indias, in Seville, Spain.

Though bishop Tomás de Berlanga carried out his mission in Perú, and may have delayed the break between Pizarro and Almagro, a civil war broke out between these two and their respective followers in 1538. Diego de Almagro was captured and executed by orders from Fernando Pizarro, one of don Francisco’s brothers. Don Fernando would later serve a jail sentence in Spain for this deed. In the meantime, the hostilities did not end with don Diego’s execution.

In 1541, some of Almagro’s followers entered Pizarro’s house in Cuzco, to avenge their leader. After defending himself bravely, don Francisco was mortally wounded. The younger Diego de Almagro, a son the elder Almagro had had with a native woman in Panama, had taken over the leadership of his father’s men. He was not involved in the actual assassination, but led the uprising that followed, proving himself a very capable leader, despite being only nineteen years old.

In the meantime, a high court official, don Cristóbal Vaca de Castro, arrived to investigate the death of the elder Almagro. Finding that Francisco Pizarro was dead, he took over as governor, following the instructions he had from the king. He received the full backing of the Pizarros, and together they defeated the Almagro forces at Chupas, on September 15, 1542. The younger Almagro was executed for treason. (Inca Garcilaso, 1614).

The victor of Chupas was don Francisco de Carvajal, an old soldier who had served with distinction in Europe, Mexico and Perú. Vaca de Castro had made him his field marshal for the campaign against the Almagristas. Carvajal was the mayor of Cuzco at the time Pizarro was murdered and the city taken by the Almagristas. Carvajal had retaken the city soon after. For his services at Chupas, he was made general.

While the Almagro faction was being defeated, new trouble was brewing in Spain for the settlers. Charles V had the colonial administration reorganized, voided the land grants that had been given to the conquerors and their followers, and deprived them of their Indian serfs. Don Blasco Núñez Vela was appointed viceroy and sent to Perú, where he arrived in 1544. Núñez was inflexible and authoritarian. He caused despair among the settlers when he refused to postpone the enforcement of the new laws until an appeal could reach the king. He also alienated many of those who had at first supported him, including a number of the officials who had come with him from Spain. He even went so far as to have don Cristóbal Vaca de Castro arrested, though the latter had willingly handed over the governorship and offered to serve the viceroy in whatever he should find convenient. Several executions were also ordered by the viceroy without due process of law. (Inca Garcilaso, 1614).

The council that had accompanied Viceroy Núñez from Spain finally deposed him, and had him placed on a ship, with the intention of sending him back to Spain. On the way to Panama, one of the officers guarding the viceroy set him free, and fled ashore with him. Here, Núñez began gathering supporters, money, arms and supplies with the purpose of regaining his former position.

In the meantime, don Gonzalo Pizarro, don Francisco’s half brother, was prevailed upon to take the leadership of the settlers. Basing himself on the fact that his brother Francisco had received authority from the king to appoint his own successor and had promised the appointment to don Gonzalo, the latter took possession as governor. According to the Inca Garcilaso (1614), he did so reluctantly. This is in agreement with his attitude towards Vaca de Castro, whom he had supported when the latter took possession as governor, instead of attempting to press his own claim. On the contrary, he had given Vaca de Castro his full support, something he had no reason to regret, as the latter turned out to be an able administrator, who became highly respected and liked by most, including the Pizarro faction.

More often than not, we are given too little or no background material, and we end up judging people of times past by our own standards and against our own background. While it is true that the conquerors were a greedy and ruthless lot, they were also acting according to what was accepted at the time. These men were mostly veterans of a number of European wars, at a time when plunder and looting were regarded as a part of the lawful gains of the professional soldier. Sacking a conquered city was a common practice even until much after their time.

Another practice that too often is left unmentioned is one that had deep roots in Spain. When the Spaniards had reconquered territory that had been held by the Moors, it had been customary to give grants of land and serfs to those who had accomplished the conquest in the newly gained territories. This practice was several centuries old when the Spaniards came to the New World, so this old custom was applied here as a matter of course. In fact, had this not been so, it is most unlikely that men like Pizarro and Almagro, as well as others, would have voluntarily risked their lives, invested their personal fortunes and borrowed all they could get, in order to finance and carry out such a venture as the conquest of the Inca Empire. Therefore, it is easy to understand the reactions of the settlers against the new laws that Blasco Núñez Vela was so bent on enforcing, and which they considered grievously unfair.

Don Gonzalo Pizarro had the viceregal council approve his governorship, something several of the members did reluctantly. However, the council had little support behind it. In fact, the civil war that broke out became mainly a fight between the Pizarro faction and the Núñez faction. The main part of the war amounted to Gonzalo Pizarro chasing the deposed viceroy and his forces through northern Perú, into what now is Ecuador, and following him up to Quito and beyond. While Núñez and his followers were resting in Pasto, a little north of what is now the Colombian border, Pizarro pretended to abandon Quito and head south.

As intended, news of this reached Núñez, causing him to move south, to reoccupy Quito. On the way there, he was taken by surprise by Gonzalo Pizarro and his forces, and completely defeated. During the battle, don Blasco Núñez Vela fell, along with many of his men. (Inca Garcilaso, 1614).

While all this was happening, don Diego Centeno staged an uprising against Pizarro in Perú. It seems that he had expected much wider support, and this failing, that part of the civil war became a continuous flight towards Chile. Centeno’s tactic against the pursuing forces of don Francisco de Carvajal -- now Pizarro’s field marshal -- was the best he could do under the circumstances to save his men and himself. Centeno’s cavalry and harquebusiers would ambush the pursuing forces at some suitable location, while the foot soldiers and the supply train continued ahead. Then, Centeno and the ambushing forces would hurry ahead, catch up with their companions, and accompany them for two or three days. Then, a new ambush would be set up. After repeating this tiring operation a few times, Centeno realized that he had nothing to gain, and that he was no match for the relentless Carvajal, who was also known as «the Demon of the Andes».

It was at this stage that Centeno learnt of a small ship that was anchored at Quilca, preparing to sail for Chile. He sent one of his most trusted men, Captain Diego Rivadeneira, to seize her. When the captain and his fourteen soldiers arrived at Quilca, they found that the ship had left. Some local people informed them that the vessel was on its way to Arica. Captain Rivadeneira and his men rode hard to catch up with her. They succeeded in seizing her. With his soldiers and a few seamen, Rivadeneira set sail for Quilca, to rescue Centeno and their other companions.

In the meantime, Centeno and his followers had reached Quilca. Carvajal, who had found out about their plan, was right behind them. Not finding the ship at Quilca, and realizing that Carvajal was closing in on them, Centeno ordered his men to disperse and seek safety in the mountains. Centeno himself spent the next few months hidden in a cave, on the property of a sympathizer. From there, he would set out again, when don Pedro de la Gasca arrived from Spain to reestablish royal authority. He was now able to fight on the winning side, for the Pizarro faction and his old enemy Carvajal were eventually defeated at Sacsahuamán, in 1548. Both the eighty-four-year old Demon of the Andes and Gonzalo Pizarro were executed for treason.

But let us return to Rivadeneira. While Centeno’s forces were being dispersed, the faithful captain was on his way to Quilca. In a cove near his destination, he and his men sighted some rafts with men, who were signaling for them to approach. They naturally assumed that these were Centeno and his men, so a boat was sent in. Fortunately, someone recognized several of the men on the rafts as Carvajal’s soldiers, and the boat returned quickly to the waiting ship.

It was obvious to Rivadeneira that Centeno could not be in the area, unless he had been captured. The only sensible thing to do was to sail away as fast as possible. To avoid meeting any of the enemy’s ships, he ordered a course far offshore, and the fugitives headed in the general direction of Central America. They had no charts, no navigation instruments, and nobody with them who could have used them. In fact, they did not even have so much as a compass. There was little food and little water aboard, and they did not dare to make a landing anywhere to get supplies.

After twenty-five days at sea, Rivadeneira and his crew sighted land. Alarmed, they took it to be the coast near Túmbez or the Island of Puná, so they continued on their way, despite their urgent need for supplies. It was only when the land lay astern that they realized it was an island far from the mainland. It was a mountainous island, with bays and coves. A mist hung over the mountains. They saw altogether twelve or thirteen islands in the area, and they landed on one of them to search for water, without finding any. They now realized that they were farther from Central America than they had at first thought. (Cieza de León, 1553).

There is no doubt that the fugitives had reached the Galápagos. They found great numbers of sea lions, tortoises, iguanas and birds. They would later also mention the Galápagos hawk, the first report on this species. The fear of being left by their companions prevented the shore party from making a thorough search for water. After great hardships, Rivadeneira and his crew arrived at San José de Istapán, on the coast of Guatemala.

Despite the fact that he should have had at least as bad an impression of the Galápagos as Bishop Berlanga, Rivadeneira tried to get official support for colonizing the islands, with himself as governor of the proposed colony. He also claimed to have discovered them, but there is no record that he ever gave them a name.

There are a number of other reports telling of Spaniards who found the Galápagos by accident. There is even a record of someone attempting to find the islands. Don Pedro de Alvarado, the gentleman who had unsuccessfully attempted to share in the conquest of the Inca Empire, sent out two ships from Central America, some time around 1540, to search for these mysterious islands. He had heard rumors of their existence, some possibly based on the Berlanga discovery. There were also reports of sightings from ships coming from Perú, which had gone off their course. Alvarado’s ships did locate the Galápagos Islands, but were prevented from landing by the unfavorable wind conditions and a strong current.

Several people tried to get official backing to go out and explore these elusive islands. Others claimed to have been there, often giving descriptions that make their stories suspect. There were also those rather vague traditions about islands to the west, traditions that persisted among the natives of the Peruvian coast. Many or most of these however do not seem to be about the Galápagos at all. The direction in which the legendary islands were supposed to be is farther south than the Galápagos, and the islands were supposed to be inhabited.

There are also a number of stories about shipwrecked Spanish seamen, who somehow managed to survive until they were rescued. It is told that when dom Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, the famous Portuguese navigator who was in the service of the Spanish crown, was outfitting one of his expeditions to the South Seas, one of his vessels was a small, light but strong ship that was a remarkably good sailer. When she

joined the expedition, she had just returned from the Galápagos, where she had rescued some shipwrecked seamen. Larrea (1960) believes that one of these may have been Brother Martín Barragán. Barragán and some companions had spent three years in the Galápagos, and it was during this time that Barragán had decided to dedicate himself to the service of God. On his return he joined the Dominican Order as a lay brother, becoming known for his devotion and righteousness.

Don Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, who left us the story of Túpac Yupanqui’s voyage, seems to have been very impressed with this tradition. Despite the many projects he became engaged in during the twenty-six years he lived in the Americas, he kept coming back to his dream of reaching the islands of Ninachumpi and Hahuachumpi, as some spell their names. Sarmiento was no ordinary dreamer. An unusually brave soldier and a generous gentleman, he made a very favorable impression in England, while he was there as a prisoner of war. He conversed in fluent Latin with Queen Elizabeth, and is mentioned by Sir Walter Raleigh as an illustrious gentleman and an eminent man of science. Though he has been largely forgotten except among specialists, he was highly regarded in his own time, and entrusted with important missions, such as fortifying the Straits of Magellan against the entry of pirates into the Pacific. Sarmiento was the first captain to sail through the Straits from west to east, and had, on one of his voyages, the command of a fleet of twenty-three ships and a force of 3,500 men.

Unfortunately, when Sarmiento finally talked García de Castro, the viceroy of Perú, into outfitting an expedition to explore the Pacific and find Túpac Yupanqui’s islands, he became the victim of nepotism. Instead of entrusting the expedition to the experienced Sarmiento, who had promoted it and been promised its command, the viceroy gave the command to one of his nephews, a young man of great arrogance and little experience. However, Sarmiento was appointed captain of the largest ship, Los Reyes. From the very beginning, there was considerable friction between the two leaders, don Alvaro de Mendaña and don Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa.

It is believed that the expedition passed within sight of the Galápagos and Mendaña refused to land and take possession of the islands. It had been Sarmiento’s wish to do so, and then change course towards the SW, which could have led to the discovery of Australia several decades before its coasts were reached by Queirós. The Mendaña-Sarmiento expedition passed what is believed to have been the Galápagos on November 30, 1567. On January 11, the following year, they discovered the Solomon Islands.

In time, Mendaña would command other expeditions, becoming an able navigator and explorer. On a later voyage, in 1595, he discovered the Marquesas Islands. Naveda (1952) states that Mendaña stopped at the Galápagos on that voyage, but there are no records supporting this claim, which seems to be as unfounded as Naveda’s claim that Magellan may have visited Isabela Island.

As has been mentioned, Sarmiento de Gamboa went on to explore the Straits of Magellan. He was sent there in 1579 and again in 1583. On the latter voyage, he attempted to establish a settlement in the area. It was on his return from this second voyage that he was captured by the English, who kept him prisoner for five years.

The earliest known record where the name Galápagos is applied to the islands is found in Ortelius’ Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, published in Antwerpen in 1570. Their position is fairly correct as to latitude, and their name is given as «Insulae de los Galopegos». In Ortelius’ Peruviae Auriferae Regionis Typus (1574), the islands appear as «Isolas de Galápagas». They are depicted here as a large island with two islets near it.

The earliest known record of the name Encantadas (Enchanted) is given by Abraham Ortelius in 1589, though it is claimed that this name was used for the islands at an earlier time -- perhaps between 1546 and 1560. (Larrea, 1960). The name is not without a reason. Superstitious seamen, seeing the islands as ghostly shapes in the haze that covers the horizon in the warm season, or hiding and reappearing in the fogs of the cool season, could easily have regarded the Galápagos as something supernatural. The sight of the strange landscapes of the barren lowlands would have done much to reinforce this otherwordly impression. If we add to this the difficulty of reaching them, even when within sight of land, as happened to the ships sent out by don Pedro de Alvarado, which could not approach land because of the currents and fitful breezes, it is easy to understand the claim of the Spanish seamen, who laughed at the buccaneers who wanted to sail there, telling them that the islands were shadows and no real islands at all.



It can be said with good reason that the actual exploration of the Galápagos Islands begins with the buccaneers, who visited them towards the end of the 17th century. It is to Lionel Wafer, William Dampier, Edward Davis and Ambrose Cowley that we owe the earliest descriptions that provide some detail. The first nautical chart of the archipelago was drawn by Cowley. However, before telling about the 1684 visit to the islands by the above buccaneers, it would be useful to give some background information about buccaneers in general, information that is absent from most if not all historical material about the Galápagos.

Quite early in the history of the American colonies, the Spanish set up a rigid trade monopoly, regulating the comings and goings of merchandise and produce between Spain and the Americas. This kind of monopoly would most certainly have been created by any of the other European powers, had they been in the same position. And with the same results. The monopoly inevitably set the stage for smuggling and piracy on a grand scale.

There were of course dangers to the enterprising smuggler or pirate. Hidden reefs along unknown shores awaited the unwary. There were a number of deadly tropical diseases. There was the constant danger of capture, followed by execution for piracy. Spanish officials made no distinction between pirates and smugglers when a foreign ship was captured in their waters. But the profits were great enough to make many consider them worth the risks.

The earliest pirates operating against Spanish shipping from the Americas were French -- mainly Bretons and Normans. However, it was not long before other nationalities joined them. By the middle of the 16th century, the pirates had become a very costly nuisance to Spain. The protests delivered by Spanish ambassadors to the various European courts were useless. The answer was always the same. The countries in question were unable to control the pirates. The truth was that they actually approved of their activities as well, so long as they limited their attacks to Spanish shipping. The pirates in fact constituted a considerable and convenient drain on the resources of Spain, a country that was already too powerful for the peace of mind of most European monarchs.

On the other hand, the pirates landed much valuable merchandise besides gold and silver, merchandise that gave a welcome alternative to that obtained at a higher price through the Spanish monopoly. Also, the pirates made up a convenient pool of experienced and fearless seamen, who could be recruited for their respective countries’ navies in time of war. Some of them even became outstanding naval commanders. The case of Sir Francis Drake and his cousin Sir Richard Hawkins comes readily to mind. It was by their time that the English had gained a prominent position in the realm of piracy.

Diplomatic means failing, the Spanish organized their trans-Atlantic shipping in two yearly convoys. One of these followed the southern coasts of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, after reaching the Caribbean. Then, sailing along Cuba, it reached the Yucatán Peninsula, which was rounded to continue to Veracruz, inside the Gulf of Mexico. Here awaited the rich cargoes from the Far East and the silver of the Mexican mines, which had arrived overland on mule trains. The Far East’s products came with the Manila galleons to the Pacific port of Acapulco.

The other annual convoy followed the north coast of South America to Cartagena de Indias, where it took aboard the pearls from Margarita, the gold and emeralds from the inland mines, and tropical products such as indigo, cacao and tobacco. Then, they continued to Portobelo, on the Isthmus of Panama, to load gold, silver, tin, copper and other products that had been shipped from the ports on the Pacific to Panama City, and thence overland on mule trains.

The convoy system was well conceived and well organized; but it did little to discourge piracy. The pirates gambled, often successfully, on the speed and maneuverability of their smaller and lighter vessels, defying the superior firepower of the Spanish galleons. Thomas Gage, an Englishman who was able to travel extensively in the Spanish colonies, being a Dominican friar, tells about an experience that illustrates this point very well. (Bredsdorff, 1979).

In 1637, Gage left Havanna aboard a convoy that was sailing for Spain. Out at sea, two smaller vessels approached, heading straight for the convoy. They promptly cut off a straggler, fired a broadside into her, boarded, and took with them a cargo worth eighty thousand pieces of eight. The other Spanish ships tried to come to the rescue; but the large, slow, heavy galleons took their time to turn around, and were sluggish in recovering their speed. The attackers had by then sailed so far, that the chase was given up as hopeless.

Though much of the piratical activity was centered on the Caribbean and its vicinity, because of the availability of rich cargoes, European pirates operated at one time or another almost anywhere in the world where profits seemed worth it. The Pacific could of course not remain an exception for long. The pioneer in that part of the world was Sir Francis Drake, who sailed through the Straits of Magellan in 1578. He found the undefended coastal towns as much to his liking as the overconfident Spanish captains, who were used to having this whole ocean to themselves, and were quite unprepared for the surprise he gave them.

Thomas Cavendish followed Drake’s example in 1586, and Sir Richard Hawkins was the first English captain to visit the Galápagos, but found the islands too inhospitable for his liking. In fact, he was returning from there when he was captured outside Atacames, in the northwest of Ecuador, by don Beltrán de Castro. (Larrea, 1960). Since Castro had promised to spare his life, Hawkins was sent to Spain and later ransomed. To save his life, Castro even defied the Inquisition in Lima, telling them that nothing was important enough to justify a Spanish nobleman breaking his word.

The next record of pirates visiting the Galápagos comes to us from 1624, when a considerable Dutch force laid siege to Callao, the port of Lima. Some of the Dutch ships were sent north on a foraging and plundering expedition. After trying unsuccessfully to seize Pisco and Guayaquil, the ships made a detour to the Galápagos, before rejoining the main force, on the Island of San Lorenzo, at the entrance to Callao. The Dutch force, which was commanded by Jacob Heremite Clerk, held this position for five months, but had to give up, as it was unable to gain a foothold on the mainland.

It is in the 17th century that the non-Spanish settlers became established in the Caribbean. To them, the pirates and buccaneers were often the only protection against the Spaniards. They were also an important source of trade, bringing in valuable cargoes and considerable treasure, as well as buying supplies for their ships. When in port, they also left great amounts of money in the taverns, bordellos and other places. It was as much in the interest of the pirates to keep these safe ports free from the Spanish, as it was in the interest of the settlers to keep the pirates around.

The buccaneers soon became the dominant element among the New World pirates. Originally, they had been French settlers in the mountainous, wooded western part of Hispaniola, who had devoted themselves to hunting rather than growing tobacco, as many of the other settlers did. The buccaneers had found an almost empty country, where the aboriginal population had been practically exterminated by the Spaniards and the deseases they had brought from Europe. It was also a country rich in game, for the woods abounded in wild pigs and cattle, as well as horses, all of which had been originally brought by the Spaniards many years earlier, multiplying greatly in the absence of natural enemies and diseases. At that time, the Spaniards occupied mainly the southern and eastern parts of Hispaniola.

The feral animals provided the buccaneers with a livelihood. Some specialized in hunting cattle, usually taking only the hides and the tallow, besides whatever meat they needed for their own use. Others hunted wild pigs, and preserved their meat by cutting it in strips and smoking it in a primitive smoke house of the kind the aboriginals had used. This structure was called a boucan, a word from which «buccaneer» derives. This smoked meat could be kept for up to six months, and was much in demand by visiting ships. (Exquemelin, 1678).

This sort of life could not last forever. The packs of wild dogs no doubt did much damage to the game. The Spaniards, trying to drive the buccaneers away, did all they could to destroy the wild animals. However, without the help of the Spaniards and the dogs -- that are said to have been introduced on purpose by the former -- the game would, sooner rather than later, have come to an end. It took a considerable number of heads of cattle to make a profitable shipment of hides and tallow, and those hunting pigs could shoot a hundred in a day, leaving most of the kill to rot in the woods because the meat was too lean or the pigs were old and stringy. The waste must indeed have been impressive.

Thus, the buccaneers were forced to become planters and began to grow tobacco like the more respectable settlers. But many of them were unable to bear the sedentary life and went to sea, becoming pirates. The number of buccaneers had also been increased by men of other nationalities, such as English, Dutch and Portuguese, so they had by then turned into a very heterogenous group. Among them were seamen who had abandoned their ships, escaped convicts, and indentured laborers who had run away from the plantations. (African slaves were not yet common in the Caribbean at that time). They were men of the most varied background -- from gentlemen adventurers to the dregs of society; from analphabets to highly educated men.

The most usual manner for the buccaneers to obtain a ship was by capturing her from the Spaniards. If they had no vessel, they would cut down a large tree and hollow out the log, making a dugout. This was used for sneaking up on a coastal vessel, which in turn served for capturing a larger ship, if necessary. The notorious Montbars and L’Olonnais were buccaneers, as was the no less notorious Henry Morgan, who sacked Portobelo and, in 1671, made his famous and successful attack on Panama City.

In the 1680’s, the buccaneers, operating until then more or less as privateers, made the transition to become common pirates. The Spaniards, whom they considered their natural enemies, were no longer their only victims. Now, anything afloat that looked profitable had become fair game, regardless of which flag it flew. The times had changed. Not only did the British and the French colonists no longer need the buccaneers’ protection against the Spaniards, but trade with the Spanish colonies was flourishing, though it was still forbidden by Spanish law. Then, new alliances had formed in Europe. Spain and Britain had become allies in their efforts to stop French expansion. Thus, the British officials in the Caribbean now disapproved of attacks on Spanish ships and towns. One by one, the ports buccaneers used to visit became closed to them.

Though they had been given the opportunity of serving their country against France, a large group of British buccaneers set out on an expedition against Portobelo and the gold mining town of Santa María, inland. Soon after, the group divided, one of them capturing some Spanish ships on the Pacific side of Panama, which they used for going on a rampage of plunder down the west coast of South America, under the leadership of the notorious Bartholomew Sharp. (Bredsdorff, 1979).

However, it is not until 1684 that the buccaneers begin to visit the Galápagos. In that year, a small fleet, commanded by Captain John Cook of the Bachelor’s Delight and Captain John Eaton of the Nicholas arrived to the islands. With the two larger ships came three smaller ones, that had been captured from the Spaniards. Among Cook’s men were Dampier, Wafer, Davis and Cowley.

The story of the Bachelor’s Delight illustrates well how the buccaneers had broken with the more or less friendly British officials in the Caribbean. Cook and his followers had taken part in the plundering of Portobelo and Santa María, thus making them wanted men not only with the Spaniards but also with the British authorities.

After their adventures in Panama, Cook and his companions had separated from those who went with Captain Sharp, returning to the Caribbean. Here, they captured a small vessel which they renamed Revenge. With her they sailed to Africa, in the hope of getting a larger ship. On the coast of Sierra Leone, they met the Danish frigate Charlotte Amalia, which they took by surprise. The Danes had felt safe with their much larger ship and their thirty-eight guns, when approached by the Revenge. Besides, the latter was flying the British flag, the flag of a friendly nation.

After their capture, the Danish seamen were set to clean the bottom of their frigate. When this was done, they were forced to take aboard fresh water, and to transfer the two guns on the Revenge to the larger vessel, as well as all the things the buccaneers considered worth keeping. When the Charlotte Amalia, or Bachelor’s Delight as she was now called, was ready to sail, the Danes, and sixty black women slaves they carried in their hold, were put ashore. This done, the buccaneers set fire to the Revenge and sailed away.

It has been suggested that the Danes were murdered to keep them from telling that the buccaneers had seized a ship belonging to a friendly nation. This seems rather farfetched. The buccaneers knew well that they already were wanted men. Also, when they soon after captured a ship belonging to the Duke of Brandenburg, another ship flying the flag of a friendly nation, they felt no misgivings about setting free the ship and its crew, after helping themselves to everything of value aboard the prize. Then, the Danes must have somehow made it back to Europe. In 1687, the captain who had so ignominiously lost the Charlotte Amalia to the buccaneers, Thomas Adrian Thorsen, was sailing as master of the Holger Danske. (Bredsdorff, 1979).

There is also another equally absurd story about the buccaneers keeping aboard the women slaves for their pleasure. This is supposed to explain the name they gave their new ship. It is very hard to believe that these experienced seamen would add sixty people to their numbers, people who had to be fed and provided with precious water, people who would be very much in the way during a storm or in a battle situation. This is without taking into account the widespread belief among seamen that women aboard a ship bring bad luck.

Soon after entering the Pacific, Cook and his crew met with Captain Eaton of the «Nicholas». Since he also was a buccaneer, the two leaders decided to remain together. Thus, they arrived to the Juan Fernández Islands, outside the Chilean coast. Here, they rescued a Miskito Indian, who had been abandoned by Captain Sharp in 1681. Will, as he was called, had been ashore hunting goats, when three large Spanish ships appeared unexpectedly. Sharp’s little fleet was seriously outgunned and set sail in a hurry.

The Bachelor’s Delight and the Nicholas cruised up to the Lobos Islands, outside Perú, capturing four Spanish prizes on the way north. Three of these had a total of eight tons of flour aboard, besides a considerable shipment of quince preserve a total of eight tons of flour aboard, beside of a considerable shipment of quince marmelade and a few other supplies. After careening their ships at Lobos, the buccaneers headed for the Galápagos Islands, taking with them the three flour prizes. Captain Cook had been ill since shortly before their arrival to Juan Fernández, and his high fever was not responding to the cares of Lionel Wafer, the surgeon of the Bachelor’s Delight.

At James Bay, on Santiago, in the Galápagos, a camp was set up for Captain Cook’s comfort. This was located on a flat area above the best landing beach, with a fine view of the bay and its approaches. The place is fairly close to the spring at the foot of Sugar Loaf Mountain. The campsite still has a large amount of sherds of colonial Spanish earthenware vessels. Over a century after Cook’s visit, Captain James Colnett R.N. reported finding these sherds and a number of corroded metal objects. The latter would now be an unidentifiable part of the reddish brown dust in the area. (Lundh, 1965).

Earthenware sherds are quite common elsewhere along this shore, both at James Bay and Buccaneer Cove. It was at this latter location that Captain Clinton Baverstock found an unbroken terra cotta jar, nearly buried in the bed of an

intermittent stream, in 1950. (Heyerdahl & Skjøldsvold, 1956). There is nothing surprising about these finds, as the buccaneers set up several supply caches with what they had captured from the Spanish, intending to come back for the supplies later.

During the twelve days that the buccaneers remained in the Galápagos, William Dampier made numerous notes, while Ambrose Cowley worked on his chart of the islands. Dampier, like so many other visitors, was impressed by the great tameness of the island animals, and he praised the good flavor of the meat and oil of the tortoises, which were then very abundant. Tortoise oil was used by the buccaneers as a substitute for butter. It is obvious that they had not discovered that tortoises can survive for an incredibly long time without food and water, for they salted tortoise meat to take along on their voyage. (Slevin, 1959).

Shortly after leaving Galápagos, Captain John Cook died, and Edward Davis was elected to take his place. Davis returned to the islands in 1685, to supply himself with flour and other food that had been left there. In 1687, he visited the islands twice. It was during the second of these visits that he held an auction on Floreana. All the coins from the loot were divided among the crew. Then, other objects were auctioned. When nobody had any cash left, the procedure was repeated, until everything was sold, and the coined gold and silver could be divided for the last time. This sensible method for handling the division of loot is said to have been common among the buccaneers. (Exquemelin, 1678).

In 1709, Captain Woodes Rogers visited the Galápagos with a fleet of eight ships. Rogers was in command of a privateering expedition with letters of marque authorizing him to prey on Spanish and French shipping. Alliances in Europe had again changed. Roger’s expedition was backed by a group of Bristol merchants, who were represented aboard by a physician, Dr. Thomas Dover, who also had a considerable investment in the venture. Dr. Dover has gone down in history as the inventor of «Dover’s powders», an anodyne diaphoretic made of ipecac, opium and potassium sulphate.

The largest of the expedition’s original two ships was the Duke, commanded by Captain Rogers. The smaller of the two, the Duchess, was under Captain Stephen Courtney, one of the shareholders. William Dampier, now a famous hydrographer, explorer and former privateer captain, was pilot to the expedition and sailed on the Duke, with Rogers, who seemed to have held him in high regard. Captain Rogers even claimed that the former buccaneer was as feared by the colonial Spaniards as Drake had been in his time.

The Duke and the Duchess had left the British Isles in 1708, arriving at the Juan Fernández Islands on January 31 of the following year. Here, they rescued the Scottish seaman Alexander Selkirk, the original Robinson Crusoe, who had been left on one of the islands at his own request, in 1704, after a serious disagreement with Captain Stradling of the galleass Cinque Ports. It appears that this Stradling was difficult to get along with, for forty-two of his crew had decided to stay on one of the Juan Fernández on a previous visit. This decision was changed thanks to the intervention of William Dampier, who was at the time captain of the St. George and in command of the privateering expedition to which the Cinque Ports belonged.

Dampier recommended Selkirk highly to Captain Rogers, who took the Scotsman aboard the Duke, giving him later the command of a captured Spanish ship. This latter had been seized along with several others while the expedition was on its way north, off the Pacific coast of South America. One of the prizes taken was a two hundred and sixty ton French ship, which was renamed the Marquis. (Bredsdorff, 1979).

By the time the privateers reached Guayaquil, on April 22, the fleet had grown to eight vessels. The taking of Guayaquil must have brought Dampier considerable satisfaction, as he had been along when an attempt at seizing the city had been made by the crews of the Bachelor’s Delight and the Cygnet. This attempt failed when one of the buccaneers became careless, letting their local guide escape within sight of the city, where he warned the Spanish garrison.

Rogers, as was the custom in those days, demanded a ransom for returning the city without setting fire to it. Most of this ransom was paid; but the privateers were forced to leave when an epidemic spread among the men. The ships sailed to Puná, in the hope that the fresh sea air from the Gulf of Guayaquil would help heal the sick. (Larrea, 1960).

There is some disagreement as to the nature of the epidemic. Some suggest it might have been yellow fever, which was common in Guayaquil well into the 1920’s. Others maintain that Rogers’ men suffered from the plague, which used to appear periodically in the city until fairly recent times. Whether the following had anything to do with it is hard to say, but the epidemic broke out shortly after some of the men, quartered in a church, had opened a number of tombs in search of valuables. They had been warned against this, as many of the dead had lost their lives in a recent epidemic. Dover claimed later that he had cured one hundred and seventy-two of those afflicted, an outstanding feat for a physician who set his faith in bloodletting.

While at Puná, the fresh water supply began to get low, and there was also a growing fear of a Spanish attack. It was decided to sail to the Galápagos Islands. Water had been available there at the time of Dampier’s visit, in 1684. However, the privateers found none, which seems to indicate that the warm season had been a dry

one that year. Disappointed, they set sail for Gorgona, an island off the Colombian coast. Here, they careened their ships and made extensive repairs on the Marquis.

The decision to leave Puná turned out to be a lucky one. Don Pablo Alzamora y Ursino had left Callao with five ships and a force of eight hundred and twenty-one men, with the purpose of destroying Rogers’ fleet in the Gulf of Guayaquil. Learning that the expedition had sailed for the Galápagos, he followed there. Had Rogers found water in the islands, it is likely that Alzamora would have caught him with much of his fleet sitting defenselessly on the beach. However, by the time the Spaniards arrived there, the privateers were well on their way to Gorgona, and there was nobody in the Galápagos to tell where they had gone.

After many adventures, Woodes Rogers and his fleet anchored in the Thames River, on October 14, 1711. His success may not have been as spectacular as Sir Francis Drake’s first voyage, but it was more than good enough to make the shareholders happy. The following year, Rogers’ book about the voyage came out. It is amazing, considering the circumstances surrounding him in Guayaquil, that he could have found time to gather so much information about the political organization of the city and the life of its citizens. Rogers was then a commander hard pressed by the problems of keeping discipline among his men, and keeping up a steady supply of food and water for a large force and numerous hostages. To this must be added the outbreak of disease, and the constant fear of a Spanish attack. A lesser man would have had more than his share just keeping things going from day to day.

Rogers became governor of the Bahamas from 1718 to 1721, and again from 1729 until his death, in 1732. He is said to have made the Bahamas and the surrounding waters safe from pirates, which is in itself a considerable achievement. Dampier, on the other hand, retired to a quiet, uneventful life ashore, spending his last years with one of his sisters, in London.

In 1720, Captain Clipperton visited the Galápagos briefly, to take on supplies. Clipperton would discover an atoll that is named after him, outside the west coast of Mexico. He had once sailed as Dampier’s first mate. Unlike his former captain, he did not leave a description of the Galápagos. Clipperton’s privateering voyage was reasonably successful, and, among other feats, he attacked and sacked the city of Trujillo. After Clipperton, we hear no more about privateers visiting the Galápagos, until Brown and Bouchard called there in 1816. We shall come back to them later.

The 18th century gradually brought more peaceful times to the west coast of South America. Smuggling had replaced piracy as a profitable activity in the Spanish colonies, where people no longer saw all foreign ships as potential enemies. Times were changing, often for the better. As for the Galápagos Islands, they would not return for long to their former loneliness and isolation. Soon the whalers would find their way into the Pacific, breaking the peace of the archipelago forever, and beginning the wanton destruction of the tortoises, iguanas and seals. The rape of Galápagos was about to begin.



While whaling is an ancient activity, the commercial exploitation of the sperm whale did not really take shape in the New England states before the 1690’s. The industry grew rapidly, due to the great demand for sperm oil, which was of a much higher quality than the other lamp oils available at the time. Also, there was a considerable demand for ambergris, which is found in the intestines of sperm whales. (Bullen, 1898).

The Americans soon became expert whalers, keeping for many years a virtual monopoly on the production of sperm oil. Their main market was Great Britain. However, this trade was later disrupted by the War of Independence, a situation that made the British realize how dependent they had become on the whalers in what had until recently been their colonies.

As early as in 1775, the British began to catch sperm whales. Their most important firm engaged in this activity was that of Samuel Enderby & Sons, which held this prominent position despite increasing competition from enterprising whalers like Alexander Champion, who however never managed to catch up with the Enderbys. (Slevin, 1959). All these shipowners benefited from the subsidies that the British government had set up to encourage the industry. Stimulated by government aid and good profits, the British whaling fleet saw an impressive growth until 1791.

This rapid increase in the British whaling fleet caused a serious lack of experienced crews, which led the ship owners to hire American captains and officers, and even deck hands, despite their high cost. In fact, Samuel Enderby Jr. travelled to Boston himself to obtain information on American whaling methods, and to hire seamen in Nantucket. However, despite all this British recruiting, the American whalers always managed to keep ahead of the British competition.

In the early years, the capture of sperm whale was limited to the Atlantic, but the rapid growth of the whaling fleets led to a considerable decline in production per ship, which made it necessary to search for new whaling grounds. (Bullen, 1898). In 1788, the Enderbys sent their ship Emilia around Cape Horn, into the Pacific, opening a whole new world to the whaling industry. The Emilia, whose master was Captain James Shields, returned with 140 tons of sperm oil and 888 seal skins.

The same year, three other Enderby ships made this voyage -- the Friendship, the Greenwich and the Kent. Others took up the challenge, including the Americans, who were promt to join in the competition for the Pacific cachalots. As early as in 1791, there were already six American ships operating in the Pacific, but many more would soon make the voyage. (Slevin, 1959).

However, there was still a great fear for the Spanish among the British captains, whose country had so often been at war with Spain. Nor were the days of the buccaneers and privateers so far behind that they had been forgotten. Most captains were reluctant to enter the Pacific, knowing that illness, lack of supplies and the need for fresh water might force them to call at South American ports, risking, they thought, capture and work in the mines. For this reason, in 1790, Samuel Enderby requested from the British government copies in Latin and English of the treaty that existed between Great Britain and Spain, which allowed British ships to call at Spanish ports.

In 1792, the Admiralty sent Captain James Colnett R.N. to investigate the Pacific region, in search of harbors and other facilities that could be used by the whalers. He was also to draw charts and gather all sorts of information. For this voyage, the Admiralty released the sloop-of-war Rattler, a 374-ton ship, which was purchased by Samuel Enderby & Sons, since the conversions made on her would make her unsuitable for the Royal Navy.

Captain Colnett arrived to the Galápagos on June 13, 1793, remaining among the islands until the 23rd. Unfavorable wind conditions and lack of water forced him to return to the mainland. During this first visit, teal, turtles, tortoises and fish were captured for food. On March 12, the following year, the Rattler returned, remaining among the islands for a whole month. During this time, Captain Colnett drew the first modern chart of the Galápagos, and gathered much information about the islands. He also reports an abundant supply of firewood, tortoises, turtles, land iguanas and fish, as well as sperm whales and fur seals, making good catches of the last two species.

Captain Colnett is credited with setting up the first post barrel at Post Office Bay, on the north coast of Floreana. Though he makes no mention of it, the barrel appears on his chart of the islands. This barrel served for leaving mail and messages brought by whalers who had come from their home ports. Outgoing mail was picked up by whalers on their return voyage, to be posted to their various destinations. The barrel tradition has survived to our own days. It was continued by British naval vessels that called at the islands in search of shipwrecked seamen, on their way to and from the west coast of Canada. When these voyages were discontinued in 1913, scientific expeditions and visting yachtsmen had taken over the maintenance and/or replacement of the barrel or box at Post Office Bay. This tradition has in fact survived so well that there were two barrels in the bay towards the end of the 1980’s.

The barrel at Post Office Bay was not the only one of its kind in the Pacific; but we do not know if other such barrels have been maintained to the present. As late as in 1950, we found a box covered with painted canvas, secured to a post, at the head of Tagus Cove, on Isabela. We have been unable to find out its story, and it had disappeared on our next visit, some three years later.

It was during the early years of the whalers that the first scientific expedition visited the Galápagos. Charles IV of Spain sent out two ships under the command of the Sicilian nobleman Alessandro Malaspina, who was captain on the corvette Descubierta. The other vessel was the corvette Atrevida, under the command of don José Bustamante y Guerra. Several scientists were aboard these ships, including the botanists don Antonio Pineda and don Luís Neel, and the naturalist Tadeo Haenke. This last gentleman came originally from Bohemia, and had studied under the distinguished Austrian botanist Baron Nikolaus von Jacquin.

Malaspina’s expedition left Cádiz on July 30, 1789, reaching Guayaquil in October of the following year. Towards the end of the month, the ships sailed for the Galápagos and beyond. After circumnavigating the world, they again anchored in Cádiz, in September of 1794. Unfortunately, Malaspina’s friends in the government had fallen into disfavor. The results of the expedition were not published until a century later. (Larrea, 1960).

While not a scientific expedition, the visit of the Santa Getrudis, in 1793, seems worth mentioning. She was under the command of don Alonso de Torres y Guerra, who spent four days among the islands, while on his way from Nootka to Callao. Torres produced a chart of the Galápagos that is much inferior to that drawn by Cowley over a century earlier. This is not at all surprising, considering the short time Torres spent in the islands. Its value to navigation was probably never put to the test, as Colnett’s chart became widely used, until superseded by Captain Fitzroy’s, drawn a little over four decades after Colnett’s.

Captain George Vancouver R.N. visited the Galápagos from February 3 to the 9th, 1795, on the sloop-of-war Discovery. His mobility was greatly hampered by light and variable winds, but Mr. Archibald Menzies, the botanist on board, managed to make a brief visit to the NW side of Isabela, a most desolate area, where he seems to have found little if anything to collect. Vancouver was, as so many visitors before and after him, disappointed at not finding fresh water.

While not a naturalist, Captain Amasa Delano, an American sealer, showed considerable curiosity and great talents of observation in the descriptions he left of his voyages. His first visit to the Galápagos was made in 1801, and from him we have the earliest record of the lava lizard (Tropidurus). Captain Delano also discovered the water hole that is located in a ravine south of Tagus Cove. This would be found most useful, over a century later, by the members of the California Academy of Sciences Expedition of 1905-06 as a watering place. (Slevin, 1959).

It was also in those early years that the first known settler of the Galápagos appeared. Patrick Watkins, an Irish seaman, was left on Floreana some time around 1805. Whether this was done at his own request or not is unknown, but he remained on the island for about two years. During this stay, he grew vegetables, which he sold and bartered to the visiting whalers.

A number of stories have been told about Watkins, based mainly on information given in Captain David Porter’s journal and Herman Melville’s Piazza Tales, under the title of The Encantadas. Neither author had ever met Watkins, and had to rely on stories that had passed from mouth to mouth among the whalers. These were written down by Captain Porter, who is believed to have served as Melville’s chief source.

In any case, there remains the fact that Watkins did exist, and that he lived a lonely life, inland from Black Beach, an anchorage on the west side of Floreana, known as «Pat’s Landing» among the whalers. While the author is inclined to believe, for obvious reasons, that Watkins probably lived near the little spring, a short distance uphill from the anchorage, there are one or two other sites that have been described as the place where Watkins built his hut, one of them inside a small crater.

Though Watkins must have done relatively well from his trading -- or could have done so had he wanted to -- and there was still plenty of tortoises and fish to be caught, solitude must have got the better of him. Stealing a boat from a visiting ship, he sailed to the mainland, where he was last seen in the jail at Paita, Perú.

It is possible that other such lonely inhabitants were found on the Galápagos from time to time, some of them seamen, some of them tortoise hunters. The latter would have come for relatively short periods to produce oil for the mainland markets. However, apart from a tragic story told by Melville in his Piazza Tales, we have only one more record. On the act of possession drawn up by Colonel Ignacio Hernández, when he formally took over the Galápagos in the name of Ecuador, one of the witnesses who signed the document is «Juan Johnson, an old inhabitant of this island». How long he had lived on Floreana is not known.

The whalers did much damage to the tortoise population of Galápagos, each ship carrying away several hundred of these reptiles whenever they called at the islands. Fortunately, not all the whalers in the Pacific visited the Galápagos. In 1819, a British ship, the Siren, discovered the highly profitable whaling grounds to the NW of Japan, which attracted much of the British and American fleets. For many years, the production of this area remained at a yearly average of around forty thousand barrels of sperm oil. (Bullen, 1898). These ships usually sailed around Africa,

returning by Cape Horn, following a route that placed them far from the Galápagos Islands.

One of the most interesting chapters from this period is the cruise of the U.S. Frigate Essex, under the command of Captain David Porter. Captain Porter left the east coast of the United States in October of 1812, with orders to join Commodore William Bainbridge in the South Atlantic, where they would attack British shipping in that part of the world. Since Commodore Bainbridge was unable to reach their rendezvous, the rather independent Captain Porter continued around Cape Horn into the Pacific, with the intention of attacking British shipping in that ocean.

Reaching Valparaiso in February 1813, the Essex remained there a short time, to rest the crew and take on supplies. In the company of an American whaler, the Barclay, she reached the Galápagos Islands on April 17. Here, the barrel at PostOffice Bay (at that time only a box) was put to good use by taking from it letters and messages containing information on the whereabouts of the British whalers in the area.

Despite this, Porter had to cruise among the islands for over a week, looking in vain for prizes. Finally, on the 29th, he sighted three British whalers. Flying the enemy’s flag, a ruse commonly used by naval vessels in those times, he caught up with the Montezuma, capturing her without bloodshed. The other two vessels, the Georgiana and the Policy, suffered the same fate. These vessels not only provided Captain Porter with a larger fleet, but also with much needed supplies, among them freshly caught tortoises, cordage, tar, paint, canvas and other items necessary for the maintenance of a ship. The Georgiana was converted into a man-of-war by placing on her the guns from the other two prizes. Her command was given to Lt. John Downes, who was provided with a crew of forty-one men.

From then on, Captain Porter and his men captured a considerable number of British whalers. This posed the problem of providing them with crews, which Porter solved with characteristic efficiency and imagination. A number of seamen on the prizes were Americans, who had no objections against joining Porter. The British he convinced to man the ships by making it clear to them they would be much better off working above decks than spending their time locked up below, as prisoners. As far as the command of the captured ships went, Porter was forced to spread his officers very thinly indeed. In fact, Captain Porter and the surgeon’s mate ended up being the only men above the rank of seaman on the Essex. Even the chaplain and the physician were given command of a prize each, as was the twelve-year old midshipsman David Farragut. Farragut had been adopted by Porter at the age of nine, and was to become a naval hero and an admiral in later years.

Still, it was impossible to keep all the captured ships. In the first five months in the Galápagos and the neighboring waters, the Americans seized twelve British vessels. Some of these were taken to the mainland, to be kept there until further notice, while others were sold to the Spaniards.

Captain Porter was an outstanding leader, with a great talent for organization, and considerable imagination. He did not miss the importance of keeping his crews in good health, and did something about it. Among other things, he put to good use several native plants to prevent scurvy. He used a local substitute for spinach, and the juice and skins of cactus fruits -- presumably Jasminocereus. The juice was boiled with sugar to make syrup, and the skins were cooked into a pleasant tasting preserve.

Like Dampier, Colnett and Delano before him, Porter was a keen observer. He wrote in detail about the fauna and flora of the Galápagos, and seems to have been the first to notice, or at least record, the differences between tortoises coming from different islands. On the other hand, he also has the doubtful honor of setting ashore the first introduced domestic animals. However, to his credit, it must be said that it was done unintentionally.

On August 4, 1813, the Essex anchored at James Bay, on the west side of Santiago. This is the same anchorage that was such a favorite with some of the buccaneers. Porter had with him four goats and some sheep, which were so tame that he took the risk of having them taken ashore to graze. Water was brought to them daily, and the animals came down to drink. However, one day they did not show up. Some seamen went ashore to search for the animals, but were unable to find them.

The springs in the bay had most likely dried out at that time of the year, except possibly the one at the foot of Sugar Loaf Mountain, in the south. It is likely that the animals had found their way inland to greener pastures, and may even have run across the small spring that exists there or one of the many rainwater ponds. The goats reproduced and prospered, but the sheep were never seen again. (Lundh, 1965).

It was on this same visit to James Bay that Captain Porter lost one of his officers. Lt. John S. Cowan had a disagreement with Lt. John M. Gamble of the Marines. This led to a duel on the beach, where Lt. Cowan was shot dead. He was buried somewhere in the bay. The high bluff across from Albany Island is named after him. The only later record we have found of Cowan’s grave is that given by Lt. John Shillibeer of the Royal Marines, who arrived on H.M.S. Britton almost a year later. An unsuccessful search for the tomb was made by personnel of the U.S. base at Baltra, during World War II. Attempts at locating the grave were also made by Captain G.N. Baker of the U.S.S. Mallard in 1941, with no result.

In 1926, the workers who were extracting salt from the a crater lake in James Bay found a partly mummified corpse, dressed in the tattered remains of a blue uniform. The cloth was so decayed that it fell apart when touched, and the golden epaulettes and buttons were greatly tarnished. This find was made in the vicinity of the spring at Sugar Loaf Mountain. This place is the nearest to the landing in the south of the bay that has enough soil to dig a grave. The other places are at the mouths of some intermittent streams, near the shore itself, and would of course be useless for this purpose. The find was reported to the author by don Hugo Egas Zevallos, son of don Darío Egas Sánchez, the original owner of the western side of the island. (Lundh, 1965). However, these are not necessarily the remains of Lt. Cowan, whose grave may be in the part of the bay north of the lava flow. The extensive beach there was often used as a landing, and ships frequently anchored right outside it.

Captain Porter and his fleet caused considerable damage to the British whaling industry. After a voyage to the Marquesas, where he had the Essex refitted and stocked up on supplies, Porter returned in the beginning of 1814. In March of that year, the Essex and the Essex Junior were captured outside Valparaiso by Sir James Hillyer, who was then commanding the British frigate Phoebe.

The two captains had agreed, when they met on land in Valparaiso, that they would not engage in combat inside the harbor, to avoid damaging property in the city. Hillyer left the harbor with his ship and the sloop Cherub, then cruised outside, waiting for Porter to come out. Though the Essex was a frigate of 860 tons, armed with thirty-two guns, she and her companion were somewhat outgunned by the British. For this reason, Porter was reluctant to abandon the anchorage. Hillyer kept the Americans bottled up in Valparaiso for about a month, until a storm forced them out. A fierce battle followed, in which the Essex suffered great losses and much damage.

After Porter’s defeat, he, Farragut and the surviving Americans were allowed to sail to the United States on the Essex Junior, which had been stripped of her guns. Both Captain Porter and Midshipsman Farragut would continue to distinguish themselves in years to come.

The American whalers continued to prosper, and their fleet increased greatly. Then, the Civil War (1861-65) broke out. The Confederate steamer Alabama attacked and burnt so many of the New England whaling ships, that the industry never fully recovered from its losses. In the meantime, catches became less and less profitable, until a point was reached where whaling became a poor investment. Cheaper petroleum derived products also began to replace both the lubricants and the lamp oil that had been the backbone of the sperm whale industry.

The days of hunting for the sperm whale were largely over. An era in the history of the Pacific was closed. However, in its wake was left the decimation of the Galápagos tortoises and the islands’ fur seals. Still, we cannot give the whalers all the blame. Others were equally shortsighted -- the skippers carrying tortoises to California to sell for meat, the tortoise hunters who produced oil for the inland markets, and the settlers, who had already begun to arrive in the days of the whalers.



In the 19th century, other visitors besides the whalers were becoming interested in the Galápagos. In 1822, Captain Basil Hall R.N., commanding H.M.S. Conway, visited the islands, setting up his instruments on the south side of Pinta, to determine the compression of the earth at the equator. His stay was relatively short. He remained only long enough to take his measurements and stock up on tortoises, which were still common on that island.

The year of 1825 saw increased activity in the Galápagos. On January 9, the brig William and Ann of the Hudson Bay Company, under the command of Captain Henry Hanwell, stopped at the islands on her way to the northwestern parts of North America. Aboard were two naturalists, David Douglas and Dr. John Scouler. The former had been sent out to collect plants and seeds for the Royal Horticultural Society, while the latter had signed on as surgeon, hoping to make collections of both plants and animals during the long voyage.

Douglas and Scouler made the first botanical collections on record for the Galápagos, though much of this material was lost, probably damaged by humidity. However, Sir Joseph Hooker reported thirteen of Scouler’s plants and five of Douglas’ from their Galápagos collections, in his paper on Darwin’s plants, published in 1847. (Wiggins & Porter, 1971).

In this same paper by Hooker there are also some plants collected by James Macrae on Isabela, somewhat later in the year, as well as a few of those brought back from the islands by Hugh Cuming, who visited them on a cruise with his yacht, in 1829.

On February 14, 1825, at two in the morning, Captain Benjamin Morrell witnessed and recorded a tremendous eruption on Fernandina, the westernmost of the Galápagos. His ship, the Tartar, was anchored at Banks Bay, on the NW side of Isabela, right across from Fernandina. Morrell gives a vivid description of this impressive eruption. (Morrell, 1832).

Awakened by a shattering explosion, the crew of the Tartar went on deck, from where they later saw a river of fiery lava pouring over the rim of the crater, winding its incandescent way down to the shore. Here, it made the sea boil into dense clouds of steam. The air around the ship and the sea itself began to warm up at their anchorage, so that the pitch in the seams of the Tartar became soft, and the crew felt suffocated by the heat. To make the most of a weak breeze, Captain Morrell was forced to sail through the relatively narrow Canal Bolívar, which separates the two islands. On the 15th, at eleven in the night, the Tartar found anchorage at a seemingly safe distance, in Elizabeth Bay, on the west side of Isabela.

At eight o’clock the following morning, the temperature at Elizabeth Bay had also become intolerable, and Captain Morrell decided to set sail for Floreana. On his return from Hawaii, on October 27, Morrell again anchored in Elizabeth Bay. From here, he could see that the volcano on Fernandina was still boiling over with lava, but much of its violence had subsided. (Morrell, 1832).

In March of the same year, the Rt. Hon. Lord George Anson Byron had anchored at Tagus Cove. He was in command of H.M.S. Blonde, which was on her way to Hawaii with the remains of King Kamehameha II and his queen, who had died during an official visit to England. Though the eruption on Fernandina impressed the British aristocrat greatly, it must by then have abated considerably, for the Blonde was anchored closer to it than Morrell had been when it started. Lord Byron made no mention of being inconvenienced by the heat from the volcano. He commented however on the tameness of the Galápagos animals, but, unlike most visitors, he makes no mention of the tortoises. He found the water hole that Captain Delano had discovered, south of Tagus Cove, but it was completely dry. (Slevin, 1959). It is easy to imagine the extent of the destruction such an eruption must have caused to the flora and fauna on Fernandina.

Though the French and, to a much greater extent, the British had called at the islands in their naval vessels, neither showed interest in taking possession of them. The only visitor who seems to have considered such a possibility in those early years appears to have been Captain David Porter, who wanted to place them under the American flag. However, the United States government had been against it. Theoretically, the islands belonged to Spain, until the South American nations became independent. After this, because of their position, the Galápagos should naturally come under Ecuador. However, neither Spain nor General Bolívar’s Gran Colombia (the former Nueva Granada) had ever taken formal possession of the islands.

In fact, the general attitude to this matter was one of indifference. The only exception to this was General José Villamil, a prosperous Guayaquil merchant, who had been one of the founding fathers of the short-lived Republic of Guayaquil. Villamil had been much engaged in the struggle for independence, contributing generously with his money and personal services to the revolution. He even brought a whole division from Panama, largely at his own expense. These soldiers, the División Córdoba, distinguished themselves at the Battle of Pichincha, outside Quito, on May 24, 1822, when the Spaniards were definitively routed in what would become Gran Colombia.

General Villamil had an interesting career. He was born in Louisiana, in 1789, when the colony belonged to Spain. His father was a prosperous businessman, who came originally from Asturias, in the north of Spain. His mother was a French Creole lady. Young José got an excellent education, and showed considerable intelligence and an adventurous spirit. This latter induced him to join the volunteer forces that had been organized to repel pirate attacks in the area. He soon became known for his outstanding marksmanship and great fearlessness.

While studying in Spain, Villamil befriended several of the South American patriots who yearned for independence from the Mother Country. After returning to the New World, he stayed with two of his brothers, who lived in Venezuela. It was here, in 1810, that he became involved in a conspiracy against the colonial administration in Maracaibo. The plot was discovered and Villamil had to flee.

The young man then settled in Guayaquil, where he forgot for a while his political ideas, devoting himself to business, and marrying one of the city’s society belles, the distinguished doña Ana de Garaicoa. It was during this relatively peaceful period of his life that Villamil earned the gratitude of the Spanish officials by warning them of a privateer attack against the city.

In February of 1816, while on his way to Callao, José Villamil sighted several ships at anchor off Puná Island, across from the mouths of the Guayas River. These formed a small fleet under Commodore William Brown, an Irishman who had joined the fight for independence of the United Provinces of Rio de la Plata -- later to become the Argentine Republic -- becoming commander-in-chief of their navy. With him was his companion of many battles, the French Captain Hippolyte Bouchard. The two had gained considerable merit fighting against the Spanish along the Argentinian coast, and had played a key role in the taking of Montevideo, in May of 1814. The following year, Brown and Bouchard rounded Cape Horn on a privateering expedition against Spanish shipping in the Pacific.

Suspecting the strangers to be pirates, Villamil ordered his schooner, the Alcance, to return upriver to Guayaquil, so he could warn the city. At the fort of Punta de Piedra, he alerted the garrison, ordering them in the governor’s name that they must fire on the approaching ships, doing their best to delay them. Then, he continued up to the city, where he arrived in time to get its defenses organized. The fort at Punta de Piedra was unable to stop the privateers, but its guns caused them enough delay before they were silenced. The incredible good luck that had followed Commodore Brown in his earlier undertakings seemd to have left him. Just below the city, his ship, the barkentine Trinidad, was grounded on one of the mud bars in the river. It was then boarded and taken by the defenders of the city, who captured Brown and forty-eight of his men. (Larrea, 1960).

After this, the Spaniards began negotiations with the privateers. A cease-fire was agreed on, and an exchange of prisoners was carried out. Commodore Brown and his men were exchanged for some prisoners the privateers had taken in Callao and the Gulf of Guayaquil. The mail that had been taken from four captured Spanish ships was handed over to the city officials. The privateers then agreed to abandon the port and the Gulf of Guayaquil.

Brown and Bouchard sailed with their ships to the Galápagos Islands, as the Frenchman’s crew were opposed to returning by way of Cape Horn, and wanted to divide the booty taken during their expedition. Brown did his very best to keep the fleet together, but failed. Bouchard and his men sailed to the Philippines, while Brown headed for Buenaventura to repair his ship and obtain supplies. Later in the year, he returned to the Galápagos to stock up on tortoises for his voyage around Cape Horn.

Another hero of the South American struggle for independence who sought temporary refuge in the Galápagos, was John Illingworth. This British naval officer, born in Stockton, commanded the schooner Rosa de los Andes. After a battle with the Spanish frigate Piedad, near the Island of Puná, on June 24, 1819, Illingworth sailed to the islands to repair his much damaged ship. He spent two months there, and captured the Spanish barkentine Cantón while in the archipelago. (Larrea, 1960). Illingworth’s descendants still live in Guayaquil.

Eventually, José Villamil became once more involved in a conspiracy to overthrow Spanish rule in his locality. His home became a meeting place for the plotters, and he contributed generously to the purchase of armament. In 1820, he personally took part in a coup, which had been carefully planned and was carried out with remarkable efficiency. Then, as the war spread, the Republic of Guayaquil became part of Bolívar’s Gran Colombia. Villamil continued distinguishing himself, rising rapidly to the rank of brigadier general in the republican armies. He was respected for his honesty and efficiency in fulfilling the various official duties that he was entrusted with through the years, until his death at the age of seventy-seven years, in 1866.

However, General Villamil is best remembered as the man who convinced the Ecuadorian government to take formal possession of the Galápagos Islands. As soon as Ecuador broke away from Gran Colombia, in 1830, General Villamil set in motion his plans to colonize the archipelago. In October of the following year, he sent out a commission to investigate the economic possibilities offered by the islands,

especially the availability of archil -- actually several species of lichens that were in much demand for the production of dyes. As expected, archil proved to be abundant in the Galápagos.

After contacting several members of the government, Villamil organized the Sociedad Colonizadora del Archipiélago de Galápagos, filing a claim on the lands he expected to use on November 14, 1831. General Juan José Flores, Ecuador’s first president, favored Villamil’s project, and ordered the Prefect of Guayas Province, the patriot and poet don José Joaquín de Olmedo, to make the necessary arrangements for taking possession of the Galápagos.

On January 20, 1832, the schooner Mercedes sailed from Guayaquil with an expedition under the command of Colonel Ignacio Hernández. On Floreana, on February 12, a ceremony took place whereby Colonel Hernández declared the Galápagos a territory of the Republic of Ecuador, in the presence of the passengers and crew of the schooner Mercedes, Juan Johnson (at the time the island’s only inhabitant), and the captains and crews of the American frigates Levant and Richmond. Colonel Hernández gave new names to some of the larger islands, renaming the archipelago itself Islas del Ecuador. Only one of his names has survived and is still in use -- that of Floreana, which was named after President Flores.

Among those who stayed behind after the Mercedes returned to the mainland were Colonel Hernández, who was justice of the peace to the colony, and Dr. Eugenio Ortiz, the chaplain. The two of them distributed the lands that the settlers would use. Also, two of Villamil’s partners, Joaquín Villasmil and Lorenzo Bark stayed, besides a small group of settlers. Most of these last were soldiers who had taken part in a conspiracy to overthrow General Flores. They had been sentenced to death, but, hearing of their fate, General Villamil had interceded for them, obtaining their pardon on the condition that they should leave for Galápagos as settlers. (Larrea, 1960). This set an unfortunate precedent, which would in time turn Galápagos into a place of political banishment and, soon after, into a regular penal colony.

In April and June, new settlers arrived and, in October, General José Villamil came out with eighty colonists, to take office as governor of the islands. The location chosen for the settlement by Colonel Hernández and Dr. Ortiz was the best possible, being on the fertile central plateau, near the largest and most reliable of the springs. The place was named Asilo de la Paz -- Haven of Peace -- a name that would be perpetuated by the Wittmer family, who established themselves near the spring in 1932, and gave this same name to their farm. (Lundh, 1965).

Under the guidance of General Villamil, who took great interest in the welfare of the settlers, the colony seems to have prospered. Villamil had his house built near the small spring above Black Beach, where he was fairly close to the anchorage, enjoyed a milder and drier climate than on the plateau, and still could be within reasonable distance from the farmlands, which are a little more than an hour’s hike inland.

General Villamil had brought with him domestic animals of different sorts -- donkeys, goats, pigs and cattle. In fact, all the feral animals found in the Galápagos are attributed to him, as if he had made the rounds of the islands, setting ashore a few specimens here and there. Since the governor was busy trying to establish a viable colony on Floreana, he is unlikely to have even considered this scheme. Besides, the history of the introduction of feral animals varies from place to place around the islands. While goats were introduced at James Bay in 1813, they did not even exist on Santa Cruz before the 1920’s, being introduced there at about the same time as pigs. Wild donkeys were however found on Santa Cruz and many other places from the early days of colonization, having been landed by the tortoise hunters.

The introduced animals -- those brought intentionally and those that had arrived accidentally, such as rats and cockroaches -- would in time cause much damage to the flora and fauna of Floreana and other places around the Galápagos. The plant eating species have destroyed much sheltering vegetation and compete for food with the native animals, especially during dry periods. Pigs, dogs and cats are likely to have done even more damage by eating native animal species, their young and their eggs. It is a well known fact that both pigs and dogs feed on small tortoises, the former also rooting up their nests to get at the eggs. However, at least in the beginning, the greatest destruction by far was done by man. The inland forests on Floreana were cut down to plant crops and establish pastures for the cattle. This and a number of introduced cultivated species such as oranges and limes, as well as the numerous weeds that came with the settlers and their goods, completely altered the landscape of the inland plateau.

Since the whalers were still visiting the islands, a considerable trade in fruits, vegetables and tortoises developed. Purchasing tortoises was to the advantage of the whalers, as the more accessible habitats of these reptiles had been largely depleted, and obtaining them had therefore become much harder and time consuming. The settlers brought tortoises from several places around the islands, keeping them alive in pens for this trade. On the other hand, tortoise hunters were very active, butchering animals for the extraction of oil, as tortoise oil had an excellent market on the mainland. Other products exported aside from oil were archil, jerked beef, hides, dry fish, dried tortoise meat and possibly coffee.

It did not take many years before tortoises became extinct on Floreana. The tortoise population there had probably been much exploited from earlier times, because of the relatively easy access to the inland areas, but there were still some left in 1835, when Charles Darwin visited the island. However, they were no longer numerous enough for commercial exploitation. Darwin met tortoise hunters inland from James Bay, and the area inland from Whale Bay, in the NW of Santa Cruz, was also exploited for tortoises in the 1830’s.

If one considers how far these two places are from Floreana and what a long haul it must have been to get there with the boats available to the settlers, using sail and oars for propulsion, it is evident that the much closer tortoise habitats on Hood and San Cristóbal had become unprofitable at a very early date. This is not to say that tortoises were no longer numerous in some of the remoter parts of the latter island.

We have mentioned Darwin’s visit to the islands. From the point of view of science, this visit marks the real beginning of research on the Galápagos flora and fauna. As we have seen, he was not the first naturalist to visit the islands, but he was certainly the first to bring back collections of such size that the uniqueness of the insular flora and fauna could begin to be fully appreciated.

H.M.S. Beagle remained in the Galápagos from September 15 to October 20 of 1835, visiting San Cristóbal, Floreana, Santiago and Isabela. The ship was commanded by Captain Robert Fitzroy, noted navigator and meteorologist, who had surveyed the coasts of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. He also drew the chart of the Galápagos Islands that would replace the one made by Captain Colnett. Fitzroy’s chart was, with few modifications, in use until after World War II, when the survey made by the U.S.S. Bowditch became generally available. It is remarkable how little difference there is between these two charts, especially if one considers the instruments available to Captain Fitzroy and all the modern equipment found on the «Bowditch». Fitzroy was in fact known in his time as an outstanding surveyor. (Lundh, 1965).

Charles Darwin, the young naturalist of the expedition, was then unknown, but his work would make him far more famous than Captain Fitzroy. To such a degree in fact that he has become the central character in the voyage of the «Beagle», as far as posterity is concerned. It was not only the collections and notes that he brought back, but also the conclusions he eventually came to, after studying the fossils he had collected in South America, and realizing the great differentiation that had taken place within the groups of species he found in the Galápagos.

The sudden revelation that overcame Darwin while in the Galápagos is of course a myth. It is true that he noticed differences between the mockingbirds he saw on the different islands. Also, Captain Nicholas Lawson, the English vice-governor, who was in charge during General Villamil’s absence, had pointed out to Darwin that it was possible to tell which island a tortoise came from by noticing details in its appearance. Darwin however had only seen races that showed no major differences. It was only years later, when he had studied his South American fossils, learnt from Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker about the endemism of many of the plant specimens he had brought home, and from John Gould about the uniqueness of many of his bird specimens, that Darwin began to realize what all this information could lead to. In the meantime, he had also read Porter’s narrative of the Essex’s adventures, finding confirmation of Captain Lawson’s information on the differences among tortoises from the various islands. In fact, Darwin’s theory of evolution was built on much and long reflection, backed by a wealth of evidence.

Darwin recorded a certain amount of discontent among the settlers, who complained of poverty, though they were obviously better fed and in many ways better off than most of their fellow citizens of similar social rank on the mainland. He describes the settlement as a number of houses scattered irregularly over a flat area, which was cultivated with sweet potatoes and bananas. «The inhabitants, although complaining of poverty, obtain, without much trouble the means of subsistence. In the woods there are many wild pigs and goats; but the staple article of animal food is supplied by the tortoises. Their numbers have of course been greatly reduced on this island , but the people yet count on two days’ hunting giving them food for the rest of the week.» (Darwin, 1839). In 1838, Dupetit-Thouars found the population of Floreana to consist of about three hundred people, half of them deportees.

As early as in 1833, there had been an increase in the population of Floreana by the arrival of more political deportees. But worse was to come, for soon the ranks of the deportees included all manner of lawbreakers, regular convicts -- thieves, assassins and prostitutes. The government’s purpose of increasing the population was however successful only for a relatively short period.

In 1837, General Villamil resigned as governor, returning to the mainland. He was succeeded by Colonel José Williams, a ruthless man, who surrounded himself with a guard of deserters from whaling ships, setting up a dictatorship on the island. He exploited the colony for his own benefit, forcing the inhabitants to sell him all their produce, which he then resold at considerable profit to the whalers or exported to the mainland. Fines and floggings became frerquent forms of punishment. General Mena, one of General Villamil’s partners, who had been left in charge of the latter’s interests, soon quarreled with the new governor, moving over to San Cristóbal with some of the settlers. Mena also took with him a number of domestic animals. (Lundh, 1965).

The identity of this Colonel Williams is a bit hazy. Latorre (1992) calls him «James Williams» and gives him American nationality. Most other sources name him simply «J. Williams», saying nothing about his origin, with one or two exceptions who claim he was British. In 1847, there were about twenty people living at Puerto Baquerizo (San Cristóbal). Among these was an Englishman called Willliams, who kept two-three hundred tortoises on hand for trading with the whalers. Whether he was our Colonel Williams is hard to say.

Williams became governor at a time that was most favorable to a man of his sort. The government had to cope with a very unstable political situation on the mainland, which left such remote places as Galápagos at the lowest level in the official priorities. The only time Galápagos was remembered was when the mainland authorities wanted to get rid of some convicts or a group of troublesome political opponents. Occasionally, concessions of one kind or another would also be granted, in exchange for some form of revenue or a percentage of the expected profits. A typical case is that of don Miguel Andrade Fuentefría, who obtained from Congress, in 1839, a concession for exploiting the oil of tortoises and sea lions.

In 1841 the people of Floreana had had enough of their despotic governor. A revolt broke out on May 6, and Colonel Williams and his gang had to flee the island to save their lives. It had to go that far before the mainland officials reacted to the colonists’ plight, though numerous complaints had been made. In April of the following year, the schooner Diligencia was sent to the islands, and an inquiry was carried out by Lieutenant José María Muñoz. His report on the Williams administration shocked the mainland officials. But, by then, only about eighty of the approximately three hundred inhabitants still remained on the island. (Bognoly & Espinosa, 1905).

General Villamil returned in 1842 to take over again, in an attempt at saving his settlement. However, he soon gave up. Taking with him the remaining free settlers and some of his cattle, he moved over to San Cristóbal, to join General Mena. By 1845 there were only twenty-five convicts laft on Floreana, and no free settlers at all.

However, when H.M.S. Herald, commanded by Captain (later Sir) Henry Kellett, accompanied by the tender Pandora, visited Floreana at the beginning of 1846, they were told by Guerney, an Englishman, that there were about forty people on the island, and that there had been a number of political deportees there a year earlier. These had been returned to the mainland when General Juan José Flores was ousted by a coup.

This Guerney is probably the same Guillermo (William) Guerney who is mentioned by Captain de Gueydon as having lived on San Cristóbal for several years, who piloted the Frenchman’s brig into Puerto Baquerizo, in 1846. When the British met him on Floreana, he was married to the Ecuadorian administrator’s sister.

Captain Kellett found an abundance of cattle, pigs, goats and dogs roaming the island. There were no tortoises left. However, farm products were abundant -- melons, bananas, pumpkins, etc. The British visitors also called at San Cristóbal to supply themselves with water, buying some tortoises at Puerto Baquerizo. After a visit to James Bay (Santiago), the ships continued to the mainland. At Súa, not far from Atacames, the young botanist of the expedition, Thomas Edmonston, was accidentally shot, ending at twenty-one what promised to become a distinguished career in science. He was buried ashore. (Perry, 1980).

In the meantime, General José Villamil had been recalled to active duty with the appointment of Commandant General of the Guayas District. He held this position until March of 1847, when he requested and got a six-month leave, to return to the Galápagos to recuperate from an illness. He also asked to be allowed to purchase the barkentine Ecuatoriano from the Ecuadorian Navy. He intended to outfit her for whaling; but the purchase was never made.

In the 1850’s Ecuador barely kept a presence in the Galápagos. There was a handful of settlers left on San Cristóbal, headed by General Mena, who was governor of the archipelago. On Floreana there were a few convicts and a very small garrison. The convicts roamed more or less at will about the island, so it is not surprising that, in 1851, some of them saw the opportunity to steal a boat from a visiting whaler, escaping with the intention of reaching the mainland. Nobody ever heard from them again. However, it is in the following year that the most spectacular escape in the history of Galápagos takes place, giving the notorious Manuel Briones his place in history as the «Pirate of the Guayas».



One of the most interesting chapters in the history of Galápagos begins in the Guayas River basin. Here, one Manuel Briones terrorized the region from 1847 to 1851. Born in Daule, one of the towns of the district, Briones followed in the footsteps of his father, a notorious bandit with a long career in crime.

Manuel Briones was ruthless and bloodthirsty. He was also fearless. Not satisfied with plundering the relatively isolated settlements and the scattered farms and plantations, he began seeking the larger towns, attacking such important centers as Babahoyo, Vinces and his native Daule.

Finally, the authorities were forced to organize a large scale manhunt. After considerable efforts, Manuel Briones and his gang were captured and brought to trial. With all the evidence against them, the judge felt no doubts about sentencing the criminals to eight years of deportation to Floreana. The convicts were then placed on the first ship sailing to the Galápagos.

As we have seen, the colony on Floreana had already disintegrated. While a few settlers still remained on San Cristóbal, the great majority had, by this time, returned to the mainland. At the time Briones and his gang were deported, in 1851, there remained only a very small garrison on Floreana, which kept a rather lax control over a small number of convicts. In fact, being deported to the island was not half as bad as what it was reputed to be.

The population elsewhere in the Galápagos was also small. General Villamil’s old partner and friend, General Mena, was still on San Cristóbal, ruling as governor over less than half a dozen settlers and a handful of soldiers. At Whale Bay, on the NW side of Santa Cruz, there was a little group of men and a woman, who probably made a living hunting tortoises. They must have supplied themselves with fresh water from the little spring at Santa Rosa Hill, a considerable distance inland. The colonization of the Galápagos Islands had indeed reached its lowest point since the islands were first settled. Our Ecuadorian sources (Larrea and others) have been rather sketchy about the Briones story, dwelling mostly on its international repercussions. In fact, some of the available data from usually reliable sources is even in disagreement with eyewitness accounts from the period. Strange to say, the best sources we have so far found about the escape of Briones and his gang, and the events that followed up to their execution, are two contemporary Swedish authors, who happened to become involved in the last chapter of the criminal’s career. One of these authors is Prof. Nils Johan Andersson, who wrote a series of letters during his voyage around the world. Prof. Andersson was the botanist on His Swedish Majesty’s Frigate Eugenie, while she was sailing around the world, a voyage that lasted from 1851 to 1853, under the command of Captain (later Rear Admiral) Christian Adolf Virgin, a distinguished officer and diplomat. During their visit to the Galápagos, Prof. Andersson became the first botanist to collect on Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galápagos. Prof. Andersson mentions the Briones case and gives a brief account of the capture of the American whaler George Howland by the bandits. (Andersson, 1854).

More detailed material is found in the Swedish two-volume narrative of the voyage, written by Lieutenant Carl Johan Skogman, a Swedish-Finish nobleman who was an officer on the frigate. Lt. Skogman gives a wealth of information about Briones and the George Howland. (Skogman, 1854). Lt. Skogman knew Spanish and had therefore access to both the Ecuadorian officials involved and other sources such as letters and documents.

Manuel Briones, a large, brutal bully of considerable strength, managed easily to maintain his leadership over the gang, after the criminals arrived on Floreana. Enjoying relative freedom, these men roamed the island more or less at will, having even access to a small boat, probably because they were engaged in fishing. The officer in charge does not seem to have worried about the convicts escaping, as it was well known that a few prisoners who had got away recently had never been heard of again.

It is claimed that Briones and his men seized an American schooner that arrived to the islands from California. (Skogman, 1854). Whether this vessel had come to stock up on tortoises for the California market or to hunt seals is not known. It is said that Briones and his gang murdered everybody aboard and sank the schooner, after securing a considerable amount of money that was found on the vessel. The capture of this schooner may later have led the scoundrels to think of the possibility of embarking on a career in piracy.

At the time of these events, General Juan José Flores, who had been president when General Villamil began colonizing the islands, lived in exile in Perú. Flores was constantly plotting to overthrow the current Ecuadorian government, headed by General José Urbina. General Urbina, a liberal, had pushed through a number of reforms, including the abolition of slavery. Flores, a conservative, had ruled the country from 1830 to 1835 and, after a liberal interlude, from 1839 to 1845, when he was deposed.

Nearly all our sources claim that Briones planned his escape from Floreana with the purpose of intercepting an expedition sent by Flores from Perú with the intention of starting an uprising in Ecuador. By intercepting the revolutionaries, it is claimed that Briones hoped to gain a pardon for himself and his gang. That Flores was plotting to return to power was a well known fact, for he had been trying for some time to get together an army of sorts. He had also tried unsuccessfully to enlist the aid of several foreign countries for his come-back to power. Since this had been going on for some time, it would be surprising if Briones had not heard about it, even before his deportation.

None of our sources explains how Briones got to know when Flores was about to send an expedition from Perú. That he should have obtained such information while on Floreana may seem a bit farfetched. However, it is not as impossible as it might appear. Nearly all the whalers coming around Cape Horn or the Straits of Magellan called at Peruvian ports on their way to Galápagos and beyond. Also, there were smaller vessels coming out for tortoises and tortoise oil and at least some of them could have been Peruvian. On the other hand, Briones could have learnt about the Flores expedition after he returned to the mainland, where he first reached the Peruvian coast. He could have found this knowledge and the interception of the revolutionaries a convenient excuse to justify the capture of the George Howland and the murder of the Flores followers he met with in the Gulf of Guayaquil. But Briones’ behavior after the capture of one of the Flores vessels completely disagrees with his purported intentions. The story of Briones and his men heading directly to Guayaquil, where they expected to be welcomed as heroes, happens to be untrue. Briones and his gang did no such thing.

Regardless of what Briones may have claimed or not after his capture, it is obvious that he had already decided to get hold of a ship, when the New Bedford whaler George Howland anchored off Floreana. Captain Cromwell, her master, could not have suspected any danger when he sent four of his men ashore to collect firewood. These men were captured by the convicts, failing therefore to return aboard.

From this point on, we shall have to rely largely on the account made by the ship’s cooper, Mr. Peacock, as recorded by Lt. Skogman. (Skogman, 1854). Peacock is after all the only eyewitness whose account, as far as we know, is still on record for this part of the story. According to him, a boat came alongside the Howland and the visitors asked Captain Cromwell if he would be willing to send the ship’s carpenter ashore, to help them repair their boat. Cromwell, who intended to sail as soon as the firewood party returned, refused to do this. Instead, he offered to pay the visitors for locating the missing crew members, whom he thought might have lost their way in the woods.

It is reasonable to assume that the men in the boat had only come out on a scouting mission. After agreeing to look for the missing men, they returned to the island, coming back later with a larger number of convicts. The unsuspecting Americans were taken completely by surprise, and the vessel was seized without bloodshed. Captain Cromwell was bound hand and foot, and set ashore with part of his crew. The remaining seamen were forced to set sail, and Briones and his gang headed for San Cristóbal.

While on their way, Briones ordered the mate and two of the seamen to paint the sides of the ship. This was a mistake, as the three men saw the opportunity to lower a boat, escaping towards Floreana and their stranded shipmates. Peacock’s attempt to join them was checked by one of the bandits, who hit him over the head with the flat side of a cutlass, stunning him.

On arriving to San Cristóbal, Manuel Briones sent a party ashore, where General Mena, a woman (mistakenly thought by Peacock to be the general’s daughter), and four soldiers were captured. Among these last was a Lt. Barroterán, who is mentioned in most of our Ecuadorian sources, and may have been in command of the small garrison.

These prisoners, a considerable amount of money belonging to the governor, and a quantity of supplies were brought out to the ship. Here, several of the convicts raped the woman, who was later taken ashore in an uncharacteristic gesture of kindness. The male prisoners were all shot. Peacock (in Skogman, 1854) tells how three shots were fired at General Mena, wounding him. The old gentleman stood there, unflinching, and tapped his chest with his fist, as he repeated scornfully, «Here! Here!», while the convicts reloaded for a second attempt. Four more shots were fired at the old general before he finally fell dead.

The governor’s body was thrown over the side, along with those of the four soldiers. Two of the latter were only wounded, and grabbed hold of the ship’s side. The convicts hit and stabbed their hands, forcing them to let go. Soon after, they could be seen in the wake of the ship, struggling to stay afloat, then finally going under.

The convicts had taken with them from Floreana a Frenchman, Hieron, who was living on the island at the time. Whether he was a convict or a settler is not known, but he was obviously not one of Briones’ men, as he had come along against his will. They had brought him because he had some knowledge of navigation. On the day after the George Howland sailed from San Cristóbal, Hieron warned Peacock that the convicts were talking about killing him, for they considered the cooper was of no use to them. On hearing this, the American hid himself in the hold, among some oil barrels. He survived the rest of the voyage eating blubber and whatever the Frenchman managed to smuggle down to him. With his knife, he dug a hole in one of the water casks so he could have something to drink.

Living in constant fear of being discovered, Peacock spent all his time in the darkness of the hold, thus losing count of the days. He could not tell afterwards whether he had been sixteen or eighteen days below. In the meantime, the whaler had reached the vicinity of Túmbez, where the convicts sold two barrels of sperm oil. Peacock’s Spanish seems to have been rather limited, and his opportunity to overhear what was being said above decks must have been even more so. Obviously, what little he could tell later about what happened after he hid in the hold must have come to him through Hieron. He did learn of the escape of two of his shipmates, who managed to get away in one of the boats, while they were near the Peruvian coast. (This left only Peacock and the carpenter from the original crew). Apparently, the cooper did not learn about the two women the convicts had met on the beach near Túmbez, for he told nothing about them in his statement. These, a mother and her daughter, were seized by some of the convicts, raped and murdered.

The convicts continued along the coast, heading for the Gulf of Guayaquil. Shortly after reaching this latter area, they overtook two vessels that were headed for some unknown destination in Ecuador. One of the small ships managed to escape into waters that were too shallow for the whaler, but the other one was boarded, and twenty-three of the forty-two men aboard her were killed by Briones and his gang. Among the victims were Colonel Manuel Tamayo and the lieutenants Moreno and Guerrero, as well as several other officers. Like those who had managed to escape, the men on the captured vessel belonged to an expedition sent north by General Flores.

The nineteen whose lives were spared were taken aboard the George Howland. They later left the whaler in two boats, heading for Túmbez. It is not clear whether they escaped or were just sent ashore by Briones for some unknown reason.

While at anchor in the inner parts of the Gulf of Guayaquil, the escaped convicts sighted an approaching frigate. Since such a ship was too well armed and too large for them to tackle, and seeing their only escape route blocked, the Briones gang abandoned the George Howland, where Peacock still remained hidden in the hold.

Briones and his men were later captured by a detachment of Ecuadorian soldiers who had been sent out to watch for any vessels sent by General Flores. Four of the convicts were taken on the Island of Puná, at the mouth of the Guayas River. Eleven men were overtaken when they were aboard a whaleboat. Among these were the prisoners still held by the convicts -- the ship’s carpenter, the Frenchman Hieron, and the two caretakers of the lighthouse on Santa Clara Island, at the entrance to the gulf, who had been brought along as pilots for the neighboring waters.

Both Briones and his lieutenant, a huge mulatto called Antonio Huncho, were among those captured. The convicts were promptly sent upriver to Guayaquil, where the officials apparently saw no merit in their gruesome attack on the Flores expedition, and wasted no time in judging them and sentencing them to be shot for piracy and cold-blooded murder.

The frigate that was seen approaching the George Howland happened to be His Swedish Majesty’s Frigate Eugenie. She had left Callao in Perú on March 18, 1852, at seven in the evening. From there, she worked her way up the coast, making the best possible use of the unstable breezes and light winds, anchoring whenever there was calm. Thus, she entered the Gulf of Guayaquil two days later. Lt. Skogman remarks, as so many other travellers, on the dramatic change in scenery that is experienced after leaving behind the desolation of the Peruvina coast, to discover the vivid green of the mangroves along the shore of the Ecuadorian side of the border. (Skogman, 1854).

A bark was sighted just inside the gulf. The stranger aroused some curiosity because of her unusual maneuvers. At first, she seemed bent on getting as much distance as possible between herself and the frigate. Then, she headed back, to finally anchor a short distance from where the Eugenie was waiting for a favorable breeze.

After hoisting the flag of Hamburg, the strangers lowered a boat, and the bark’s master came over. The visitor seemed scared and very upset. He told Captain Virgin and his officers that an American whaler had been captured in the Galápagos by some escaped convicts, who killed all the crew, and sailed to the mainland to embark on a career of piracy. He had also heard that they were terrorizing the neighboring waters. The master of the bark was understandably shaken by the gory tales he had heard, and the approaching frigate had scared him at first. After realizing his mistake, he had approached to seek her protection. He requested to be allowed to sail in the company of the Swedes, so that his crew and cargo would be safe. Captain Virgin obligingly invited him to do so.

No time was lost in lowering a launch, a sloop and one of the boats. These were made ready for combat, then sent out under the command of Lt. C.A. Sundin to locate the pirates. In the meantime, the George Howland was sighted, lying at anchor farther in. Lt. Sundin was instructed to take up a position that would block any attempt by the pirates to escape. At daybreak, the boats were recalled. The George Howland was still at anchor. There was no sign of life on her decks. Suddenly, some men appeared, embarking on two balsa rafts that headed for the shore. These men may have been local fishermen, as the convicts seemed to have left in one or two of the whaler’s boats, probably while it was still dark.

There being no wind, the frigate was unable to move any closer. It was decided that there was no point in sending the boats after the men on the rafts. The distance was too great for rowing and, should the seamen have managed to catch up with the rafts, they would by then have been too exhausted by the heat and the effort to put up a good fight. It was one o’clock in the afternoon when a breeze finally came, allowing the Eugenie to approach the whaler. As the Swedes came closer, they discovered a smaller sailing vessel secured to the whaler’s stern. By then, the American flag had been hoisted up-side-down, aft on the Howland -- a distress signal. Around four o’clock, the wind had died, returning with increased force later. This allowed the frigate to move rather close before sunset.

Lieutenant Sundin was sent over with the launch and the sloop. This time, his orders were to board and seize the pirate ship. There were still no signs of life on board, until a man suddenly appeared, approaching the Swedes in a friendly manner. He introduced himself as Mr. Peacock, cooper of the George Howland. Despite his assurances that nobody else was aboard, the Swedes took no chances. All hatches were battened down, armed guards were posted next to them as well as near every other exit. Then, the ship was thoroughly searched. A six-pounder was found on the starboard side, loaded with bits and pieces of old harpoons, chisels and other junk. The ship’s papers were found and taken to the frigate. The sails, which had been left lying on the deck, were properly furled and secured. Peacock was taken to the frigate for questioning. Aside from telling his story, he informed that the ship had 280 barrels of sperm oil on board.

The George Howland seems to have been well outfitted, but the conditions the Swedes found on her were shocking. There was a terrible stench and much filth everywhere. The smaller vessel was even worse. She was obviously the one that had belonged to the Flores expedition. On her, the Swedes found spoilt food, broken crockery, filthy and tattered clothes and all sorts of rubbish. The ballast in her bilges was covered with dried blood, as were large parts of her deck. The stench the men from the Eugenie met with was even worse than that they had experienced in the cabins of the larger ship.

On March 26, Captain Virgin went upriver with one of the boats, headed for Guayaquil, where he intended to contact the local officials and the American consul. Early the following morning, a French corvette anchored near the Eugenie. She had come from Guayaquil with the purpose of capturing the pirates who were said to be operating in the gulf. Her commanding officer was obviously disappointed when he found out that the Swedes had already taken charge of the George Howland. The corvette returned upriver that same morning. In the afternoon, the George Howland sailed for Guayaquil, under the command of Lt. A. Fries, to be handed over to the American consul. Lt. Skogman was left behind on the frigate, to go through all the papers and letters that had been found on the smaller vessel.

The correspondence found on her is of considerable interest, as it gives much information about the human side of the intended coup against General Urbina’s government. There were letters to Colonel Tamayo from his wife and his sister-in-law. In the former the longing and love between husband and wife is movingly obvious. Also, there is a fierce loyalty towards General Flores, for whom the Tamayo family had sacrificed everything they had and all they could scrape together from relatives and friends, in order to help their leader’s cause. Such compromising documents could of course not be handed over to the authorities without harming the Tamayo family and their relations. Ever a gentleman, Captain Virgin arranged with a trusted person in Guayaquil to have the letters forwarded to the colonel’s widow.

General Flores knew about the Swedish frigate’s presence in the Gulf of Guayaquil, and hastened to send messengers to contact Captain Virgin, in an attempt to gain his support. One of his main arguments was that he had been deposed while the legally elected president of his country, which in fact was true when it had happened several years earlier, in 1845. However, Captain Virgin had no intention of getting involved in the politics of any country the frigate visited, so he politely refused his help. Later in the year, Flores attempted to seize Guayaquil with the aid of the Peruvian government. This operation was a total failure. General Flores was allowed to return to Ecuador in 1863, as a private citizen. He died the following year.

Briones, Huncho and four other pirates were executed on March 29. Their execution was witnessed by two officers from the Eugenie, who had come upriver on the George Howland. Nils Johan Andersson, the botanist to the expedition, was also present and describes the execution as follows: «At our arrival to Guayaquil, we became at once the witnesses to a ghastly scene. Six of the captured pirates were to be shot. On a plaza, where Ecuador’s flag waved with its two white stripes separated by a horizontal blue one with seven stars -- the number of provinces -- there were six stakes planted in the ground. A troop of soldiers formed a tight circle, surrounded by a dense mob. Side streets, lightposts, carriages, horses, balconies, windows swarmed with onlookers. The criminals, each accompanied by a friar, came walking one after the other, dressed in white shirts and wearing red caps. They were tied with their backs to the stakes, blindfolded; a detachment of soldiers with guns was placed in front of them at a distance of about a yard, and the guns were fired. The leader, a strong, gigantic figure, fell at the first shot; two negroes were hardier, and on one of them four or five shots had to fired before all was over.» (Andersson, 1854).

Lt. Skogman tells how Huncho, Briones’ second in command, gave away some money he had managed to conceal from the authorities, dividing it among the soldiers who were to execute him. He was about to give one of them a pair of dice, but decided to keep them, saying, «Maybe they play dice in Hell. I may as well keep them.» (Skogman, 1854). By the time the Eugenie left Ecuador, all the escaped convicts had been captured by the Ecuadorian authorities.

On her way to San Francisco, the frigate called at Panama and, after taking on water at the Islas Perlas, she made a detour to the Galápagos Islands. This was decided by Captain Virgin at the suggestion of Prof. Andersson and Dr. Johan Gustaf Kinberg, who besides being the ship’s surgeon was a physician, a veterinary and a zoologist. At that time, Galápagos was already of much interest to naturalists. Andersson made the most extensive botanical collections from the archipelago up to that date, while Dr. Kinberg brought back a wide assortment of specimens from the animal kingdom.

The Swedes visited the handful of people still living on San Cristóbal, among them the woman who had been raped by the convicts and her husband. These two as well as the other settlers were overjoyed to hear about the capture and execution of Briones and his men. A banquet of tortoise meat was prepared in honor of the Swedish officers, who found the meat delicious, if one is to believe Lt. Skogman. It was accompanied with fine French wine, brought ashore from the frigate.

The visitors found Floreana totally abandoned. The tiny garrison and the officer in charge had left on a sailing vessel that had called on her way to Perú. Andersson also landed at Whale Bay, on the NW side of Santa Cruz, where he found two huts, at the foot of a steep hill by the beach. When he and his party had approached in their boat (the frigate was not in the area), they saw a small group of men leaving the huts and fleeing inland. After landing, the Swedes discovered a woman in one of the miserable dwellings. Nobody could communicate with her, as she spoke only Spanish, a language none of the visitors understood. Andersson tells however that he had heard on San Cristóbal about a small party of criminals who lived on Santa Cruz, under the leadership of a woman. (Andersson, 1854).

At this stage, the colonization of Galápagos seemed to hold little if any promise. Only an optimist like General José Villamil could still harbor any dreams about the future of these islands. Until his death, in 1866, the old patriot continued trying to get something going on the islands. All was in vain, especially since his projects were based on false information, like his plans of exploiting the vast guano reserves that someone had reported existed on the Galápagos. These, like the even more farfetched rumors of great coal deposits, proved to be pure fantasy. However, it was during the last years of the old general’s life that the first seeds of permanent settlement were planted. But nobody could have told then what they would lead to.



While diplomats and politicians discussed the fate of the Galápagos Islands -- a subject we shall return to later -- a few other men, very few indeed, were busy exploiting whatever could be taken away from the archipelago to be sold on the mainland at a profit -- the cattle that had multiplied on Floreana, tortoise oil, live tortoises, archil and salted fish. Unfortunately, there is very little information available about these people. Most were undoubtedly illiterate, and those who could write have left us no records, as they were too busy trying to make a profit to bother with something that produced them no gain. It is a pity that this period did not have its Dampier or its Woodes Rogers, who felt interested in everything that surrounded them, regardless of whether it was profitable or not. These must have certainly been among the most interesting years in the history of Galápagos. They were the prelude to their definitive colonization, as well as a time of much destruction of their fauna. But more than anything else, this lost period of history consisted of the lives of men and a very few women whose fates we shall never know.

There was an unknown number of small operators who produced oil for the mainland markets. These came and went, mere shades on the edge of the main events, and there is little hope of learning more about them than that they existed. A little more is known about the Compañía Orchillera, formed by a few mainlanders with the purpose of collecting and exporting archil -- lichens of the genus Roccella and others that were used for the production of dyes, mainly for the textile industry. The company, formed in the 1860’s, operated in Galápagos and the drier areas along the mainland coast, where these lichens are fairly common.

Undoubtedly, this company added to its income by using all the resources the islands could offer, shipping along with the archil tortoise oil, jerked beef, hides and dry fish. It is also likely that iguana skins and even seal skins were occasionally added to their cargoes. In fact, they are also believed to have engaged in contraband, which was easy, since their ship ostensibly came to Guayaquil from Galápagos, which is in Ecuadorian waters.

It was during this period that the distinguished naturalist Simeon Habel spent six months on the islands, in 1868. He collected numerous specimens of many kinds, making copious notes on the flora and fauna. Though Habel’s visit no doubt was important to science, the most important historical event that took place at that time was the establishment of the first settlement that would survive to the present -- Progreso in the San Cristóbal highlands. At the time however Progreso was neither known by this name nor gave much promise of one day deserving it.

Among the owners of the Compañía Orchillera was don José Valdizán, who apparently outbid his partners, when the firm’s concession for exploiting archil came up for renewal. Unfortunately, we have been unable to find any information about what happened between Valdizán and his partners that led to his breaking away from them in this manner. However, the fact remains that don José secured for himself the concession from the government, and the company broke up. The same year, 1870, Valdizán settled on Floreana, which he had rented from General Villamil’s heirs for an annual payment of US$ 4,000.00.

In the meantime, two other partners of the Orchillera, don Manuel Julián Cobos and don José Monroy, had begun growing sugar cane in the San Cristóbal highlands, hoping to develop a plantation there. Monroy seems to have dropped out of the partnership some time later, probably discouraged by the slow progress that was being made.

It seems that Valdizán did well for a while. Like those before him, he made use of every resource the islands had to offer besides the archil. From nearly all our sources one gets the impression that the years Valdizán spent on Floreana were a period of increasing prosperity, a steady progress and a general wellbeing for all concerned. The usual version of the Valdizán story is that trouble began to brew only towards the end, as he became more careless in recruiting workers from the mainland, pressed by the fact that his enterprise was growing faster than the possibility of obtaining reliable labor.

His problem in this respect is not unique. It is found throughout the history of Galápagos and that of other places with a small population where someone enterprising gets started on a project that requires a more or less large labor force. However, the currently accepted story about Valdizán cannot be wholly true. Regarding the difficulty of recruiting men it is undoubtedly correct; but there was not an ever-increasing prosperity, steadily growing from the beginning to the very end. Nor were his subjects contented during his whole reign over Floreana.

It appears that Valdizán had serious problems from the very start, and that his project went through its ups and downs. It is the lack of information that has created the myth of a sort of earthly paradise on Floreana. The source of this belief is most likely Dr. Theodor Wolf, a noted German scientist who taught at the Polytechnical College in Quito. However, to his credit, Dr. Wolf only told what he had seen.

This distinguished German geologist visited Galápagos from August to November of 1875, travelling on the schooner Venecia. This ship belonged to Valdizán, and had as her master a Captain Nicolás Petersen. At that time, Valdizán’s

colony on Floreana seems to have been doing quite well. Dr. Wolf returned a second time, in August 1878; but don José Valdizán was no longer there to welcome him. The master of Floreana had died about a month earlier.

Our claim that all was not well with Valdizán’s colony throughout its history is based largely on a very reliable source -- J. Henry Blake, the conchologist of the Hassler expedition. This expedition was headed by the famous Professor Louis Agassiz. It arrived to Post Office Bay, on the north coast of Floreana, on June 10, 1872, and remained there two days, collecting specimens of all sorts. The scientists also bought a number of tortoises from the inhabitants. (Blake, in Slevin, 1959). These reptiles must have come from another island, as they had been extinct on Floreana for the previous three decades. Their presence indicates that tortoises were still kept on hand to trade with visiting ships, as in earlier times.

According to Blake, only seven people lived on the island at the time, which is far from the flourishing colony that most of our sources have led us to believe existed there. The settlers were short of provisions due to a prolonged drought. The «Chief» of the island came to visit the Hassler, spending the night aboard. He told the visitors there had been about sixty people living on Floreana. Mutiny and other reasons had reduced the population to those few still remaining. (Blake, in Slevin, 1959). Whether the «Chief» of the island was Valdizán himself or a foreman he had left in charge is not clear, as no name is given.

However, the population of Floreana did recover and increase in the succeeding years. While we have no records as to the number of inhabitants the island finally reached under Valdizán, we believe they could not have exceeded two hundred. We know for certain that about one hundred people were removed from the island by don Manuel J. Cobos in 1878, and that some people were killed in the uprising in that year. Even allowing that many decided to return to the mainland, disappointed and maybe even scared because of the recent events, it is still hard to reach a count of two hundred.

Like General Villamil before him, Valdizán built his house in the vicinity of the small spring above Black Beach, away from the chilly fogs and the drizzle of the cool season. Its construction was not unlike that of the general’s house. The floor was made of thick planking, placed at a convenient height above the ground, supported by short posts. The walls were of split bamboo, secured inside and outside the framing, forming hollow double walls. The rough inside part of the bamboo would have been placed towards the outside, to provide a better holding surface for the plaster. The plaster was most likely the usual mixture of mud, dung and straw, smoothed and whitewashed. The roof was of corrugated, galvanized steel sheets. There was a porch built along the front, with a Bougainvillea climbing up one of its sides. It was one of those unadorned, sparsely furnished houses used by the higher classes in the rural areas of the drier districts along the mainland coast of Ecuador. These houses, despite their apparent austerity, are reasonably comfortable and adequate for the climate. The bamboo, timber and roofing were of course imported from the mainland.

It was while living in this house that Valdizán saw his dream of a fairly prosperous colony on Floreana finally come true. To reach this goal had not been easy. The difficulties had been greater than expected; but he had persisted and succeeded. In fact, it seemed as if his path was finally clear and he would inevitably continue on his way to an even better future. Thus, it appeared on that fateful morning of July 23, 1878. It was then that Lucas Alvarado, one of the laborers, came down to the house in the little oasis inland from Black Beach, with his heart filled with hate and an evil purpose.

Alvarado most likely lived in one of the little huts that formed the tiny village, at the site of the old Villamil settlement, at Asilo de la Paz, below the main spring. (The village was on the central plateau, where the farmlands are located). Alvarado had planned an uprising together with a handful of malcontents. Their opportunity had finally arrived, as there was a small ship anchored off the island, in which they could escape to the mainland. Alvarado would murder Valdizán, causing confusion and demoralizing the other people on the island. This would allow Alvarado and his followers to take over, seize the ship and sail away.

To murder Valdizán, Alvarado would have to get close to him, as his only weapon was a knife. He therefore went to Valdizán’s house to ask for the day off. Don José refused him this in a kindly manner, and offered him a drink, as it was a cold morning. After serving him some rum, he turned to put away the bottle. Alvarado promptly drew out his knife, shoving it into his master’s left side. Though mortally wounded, Valdizán managed to get away, seeking refuge in the almost impenetrable shrubbery surrounding the oasis. Here, his dead body was found some time later.

Up to this point, our sources are largely in agreement, as is the version told by some of the older settlers on San Cristóbal. All versions also agree on who took command of the loyal farm hands in the fight against Alvarado and his followers -- the Englishman Captain Thomas Levick. However, the rather detailed story told by Latorre (1992) is much more elaborate, and we have omitted it as Latorre not only fails to give a source for it, but it desagrees on a number of important points with other existing versions. Not that we distrust Latorre, a serious author, but we are, in this particular case, unsure of the reliability of his sources.

While according to Latorre’s version Levick was a foreman on Valdizán’s hacienda, Bognoly and Espinosa (1905) make him the skipper of a ship that belonged to Valdizán. San Cristóbal tradition makes him the master of one of Cobos’ vessels. Aside from this unimportant detail, the two latter versions are in full agreement, as are those currently accepted.

It is not clear from either story whether Captain Levick suspected something amiss or was warned by someone from the island. In any case, he left an armed guard on his ship, landing to warn Valdizán and his family. Unfortunately, the Englishman was late, but he managed to find Mrs. Valdizán and her daughter, taking them to the safety of his ship. Then, he returned inland, organized the loyal laborers and hunted down the mutineers.

The need for secrecy had no doubt prevented Lucas Alvarado from sounding out more than a few trusted companions about support for his mutiny. It seems likely that he must have overestimated the seriousness of the complaints voiced by many of the laborers, forgetting the fact that people often complain even when they are actually more or less contented at heart. To make matters worse for him, an unexpected leader had appeared, becoming a rallying point by filling the void left by the murdered Valdizán. If Alvarado had thought about Captain Levick at all, he must have dismissed him as a potential victim, a foreigner and outsider who could not possibly have carried any weight with the people on the island.

It was not long before Lucas Alvarado and his followers found out how mistaken they had been. The opposition they met was overwhelming under the capable leadership of Captain Levick and fueled by the outrage of the farm hands, the majority of whom seem to have loved their dead master. The fighting is said to have been fierce and bloody. Only one of Alvarado’s followers survived.

It is told by some that Captain Levick tried to save the Floreana colony from breaking up. If this is so, it would indicate that he was indeed in the service of don José Valdizán. However, the facts point in another direction. Shortly after the uprising, about a hundred of the Floreana settlers were moved over to San Cristóbal by Manuel J. Cobos, to work on his plantation. This no doubt contributed greatly towards the survival and success of Progreso, the oldest existing settlement in the Galápagos.

When the French corvette Descres visited Galápagos in 1887, she anchored at Black Beach, on May 16. The French found no trace of human habitation on the central plateau, where the maps showed a small village. They assumed that any remains of constructions were hidden in the tall grass and weeds covering the area. At Black Beach, they found two beams and a girder still standing -- all that remained of a house that had existed there. (Slevin, 1959).

But near the small water hole that is located a little inland from the anchorage, still stood the house that had belonged to Valdizán. The Bougainvillea still climbed the side of the deteriorating porch, while the roof and walls of the dwelling clearly showed the neglect of almost a decade. Some fifty feet from the house, was don José Valdizán’s grave, surrounded by a wooden railing and surmounted by a black cross. In 1904 his remains would be taken to Guayaquil, to be reburied closer to his family. Another grave near by had a cross with the name «P. Posa». According to Latorre (1992), Posa was a youth, the nephew of Mrs. Valdizán, who had been murdered by the Alvarado gang. No mention is made of other graves on the island, which makes one suspect that Lucas Alvarado and his fallen comrades had been dumped into a common grave that was left unmarked.

Floreana would remain uninhabited for many years. If anyone settled there, it must have been for shorter periods, for there are neither records nor remains of any settlers. In the meantime, the cattle, the pigs, the donkeys, the wild cats, dogs, goats and rats multiplied, undisturbed save by occasional visitors, mostly fishermen and cattle hunters from San Cristóbal, where Cobos was prospering.

In 1893 don Antonio Gil, a former governor of Guayas Province and member of a prominent Guayaquil family, attempted to resettle Floreana. He found the island inadequate for his purposes, abandoning it in 1897, when he moved to the much larger Isabela. Here, he founded Puerto Villamil, on the SE coast, and the village of Santo Tomás inland. As for Floreana, only one or two modest attempts were made to establish a farm there, between Gil’s short-lived colony and the arrival of the Norwegians, in 1925.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

As we have seen, the first colonization of San Cristóbal took place only about a decade after General Villamil established the first settlement on Floreana. However, there was considerable traffic between the two islands even before then. Villamil himself and General Mena seem to have been frequent visitors to Wreck Bay, as the whalers called what today is known as Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. General Villamil seems to have disliked the sinister English name of the anchorage, nor did he appreciate the old Spanish one of Bahía de la Servida. He named it instead Puerto Cabello, after a Venezuelan port he had known in his younger years. At the time of Cobos it would become Puerto Chico, because it was so much smaller than the large Stephens Bay (Puerto Grande) to the NE. The name Puerto Chico (Small Harbor) was still in use among the older settlers on the island until recently.

When the Compte de Gueydon, commanding the French brig-of-war «Le Genie», visited Wreck Bay, where he arrived on August 14 1846, there were three or four huts there. He was piloted into the anchorage by a resident Englishman, Guillermo (William) Guerney, who had lived on the island several years. (Slevin, 1959). There is no mention of an inland settlement, though some subsistence farming probably was practiced. However, it is likely that the few settlers were primarily engaged in tortoise hunting and archil gathering.

While Floreana was gradually abandoned in the 1850’s, and again in the 1870’s, there seems to have been a more or less permanent population on San Cristóbal, perhaps even before General Mena moved there in 1842. However, this population was most of the time very small, despite of the fact that San Cristóbal has many advantages over Floreana, not the least of them a far more abundant supply of fresh water in the highlands, where several springs give birth to a number of small brooks that flow even in most dry years. There were still tortoises to be found in the interior, a very important fact in those days, though it was becoming increasingly necessary to hunt for these reptiles elsewhere in the islands, at least for commercial purposes.

At exceptionally high tides, human bones are often washed up in the part of the beach towards the middle of the village of Puerto Baquerizo. When the nearby houses were built, the men digging holes for posts frequently found such remains. Apparently, there was once a cemetery at this place. Since the oldest settlers had never heard of one, we must assume that it was in use before the Cobos plantation was started, and may go back as far as the early whalers.

After the Briones gang murdered General Mena, in 1852, the few remaining settlers expressed no desire to abandon San Cristóbal, as far as can be understood from existing records. It is not unlikely that some of them later worked for the Compañía Orchillera. Island tradition claims that Cobos had a small farm started near the site of Progreso, where food was grown for his archil collectors and tortoise hunters even before he started to grow cane. This is not surprising, as Cobos did the same on Santa Cruz, at Santa Rosa and Salazaca, inland from Whale Bay, to supply his crews working in the central parts of the archipelago.

As early as in 1869, ten people were working on San Cristóbal for Cobos and his partner José Monroy, where they lived in six huts in the highlands. These people probably grew most of their own food, besides supplying themselves with meat from the large herds of cattle, goats and pigs that roamed the island. Tortoises could also be obtained from a few remote places. Though we do not know anything much about these people, we do know their names, thanks to Bognoly and Espinosa (1905), who have recorded them.

They were Antonio Alejandro, Victoriano Pizarro, José Ramírez, Patricio Cardoza, Tomás Beltrán, Lorenzo Lucín, Juan Chile, Lorenzo Gonzambay Pizarro, Pedro Regalado Banchón, and the last ones wife, Aurelia Baquerizo. Beltrán is a common surname around the Tumaco area, in the SW of Colombia. Banchón and Baquerizo are common in the coastal lowlands, in the Guayas River basin and its vicinity. Gonzambay is distincly Andean. The surname Pizarro still exists on San Cristóbal, but we have no evidence that the few people bearing this name descend from Victoriano. In any case, several of the above surnames suggest that these settlers had their origin in several parts of the mainland.

It is possible that Cobos and Monroy already had thought of a sugar plantation on San Cristóbal even before the Orchillera broke up, for it is said that they had cane growing there before 1870. They had a small, primitive cane press, powered by a pair of oxen. It is doubtful that any white sugar was produced at this early stage. Most likely the cane juice was boiled down to make panela or raspadura, those blocks of raw sugar, wrapped in banana leaves, that are such a common sight in the market places of the mainland. Some rum may also have been distilled.

Knowing how enterprising don Manuel J. Cobos was, it can be safely assumed that he wanted to expand this project; but there was the ever present difficulty of finding workers willing to move from the mainland to those then very distant and isolated islands. One cannot help admiring his persistence, while at the same time understanding why Monroy gave up at some point, during those uncertain years.

It is however certain that the budding sugar plantation on San Cristóbal was not Cobos’ only source of income. Tortoise oil, live tortoises, and the wild cattle on the island undoubtedly contributed regularly to his coffers, as did salted, dried fish in its season. It is also said that his ships carried contraband. They ranged far enough to do this, if one is to believe a San Cristóbal tadition that tells of how Cobos ran afoul of officials on the Pacific coast of Mexico, finding himself suddenly in one of their jails. The reason behind this is not clear, but may have had something to do with smuggling or could equally well stem from some minor disagreement. With the bad and slow communications of the times, and their superiors far away, local petty officials frequently wielded more power than they were entitled to. In any case, Felipe Lastre, a Mexican working for Cobos, received instructions from him to make ready his ship for sailing. Then, in the dark of night, Lastre helped his master escape. Promptly, they set sail for more friendly shores. There is no indication as to when this is supposed to have taken place; but the faithful Lastre remained in Cobos’ service for the duration of the latter’s life.

Don Manuel J. Cobos managed to get a few laborers now and then. Most of them were foreigners and people in desperate economic straits, who hoped to find a better life on his island -- in other words, people who were convinced they had nothing to lose. Another form of recruitment was to buy the debts of plantation hands from their masters. These laborers became, in practice, little more than the personal property of Don Manuel Cobos. Later, there came also those who had been banished to the island for various reasons, often political.

As had happened on Floreana in the 1830’s, the political deportees gradually formed the beginnings of a penal colony. The same pattern developed on San Cristóbal as in General Villamil’s colony -- first came the political prisoners, then the thieves and the whores, and finally the murderers. However, unlike what had happened on Floreana, this development was slow, for in the early years the criminal element seems to have been rather small or, at first, non-existent.

The increase of the San Cristóbal population was for this reason extremely slow, until the uprising on Floreana, in 1878. With the about hundred settlers Cobos had brought over from the latter island, the San Cristóbal population suddenly increased to nearly a hundred and fifty souls. The time was now ripe. Cobos moved out from the mainland to live permanently on his island, so he could fully devote himself to his dream of creating a sugar plantation that would be in production, as he expressed it, «from January to January,» instead of seasonally, as was usual elsewhere.

Still, it took Cobos about ten years to reach his intended goal. The old, primitive presses were replaced with modern steam machinery. Seven kilometers of rail were laid for the ox-drawn cars that carried the cut cane from the fields to the sugar mill. The one-year long cane season had become a reality in 1889, and the monthly production of thirty thousand pounds of refined sugar was reached, and would continue to be produced until over two decades after don Manuel had died. To celebrate his success, the master of San Cristóbal changed the name of his plantation from Hacienda Chatham to Hacienda Progreso. (The English name for the island was still in current use in the Galápagos until the late 1930’s and, among the older fishermen of San Cristóbal and Isabela, until well into the 1960’s).

During his long rule over the island, Cobos issued his own currency. There is supposed to have been an early «coin» made of leather, with a coarse design stamped on it. In the 1870’s there came into circulation a round coin that was made of lead, worth five centavos. Towards the end of the 1880’s, appeared an elliptic copper coin worth eighty centavos. Its value («80 c.») was stamped on one side, with «M. Cobos» above it and «Progreso» below. On the other side, was a serial number. There was also paper money -- a one-sucre note and a fifty-centavo one.

By 1889, that most memorable year, the population of San Cristóbal had increased to 213 men, 54 women and 20 children. (Bognoly & Espinosa, 1905). The numerical disproportion between the sexes must have created considerable social problems. Certain peculiar customs came soon into being. The lack of a priest led to a sort of baptismal ceremony that was performed by one of the laborers, who also carried out a rough parody of a church wedding for those who wanted it. Quite often, the «wedding ceremony» was repeated for a man and/or a woman who had previously been through it with another partner. No «annulment» or «divorce» was necessary. (In fact, divorce was not made legal in Ecuador until the early 1930’s). The laborer Pablo Quiñones was «acting priest» towards the end of the Cobos era. There were several women whom he had «married» up to seven times to different men. (Bognoly & Espinosa, 1905).

The above authors tell about witnessing a San Cristóbal baptism: «...On the wall parallel to the door of a room was stretched a white sheet, decorated with a few flowers and leaves, secured to it with pins. On a table against the wall stood a lopsided cross with a termite-eaten Christ (the best one on the island), in front of which were burning three stearin candles, supported in their respective bottles. On the same table were an enamelware wash basin and a pitcher, a saucer with ground salt, a small piece of cloth, an unlit candle, a box of matches, a bottle of mallorca (anise-flavored white rum), a few bottles of local beer and some empty ones. In a short while, the ceremony began. A child took the small piece of cloth from the table, lit the candle, taking it in his right hand and taking the saucer with the salt in his left one. The godfather received the baby, approaching the «altar», and without delay put some salt in the baby’s mouth. After this, he pronounced the sacramental words as he saw fit, immediately pouring all the water in the pitcher over the baby’s head. The child was baptized! Thus he informed the parents, and after this the usual dance commenced.»

It is possible that the traditional Galápagos «wedding» -- actually an elopement without the benefit of a following wedding ceremony -- had its origin during this period or soon after. While variants of it do occur on the mainland, and elopements of one sort or another are known from the other islands, the practice developed such a set pattern on San Cristóbal, and was so widely practiced on this island, that it was still by far the most usual form for «marriage» until very recent times. In fact, it was as late as the end of the 1940’s that the Franciscan monks began their persistent efforts to uproot this practice, talking people into a more conventional form of marriage. Their efforts eventually succeeded -- up to a point. As far as we know, the custom was never totally eliminated.

The traditional practice on San Cristóbal is for the young couple to get together some food, a blanket or two, and a few other necessary items. Then, after meeting at some agreed place, they will disappear into the woods together. About a fortnight later, they will return to start clearing land and building a hut, setting up their own subsistence farm.

On rare occasions, the young man may come back earlier, to return his «bride» to her parents, with the complaint that she had not been a virgin. We have even heard of the extreme case in which a couple stayed out the full fortnight, and the boy claimed his girl had not been a virgin, returning her to her parents. It is amazing how long it took him to discover the fact! Such cases are however very unusual. Until relatively recent itmes, men outnumbered women on the island, and most young men were so delighted to have secured themselves a woman, that they did not worry about such a minor detail as a damaged hymen.

A woman who has lived with a man does not have to go through with an elopement of this sort. She simply takes her children and moves in with her new man. More often, the new man moves in with her. The reason for this latter is that men frequently leave their families for a new woman, move alone to another island or take off to the mainland, abandoning the family and farm for what they believe to be greener pastures.

Some respect for conventions has always existed. Thus, the girl’s parents and brothers feel bound to go out in search of the scoundrel who has seduced the innocent child, to rescue her from the clutches of the amoral rascal. Whether they may actually like the young man has nothing to do with their actions. The point is to show the proper amount of outrage, which is usually great. Hearing them, the uninitiated has every reason to fear for the safety of the «groom», should he be caught. Strange to say, in all our years in the Galápagos -- a number of them in close contact with the local population of San Cristóbal -- we have never heard of anyone being caught, despite the feverish searching that so often takes place.

Since it is impossible for a couple to carry enough supplies, a part of their logistics is taken over by the boy’s male relatives and/or friends. These bring the couple food and information about what is going on in the settlement, and what the girl’s family are up to. The need for such aid is vital, as it is almost impossible to live off the land in the Galápagos highlands. Before the guava and other fruit trees spread, and with the tortoises gone from the readily accessible places, the only available food would have been pigs and cattle. Without dogs and/or firearms, these animals could not be counted on as a food supply. There is no trapping tradition on the islands, so the capture of wild pigs or birds was out of question.

When the Hacienda Progreso was at its greatest, the cane fields began just above the escarpment where the road to Progreso enters the moist region, at the foot of José Herrera Hill, above which the present Progreso cemetery is located. Except for the occasional banana plantings and the coffee plantation, which then was much smaller than today, the cane fields extended from here past the village of Progreso, and in some parts reached almost to the lower limits of the grasslands that cover the top of the island. The cane fields covered most of the western, southwestern and a part of the southern sides of the moist region, an extensive area that is now largely covered with small trees and bushes of guava (Psidium guajava). This species is said to have come from three plants that don Manuel Julián Cobos had brought from the mainland to have them planted in his garden.

Manuel Julián Cobos is invariably remembered as a cruel, ruthless despot, a memory that completely overshadows his merits as a colonizer. While we shall never know the whole truth about this man, and much of his evil reputation may stem from exaggerations, there is enough credible evidence to make it impossible to whitewash the elder Cobos. Still, there were some men who were completely loyal to him, like the devoted Felipe Lastre and the equally faithful Francisco Valverde. Even the man who killed Cobos, the Colombian Elías Puertas, had for many years been his blidly loyal foreman. It is also told by some of the oldest settlers that Cobos was not such a bad master in the beginning, but became increasingly harsher as the island turned into a regular penal colony.

Be this as it may, the outrage of the mainland newspapers in the fatal year of 1904 seems not a little hypocritical, when one considers that the conditions under which the farm hands and plantation laborers on the mainland lived were little better than outright slavery. This was also the case elsewhere in Latin America, where a feudal system had remained very much alive, long after the Spaniards, who had established it, were gone. In some areas, such conditions continued until fairly recent times, some abuses even surviving until after 1938, when the present labor laws were signed by General Alberto Enríquez Gallo.

The farther an estate was removed from urban centers, the worse off its laborers were likely to be. Near cities there was always the fear of unfavorable publicity. Thus, the more extreme forms of exploitation and punishment survived longest in the more remote places.

It seems like a paradox that the rather advanced labor laws that came towards the close of the 1930’s sould bear the signature of a military dictator; but General Enríquez was a liberal and an honest man, who had seized power with the purpose of cleaning up the existing corruption. Once he had done what he thought was needed, he called elections and retired from the presidency and the army. Ecuador’s workers owe this man very much. The labor laws could never have passed through a democratically elected congress, as voting for them would have alienated the legislators’ sponsors, depriving the former of their campaign money. However, once in force, the law could not be tampered with, as doing so would have meant the loss of votes at election time. After all, the great majority of the votes are cast by those who benefit from the labor laws.

If it is true that Cobos changed so much after the establishment of the penal colony, one is tempted to believe that he either resorted to terror to keep the convicts in line and/or became increasingly paranoid. There is no doubt that he remembered well what had happened to Valdizán on Floreana. The situation was even more precarious on San Cristóbal, where the population had not only become greater, but the undesireable elements gradually became a majority. Only a handful of trusted men surrounded Cobos, whose only protection was this small group and, possibly, the tiny garrison under the governor’s orders. On the other hand, conditions and the environment were favorable to make almost anyone paranoid. He had much time to think and brood. Haunted by the memory of Valdizán’s fate, surrounded by criminals, many of them dangerous, his life in constant danger. But he was also owner and master of all that surrounded him. The elements for paranoia were there, ready to stimulate the slightest predisposition, causing it to blossom to the fullest.

What seems strange is that whoever happened to be governor at any given time invariably allowed Cobos to rule the island in the manner he did. It would have been a relatively simple matter to arrest him, place him on the first ship, and have him charged with murder or whatever other violation he might have been guilty of. Fear and/or corruption could have had something to do with it.

His son, don Manuel Augusto Cobos, who strongly disapproved of the way his father ruled the island, has been of little help. He was a small child at the time of don Manuel Julián’s death. He lived then on the mainland, seldom seeing his father. He knew nothing of what was going on on San Cristóbal. All he could tell was what he had heard on the island, when he first came there, after completing his education in London and Paris. An intellectually inclined young man of great sensibility, he found the stories circulating on the island most painful; but he had no way of proving that any of them was untrue.

Bognoly and Espinosa (1905) name several men who died after being flogged by orders from the elder Cobos. They also name some of those who were marooned on uninhabited islands. Of these, several are supposed to have died during their banishment. There were also men who vanished from the plantation; but nothing is said of whether Cobos had anything to do with their disappearance. They could very well have tried to escape from the plantation, dying in the woods. Some could have been murdered by their fellow workers. Fights and rivalries over women seem to have been frequent, especially during and after dances, when much drunkenness was common. Then, it is doubtful that Cobos himself would have bothered to have someone killed and his body hidden. For him this latter would have been quite unnecessary.

The most famous of the marooned men is Camilo Casanova. The reason for this is that Bognoly and Espinosa met the man at the time of his rescue by the gunboat Cotopaxi, which had been sent out for the inquiry into the assassination of Cobos and Governor Reina.

This Casanova seems to have been a rebelious soul. He had been in the army, and was later deported to San Cristóbal for some now unknown reason. Here, he held

different jobs, including that of caretaker of the beacon at Puerto Chico (Wreck Bay). Finally, he ended up as a plantation laborer, frequently clashing with his foremen. According to his own reckoning, Casanova had received a total of over eight hundred lashes while on the island. He had also been marooned for shorter periods on several of the uninhabited islands. At the time of the visit of Bognoly and Espinosa, he had spent three and a half years on Santa Cruz.

Casanova’s problems became really serious when he attacked the ageing Francisco Valverde, one of Cobos’ most trusted men, with a machete, causing him several wounds. For this, he was given four hundred lashes. Casanova, who seems to have had great trouble controlling his temper, swore in public that he would kill Cobos at the first opportunity. This threat could of course not go unheeded. Cobos had him arrested and sent to Santa Cruz, where he was put ashore by the foreman Elías Puertas, Estanislao and Juan Pablo Solórzano, Fermín Quinde and Víctor Chalén. Casanova was supplied with some fresh water, a knife, a machete and a hatchet. Some of his companions had collected eighteen match boxes and some clothing for him.

The story tells that Casanova survived catching groupers (unlikely since he had no boat), doves and hawks. That he ate raw iguana meat and raw fish, though the story also tells that he kept a fire constantly going during his banishment, using the trunks of dead trees, in order to save his precious matches. Casanova is supposed to have quenched his thirst with the blood of turtles. Later, he also used cactus juice, which undoubtedly would have irritated his mouth and throat beyond endurance.

After some time, he went inland to explore the island. He wandered a fortnight in the forest, finally discovering the farms at Salazaca and Santa Rosa, where he found many cultivated plants. There is no mention of the spring at the latter place; but there are important inconsistencies in this part of the story as well. For one who has wandered in the Galápagos bush, it strains credibility that he could have spent two weeks on this walkabout. Someone better equipped and travelling only during the coolest hours of the day, carrying all the fresh water possible, would most likely have had trouble surviving more than a week. Then, Santa Rosa and Salazaca were well known to the people of San Cristóbal, even if they no longer visited them so often as in the past. The chances are that Casanova headed there soon after he was put ashore.

However, there is no question as to the harshness of his punishment. Three and a half years as the only inhabitant of this great island must have been sheer hell, especially for a man with the limited education of Casanova, who had little intellectual equipment to fall back on during those endless, lonely months.

Camilo Casanova’s troubles were not quite over after his rescue. The Galápagos authorities sent him at once to Guayaquil, so he could be judged for the death of Emilio Viteri, a fellow worker with whom he had been marooned on Floreana. Casanova and Viteri were known to have got along very badly, and the latter had disappeared without trace on Floreana. It was believed that Casanova had done away with him. However, Camilo Casanova was released by the Guayaquil court, the evidence against him being purely circumstancial.

Don Manuel Julián Cobos was murdered by one of his most trusted men, the Colombian foreman Elías Puertas. According to island tradition, Cobos’ trust in Puertas was so great, that one of the plantation managers became jealous. When don Manuel absented himself to Perú for a longer period, this manager, who had always pretended friendliness towards Puertas, saw his opportunity to poison the latter’s mind. He would read Cobos’ letters to the Colombian, changing the text in such a manner that it appeared as if don Manuel had lost his trust in the faithful Puertas. He even showed the Colombian the passages he had misread, well knowing that the foreman was completely illiterate, and would have to accept what he was told or suffer the humiliation of having to admit that he did not know how to read.

The effect of these lies was probably more devastating than the disloyal manager had intended. Puertas, who had felt a fierce loyalty towards Cobos, now felt deeply hurt and betrayed by the master he had been so devoted to. A burning hate took hold of Puertas, and he promised himself he would kill the man who had repaid his faithfulness with such gross ingratitude. He decided to organize an uprising, taking advantage of the great number of discontented laborers.

There is also a tradition about how Puertas got hold of the murder weapon. Shortly after Cobos returned, he and the Colombian went on an inspection of the cane fields. At one point, they dismounted. While getting off his horse, Cobos lost his revolver, which slid unnoticed from its holster, falling noiselessly on the thick carpet of litter covering the ground. Puertas however saw it fall, and waited until his master walked away, picking it up and hiding it under his poncho.

There were more than enough people willing to take part in an uprising. All they needed was a leader. However, though he knew this well, Puertas also realized that he must be careful, for there were also those willing to report the smallest irregularity to the master. It is told that the women on the island were fond of going to Cobos with all sorts of gossip and news. As if the relative abundance of informers were not enough, there was also the memory of what had happened in 1883. These events were over twenty years old, but the dread attached to them remained as great as ever, even among those who had arrived to the island much later.

Five men had come together to plan an uprising against Cobos. They had been grimly determined to overthrow him, to rid the island of him for good. These men were José Salinas, Pedro Torres, Felipe Rodríguez, José Rodríguez and José Antonio Plaza. (Bognoly & Espinosa, 1905). Since they all suffered the same fate, it is obvious that none of them had betrayed his companions. Someone must have overheard them or one of their number had trusted their secret to the wrong person. Be this as it may, Cobos somehow got news of their plans, had them seized, and ordered their execution. All five died in front of a firing squad, on a rise near the village.

Therefore, Elías Puertas got together only a very small group of trusted men, with whom he planned his mutiny. Their plan was simple. They would set fire to the cane fields to cause confusion and to bring Cobos out, where it was easier to kill him. After this, they would sail to the mainland on the Josefina Cobos a sloop-rigged vessel that was then fishing near the island.

Unfortunately for the conspirators, one of them, the Colombian José Prieto, was tipsy when he came to work on January 14 of that fatal year of 1904. Stupidly, he repeated that he would like to see the cane fields on fire. Víctor Higuera, one of the plantation hands, reported this to Cobos, who suspected that there was more behind this than the empty utterings of an intoxicated, foolish farm hand. He had Prieto seized and locked up, sentencing him to four hundred lashes. These were to be given him at seven o’clock the following morning, in the presence of Cobos himself.

The news of this greatly alarmed the plotters. They knew it was customary to stop the punishment after every hundred lashes, to give the victim a chance to report anything of interest he happened to know, in the hope of reducing his sentence. The conspirators feared that Prieto would break down and tell everything. Puertas, being a trusted foreman who had betrayed his master, could only expect to pay with his life. The others were equally certain to end in front of a firing squad.

Elías Puertas hastened to Cobos, to plead for his countryman, arguing that Prieto was only a harmless fool, whose only fault had been to get drunk before coming to work. All he had said, the foreman insisted, was the senseless talk of a man who could not hold his booze. Cobos was not convinced. He told Puertas in no uncertain terms that he was certain there was more to it than Puertas seemed to believe. José Prieto would get all that was coming to him.

That night, the plotters held an emergency meeting to discuss the situation. It was decided that the cane fields would not burn. Instead, Puertas would make a last attempt to intercede for Prieto. This failing, he would shoot Cobos. As far as Puertas was concerned, this was his only possible choice if Prieto was not pardoned. It would then be either him or Cobos.

At four in the morning, as usual, Elías Puertas headed for the Cobos house, which was close to his own. As he was arriving, he met Daniel Campbell, one of the administration employees. They greeted each other. Campbell would later tell that Puertas showed no signs of being nervous, appearing his usual self. Puertas made certain that Campbell continued on his way, before entering Cobos’ house. Once inside, he went to the kitchen to find Francisco Valverde, one of the master’s most trusted men. He at once asked him to intercede for Prieto.

The tall, lean Valverde moved his white-haired head from side to side in a mournful negative, telling Puertas about his premonitions that this was going to be an evil day for the island. He added, «It is useless, Mayordomo. The Master’s convinced that something is going on, and he wants to find out everything about it. There’ll be no end of trouble on this accursed hacienda before the day is over. I’d rather be dead than see what’s coming.»

Puertas acted as if he accepted that nothing could be done. After learning that Cobos was still in bed, he said, «I want to ask for a day off for several of the hands, and get instructions for the day’s work.»

At this point, Uldarico García, one of the laborers, appeared. They sent him to wake Cobos. The master came out in his underwear, seating himself on a rocking chair, in the main room. Here, he relaxed, while a servant, Carlos Romero, changed the bandages on an ulcer Cobos had on his left leg. Puertas came in, wearing his poncho against the chill of the early hour.

First, the Colombian requested a day off for several of the hands, which Cobos granted unwillingly, as he had given leave to several men the previous day. Then, the day’s work was discussed. When this had been done, Puertas repeated his plea on behalf of Prieto. This made Cobos very angry. His voice became hard, when he replied, «You know damn well that my orders must be obeyed to the letter. Prieto will be flogged today, at seven o’clock sharp, in my presence. Whomever is found guilty of planning to set fire to the cane fields will be shot at once.»

It is told that Puertas hesitated a moment. He was now alone with the master, and Cobos sat there, completely defenseless. Puertas could not have wished for a better opportunity. But the years of obedience and respect for this man must have inhibited him. On the other hand, whatever he did now was a matter of life and death to himself. If he did not murder his master, he would have to face his own execution. Cobos himself had just confirmed it. Making a great effort, the foreman cried out, «You’ll never punish anyone again! Today you’ll die or I’ll die!»

Taking out the gun, Puertas shot Cobos twice, wounding him in the stomach and in the face, near the mouth. Without a word, Cobos got to his feet, throwing himself at his attacker, struggling with him. Cobos was no longer a young man, but he was large and solidly built, with considerable strength. Though seriously wounded, he threw Puertas to the floor, falling with him. After some further struggling, Cobos managed to get up, leaving the stunned Puertas with his poncho torn to shreds.

Moving quickly, don Manuel Cobos fled towards his bedroom, where he kept a carbine. He no doubt realized that Puertas and Prieto were not the only people behind the plot he had suspected. In the meantime, the shots had attracted a number of people to the house. These had assembled downstairs, where they were trying in vain to find out what was going on. Nobody had as yet dared to go upstairs. Pedro José Jiménez was the first one to come up. He was most likely in on the plot, and arrived in time to see the Colombian foreman on the floor and Cobos hurrying to his bedroom.

Jiménez did not hesitate. He ran after Cobos, attempting to cut him down with his machete. He managed to slash him twice, inflicting two shallow wounds in his scalp. Cobos did not even turn, intent on reaching the relative safety of his bedroom. In a few seconds, he was slamming shut the door and bolting it behind him. Getting hold of his carbine, don Manuel looked out through a little window in his door. He caught sight of Elías Ramírez, a laborer who had just arrived. Cobos fired once, wounding him.

In the meantime, Puertas got up from the floor, aimed towards the bedroom door, and squeezed the trigger. All he got was a click -- he had no more bullets left. Cobos however did not shoot again. It was later discovered that his carbine had jammed and was useless; but his silence was taken as a sign that he either was dead or dying. Therefore, the mutineers felt safe as they headed towards the accounting office, next to Cobos’ bedroom, where the garrison’s arms and ammunition were kept. Those who got in first, armed themselves, while the rest had to make do with their machetes. Thus equipped, they went to the governor’s house.

Cobos was in the meantime bleeding to death in his room. The stomach wound had affected several internal organs, including the liver, which caused him a considerable loss of blood. There was also a chest wound, not mentioned in the inquiry, but appearing in the post mortem, which must have been caused by a third shot fired by Puertas. This wound had perforated the left lung, producing massive internal bleeding.

In his statement to the officials who later came to investigate the events of the uprising, Daniel Campbell told that the governor, don Leonardo Reina, could possibly have saved himself. Campbell had warned him that there was an uprising, and that he believed Cobos to be dead. He had advised the governor to seek safety in the forest. However, the aging Reina did not seem to believe that anyone would dare lay hands on the representative of the national government. Besides, he had two policemen to protect him... Despite this reasoning, Governor Reina panicked when he saw an armed mob coming towards his house. He fled to the opposite side of the building and jumped out of a second floor window. He was caught at once, while he still lay on the ground. Some of the plantation hands felt sorry for the old gentleman, while others wanted him dead. The discussion was soon settled. A voice in the mob shouted, «Shoot him!»

A shot was heard. The governor collapsed on the ground where he was still lying, a large wound on his throat. The bullet had gone in from the right hand side, crossing through to the left, where it severed the carotid and the jugular, coming out between the fifth and the sixth ribs, fracturing the latter. Gerónimo Beltrán, one of the laborers, bent over, stabbing the governor in the stomach, inflicting a large, deep wound that would have been equally mortal, had the victim still been alive. They left him there, heading back to the plantation house, to check if Cobos was still alive.

In the meantime, don Manuel Cobos had lost most of his strength and was close to his end; but there was still a little life left in him. When he heard the mutineers breaking down the bedroom door, he made a supreme effort to reach the window. Clambering over the sill, he jumped out, landing on the cobblestones below. The fall broke his left femoral bone. While he lay there, drawing his last breath, he was seen from one of the windows by Miguel Angulo, who alerted his companions.

Those who had guns began firing at the prostrate figure in the yard. It was a wasted effort. Don Manuel Julián Cobos was already dead. The man who had ruled the island for almost four decades as an absolute monarch was no more. However, some felt so much hate for him, that they kicked his dead body, gave it an occasional stab, threw stones at him, and hit him with the butts of their guns, breaking his teeth and his jaw. However, this went on for only a very short while, as they soon realized that Cobos was already out of reach from anything they could do to him. Slowly, they walked away, leaving him there.

While all this was going on, Daniel Campbell and another administration employee, Federico Lemberg, realizing they could do nothing to stop the uprising, sought safety in the woods. They were certain that Cobos was dead. Governor Reina had not wanted to come with them. All they could do was to attempt saving themselves, for it was hard to tell what an unruly mob might do to them. However, Campbell and Lemberg were soon located by Elías Puertas and his men; but the Colombian assured them that they could return safely to the village. He would personally see to it that they were safe. The two agreed to accompany Puertas back to Progreso. After all, they had no choice but to trust his word and hope for the best.

Judging from an old photograph, Elías Puertas looked like a brutal, cruel and murderous scoundrel of limited intelligence. In fact, his appearance is more like what one could have expected of a portrait of the bloodthirsty Manuel Briones. But Puertas’ looks were misleading. Once old grievances were settled with the two men who had ruled the island, Elías Puertas showed himself reasonable, intelligent, foresighted and responsible to an unusual degree. One of his first orders was that all the tanks containing rum should be emptied on the ground. He was taking no chances with a drunken, unruly mob. After this, he organized guards to protect the refinery from vandalism, and saw to it that the plantation buildings and the governor’s house were not damaged in any way.

Obviously, he also realized that the men needed to give further expression to their anger, for he let them sack the plantation commissary, and seize all the records of the workers’ debts. These documents were carried out into the yard, where Carlos and Ricardo Valencia set fire to them, amidst the shouts of approval of their companions.

Once the mutineers had been satisfied that Cobos and Reina were really dead, they had lost interest in them. Their bodies remained where they had fallen. Seeing this, Daniel Campbell approached Puertas about the need to give them proper burial. Puertas promptly called in the two carpenters, Federico Salazar and Antonio Ramírez, asking them to make two coffins. This they did with obvious reluctance. It is told that Salazar had made the coffin for Valdizán, after the Floreana uprising in 1878.

Cobos and Reina were soon shrouded and laid out in their respective houses, surrounded by burning candles and flowers. A few people went there to pay their respects, the larger number coming out of curiosity or simply to gloat over the dead men’s fate. As the warm season was on and the mutineers were anxious to leave the island, the funeral was held the same day, at five in the afternoon. As a last act of retribution, the two graves were dug at the same place where the five of the 1883 plot had been executed.

The Josefina Cobos was fishing along the coast of the island. Puertas and four other men set out in a small boat to locate and capture her. They did not have to row far, as the vessel happened to be on her way back to Puerto Chico, as Wreck Bay was then called. On January 19, Puertas and his companions arrived with the captured ship, and those who wanted to leave the island could begin preparations for the voyage to the mainland. Food, water, two hundred bags of sugar, and most of the arms and ammunition were taken aboard. Before sailing, the Josefina Cobos was renamed Libertad, and a German by the name of Hansel, who had some knowledge of navigation, was made her captain. Whether he accepted this honor willingly is not known.

The following day, the 20th, seventy-eight men, eight women and four children sailed with course for the mainland. Eventually, they reached Cabo Manglares, on the coast of Colombia. Here, they were promptly taken into custody by the local officials, who found their clearance papers suspicious. When arms, ammunition and an unusually large amount of sugar were discovered aboard, the suspicions increased so much that several of the travellers were subjected to close questioning. The story of the uprising became thus known for the first time on the mainland. The fugitives were sent to Guayaquil on the first ship that called on its way there, the British steamer Ecuador. An officer and several policemen were sent along to deliver them to the Ecuadorian authorities. The ship arrived to Guayaquil on February 19, turning the mutineers over to the local police officials. Their freedom had indeed been short.

For the events relating to the murders of don Manuel Julián Cobos and don Leonardo Reina, we have relied largely on Bognoly and Espinosa (1905). These authors had access to the statements of the mutineers, the post mortems of the two victims, and they accompanied the official commission that was sent to Galápagos to investigate the uprising. Additional information came from old San Cristóbal settlers, two of whom, don Manuel Gutiérrez and don Angel Serrano, were most generous in sharing their memories and the stories they had heard in their youth. Some of the oral traditions come from doña Augustina Buenaño, an old Santa Cruz matriarch, who had grown up on San Cristóbal. None of these three had known the elder Cobos personally, but were not far removed from him in time. Another interesting source was Boilermaker Vallejo, who came out as Cobos’ houseboy, before he began his apprenticeship at the sugar refinery. We consider ourselves most fortunate to have known these old settlers, not only for the valuable information they provided, but, more than anything else, because they were such fine human beings in every respect. Most of today’s population is of very recent origin, and few if any have been interested in listening to and remembering what these older people could tell -- if they ever had the privilige of meeting them at all.

Few remember who Elías Puertas was. Nobody recalls the names of his followers. However, even the most recent arrivals have heard of don Manuel Julián Cobos. They may even have heard that he is supposed to still ride his large, white stallion in the night, haunting the roads that were built for him so long ago. But his remains are no longer in the soil near the village, at the site of the 1883 executions. His heirs had his remains taken to Guayaquil, where they had built him a fine mausoleum, worthy of a great man. In it, there was place provided for his daughter Josefina and her husband, don Rogelio Alvarado, who have rested next to don Manuel for many years now. There was also a place provided for don Manuel Augusto Cobos, the old colonizer’s son. However, the younger Cobos wrote the author, shortly after turning eighty-six, in 1983, that he wanted to be buried on San Cristóbal, where he belongs. His wish was fulfilled in February 1994. We are certain that this would also have been his father’s wish, had he been given a choice.



We have seen how don Antonio Gil established a small colony on Floreana in 1893. He was disappointed by the results, and moved to the SE side of Isabela, in 1897. Here, he founded the village of Puerto Villamil, by the seashore, and established a cattle ranch in the highlands. Isabela was not wholly uninhabited, as may appear from most of the literature that mentions the island’s colonization. One David Mora was already established at Santo Tomás, in the upper parts of the moist region, and we know about him only from the legal documents relating to the sale of Mora’s property to don Antonio. However, the official registration of Mora’s property is dated as late as 1906, when don Antonio Gil had been in possession of the property for several years.

What is likely to have happened is that David Mora had no other rights to the property that that of de facto possession, which, incidentally, carries considerable weight in Ecuador, especially where unsettled government land is concerned. Finding it convenient to get everything properly legalized and registered, don Antonio probably had David Mora go through the movements of an official claim, which was granted him by the government in 1906, to be followed up by a pro forma sale, made solely to get the older, original sale properly registered.

The extent of the claim also appears to prove the above as it is unusually large, and we seriously doubt if Mora ever claimed all the land that is included in the official description of its limits, which is as follows: «...the lands situated in the south-southeast of the Island of Isabela or Albemarle, including the mountain range of Cerro Azul, which includes the extension of lands between the said range, from Iguana Cove to Cape Woodford, and the Pacific Ocean...» This is taken from the resolution handed down by Dr. Luís Felipe Borja, the Attorney General, on February 27, 1937, in which he declares the Gil family’s claims as perfectly legal, on the basis of the documents presented by them. His geography is a bit hazy in that he places the lands in the SSE side of the island, when they actually include everything between the crest of the range that crosses southern Isabela from ENE to WSW, and the Pacific Ocean, as Cape Woodford is at one end of this range and Iguana Cove is at the other. Cerro Azul is not the name of the range, but the name of the 1,680 m. high volcano that towers above Iguana Cove. The range also includes Mt. Santo Tomás (Volcán Sierra Negra), another great mountain, with its 1,490 meters altitude and a nine and a half kilometers wide caldera. This enormous extent of territory covers all the arable land on Isabela, aside from many extensive, useless lava fields.

We have been unable to find out anything about David Mora, except that even he may not have been the first inhabitant of Isabela. Slevin (1931) mentions several times the «Cobos settlement», the remains of which still existed in 1905, to the west of Puerto Villamil, at Puerto Barahona. These remains consisted of a tortoise pen and several thatched houses, just back of the beach, presumably between the latter and the salt lagoon that exists there. In 1905, cattle, tortoises and wild dogs were still numerous in this area as elsewhere along this coast, as far west as Cape Rose.

The Cobos settlement was undoubtedly the base of tortoise hunters, who may also have been engaged in collecting archil, as is suggested by the name of a conspicuous hill to the east of Puerto Barahona, somewhat nearer Puerto Villamil, called Cerro de la Orchilla. This name is likely to date from much earlier than the Gil settlement, from a time when archil still had considerable demand, a demand that had largely disappeared at the time don Antonio Gil settled on the island.

That the Cobos settlement was abandoned before tortoises became scarce in this part of Isabela is not so strange as it may appear. As don Manuel J. Cobos became increasingly involved with his sugar plantation, he seems to have gradually abandoned most of his earlier activities. In fact, the settlement at Puerto Barahona may have been deserted at a fairly early date, as we have been unable to find any traditions about it on San Cristóbal, though one survived here about the plantings at Santa Rosa and Salazaca, on Santa Cruz, and the trail that led to them from Whale Bay.

When David Mora settled on Isabela is not known. He could have arrived there as an employee of Cobos, remaining on the island after the Puerto Barahona settlement was abandoned. That he settled as far away from the coast and as high up as Santo Tomás seems strange, as the moist region on this side of the island begins at about 107 meters above sea level, while Santo Tomás is at about 390 meters, not far below the grasslands. (These begin at an altitude of 460 meters, extending all the way to the rim of the main crater). It is likely that Mora was more interested in tortoise hunting than farming, as these reptiles could be easily hunted in the grasslands. However, at the time Mora owned Hacienda Santo Tomás, tortoises were also common at lower altitudes.

Cattle hunting comes to mind as an additional source of income, and, though cattle were abundant in 1905 also at lower altitudes, they are much easier to hunt in the open grasslands. However, we cannot be certain of whether wild cattle existed on Isabela at the time. Don Carlos Gil, one of don Antonio’s sons, presented documentation and witness declarations, in the 1960’s, proving that his father had imported sixty head of cattle to Isabela from the Province of Manabí, on the mainland. Don Carlos claimed that all the cattle on the island descended from these animals. On the other hand, the great number of cattle found on the island by the California Academy of Sciences expedition, in 1905, seems excessive if they only descended from this herd, especially if we consider that the Gil family had been exploiting their cattle almost since their introduction, just before the turn of the century.

It would not be strange that don Antonio Gil should import sixty head of cattle to an island where wild cattle was abundant. If he planned to export cattle on the hoof to the mainland, this would be the best way to go about it. Wild cattle take a lot of effort and time to get domesticated, and to export them while still wild is not a simple matter. In addition to the trauma of capture, would come the transportation from the highlands to the shore, swimming out to the ship while tied to a boat, being hoisted aboard by the horns, and then the long voyage to the mainland. All this is a brutal experience even for the tamest of domesticated animals. Wild cattle would not be likely to survive all this in large enough numbers to make the venture profitable. It is more likely that wild cattle here, as on Floreana, were killed for their hides and to make jerked beef. However, all this speculation leaves us still with the question as to who brought the very first cattle to Isabela and for what purpose -- if it was not don Antonio Gil...

It has been occasionally claimed that, when Villamil moved from Floreana to San Cristóbal he also placed some domestic animals on a few of the other islands. This seems unlikely where Isabela is concerned. In fact, it makes no sense that Villamil should have had animals unloaded on Isabela without doing so also on Santa Cruz. This latter island is closer to Floreana and San Cristóbal than is Isabela. The only feral domestic animals found on Santa Cruz when the first Norwegian settlers arrived in 1926 were wild donkeys.

Don Antonio Gil had solved his transportation problems with the aid of two vessels -- the Tomasita, a small sloop-rigged ship, and the somewhat larger brigantine Nellie, which had a wood burning auxiliary steam engine. The Tomasita was lost in 1908, when she hit a shoal in the north of Isabela. Captain Chiapella, his wife and their little son were left behind, while the crew undertook the gruelling march south, to the inhabited part of the island. When help was sent to the captain and his family, it was too late. They had all died of thirst.

In the history of Galápagos and in the island traditions there are numerous stories of vessels at the mercy of unreliable winds and strong currents. In the 1830’s, General Mena almost perished at sea. He had sailed from Floreana with course for San Cristóbal in a whaleboat. With him were a woman and some laborers. About halfway, they were overtaken by night, and as it was too dark to make a safe arrival, Mena decided to take down the sail and get a good night’s rest out on the open sea.

It is obvious that this had been done before without any complications, for he and his crew slept soundly. Not that they could have seen much in the darkness if they had kept watch. At daybreak, the travellers found themselves drifting out of sight of land, with no idea as to their position. They had no supplies and very little water. Somehow, they managed to survive on rawhide and whatever rain water they could collect. When rescued by a passing American whaler, twenty-three days later, they were about two hundred nautical miles east of their destination. Their boat was sinking, and they were more dead than alive. So much for relying on the usual set of the Galápagos currents and the prevailing winds.

Much larger and better equipped vessels have also met with trouble in these waters. In the logbook of the schooner Academy (Slevin, 1931) is told the ordeal of the crew and passengers of the brigantine Nellie. The Academy had called at Puerto Villamil on April 30, 1906. Here, she found the Ecuadorian gunboat Cotopaxi, which provided the visiting scientists with their first news about the San Francisco earthquake. After burying a crew member who had died of yellow fever, the Cotopaxi sailed for San Cristóbal. (Yellow fever was then quite common in Guayaquil, where the seaman must have contracted it). The following days, the men on the Academy divided their efforts between collecting specimens and taking in water, bananas, taro and coffee. They also purchased some chocolate and sulfur from don Antonio Gil. The sulfur came from the main crater above Santo Tomás, and was to be used for fumigating the schooner, in yet another attempt to get rid of the bedbugs that had tormented the Americans during their whole voyage.

On May 3, the Academy set sail for San Cristóbal, making little headway, as she met with changing and fitful breezes, and periods of calm. It was not before the 14th that a good breeze blew up. Since the vessel had drifted close to Floreana, a course was shaped for Black Beach. Here, the scientists found the Nellie at anchor, learning of her unsuccessful voyage to Guayaquil.

The brigantine had spent sixty-seven days at sea, experiencing mostly dead calms and head winds. The fuel for her engine had been used up. Then, they ran out of food and water. The crew condensed sea water, caught some fish, and captured an occasional turtle; but during their last week at sea they had obtained neither fish nor turtles. The cattle they had carried had long since died and been thrown over the side. All they had left was some molasses. Drifting south of Galápagos, their sails in poor condition, they somehow managed to make it to Black Beach, where they had arrived that same morning.

Without delay, two parties were sent ashore. One of them set about to gather firewood for the boiler, while the other went inland to attempt finding some food. This latter group was headed by the engineer, and consisted of him, two seamen and a young man named Cruz, who had been born on Floreana twenty years earlier. They had three dogs with them, and the engineer had tied a knife to the end of a boathook, with the purpose of using it to kill a pig, should the dogs get hold of one. They headed for the main spring, towards the center of the island. The party had no luck; but they met with some of the scientists from the Academy, who shot a wild bull for them. The following day, Rollo H. Beck, the leader of the American expedition, provided the Nellie with some supplies. Limes and oranges were taken aboard, and the brigantine set sail for Puerto Villamil at midnight.

We have no description of Puerto Villamil as it was at the time of don Antonio Gil. However, it seems that the latter as well as his German bookkeeper, Mr. Brugermann, spent much of their time at the place. There may have been a few thatched houses for the workmen, though these no doubt spent most of their time in the highlands. There must certainly have been some sort of warehouse, and a building or two for don Antonio and Mr. Brugermann to live in, with space for an office. In 1906, there were two corrugated steel buildings and a few thatched houses up at Santo Tomás. Altogether, there were about one hundred people on the whole island, all free settlers.

It is obvious that much tortoise hunting had at one time been carried out at lower altitudes. This is attested by the remains of hundreds of tortoises that were spread along both sides of the trail from Puerto Villamil to Santo Tomás. However, prior to 1906, much of the tortoise hunting was already being done inland. Despite the great butchering of tortoises witnessed earlier by Beck, at the turn of the century, tortoises were still common in the grasslands on the top of the island.

It is hard to say exactly what brought about the economic decline of Gil’s colony on Isabela, as we have no statistics to assess the different sources of income of the settlement. As tortoises became harder to get in sufficient numbers without going to remote areas of difficult access, the production of oil must have fallen considerably. It is possible that tortoise oil was such an important source of income that its decline had a greater effect than is generally realized. By the 1920’s tortoise oil was certainly no longer important, except for local consumption. Tortoise meat was used regularly on Isabela for much longer than that, as was the oil. Small tortoises and the dried hind feet of adult reptiles were still sold as souvenirs as late as the early 1960’s, though their economic significance was very slight.

Some sulfur had been exported from Isabela from early on, but, despite its good quality, it had never been an important trade item. Obtaining it involved considerable work, as it was found inside the main crater, where it was extracted by hand, then carried on donkeys all the way down to distant Puerto Villamil, to be shipped to the mainland. It is hard to believe that it could ever have competed favorably against the mainland product.

Eventually, some dry fish -- sold seasonally -- a little coffee and some cattle were all that could be counted on as sources of cash. Cattle on the hoof did not have a good market on the mainland, as cattle was produced many places there and came to the markets in a much better condition than the Galápagos animals. The voyage on sailing vessels was too long, and the animals were often in an emaciated condition on arrival, a number even dying on the way. In addition, the people on Isabela became dependent on the plantation schooner from San Cristóbal, as maintaining and later replacing the Nellie was too much of an investment with the existing cargo. This was tragic, for the old Manuel J. Cobos only visited islands other than San Cristóbal when there was not enough cargo for her on the latter island. As long as the sugar plantation there was in operation, until the early 1930’s, there was a good amount of cargo for the schooner on that island, most of the time, making things difficult for the people on Isabela and the few settlers that had become established on Santa Cruz and Floreana.

As don Antonio Gil concentrated himself increasingly on his mainland interests, the administration of the Isabela property was largely left in the hands of don Antonio Jr., who had been living permanently on the island for a number of years (from 1904 until his death in 1921). From 1921 until 1930 his brothers, don Enrique and don Carlos, were left in charge. (Gordillo, 1998). In 1909, the property had been registered under joint ownership, as belonging to don Antonio Sr. and his sons don Enrique and don Carlos. (Acuerdo No. 10, Ministry of Defense, published in the Registro Oficial No. 390 of December 12, 1941. Don Antonio Jr. is not mentioned, which seems surprising.

Don Carlos lived most of his life on the mainland, though he regularly visited the island. In later years, he came out only occasionally, whenever he had got together some project that he believed could bring prosperity to Isabela and improve the family fortunes. In 1941, the heirs of don Enrique Gil -- he had died a few years earlier -- sold their rights to a gentleman in Guayaquil, don Carlos Seminario Tejada, who thus became don Carlos Gil’s partner, as the property remained undivided. However, it would still be don Carlos Gil who tried to promote different ventures on Isabela. He kept at it well into the 1960’s, until his death, when he was in his eighties. Like General José Villamil a century earlier, don Carlos Gil Quezada could never quite forget the Galápagos, though nothing ever seemed to come out of his efforts.

It seems as if politicians and officials are poor students of history. They too often keep making the same mistakes as their predecessors. This is the case everywhere in the world, not only in Latin America. Another common trait among them is their inclination to see the human beings affected by their decisions as statistical numbers rather than people. There are of course praiseworthy exceptions in the Galápagos, as attested by the health service and the school system, which are far beyond what could be expected in an area with such a small population. Still, some crucial decisions have been made from time to time that have resulted in much grief, despite the fact that past experiences could have warned of what would happen. We are thinking of the penal colonies.

The first penal establishment on Floreana should have served as a warning of what will sooner or later happen. Valdizán’s carelessness in recruiting workmen gave further evidence of what undesirable elements could cause in a small and isolated community. The Cobos story was a further warning. As if all this were not enough, there was the 1924 uprising on San Cristóbal, which seemed finally to bring mainland officialdom to their senses. In fact, the inhabitants of Galápagos were led to believe that they had seen the last convict disappear over the horizon.

In the late 1930’s, a small number of political deportees were sent out, and distributed between San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz. One of them, a Lt. Cueva, who had been blocking an intersection in downtown Quito with a machine gun, during a coup that failed, spent his evenings playing poker with the officers of the Santa Cruz garrison. Another one, a Mr. Cruz, a portly dark gentleman who owned a bookstore in Quito, became quite popular on San Cristóbal. In fact, he was such a nice, amiable person, that it was hard to believe he could seriously contemplate the violent overthrow of the established order; but that was exactly what he had been plotting all his adult life, as a most active member of the Communist Party, until he died in Quito, in the 1950’s.

However, the occasional political deportee was never viewed with any alarm in Galápagos or elsewhere in other isolated parts of Ecuador, where such were sent from time to time to get them out of the way. In those happy days before terrorism and the wanton killing of innocent people with randomly placed bombs, revolutionaries were not regarded as maddened criminals, save under the most extreme dictatorships.

But these occasional visitors, whose main punishment was the boredom they had to face, were soon to be replaced with the advent of a regular penal colony, dedicated to thieves and assassins. In 1944, Isabela, where all men and women had formerly arrived of their own free will, except for a small number of deportees who had remained there briefly in the 1920’s, became the site of the most infamous penal establishment in Ecuador. It was hailed as a breakthrough by some -- all of them living on the mainland -- for the purpose of the colony was to «re-educate» those poor men who had strayed from the path of the law-abiding citizenry.

As it turned out, «re-education» was a term for whitewashing the whole sorry scheme. The Ecuadorian Army, who were administrating the islands at the time, turned over Isabela to the police -- both the administration of the free settlers and the convicts. When the Navy took over in 1947, they did not even bother to send a port captain to Puerto Villamil, leaving such affairs as clearance papers to the police. It seems as if nobody wanted to know anything about what was taking place on Isabela.

While it is true that some of the police commandants were responsible, reasonable human beings, there were others who seemed to make every effort to contribute to the penal colony’s dismal reputation. In fact, all that is remembered about it, in Galápagos and elsewhere, is its darkest sides. And they were indeed many.

The number of convicts of course varied from time to time, but there were in the beginning about two hundred and thirty, who with their guards made a total equaling the numbers of the free population of the island at that time. One can speculate endlessly as to why an uninhabited island like Santiago was not chosen. One can also wonder why not Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal or Floreana. Some claim that the reason was the great number of wild cattle on Isabela. These not only provided a good source of meat to the colony, but it is believed that the police made good profits shipping jerked beef and hides to the mainland. In any case, there was certainly a lot of cargo going to the mainland from the penal colony, and not all was dried fish. But the Navy never inspected police cargo, though they resented the presence of the police, viewing them as intruders in a region that was supposed to be wholly under naval jurisdiction. However, having no authority over the police and their establishment, they chose a cold hands-off policy.

When we visited the inhabited part of Isabela in 1953, there were three convict camps on the island. Those near the completion of their sentences lived in a large wooden building a short distance down the beach from Puerto Villamil. They were allowed to move about freely in the daytime, and were often used as crew on the local fishing boats, since it was assumed that they had no sensible reason for seizing a boat and attempting an escape. It would indeed have been foolish, for Isabela boats were relatively small, and were, during the greater part of this period, propelled by oars.

Two other groups were placed inland, one at Santo Tomás, some eighteen kilometers up the main mountain. The other, formed by the toughest convicts and others with long sentences, was placed at Alemania, which is a considerable distance to the west of Santo Tomás, and some six hours on foot from Puerto Villamil. At an earlier period, there had been a camp to the west of Puerto Villamil, behind Cerro de la Orchilla, at the site of the abandoned American radar station. This camp was called Porvenir, a rather cynical name, as porvenir means future, often in a positive significance.

Under the more despotic commandants -- and there seems to have been enough of them -- there was much use of floggings, jobs requiring excessive physical effort, fasting and other forms of punishment that were outright sadistic. Then, there was the ley de fuga -- «law of flight» -- based on the law that allows shooting an escaping person who refuses to halt, especially in the case of an escaping prisoner. This law was often stretch far beyond its real intention.

There is still a monument standing to the perversity and unbelievable stupidity of the most extreme of the commandants of the penal colony. Behind Cerro de la Orchilla is a huge wall of volcanic rocks, built without mortar. Its base is about six meters thick, tapering gradually as it reaches its full altitude of nine or ten meters. The wall is about one hundred and twenty meters long. Its construction cost the lives of at least a dozen prisoners, some dying of extreme fatigue and dehydration, others from beatings given them by the guards, and a few from falling down the side of the wall while carrying heavy rocks. The purpose of this wall was supposedly to keep the convicts from escaping. It was never finished. The idiocy of the project was not lost on later commandants, who saw no point in continuing its construction. The wall is widely known as el Muro de las Lágrimas -- the Wall of Tears.

During the time of the penal colony, a number of settlers left Isabela, a few moving to the mainland, others settling on San Cristóbal, where such Isabela names as Mora, Jaime and Jaramillo are now common, especially in Puerto Baquerizo. Some of these migrants were at least third generation Isabela islanders. Their leaving their home island is usually blamed solely on the presence of the penal colony, but there was also the added incentive of finding employment with the freezer plant in Puerto Baquerizo and the boats fishing for it. The population of Isabela showed very little increase in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

There was considerable friction between the free settlers and the police. In fact, much more than between the islanders and the convicts. At times however the relations could be good, but all too often the police behaved arrogantly, if not outright aggressively. We met a young man on Santa Cruz, who had lost several front teeth in an argument with a policeman. The latter had hit him with the butt of a Mauser. His complaints to the policeman’s superiors had been useless, so he prudently removed himself to Santa Cruz, where he lived for a while, until the incident had been largely forgotten.

Manuel Pareja Concha, who became senator for the Galápagos in the 1950’s, worked hard to get the penal colony removed from Galápagos. Pareja knew conditions in the islands well. He had been a clerk at the freezing plant on San Cristóbal. Later, he had spent some time in a similar capacity on Isabela, employed in one of don Carlos Gil’s projects. During this latter period, he got a close view of the daily life of the settlers and the convicts. As a senator, he did much for the Galápagos, and would have done more, had not his health forced him to resign during his third period in congress. His heart, already struggling to keep an overweight body working, could not cope with the added strain of Quito’s altitude, where he had to live while congress was in session.

In the late 1950’s we had the opportunity to get detailed information on Pareja’s many projects for Galápagos, while we spent some days together as guests of the late Captain Nathaniel (Mike) Mann and his wife Betty, at Machalilla, a half deserted and peaceful village on the coast of Manabí. Pareja told enthusiastically about the many projects he was trying to get through congress. Several of these, like a regular air service to Galápagos and a road across Santa Cruz, would not become a reality until several years after he had resigned, others getting credit for his ideas. Some of his proposals had been approved in congress, but there were no funds on the budget for them to be carried out. However, there was one bright point that made up for all his frustration -- he had finally succeeded in getting through the decision to eliminate the penal colony on Isabela. Unfortunately, this had not been published yet in the Registro Oficial, and could not become effective until this happened. There were those who wanted the penal colony to continue, and Pareja had had to fight every inch of the way to get this far. The fact that the decision to terminate the colony had not been published yet only showed that his opponents were powerful. However, Senator Pareja only laughed at this delay. Once a law or resolution has successfully gone through congress, its publication cannot be delayed longer that to the following year.

But the end of the penal colony did not have to wait that long. On February 8, 1958, there was an uprising among the convicts of Isabela. It was led by a mulatto from Esmeraldas, who was accepted as their leader by the convicts at Alemania. He was known as Patecuco, a contraction of Pata de Cuco, which can be translated as «Bogeyman’s Foot». This name is said to have originated because of his light, silent walk. Two mutinies had failed recently, and it is rumored that their leaders had been assassinated by the guards. Still, Patecuco managed to convince twenty of his fellow convicts to take the risk of making another attempt.

On that bright February day, towards evening, the convicts struck, taking their guards completely by surprise. These had probably felt overconfident because they had nipped the previous two mutinies in the bud. After locking up the guards and taking their arms, the convicts went to Santo Tomás, where they arrived before daybreak of the 9th, now secure in the knowledge that they had something with which to defend themselves. At Santo Tomás they also succeeded in taking the guards by surprise, locking them up, after seizing their weapons. The convicts must have been tired by then, but that did not prevent them from pressing on to Puerto Villamil, where they repeated what had been accomplished inland.

The Franciscan parish priest, Father León Gordillo, was alarmed at the thought of what could happen, especially to the local women, if the mutineers got out of control. Getting together the small population of Puerto Villamil, he led them to the mission’s property, placing himself at the gate, where he told the convicts that they would have to pass over his dead body to get in. However, no convict would have dared raise a hand against Father Gordillo. This slight, intellectual priest was the only person on the island who had had the courage to stand up to the police, time after time, in his attempts at improving the conditions in which the convicts lived.

Though Patecuco and some of the others assured Father Gordillo that the convicts would do no harm to any of the settlers, the Franciscan kept the colonists inside the mission grounds until the mutineers had left Puerto Villamil. Patecuco and the others kept their word. In fact, Patecuco destroyed all the bottles of alcoholic drinks in the small local store, to avoid any drunkenness that could lead to trouble. He however allowed his companions to help themselves to whatever merchandise that caught their fancy. He showed the same foresight that had been shown by Elías Puertas during the 1904 uprising on San Cristóbal.

All the local boats were out fishing at the time, so there were no vessels in which to effect their escape. But two boats appeared in the morning of February 11. They were seized as soon as they got in. One of them belonged to Enrique Cisneros, the local storekeeper, the other to don Bolívar Gil, a grandson of don Antonio Sr. The convicts intended to set out in the search for a larger vessel, one that could be used for sailing to the mainland. With this in mind, they left on the following day, taking with them the two vessels and four crew members. These were also to serve as pilots among the islands.

They sailed towards the west, no doubt hoping to locate an American tuna clipper. On they way, they met with a small vessel from Santa Cruz, which they seized, transferring to it all that was aboard one of the Villamil vessels, which they sent back. At Tagus Cove, they sighted an American ship, but on discovering that she belonged to a military academy, they chose to continue on their way, rounding the north side of the island. As they traveled down the eastern coast, before daybreak, on the 15th, they discovered lights near Cape Nepean, on Santiago Island.

On arriving to Santiago, they discovered a luxurious American yacht, the Valinda, anchored near James Bay. Boarding her, the convicts took the five people aboard completely by surprise, ordering them to sail with course for the mainland. Before they sailed, Enrique Fuentes, one of their hostages, pleaded with Patecuco to let him return to his wife and children on Santa Cruz. If not, he might as well kill him, Fuentes argued. Deeply moved, the convict let both Fuentes and Pancho Jaramillo, who also had a young family, go free. The other two settlers, Víctor López and Arnaldo Tupiza, were kept as hostages.

The convicts behaved reasonably well towards the Americans, except for helping themselves to everything aboard that caught their fancy. Generously, they invited López and Tupiza to do the same, something these two refused to do. Not wanting to draw undue attention to themselves, the fugitives did not approach the city of Esmeraldas, near which they sighted land again. Instead, they had the Americans anchor near Punta Galera, some distance to the south. There is a small cove with a good landing in the vicinity.

Here, a number of canoes came out to trade with the Valinda, believing those aboard to be smugglers. This provided the convicts with the means to get ashore. Loading their loot, the arms and the ammunition into the visiting dugouts, they headed for the beach. In the meantime, making the most of the initial confusion, López and Tupiza had hidden themselves. Fortunately, the convicts were in too much of a hurry to get ashore and disappear into the forest. Gordillo (1998) has published the story as told by Tupiza, a story that is deeply moving and, of course, more detailed than the version we give here.

While shaping a course for Panama, where they took López and Tupiza, the Americans attempted unsuccessfully to contact Guayaquil, to report the events of the last few days. Finally, they managed to get in touch with a station in Panama, which promptly reported to Esmeraldas. There, the rural police went quickly into action, sending patrols into the rain forest. It was not long before nineteen convicts had been captured, but it cost the life of one policeman. The remaining two fugitives were taken somewhat later, one of them being wounded while trying to escape.

The Valinda incident caused considerable embarrassment to the Ecuadorian authorities. The government of don Camilo Ponce Enríquez began at once to relocate the convicts in mainland jails. The author had the doubtful honor of traveling with the last group of convicts who left the Galápagos in May of 1959.

We have mentioned the brave Franciscan León Gordillo, who lived so many years on Isabela. He and his devoted assistant, Brother Buenaventura Espinoza, worked with great dedication on the island. Father Gordillo founded, taught and directed the school at Puerto Villamil, a solid building constructed of local volcanic rock, surrounded by a stone fence and a hedge of button mangrove (Conocarpus erecta). The building materials and the hedge tell much about this Franciscan’s rare sense for what is beautiful in the islands. More often than not, the volcanic rocks would have been seen as ugly and worthless, the button mangrove, at best, as a source of firewood.

The Ecuadorian Navy had the Franciscan missionaries on their payroll, in order to support their work in the islands. Since the Church and State had been separated before the turn of the century, such an arrangement was very unusual. However, the Franciscan monks were appointed as chaplains and given ranks of commissioned officers, while the lay brothers were listed as non-commissioned, thus getting around the existing laws. Ecuadorians are, as a rule, very practical and pragmatic, with a strong inclination for tolerance. Thus, Father Gordillo could make good use of his officer’s pay, managing among other things to build the local school, which was operated jointly by the government and the mission -- another exceptional arrangement in a country where religious and official schools are kept rigorously apart.

Unfortunately, Father Gordillo could not see his greatest dream come true -- the church and monastery of volcanic rocks that he had designed and started to build. When he began it, he had made good use of cheap convict labor and whatever funds he could set aside, erecting most of the walls and the cloister, the arches of which opened towards the mission’s coconut palms and a view of the open sea beyond. It was not a large building, but it would have taken a great deal of work to finish it. Still, it could easily have been ready by the end of the 1950’s, had not Father Gordillo given priority to the needs of the settlers above his own dream. Thus the school was built and the road to Santo Tomás improved to the point where he could drive an ancient jeep all the way up by the middle of the 1960’s.

It was in fact this road that got the good priest into trouble. He had managed to talk the local authorities into putting people to work on the road instead of fining them, whenever anyone had disturbed the public order. A number of the Isabela settlers, especially those few who had been punished, resented this form of punishment and sent a petition to the priest’s superiors in Quito, requesting his removal. For good measure, several slanderous accusations were also included. Father Gordillo was at once recalled to the mainland, while a high ranking member of his order came out to investigate his case. Rumors reached the islands that Father Gordillo had been transferred to the rain forests east of the Andes.

The report that resulted from the investigation must have been favorable. While it is true that Father Gordillo had indeed spent some weeks at one of the missions in the rain forest, he soon returned to Isabela, to resume his work with his old enthusiasm. He continued, among other things, with the work on the Santo Tomás road. A lesser man would naturally have felt some resentment against those settlers who had requested his removal, but Father Gordillo laughed at the whole incident, dismissing it as unimportant.

In 1965, Father León Gordillo made what was possibly the most difficult decision in his life. He requested his superiors to relieve him of his vows. After his many years of dedicated service, he wished to abandon his order and become a settler on the island he loved so much. He had become identified with the people and the place to such a degree that it only seems natural that he should have taken this step. Nor is it strange that he afterwards married a lovely young woman from Santo Tomás, the charming descendant of Isabela’s earliest settlers.



Though the smallest (171 kms2) and the lowest (640 m.) of the six larger islands, Floreana, Charles or Santa María is, as we have seen, the one with the longest history of colonization. This is most likely because access from Black Beach to the interior is relatively easy, and there are several springs in the fertile plateau at its center that were known from the earliest days. The largest of these is also a fairly reliable source of fresh water.

It was also on Floreana that the first Norwegian settlement in the Galápagos was established, at Post Office Bay, on the north coast. These settlers arrived on August 10, 1925, on their three-masted schooner Floreana. However, the background story leading up to this settlement goes back many years, to a time when the Galápagos were more or less unknown to the world in general. However, it had long been a popular subject with Norwegian journalists. There had also been a much earlier project that, though it appeared very promising at the time, had never quite got off the ground.

In fact, as early as on August 8, 1884, an agreement was signed between the Compañía Suizo-Escandinava para la Colonización de Galápagos and the Government of Ecuador, in which the former company states its purpose of recruiting Swiss and Scandinavian settlers, who would establish themselves on the islands. This agreement was the most important reason behind the creation of the Ley Especial de Galápagos, a law that was signed about a year later.

In this Special Law for the Galápagos, the whole administration of the islands was reorganized under a Jefe Territorial, whose several duties included seeing to it that law and order prevailed, and that the colonization of the islands was given top priority. In this law it is stated, in the section relating to grants of land to the settlers, that such grants are not to be given if they come into conflict with the rights of the Compañía Suizo-Escandinava. (Ley Especial de Galápagos of 1885, Chapter II, Section VI, Article 11).

In 1886, don Adolfo Beck, acting for the company, presented to the Ecuadorian Government a list of prospective Norwegian settlers. However, the project seems to have gone no further than this, for it was demanded that the new settlers become Ecuadorian citizens at a fairly early stage. (Hoff, 1985). The prospective colonists seem to have found this condition unreasonable, as they saw no advantage in severing their ties to their mother country before knowing for certain if they could succeed in the Galápagos.

This citizenship condition seems rather unusual, as the law of 1885 specifies no restrictions on the nationality of settlers. In fact, it is a later law, signed in 1913, that sets a limit to nationality; but it is by far more liberal and more in tune with the spirit of tolerance so characteristic of Ecuadorians. It states only that two-thirds of the settlers on the Galápagos must have Ecuadorian citizenship. Such a condition is however unusual for laws prior to the 1940’s, when Ecuadorian legislation began a more restrictive trend towards foreign residents. The law of 1913 is called Ley de Colonización del Archipiélago de Colón and was signed on October 16 of that year. The islands had by then (in 1892) been renamed.

As far as we can find, the Compañía Suizo-Escandinava did not stir up an undue amount of publicity for the islands in Norway. It was in 1907 that the Norwegian press became really interested in Galápagos. This was due to the Norwegian bark Alexandra, which had been abandoned near the islands, after drifting helplessly for three months, on her way from Australia to Panama. One of her two lifeboats, commanded by her chief mate, made it to Floreana. Later, these survivors arrived safely to Guayaquil, by way of San Cristóbal. Their adventures received much press cover in Norway, as did the speculations about the possible fate of the second boat, commanded by the master of the abandoned vessel. (Harbitz, 1915; Hoff, 1985).

It must be said that the Norwegian press did an excellent job while handling the story of the Alexandra and its denouement, of which we shall tell more in the next chapter. They not only described the barren lowlands, where the castaways experienced thirst and other hardships. They also wrote about the fertile highlands, the giant tortoises and much else that had no actual bearing on the story.

Later, in 1915, came Alf Harbitz’ book about the Alexandra and her crew, but Galápagos had by then, for another reason, become a subject of interest to the Norwegian public. During the previous year, August F. Christensen had written a series of articles about the islands, which were well received. Whether Christensen had actually visited Galápagos or not at that time is not clear. It has been argued that had he been there, he would have mentioned the fact. (Hoff, 1985).

Christensen was the son of a leading whaler, and had been involved in his father’s activities since his youth. He had made his first voyage to the Antarctic on one of his father’s ships at the age of seventeen. He had also been in charge of the family’s operations in the South Shetlands and Chile from 1907 to 1914. Before returning to Norway, he secured whaling concessions along the coasts of Ecuador and Perú, and permission to set up a whaling station on Floreana. (Hoff, 1985).

In 1918 Christensen was appointed consul of Ecuador, a suitable position for someone as interested as he was in the colonization of Galápagos. He claimed to have obtained for all prospective Norwegian settlers on the islands the possibility of receiving twenty hectares each of free land, the right to maintain their Norwegian citizenship for as long as they wished, freedom from taxation for the first ten years in Galápagos, and the right to hunt and fish freely on all the uninhabited islands where they might settle.

Whether all these generous concessions were «made» by some Ecuadorian official, eager to attract foreign settlers is hard to say at this stage. Still, the fact remains that all these «concessions» already existed in the laws of Ecuador. Twenty hectares of land were already available to all prospective colonists -- regardless of nationality -- according to the law of 1885 which has been mentioned earlier. This law also leaves open the possibility of acquiring larger grants under special circumstances. As far as foreign citizenship was concerned, there was no law in Ecuador limiting the time a foreign resident could keep his original nationality. The law limiting foreign citizens to owning property at least fifty kilometers away from international borders and from the seashore was not created until the 1940’s. However, this relatively recent limitation has, to our knowledge, seldom if ever been enforced, even by officials who were aware of its existence.

As for the exemption from taxes, this was already granted by the law of 1913, where it is stated that settlers in the Galápagos will be free from taxes and military service for a total of fifteen years. There is no mention of nationality. Both the law of 1885 and that of 1913 were still in force at the time Christensen was writing about Norwegian migration to the islands. As for hunting and fishing, no restrictions existed at the time, and endemic animals were not yet protected by law. On the other hand, local officials had no means for enforcing them, had they existed.

At the beginning of the 1920’s, Christensen’s project of settling Floreana was still somewhat vague, but things were happening that would help him further his project, when the time became ripe. Three young Norwegian journalists set out for Ecuador in January of 1922. They were Per Bang, Jens Aschehoug and Finn Støren. While the first two continued on to the Galápagos, Støren remained on the mainland. (Hoff, 1985).

After spending a few pleasant days as the guests of don Manuel Augusto Cobos, at the sugar plantation on San Cristóbal, the two journalists continued on their way to the then uninhabited Floreana. Here, they set up household in the largest cave in the vicinity of the main spring. The abundance of wild oranges and limes, the large number of wild animals -- pigs, goats and cattle -- the clear spring water, and the cave with its shelves, benches and fireplace cut into the soft tuffaceous rock, were their boyhood dreams come true, the stuff of romance.

When the schooner César -- the ship that had brought them out -- returned in March, Finn Støren was aboard. He was no less impressed by this paradise on earth. However, Støren would be cheated of his stay in this insular Eden. Since the César was on her way to Isabela and her master was willing to stop again at Floreana on his return voyage, the three Norwegians decided to visit the larger island.

All went well until they were on their way back, when wind conditions deteriorated. For a fortnight, they alternated between tacking against a contrary breeze and drifting helplessly in prolonged calms. The master of the César gave up, and tried sailing up the west coast of Isabela, rounding the island by the north and then following its east coast. It did not work. On her twenty-fifth day out of Puerto Villamil, the César was drifting north of Isabela. Food and water were becoming scarce, and they were in an area where water was unobtainable, and the only food they could hope to get was the occasional turtle and some fish. It was decided that their only alternative was to attempt sailing to the mainland. Ten days after leaving the north of Isabela, they arrived to Esmeraldas. (Hoff, 1985). The old schooner would suffer a worse fate a few years later, when she was shipwrecked on the coast of Santiago, in 1926.

Back in Norway, Bang and Støren wrote some highly enthusiastic accounts of Galápagos. Støren, who had actually spent little time in the Galápagos, became an eager advocate for establishing Norwegian settlements there. In one of his articles, he sets up a list of the many activities that could be of profit to the settlers. It was also during this time, in early 1923, that Christensen published an invitation to all «honest Norwegians» to settle in the islands. However, nothing much happened until about a year and a half later. It was then that Captain Olaf Eilertsen told Christensen of the enormous interest for the islands that existed among a group of his friends in Larvik, a small port near the entrance to the Oslo Fjord. This group would gather to have a few beers and a pipe or two, while discussing the possibilities of seeking new challenges outside Norway. To these men Galápagos seemed more and more like the place to go.

Captain Eilertsen had been interested in the Galápagos for many years. Since the loss of the bark Alexandra, he had been collecting every scrap of information he could get on the islands. Before World War I, while he was the master of the Fiery Cross, he had hired one Herman Karlsen as carpenter on the ship. Chance would have it that this Karlsen had been among the crew of the Alexandra when she was abandoned. He had been in the captain’s boat, ending up on the NW coast of Santa Cruz. Karlsen found an interested audience in Captain Eilertsen, who never seemed to tire of listening to the carpenter’s experiences in Galápagos.

In the meantime, both Støren and Christensen kept alive public interest in the islands with their articles. Both promoted Floreana as the ideal site for a Norwegian settlement. Støren wrote about the possibilities of exporting dried fish, catching sperm whales, hunting fur seals (nearly extinct at the time), catching spiny lobster, exploiting the wild cattle and growing tropical fruits. Most of these possibilities were also named by Christensen, who added to them tourism based on seaside resorts, hunting and fishing for sport, providing bunkering and supplies to ships using the Panama Canal, exploiting tortoises for meat and oil (an activity by then largely abandoned as unprofitable by the local people), and collecting archil (which had long since lost much of its demand).

When Christensen finally launched his colonization project, he received an overwhelming response, without having to spend anything much on publicity. In fact, the latter had already been provided by the newspapers for several years, by publishing his articles and those penned by Støren. Christensen and Eilertsen, who intially headed the project jointly, had merely to pick and choose from among all sorts of qualified people, mostly young, many with higher education. A company was organized, its shareholders being, besides the future settlers, friends and relatives of Christensen. A three-masted schooner was purchased in Sweden and renamed Floreana. (Hoff, 1985).

The Floreana was thoroughly reconditioned and overhauled at a shipyard in Sandefjord. The best possible work was done at the most reasonable price, since the yard was one of the Christensen enterprises. While this was being done, a renowned Norwegian zoologist and traveler, Professor Alf Wollebaek, made arrangements to join the settlers in Guayaquil, to accompany them to the islands. Wollebaek and Erling Hansen, his assistant, then departed for Ecuador, to collect on the mainland, while awaiting the arrival of the Floreana. Christensen had similar plans, but work on the schooner took longer than expected. She finally sailed on May 15, 1925.

After a stay of several days in Guayaquil and an uneventful passage, the Norwegian colonists were heartily welcomed at San Cristóbal by the governor and the owners of the sugar plantation. The lowlands must have seemed disappointing, as the vegetation was mostly leafless. However, enthusiasm was regained when the settlers visited the highlands, where they could admire the extensive cane fields, coffee plantings and other cultivated plants that thrived amidst the luxuriant vegetation. Manuel Augusto Cobos and his brother-in-law, don Rogelio Alvarado, tried their best to persuade the Norwegians to settle on their island, but Christensen as well as the would-be settlers insisted on continuing to Floreana.

After their arrival to Post Office Bay, the Norwegians and the six men they had hired in Guayaquil proceeded to unload three hundred tons of supplies and equipment. Rails were laid from the beach to the site of their main building so as to facilitate the transportation of their cargo, including the huge steel tanks for collecting rain water, the steam engine, the generator and the building materials.

The Floreana project had been carefully and sensibly planned. All along, Christensen had tried to earn money for the group. On the ship’s voyage from Sweden she had stopped on her way to Norway to load limestone at Gotland, delivering it to Sarpsborg. On her voyage to Ecuador the free space in her hold was used for carrying cement to Guayaquil.

The settlers had been divided into two groups. One was to work as crew on the Floreana, the others were to work on the island. It was thought, with good reason, that the schooner was too large and expensive to maintain for it to be used exclusively for the settlers, at least at this early stage, when there was hardly any cargo for her, so she was to engage in a cargo run along the mainland coast. A smaller vessel had been purchased in Norway for the use of the colony, and she was to come down as far as Panama on the deck of a larger ship. From here, she would sail to the Galápagos. This vessel, the Isabela, would take care of the colony’s transportation needs. (Hoff, 1985).

It took the settlers a fortnight of hard work to get everything ashore and begin the construction of the main building and the shed for the power plant. The concrete posts on which the former was built are still scattered in the area, except for a few that have been used for supporting the wooden post on which the mail barrel stands. These have been decorated with the names of a number of visiting yachts. Inland a distance, can be seen the rusting remains of the steel tanks for the rain water, and a little beyond them the concrete slab where the steam engine and the generator were mounted. The houses no longer exist.

It is in connection with the Floreana project that Captain Thomas Levick again crosses our path. He accompanied the Norwegians from San Cristóbal, remaining with them for a while at Post Office Bay. Soon after his return to San Cristóbal, he pined away, dying about a month later at the age of eighty-three, after spending a lifetime in the Galápagos.

In the beginning things looked promising. On her return voyage to Guayaquil, the Floreana had with her ninety-one passengers from Isabela -- the guards and convicts of a short-lived penal colony. There were also sixty-four head of cattle embarked on San Cristóbal. However, on arrival to Guayaquil, Christensen found that the government had been ousted by a recent coup, and the still unsettled situation under a new regime caused difficulties in collecting the money for the passage of the ninety-one people taken aboard at Isabela.

Christensen and Håkon Bryhn, the Norwegian consul, got this settled after considerable effort and much frustration. They also managed to get a government contract for carrying troops along the coast. However, the regular freight run that had been hoped for proved to be only wishful thinking. There were already well established competitors taking care of that activity. There were also other things that were not going according to plan. The two whaling ships that were to be the main economic foundation of the colony and the Isabela were much delayed.

In the meantime, construction work went ahead in Post Office Bay, and two men moved inland to begin farming in the area below the main spring. Here, they found an abandoned bamboo shack, erected by some men in the employ of a Chilean captain. These men had been hunting cattle for hides and jerked beef. They had abandoned the island shortly before the arrival of the Norwegians. The shack was repaired and made habitable. Despite the general good spirits, the lack of news, the lack of mail and the uncertainty of receiving supplies began to tell after five months had passed. Another disappointment came when the house was finished and electricity installed. It was then discovered that their wireless equipment did not work, as a few important parts were missing. (Hoff, 1985).

Finally, on December 20, the Floreana entered Post Office Bay. As the Isabela had not yet left Norway, Christensen came out with supplies and mail on the larger vessel. He felt he could not let down his partners, and certainly not at Christmas time. He even brought beer and aquavit, two indispensable ingredients for celebrating a proper Norwegian Yuletide. Cobos and Alvarado had also sent their gifts to the colony -- two oxen, two horses, four donkeys, three pigs and a cow with a calf. (Hoff, 1985). It is obvious that the plantation owners were aware of how difficult it would be for the Norwegians to capture and domesticate the wild animals on Floreana.

That Christmas there was much good food and drink at Post Office Bay. At the head of the table sat Christensen with the governor, Colonel Enrique Rivadeneira, near them were Captain Anton Stub of the Floreana, Captain Axel Seeberg (head of the settlement) and Alf Wollebaek, who was still collecting in the Galápagos. The most important event of the Christmas Eve came when Christensen handed out the deeds to the settlers’ land claims, duly signed by the Ecuadorian officials. Then, he informed them that he still held the exclusive rights on whaling in the Galápagos. He expected two whaling ships down from Norway for the season, which would last from February to June.

Unfortunately, this new optimism would not last long. The colony went back to its former isolation, and no whalers showed up. Finally, the Floreana returned in April, bringing bad news. She had been tied up in Guayaquil the previous two months without getting any cargo. On board came a gang of cowhands from San Cristóbal, who had been hired in a desperate attempt at capturing some wild cattle for shipment to the mainland. Some sort of income was urgently needed, before the funds were used up.

But the capture of wild cattle was as difficult as it was dangerous. Once caught, it proved impossible to keep the animals fenced in. Not being familiar with barbed wire, the cattle had no respect for it, breaking through, regardless of the number of strands or the pain. The project was given up after two of the hands were badly hurt and Captain Seeberg was wounded in an arm. The Floreana set course for the mainland, taking with her the two first colonists to give up. Captain Seeberg also went along, to find out what had happened with the whaling vessels and to get parts for the wireless station.

From Guayaquil, Captain Seeberg sent a number of telegrams to Christensen, who had returned to Norway. Finally, he got news of a dispute going on between Christensen and a whaling company that also had obtained «exclusive» rights on whaling in the Galápagos.

One of the whaling ships that was supposed to come down had been sent elsewhere at the last moment. The second ship, which Christensen was supposed to bring from Mexico, had been shipwrecked. What Captain Seeberg was not told was that Christensen was having difficulties with arranging for other ships, as several whaling operations in South America had recently gone bankrupt or otherwise folded up. However, there was at least one seemingly good bit of news. The thirty-nine-foot Isabela was finally on her way. She had left Norway entirely on her own, under a capable master mariner from Bergen, Captain Paul Bruun, accompanied by two other men. There were also news about two Norwegian colonization groups that were headed for Santa Cruz.

The Isabela took much longer to arrive than expected. She was not only sailing most of the way, due to her limited fuel capacity, but also met with very foul weather in the Bay of Biscay and in the Caribbean. She had left Norway on May 22, 1926, arriving at Post Office Bay on October 11, after a brief stop in Guayaquil, to pick up supplies and a great number of mail bags for the colony.

Captain Bruun and his crew found a greatly demoralized colony on Floreana. After a year of abundant rains (1925 had been a «Niño year») they were now suffering from a severe drought. They had spent long months in virtual isolation. The project of setting up a whaling station seemed to come to nothing. The cargo run they had hoped the Floreana would get had not materialized.

The news brought by Captain Bruun and what came in the mail gave no reasons for optimism. The Floreana had been sold to a Colombian firm, and Captain Stub and his crew were already on their way to Norway. What the settlers did not yet know was that their company’s liquid assets had already been spent, the only thing remaining being a fund that had been set aside for the colonists’ return tickets, should things -- against all expectations -- go wrong. Regardless of their ignorance of the company’s finances, everybody except Captain Seeberg was for giving up. The latter managed however to talk three of the men into remaining -- Morten Wegger, Oscar Kjøle and Eric Johanson. (Hoff, 1985). It was obvious that the Floreana had arrived too late to make any difference to the survival of the colony. In January 1927, even those three who had stayed left, after celebrating New Year’s Eve on Santa Cruz, with the new Norwegian group that had settled there.

Captain Axel Seeberg remained in Ecuador, trying unsuccessfully to sell what was left on Floreana. He also tried to raise capital to buy the cannery that had been built on Santa Cruz, after the Norwegian group there gave up. In this too he failed. Captain Seeberg also tried to get hold of the Isabela, which he claimed belonged to the Floreana colony. Captain Bruun, who was making a cargo run with her between the islands and Guayaquil, maintained that the vessel was now his, as he had not been refunded for the expenses of sailing her down from Norway.

The dispute ended in court, the vessel was impounded, and Captain Bruun found himself stranded in Guayaquil. He won in court, the case was appealed, going to the provincial court (corte superior), where Captain Bruun won again. A final appeal went to the supreme court in Quito, where Captain Seeberg lost for the third time. Unfortunately, the shipworms are very active along the Guayaquil water front, and the hull of the Isabela was no longer seaworthy when Captain Bruun finally recovered her. He signed on as master of the old Manuel J. Cobos, the ancient plantation schooner from San Cristóbal.

The unusual part of this story is that the two master mariners remained good friends throughout their legal dispute. Their good personal relations lasted until Captain Seeberg died in an unfortunate accident outside Quito, towards the end of 1928.

In the meantime, Floreana had remained uninhabited, except for the more or less regular visits by the very few Santa Cruz Norwegians who still remained. These used to take up periodic residence in the house at Post Office Bay, while fishing and/or hunting wild cattle inland. In 1929, a German couple, Dr. Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch settled in the little oasis above Black Beach, where Valdizán’s house had stood, naming the place «Friedo» by joining the first syllables of their names.

Dr. Ritter was, according to himself, a philosopher and a vegetarian, who wished to live in close contact with nature. He was both a dentist and a physician, and his companion had originally been one of his patients, who later became his disciple. She had left her own husband to accompany Dr. Ritter on this great adventure. Dr. Ritter must have been very persuasive, for he had talked his own wife into moving in with Dore’s husband, taking the latter’s place. However, this arrangement did not work out as hoped; but, by then, Dr. Ritter and Dore had settled in their little island paradise and it was too late to undo the exchange.

In 1930, Captain Bruun got a small motor sailer built in Guayaquil. He formed a partnership with Knud Arends, a young Dane, and with the Norwegian vice-consul, Arthur Worm-Müller. The latter had originally come to Galápagos as a member of the Norwegian colony that attempted to settle on San Cristóbal. The three set up headquarters in the big wooden house in Post Office Bay, where Worm-Müller was left in charge. When not working with his partners, Arends took care of the Guayaquil end of their fishing venture, while Captain Bruun spent most of his time out fishing with his Ecuadorian crew.

Though Dr. Ritter seems to have resented the presence of new settlers on the island at a later date, he appears to have been on excellent terms with the Dane and the two Norwegians, as well as with those who came visiting from Santa Cruz. He often came over to visit Worm-Müller, a man with an excellent education, who had traveled widely and spoke fluent German and English.

Captain Bruun’s fishing enterprise showed some promise, but ended abruptly with his death, in 1931, on the exposed south coast of Isabela, while he was rowing a heavily loaded boat into the lagoon at San Pedro, near Cape Rose. The boat was swamped by a huge wave, then overturned by a second one. Bruun was a good swimmer, but must have been stunned by a blow, for he was later found drowned among the rocks by Dr. Temple Utley, who had gone out to rescue him.

Dr. Utley, a British physician who was on a cruise around the world, had left his yacht at Post Office Bay, while he accompanied Captain Bruun. The tragedy and the events that followed are described in detail in his book, A Modern Sea Beggar (Davies, London, 1938). Dr. Stein Hoff, also a physician, gives a complete account of the accident in his history of the Norwegian settlements in Galápagos. (Hoff, 1985).

Knud Arends made an attempt at keeping the operation going, but gave up towards the end of the year, handing over the Norge, Bruun’s motor sailer, to Emilio Hansen, a Danish businessman in Guayaquil, as payment for a debt the partners had with him. Worm-Müller tried in vain to talk some of the Santa Cruz Norwegians into moving over to Post Office Bay. Finally, he joined them himself at Academy Bay, where he moved into the upper floor of the Norwegian cannery with his wife Hilda, who came out from Guayaquil.

Dr. Ritter and his Dore were left alone on Floreana, but not for long. In July of 1932 a German family arrived to the island, starting a farm near the main spring. They named the place «Asilo de la Paz», thus perpetuating the name of the Villamil settlement. At first, they lived in the cave that had been occupied by Bang and Aschehoug. This family, the Wittmers, consisted of Heinz, his wife Margret and Harry, a half blind teenage son that Wittmer had from a previous marriage.

The Wittmers minded their own business, and were much too busy trying to get a farm going, while fighting off the wild cattle and pigs, in order to keep them out of their plantings. At the same time, they were attempting to build themselves a house before the arrival of their expected baby. The house, like the farming, was very hard work, as they were using local building materials -- stone and mortar made of lime, which was produced by burning coral, collected along the shore. Dr. Ritter seems to have resented their presence at first, then ended up reluctantly accepting them. (Wittmer, 1959).

The Wittmers were city people. He had been an officer in the German cavalry during the war. Later, he had worked for a while as secretary to Konrad Adenauer, when the latter was mayor of Cologne, the Wittmers’ native city. Before leaving for the Galápagos, the family had owned a stationery shop. It is doubtful that people used to physical work would have set themselves such ambitious goals for their first year on Floreana; but, surprisingly, they managed to accomplish most of them.

Before the year was over, another German-speaking group arrived to the island. They were the Baroness Eloïse von Wagner, Rudolf Lorenz and Robert Philipson. Many claim that the Baroness had no right to her title, though nobody, as far as we know, ever bothered to produce evidence against her claim to nobility. It has also been rumored that she had been a dancer in Istambul during the war, operating there as a spy. This latter may have been one of Philipson’s fantasies, perhaps inspired in the story of Mata Hari. In any case, there seems to be no information as to whom she spied for -- the Allies, Germany or her native Austria.

It is known however that the lady had a fashion shop in Paris, which she had set up with Rudolf Lorenz, who is supposed to have provided the capital. The world economy was in the midst of a depression at the beginning of the 1930’s and business must have been very slow. It is also likely that the Baroness was finding life a bit boring, and the future looked unpromising. After all, she had rounded her fortieth birthday with no husband in sight. The appearance of Robert Philipson in her life came like a bright sunray, with his lively fantasy and his dreams of sunny beaches shaded by rustling palms, swaying in the trade wind. In any case, Philipson made the Baroness and Lorenz restless with the desire for a milder climate.

At the time, there had been some publicity about Dr. Friedrich Ritter and his Robinson Crusoe existence on uninhabited Floreana. It all sounded delightful and exciting. More so in a Europe where the memory of war was still fresh, socio-economic changes enormous and the economy in a disastrous condition. This situation doubtlessly explains the popularity travel books were enjoying at the time. One that sold rather well in its German translation was William Beebe’s Galápagos, World’s End.

The three decided to share Dr. Ritter’s paradise. But it is said that there was more on the Baroness’ mind than just that. She had noticed that a number of millionaires visited Dr. Ritter, invariably bringing gifts. She might manage to talk one of them into financing her new dream -- an exclusive hotel in the Galápagos. Perhaps she even might be so lucky as to capture herself a millionaire husband, a far better catch than the penniless Philipson.

Some time later, on the Guayaquil waterfront, on her way aboard the ship that would take her to Galápagos, Baroness von Wagner held a press conference. With the aid of Felipe Valdivieso, an Ecuadorian who had joined the trio in Paris, she talked about her hotel project. She got excellent press the following day, so it is obvious that she had made a good impression on the reporters, who praised both the lady and her project.

October of 1932 was another typical cool season month in the Galápagos. The first impression the three Europeans received of Galápagos must have been very disappointing. (Valdivieso, who is said to have worked as a laborer on Isabela, a few years earlier, would have known better). Under the leafless trees, the rocky ground showed no signs of life. There was a stiff, chilly breeze blowing, the sky was low and leaden. There were no palms swaying in the trade wind.

However, they received a hearty welcome from the governor, and things began to look much better when they were invited to Progreso by Norwegian-born Karin Guldberg Cobos and her charming husband, don Manuel Augusto Cobos, whose cultured French must have sounded like music to the Baroness and her friends. The highlands lay green and luxuriant, in great contrast to the barren-looking lowlands below. Don Manuel and his wife not only made the visitors welcome in their home, but helped them with the purchase of a few cows, donkeys and chickens to take along to Floreana.

When the schooner finally anchored at Post Office Bay, the Baroness had more or less planned to take over the island. Her first action was to take possession of the Norwegian house in the bay. She knew that the Wittmers were living near the main spring towards the center of the island. The Wittmers would not be in her way. They were far too busy trying to get started, and Mrs. Wittmer would soon be down with her baby. Her main problem was Dr. Ritter. It was him the millionaires came to visit. It was he who was the center of everybody’s attention. It was him she must neutralize.

The Baroness decided it was to her advantage to create enmity between the Wittmers and Dr. Ritter, isolating the latter. On the other hand, she must get a great quantity of publicity for herself. Not only in the Guayaquil newspapers, but, far more important, outside the country, especially in the United States. Relying on Philipson’s vivid fantasy, she set him to write sensationalist articles under different pseudonyms. This he did, creating for the public the «Mad Empress of the Galápagos» and the «Pirate Queen of Floreana». This demented European noblewoman had, in some of his stories, a harem of young, beautiful men who did her bidding, and blindly satisfied her every whim.

For a short time, the Baroness became the main center of attraction on Floreana, though Dr. Ritter’s millionaire friends continued visiting him. However, this new situation seems to have worried him. His little oasis in the dry country had a very limited potential for supporting him and Dore, and it is believed that they could not have survived without outside help. At best, they would have been forced to leave the island or move up to the moist region, the climate of which did not appeal to them at all.

When she had arrived, the Baroness rode into the settlers’ everyday life seated on a donkey that was led by the ailing Rudolf Lorenz. Their first stop was outside the cave where the Wittmers were still living. She did not greet the young woman who stood outside. She demanded peremptorily, «Where’s the spring?»

Mrs. Wittmer was so taken aback by this unusual behavior, that she merely pointed. The Baroness continued on her way without a word of thanks. From the cave’s entrance, young Mrs. Wittmer watched in shocked astonishment while Lorenz helped the Baroness to dismount, took off her boots, and washed her feet in the spring -- the Wittmers’ only source of drinking water. (Wittmer, 1959).

Later that day, the Baroness talked Heinz Wittmer into taking a package of mail that she had brought for Dr. Ritter. «I have to return to Post Office Bay at once. I won’t have time to bring it to him myself,» she explained.

Despite his good will, Wittmer was too busy that day, and went to see Dr. Ritter the following morning. Here, he found out to his great surprise that the Baroness had spent the night at Friedo. However, the two men’s puzzlement did not last very long. There were clear indications that all the letters had been opened. The two men understood that she was trying to cause bad feelings between them, besides prying into Dr. Ritter’s affairs. (Wittmer, 1959).

It did not take very long before there was a series of unpleasant incidents between the other inhabitants of the island and the Baroness, especially with Dr. Ritter. However, there were also some peaceful periods. One day, she came to visit Mrs. Wittmer, soon after the latter had given birth to Rolf, a healthy baby boy. The Baroness was very pleasant and friendly. She had even left her revolver at home, which had never happened before. She brought gifts for the newborn child -- baby clothes and a can of powdered milk.

It was discovered later that Captain Irving Johnson and his wife Electa, owners of the brigantine Yankee, had left a whole case of powdered milk cans and a package of baby clothes, which the Baroness had helpfully offered to deliver to the Wittmers, as the Johnsons were in a hurry to sail. (Wittmer, 1959).

A short time before her visit to Mrs. Wittmer, the Baroness had had a serious incident with Kristian Stampa, one of the Santa Cruz Norwegians. Stampa and an Austrian visitor sailed one day into Post Office Bay. After visiting some of the inhabitants of the island, they shot a bull calf on their way back to the shore. It was an old custom among the Santa Cruz Norwegians to supply themselves with beef whenever they visited Floreana or Isabela.

As they approached the beach with the intention of paddling out to the Falcon, Stampa’s motor sailer, the Baroness came out from the Norwegian house. She was furious. Drawing her gun and pointing it at them, she accused, «You’ve killed one of my animals!» Then, she screamed hysterically, «Valdivieso! Philipson!»

The two came out. While the woman held her gun on Stampa and the Austrian, she ordered Valdivieso and Philipson to destroy the little raft that Stampa used for coming ashore. Then, she let them go. Stampa went at once to see Dr. Ritter, while the Austrian went to the Wittmers, who had a small canvas boat hidden in the thickets near Black Beach. After Stampa came to the Wittmers with a letter Dr. Ritter had written to the governor, Wittmer braved the rough seas to take the two visitors aboard the Falcon.

A few weeks later, the governor arrived to investigate the incident. He had an escort of eight fully armed soldiers. With him, he brought the Dane Knud Arends as an interpreter. Dr. Ritter was furious after the inquiry was over, and the Baroness and Philipson left with the governor, to spend some time on San Cristóbal as his guests. However, he had to agree with Wittmer that they would at least have a period of peace while she was away. (Wittmer, 1959).

When the Baroness returned, she brought with her Knud Arends, whom she had employed as her gamekeeper. Arends had spent long periods on Floreana during his association with Captain Bruun and Worm-Müller, and had often hunted cattle and pigs in the interior, being thus competent for the job.

Soon after this, a German journalist, Werner Boeckmann, arrived with his brother-in-law, a Mr. Linde. Both politely refused an invitation to stay with the Baroness, setting up a camp near Dr. Ritter’s house. They had with them an armed Ecuadorian soldier, who accompanied them everywhere. This caused considerable curiosity among the settlers. However, it does not seem that anyone considered the possibility that the governor may have had second thoughts about his favorable first impression of the Baroness. It is also likely that Valdivieso had expressed his opinion of the lady while on San Cristóbal, on his way to the mainland. When he had left Floreana, shortly before Boeckmann’s arrival, he had stated, «I have to get away from here before something happens. This woman is completely out of her mind!» (Wittmer, 1959). Boeckmann’s and Linde’s repeated refusals to her invitations must have been a painful humiliation to the Baroness. More so as it was only two months since an American millionaire, Vincent Astor, had visited the island without calling on her. He had even returned a written invitation without opening it. This is surprising in the case of Astor, who was known for his kindness and good manners. It is likely that he had heard about the incident with Stampa, whom he had befriended a number of years earlier.

However, the Baroness would not give up. She invited the two Germans to go hunting with her. Having refused all her previous invitations, the two visitors felt that they had to go. They would later regret this act of politeness. During the hunt, Knud Arends was shot in the stomach. It was rumored that the Baroness had intended to hit Linde in a leg, so she could take him home with her and nurse him. According to this version, Arends had moved suddenly, coming in the way as the Baroness was squeezing the trigger. (Wittmer, 1959). Arends own version, as told to the author’s mother while he was recovering from the wound in Guayaquil, was that she had missed when firing on a wild pig, the bullet ricocheting against a rock.

Philipson and Lorenz tried at first to blame the Ecuadorian soldier, claiming that he had shot at the same time as the Baroness, missing the pig and hitting Arends instead. However, Dr. Ritter, who attended the wounded Dane, claimed that the wound was made by a weapon of a much smaller caliber than the soldier’s Mauser. (Wittmer, 1959). This claim was later confirmed by the physicians who treated Arends and by the latter.

Knud Arends -- and for that matter also the Baroness -- was incredibly lucky. The plantation schooner arrived five days after the shooting and took about a fortnight to reach Guayaquil. That Arends did not die from an infection proves that Dr. Ritter did an excellent job with the limited means at his disposal. On the other hand, Robert Philipson looked well after Arends on the voyage to the mainland. It should be remembered that there were no antibiotics and sulpha drugs in those days. Arends, young and healthy as he was, recovered without complications, and was definitely cured of his «Galápagos fever». He swore he would never return to the islands, and though he lived the rest of his life in Ecuador, he kept his promise.

It was a new and unexpected experience for the inhabitants of Floreana to see a quiet and worried Baroness, after the schooner had sailed with the wounded Arends aboard her. It was not long before she started talking about leaving the islands for good. One day, she told Mrs. Wittmer, «I want to get away from here. I can’t stand any more of this bickering with Dr. Ritter.»

And the problems were indeed piling up. It was not only the human relations that were bad. The warm season of 1932-33 had been part of a «Niño year» so the following year brought a severe drought. Being lower and smaller than the other inhabited islands, Floreana is always the one that suffers the most at such times. Fresh water became scarce. Even the largest spring, near the Wittmers, became much reduced. Both tame and wild animals were dying of thirst and starvation in the woodlands. When Philipson came back, things were going from bad to worse. He and the Baroness began to take their frustrations out on the peaceful Lorenz, who not only had to take constant abuse from them, but was also beaten up occasionally by Philipson.

Lorenz, who was in very bad health, decided to return to Germany. When Captain Herman H. Lundh visited Post Office Bay, in February 1934, he was invited to the Baroness’ «Hacienda Paradiso» for a weekend. There, Lorenz asked him if he would take him along on his vessel, the Santa Inez. At sailing time, Lorenz did not show up, but the Baroness informed the Norwegian that he had changed his mind about leaving.

After an unusually brutal thrashing by Philipson, Lorenz fled to the Wittmers. The latter wanted to avoid trouble with the Baroness, but felt they could not deny him shelter under the circumstances. Strangely, the Baroness did not react with the expected anger. Instead, she called Lorenz from the trail, making her voice as sweet as possible. Lorenz would go down to her every time, but returned invariably to the Wittmers. On such occasions, he would sit for a long time by himself, weeping like a child. (Wittmer, 1959).

One day in March, when Mrs. Wittmer was alone, the Baroness came to visit. She wanted to talk to Lorenz, but both he and Wittmer had gone into the woods. She was in a hurry, and could not wait for them to return. She informed Mrs. Wittmer, «Robert and I are leaving with some English friends, who have a yacht. We’ll look for a better place to live, on one of the South Sea islands. I only wanted to ask Rudy to look after the property and the animals, until I can send him word on what to do with everything.» (Wittmer, 1959).

Neither Wittmer nor Lorenz believed the Baroness’ story. Lorenz took his time to eat, calmly enjoying his meal, before going to see the Baroness. When he finally got there, he cautiously approached the house. The story could have been put together to lure him there. Philipson had, after all, threatened more than once to kill Lorenz. But there was nobody in the house. Lorenz went to the caves, in the hill behind it. There was nobody there either. A closer inspection inside the house showed that the personal belongings of the Baroness and Philipson were gone. Down at Post Office Bay, Lorenz only found some footprints on the beach, below the Norwegian house. (Blomberg, 1936; Wittmer, 1959).

Nobody in the Galápagos had seen the British yacht. In fact, a well known American yachtsman, Willliam Albert Robinson, investigated the matter later, finding to his surprise that the only yacht that had been in the Galápagos at the time was his own vessel, the Svaap. And the Svaap never left the islands. While at Tagus Cove, Robinson had trouble with his appendix, being incredibly lucky in that a tuna clipper happened to be in the vicinity. The fishing vessel radioed the Canal Zone, and a sea plane was sent out with personnel and equipment to operate Robinson. At the same time, a ship was sent with fuel for the plane’s return flight to the Canal Zone, where both Robinson and his wife were flown. The Svaap was later towed to San Cristóbal, where she broke her anchor chain one night, ending up on the rocks at Wreck Bay, with her bottom smashed in. (Robinson, 1936).

Those living on Floreana came up with several explanations as to what could have happened to the Baroness and Philipson, but nobody actually believed they had left the island. The Wittmers speculated about the possibility of Lorenz shooting the couple, hiding their bodies and disposing of their personal belongings. They also considered the possibility that Dr. Ritter could have done this. Or both he and Lorenz together.

Dr. Ritter expressed early his belief that Philipson and the Baroness could have committed suicide, since they had failed in practically all their projects and had no money left. Despite this, he and Dore Strauch also spread the rumor that they had heard shots and a woman’s scream coming from the direction of the Baroness’ property. This of course pointed at the Wittmers and Lorenz as the assassins, especially since none of them admitted to hearing anything, despite the fact that they lived much closer to the Baroness than did Dr. Ritter.

However, if one is familiar with Floreana and takes into account the relative positions of the properties and the topography of the island, Dr. Ritter’s story becomes, to put it mildly, rather improbable. It gives the impression that, being rid of the Baroness and Philipson, and with Lorenz about to leave the island, the good doctor could not resist the temptation of getting rid of the Wittmers as well. He was not likely to get such a good opportunity again in his lifetime. He and Dore could once more have the island to themselves...

Ritter’s oasis is about halfway between Black Beach and Cerro de la Paja, Floreana’s highest volcano (640 m.) Cerro de la Paja has high ridges on both sides, which form, together with the mountain itself, a barrier between the dry lowlands to the west (where the oasis is located) and the fertile plateau at the center of the island. The Baroness had her house almost halfway across this plateau.

As can be seen, we have here some distance to consider, besides a mountainous barrier that would effectively obstruct any sound, in addition to the sound-dampening effect of the woodland on both sides of the mountains. Then, the Baroness and the Wittmers had been living some time without any friction to speak of. This last fact eliminates any motive powerful enough to induce peace loving and law abiding people like the Wittmers to commit murder.

If Lorenz knew more than he told, he took this information with him to his grave. He left Floreana in July, 1934, with the Norwegian Trygve Nuggerud. The latter had come over with the Swedish travel writer Rolf Blomberg, who had read about the Baroness and wanted to interview her. With them was also Arthur Worm-Müller, who came along to visit his old friend Dr. Ritter. Lorenz sailed with the visitors when they returned to Santa Cruz. (Blomberg, 1936).

On the trip over, they sighted the plantation schooner on her way to Isabela. Knowing that she would call at San Cristóbal on her return voyage to Guayaquil, Lorenz did his best to talk Nuggerud into taking him to San Cristóbal. The Norwegian was reluctant to do so, but finally accepted, despite the warnings of Gordon Wold, another Norwegian, whom Nuggerud asked to come along.

Wold would not sail with them. «It’s Friday, it’s the thirteenth, and you have a German aboard. Any one of these reasons is enough by itself to keep any sensible person from going to sea.» World’s third reason was a superstition common among the Galápagos Norwegians, who were convinced that sailing with a German invariably brought bad luck.

Nuggerud and Lorenz never reached San Cristóbal. It is obvious that Nuggerud’s old, unreliable engine gave up and they drifted to the dreaded northern islands. It seems that they may have anchored off Marchena, where the two Europeans landed in a dinghy. The motor boat probably broke the rope that held her to the heavy rock Nuggerud used for an anchor. In any case, she was never seen again, nor was Pazmiño, the Ecuadorian boy who sailed with them. The dinghy was found above the beach, as were the mummified remains of Nuggerud and Lorenz, by the crew of the Santo Amaro, a tuna clipper from California.

If Dr. Ritter knew anything, he kept it to himself, also taking it with him to his grave. He died of food poisoning in November of the same fatal year. It was with his death that the series of tragic events that took place in Galápagos in 1934 came to an end.

The Baroness loved publicity. Had she and Philipson been alive, it is most likely that they would have reappeared somewhere, to bask in the considerable publicity that the world press gave their disappearance. It is very hard to believe otherwise.

But what did actually happen on Floreana? Nobody really knows. Nobody can. One may speculate and arrive at one, two or three possible answers. Then, it is also possible that Dr. Ritter’s first assumption of suicide may have been correct. The Baroness had once said, «When it’s all over, we’ll smoke our last cigarette and take our last drink. Then, we’ll walk down the beach, hand in hand, out into the endless ocean.»

Both the current and the wind stand offshore at Post Office Bay. Everything that comes into the water there will drift out to sea, never to return.



Santa Cruz is the second largest of the Galápagos, with a surface of about a thousand square kilometers. At its highest point, Mount Crocker, it reaches an altitude of 864 meters. Though its soil is the best in the Galápagos and it has a relatively large arable area, it was settled late. However, a few people had attempted to establish themselves in the highlands from time to time, before a really permanent population was formed.

It has already been mentioned that pre-Columbian pottery sherds were found by Thor Heyerdahl’s Norwegian Archaeological Expedition, in 1953 (at Whale Bay, in the NW of the island). Similar remains were also found at Cerro Colorado, on the NE side, by the Walt Disney Expedition, about a year later. Here, as elsewhere in the Galápagos, everything seems to indicate that the visiting mainland aborigines made no attempt at settling. No remains of graves, ceremonial vessels and constructions have ever been found. (Lundh, 1995).

At the time of General Villamil there were two or three huts at the foot of the conspicuous hill that rises above the beach at Whale Bay. Henri Louns, Compte de Gueydon, commanding the French vessel Le Genie, remained at this anchorage four days in 1846. (Slevin, 1959). He mentions a trail leading inland to a spring. The only spring in this area is that at Santa Rosa. He writes nothing about farming of any sort, the few people on the island living at the beach. They were engaged in tortoise hunting, probably for oil extraction, though some live tortoises were most likely kept for trading with visiting ships. It is quite possible that these people may also have collected archil. They were all in the service of Generals Villamil and Mena. (Lundh, 1995).

As has been mentioned earlier, the Swedish botanist Nils Johan Andersson and his companions from the frigate Eugenie found a small group of men and a woman living at Whale Bay in 1852. (Andersson, 1854). Whether these had been left here by the authorities or had escaped from Floreana is not known. On San Cristóbal it was told that these people were criminals and the woman was their leader.

The Norwegian zoologist Alf Wollebaek (1934) reports that an American and an Englishman had spent fifteen years on Santa Cruz. They were supposed to have lived in the highlands, but he gives no information as to whether they had settled at Santa Rosa or in the southern part of the highlands, which became the main farming area in later years. Nor does he give any clue as to when they had been on the island. They were no longer there in 1925, when Wollebaek visited the Galápagos.

The first Norwegian settlers on Santa Cruz, who arrived in 1926, were told about two small abandoned farms in the highlands, inland from Whale Bay, near a range of hills known as Sierra de las Chacras -- Range of the Farms. The one nearest Whale Bay, in the lower part of the moist region, was known as Salazaca, while the one farther inland, near the spring, was called Santa Rosa. It was mainly at Santa Rosa that a great variety of foods grew, such as oranges, limes, bananas, plantains, cassava, sugar cane, taro and sweet potatoes.

The early Norwegian settlers, especially those who arrived at the beginning of the 1930’s, came here occasionally for supplies. The two or three small established farms in the southern highlands could not always meet all the needs of the growing colony. The overland journey to Sierra de las Chacras was a tough one. Since the trail was not in constant use, it kept growing over and every trip meant much machete work. When approaching Santa Rosa, there was also a tangled barrier formed by thickets with hooked thorns that ripped the clothes and lacerated the skin. This plant (Caesalpinia bonduc), called «mora» by the Ecuadorian settlers, was found nowhere else on the island. The other place we have met with it in the Galápagos is a little distance inland from Puerto Villamil, on Isabela. Both these locations are unusual for a plant that normally grows on beaches, its pods spreading with the help of marine currents. It has so far never been seen along the Galápagos sea shore, which together with the above facts makes it likely that the species has been introduced, perhaps accidentally, by the tortoise hunters.

The Norwegians and later settlers often called the farms at Santa Rosa and Salazaca «the pirates’ farms», believing they had been started by the buccaneers. San Cristóbal tradition however maintains that both farms were planted on orders from don Manuel Julián Cobos, so that his archil collectors and tortoise hunters could have fresh food while working in that part of the archipelago.

The two farms survived until the early 1940’s, being eventually destroyed by introduced animals. This had not happened earlier because the donkeys introduced by the tortoise hunters kept mostly to the dry lowlands, while cattle, goats and pigs took their time to spread from the southern part of the island, where they had been introduced in the second half of the 1920’s.

The brackish water hole at Academy Bay seems to have been in use from an early time, the name «Aguada de Chávez» being much older than that of Academy Bay, given to this anchorage by the California Academy of Sciences Expedition of 1905-06. (Aguada means watering place and Chávez is one of the names of the island). The water hole is a fissure in a rocky outcropping, inside a grove of manchineel trees, most of which have been cut down through the years. It is located a few paces above the tiny white beach at the head of the bay, in the place that was named «Pelican Bay» by the first Norwegian settlers.

The members of the Academy’s expedition found the remains of a grass hut near this water hole. The hut had been built by a Negro, who had been marooned on Cobos’ orders. He had later been rescued by a visiting ship and taken to Isabela, where the Academy’s scientists saw him in Puerto Villamil. (Slevin, 1931).

It is told on San Cristóbal that the elder Cobos had planned to colonize Santa Cruz. This, like his project of growing cotton in the San Cristóbal lowlands, was cut short by his death. Around 1910, Felipe Lastre settled on Santa Cruz, where he worked a small farm near the present site of Bellavista, inland from Academy Bay. This old Mexican, who has been mentioned earlier, had worked as a foreman at the sugar plantation, and is credited by San Cristóbal tradition with the construction of the series of ditches and pipes that brought water from the grasslands to Progreso, where it was collected in two enormous cisterns at the refinery. This water does not come from the crater lake at El Junco, as is so often believed. It originates from two small brooks that join, forming a water course that has been dammed. It is from this place that the water supply of Progreso and Puerto Baquerizo still comes. The relative positions of the lake and the brooks are such that the latter can in no way be attributed to seepage from the former.

Lastre lived for about seven years in a solitude that was only rarely relieved by visits from fishermen who occasionally camped at la Aguada de Chávez. Another settler, an Ecuadorian called Elías Sánchez, came to the island in 1917, starting a farm in the lower part of the moist region, closer to the bay. In 1925, four men and a few head of cattle were brought over from San Cristóbal. A Guayaquil businessman of the Amador Baquerizo family planned to start a cattle ranch on the island. His men settled near Lastre, naming the area «Hacienda Fortuna», a name that was later used for the whole area, including the flat land where Bellavista is today. This same name was given by a Norwegian settler, Gordon Wold, to his farm above this area, a few years later. When Mr. Amador’s project was later abandoned, his cattle was left on the island. Together with two or three cows left by the Horneman family a few years later, these animals formed the ancestry of the wild cattle that roamed the highlands in later years.

In 1925 there were about a dozen men living in a bamboo house near the Pelican Bay water hole. They had a nearby shed that was used for salting and storing grouper, spiny lobster and shark fillets, which were shipped to the mainland. They were employed by an Italian businessman in Guayaquil, who would occasionally send out a ship to take away their production and bring them supplies. (Wollebaek, 1934). Their foreman was a Peruvian, Manuel Gutiérrez, who had come to San Cristóbal as a teenager, the year after Cobos’ murder. These men spent about half a year on the island.

When the first Norwegian settlers arrived, in 1926, Amador’s men were about to leave the island. They had had enough of the loneliness and isolation, and disliked depending on the rain for their fresh water. They also missed the company of their friends and families, and were willing to return to the much harder work they had known at the sugar plantation. However, they and Felipe Lastre, who also was planning to leave, remained a little longer, to see what opportunities could appear with the arrival of the Norwegians.

The interest of the Norwegians for Santa Cruz goes back to the days of the bark Alexandra, for it was on this island that the ship’s master and his men had landed. When the bark was abandoned on May 7, 1907, what was left of food and water was divided between the two lifeboats, as was the crew -- nine men to each boat, not counting the officer in charge. Captain Emil Petersen and his chief mate managed to keep the boats together the first two days, then lost contact during the second night. On the third day, the mate and his crew arrived to Floreana, supplying themselves with water and whatever else they could find on the island. Then, they continued to San Cristóbal, where they arrived safely, without having sighted the other boat again. (Harbitz, 1915; Hoff, 1985).

In the meantime, Captain Petersen’s boat had drifted too far to the north, despite the efforts of the crew to reach Floreana. The contrary current was much too strong. After several days, they had to give up, heading for the NW shore of Santa Cruz. Here, they landed on the twelfth day, utterly exhausted. They came ashore on a small beach, between jagged volcanic rocks, and went at once in search of water. After drinking avidly from some muddy puddles among the thorny shrubbery near the coast, they returned to the beach to find that the incoming tide had taken their boat, smashing it against the rocks. Its remains lay scattered along the shore, most of their supplies and their limited equipment lost. (Hoff, 1985).

There followed six months of incredible hardships, during which the castaways managed to reach the south side of the island. During this period, they survived largely on the blood of the animals they killed. Two of the men died, before the survivors were finally rescued. The Ecuadorian authorities had sent out a naval vessel to search for the missing boat and its crew; but all they found was the after part of the Alexandra, sitting on the shore of the exposed SW side of Isabela, with its Norwegian flag flying defiantly in the chilly breeze. (Hoff,1985).

Apparently, the ship had been thrown ashore here by the breakers, stern first. The front part had broken off, plunging into the sea below. (The shore here goes down almost vertically to a considerable depth). Near where the Alexandra grounded, is a small, steep beach, just by Point Essex, where fairly good water is found between the beach and the trees behind it. Digging and inch or two at the foot of some Cuban hemp trees (Hibiscus tiliaceus), the water seeps from the sandy soil. These trees are quite conspicuous with their large, yellow blossoms and peltate leaves, against the darker vegetation behind them.

Though the official search was given up and the missing seamen assumed to be dead, Captain Petersen’s relatives refused to give up hope. One of his cousins, Hans Erichsen, who lived in Chile, where he had made a fortune in the saltpeter mines, chartered the schooner Isadora Jacinta, sending her to the islands. This vessel was small, maneuverable and with a relatively shallow draft that allowed her to get fairly close inshore. Her master, Captain Bohnhoff, was a German who knew the Galápagos well. (Hoff, 1985).

Captain Bohnhoff visited three islands before he sailed to Santa Cruz, where he finally located the surviving crew members and their captain. All were in poor condition, but a living example of the incredible lengths to which human endurance can be pushed by the will to survive. One of these castaways was the ship’s carpenter, Herman Karlsen, who later sailed on the Fiery Cross, under Captain Olaf Eilertsen. (Hoff, 1985).

As we have seen, Captain Eilertsen had been prominent in the Floreana project. However, bad health had prevented him from sailing, as originally intended, as master of the Floreana. It also prevented him from traveling to the islands to take charge of the shore party at Floreana. His lifelong dream of settling in the Galápagos seemed for a while out of reach.

But all was not lost. The enthusiastic accounts published in Norwegian newspapers about the new colony on Floreana, as well as the success Eilertsen and Christensen had had in recruiting people for the project, induced Eilertsen to announce a new one -- a settlement on Santa Cruz. He published advertisements in the leading Norwegian newspapers on January 2, 1926, receiving an impressive response -- more than one hundred and fifty letters before the end of the month. (Hoff, 1985).

Eilertsen’s colony differed in a number of points from that of Floreana. Practically all the investors were to become settlers, and the main purpose of the colony was to set up a cannery. As the winter wore on, the enthusiasm for Galápagos reached unexpected heights. It was not only the cold weather and the short days that were behind this reaction. Christensen had returned from the islands, and was greatly satisfied with the initial results of his project. Wollebaek and his assistant Hansen were also back, sorting out their remarkable collections, while the newspapers provided the best possible publicity for the Floreana project.

In the meantime, Captain Alf Gude Due, who had purchased the schooner Alatga, made an agreement with Captain Eilertsen to take over some of the colonists the latter had had to refuse. In fact, the applications to join had by then passed five hundred, and the schooner Ulva, purchased by Eilertsen, could only take a little over forty. It was also agreed that Due’s team would become part of the Santa Cruz project, headed by Captain Eilertsen. (Hoff, 1985).

By April, work was being carried out on the ships, as much as possible of it being done by the members of the two groups, in order to reduce expenses. The Ulva was not much of a problem, as she had been recently overhauled by her previous owners. The Alatga however was in a deplorable condition. Her sails and rigging were worn out, while her two engines should have been completely replaced. Unfortunately, neither could be done with the available funds. It was decided that the Ulva should sail ahead, while those who were taking along their families would travel later on the Alatga. This would also allow the men on the Ulva to build the cannery and the dwellings so that production could begin at an early date, and the families would have a place to live on arrival.

After a few delays, the Ulva sailed in May, with forty-five people aboard, including Miss Borghild Rorud, who was to collect plants for the University of Oslo. She spent four months in the Galápagos, returning to Norway with a fine collection of specimens. A new species (Acacia rorudiana) was named after her. The voyage itself was marked by high spirits and much activity. Among other things, the timber for the houses was measured, cut and numbered to facilitate construction on arrival.

However, enthusiasm was greatly dampened on arriving to Panama. The ship’s funds were low, and upon crossing into the Pacific they met with calms. Worse was yet to come. Reaching Guayaquil, the prospective colonists found that the representatives they had sent ahead to engage an agent and arrange the necessary permits for settling in the Galápagos had done neither. Nor had any money arrived, as expected, from their office in Norway. (Hoff, 1985).

Håkon Bryhn, the Norwegian consul, managed to get the group a provisional permit to settle in the islands. With their usual good will, the Ecuadorian authorities allowed them to set up operations in two bays of their own choice, and granted each colonist the right to take for himself the twenty hectares of land that were usually allowed settlers. Two Ecuadorian army officers accompanied the settlers to Santa Cruz, to survey the areas they might wish to occupy. At this point, everything else also seemed to turn once more to their advantage. The expected funds arrived from Norway, allowing them to purchase supplies, fuel and a few other necessities, while the Ecuadorian Navy expressed an interest in acquiring the Ulva. This last was considered especially lucky, as the schooner was much too large for their future needs and too expensive to maintain.

After visiting San Cristóbal and spending several days with their countrymen on Floreana, the new settlers arrived to Academy Bay, in the afternoon of August 7, 1926. Here, they chose the safest anchorage, in the SW of the bay, close to the cliffs, finding the one outside Pelican Bay exposed and rather unsafe. The old landing on the beach near the water hole was also found inadequate, as it is difficult to use at low tide on account of the soft mud and the sharp rocks that are uncovered below it. Instead, a channel was blasted into the sheltered lagoon in the NW corner of the bay. Here, a stone jetty was built, just inside the entrance. It is still in use. A fish trap for mullets was built farther in, on the same side as the jetty.

Rails were laid from the jetty to the cannery site, some forty meters inland from the new landing. A pipeline was laid to the water hole in Pelican Bay, concrete walls were erected for the ground floor of the cannery building, and seven wooden houses were constructed, as well as a brick oven for baking. All this work was accomplished in about two months, while fish, turtle meat and spiny lobster were being canned. Also, farming was begun in the highlands, some seven kilometers inland, near the site of Fortuna.

In the meantime, Captain Due and the Alatga had finally left Norway, bringing the married men, the women and the children. The Alatga sailed barely three weeks after the Ulva, but her voyage was haunted from the very beginning by all sorts of problems. The greatest and most persistent was that of engine trouble, as her two ancient motors kept stalling, and had to be constantly repaired and coaxed into action by a long-suffering engineer. To make matters worse, the rather shallow draft of the old schooner made her a poor sailer, which caused her to be overly dependent on her failing engines.

Still, they somehow made it to Panama, where it was found that the people on the Ulva had had to borrow money for the canal and pilot fees, and for refueling. To do this, they had used the Alatga as security. Funds were very low, and no money had been sent, as agreed, by their office in Norway. Much valuable time was lost in waiting, while many telegrams were sent before any funds finally arrived. The money that came was too little, and they could barely pay their bills and obtain limited supplies to continue their voyage. By then, several members had abandoned the group, an action none of them would have reason to regret later.

If things had been bad before, they became rapidly worse after entering the Pacific. Rain, bad weather and unstable wind conditions, constant engine trouble and inadequate food made the voyage a nightmare. The deteriorating rigging and the worn sails began to fall apart, and one of the engines cracked a cylinder, making it totally useless. (Hoff, 1985). After a near shipwreck in the Darién, the Alatga miraculously managed to return to Panama, where the group finally broke up, some of its member returning to Norway, others settling in various parts of the New World. Only four attempted reaching the Galápagos on their own, arriving there in January of 1927. One of these, Sigvart Tuset, remained on Santa Cruz for two and a half years, before moving to Colombia.

The cannery at Academy Bay remained in production until November 1927. However, a number of problems had presented themselves. The power source of the cannery was an old gasoline-guzzling tractor that had been brought from Norway. The constant fuel problem caused by this machine was solved with the purchase of the steam engine of the Post Office Bay group. This proved to be an excellent investment, as good dry firewood was then plentiful around Academy Bay.

The colony’s supply of fruits and vegetables was good, as Anders Rambech, a horticulturist, had taken over the subsistence farm started by Amador Baquerizo’s men at Fortuna. At first, he was helped by two agronomists, who were later replaced by Sigvart Tuset of the Alatga. The little farm was made to produce a great variety of vegetables, from radishes, cabbages and cucumbers to the bananas, plantains, cassava and taro left by the first tenants.

However, the sale of the Ulva to the Ecuadorian Navy gave the settlers little to be happy about. Most of the proceeds went to the manager in Norway, who demanded back pay as well as refunds for expenses he had had on behalf of the company. There was also a considerable commission to someone who had acted as agent. The first shipments of canned goods, sent on the Ulva and on Captain Bruun’s Isabela gave no reason for joy either. They were well received on the mainland market, but too much of the proceeds was taken by middlemen, storage costs and other expenses.

The settlers finally had to admit that their head office in Norway had been an expensive and serious mistake. It was decided that the administration of the colony should rest entirely in the hands of those who still remained on Santa Cruz. In the meantime, a shipment of 180 cases, each containing 96 cans, was being made ready to be sent in January 1927. Some canned goods were also set aside for bartering at the plantation on San Cristóbal. The shipment sold well in Guayaquil, leaving a satisfactory profit. (Hoff, 1985).

Unfortunately, the colony’s only reliable contact with the mainland was now the Isabela, so when she was impounded the colony on Santa Cruz was left rather isolated. Things would have been completely hopeless had it not been for Herman Hansen Vik, a former member of the group, who had become an officer in the Ecuadorian Navy, as chief engineer on the former Ulva, now called Patria. Through his good offices, the ship made occasional calls at Santa Cruz.

The old schooner that belonged to the sugar plantation on San Cristóbal, the Manuel J. Cobos, which was later renamed San Cristóbal, had orders from don Rogelio Alvarado not to call at Academy Bay. The anchorage was considered too exposed, and the old ship’s auxiliary engine was too unreliable to be trusted in an emergency. The common belief among the Norwegian settlers was that this was simply an excuse, and that Alvarado resented their dry fish production, which competed against that of his own fishermen. There may be some truth in this, for the Norwegians turned out a much better product.

New problems kept turning up. A drought finished off most of the vegetable garden in the highlands. It proved impossible to get spare parts for the Norwegian engines in the two fishing boats, and it became increasingly difficult to supply the cannery with turtles, fish and lobster. The continuous exploitation of the area around Academy Bay was having a telling effect on the local populations of spiny lobster, mullets, turtles and groupers (these last for producing dry fish). That it should become necessary to go farther afield for their catches when their engines could no longer be properly maintained made the situation increasingly difficult.

As the situation became rapidly worse, so did the relations within the group. Those remaining on the island had frequent disagreements with those sent to Guayaquil to represent them there, as well as among themselves. Finally, it was decided to dissolve the company, selling as much as possible of the assets in Guayaquil. (Hoff, 1985). This was a regrettable decision, as this was the Norwegian group that showed the best potential for succeeding, as well as the best ability for adapting to the conditions in Galápagos. Its members had shown on the whole a greater will to accept a life that was very different from that they had been used to, and make the best of it. The cannery could have continued production had they had a little more capital, despite the poor communications with the mainland.

It was decided that operations would end in December 1927. Canning was therefore continued through November. It was then that a frightful accident took place in the cannery, causing Birger Rostrup serious burns. He died three days later, and was buried on the 25th. His grave was dug just inside the stone fence that now exists around the naval garrison.

That same year, a new Norwegian settler had arrived to the island. Jacob Hersleb Horneman, a mining engineer, arrived with his wife Anna, purchased one of the cannery’s buildings and had it reassembled on a rise inland from Fortuna. Here, the couple started their farm. When most of the Norwegians left in December, the Hornemans, Sigvart Tuset and Elías Sánchez were the only people remaining in the highlands. At Academy Bay, there were only Kristian Stampa, Gordon Wold and Gunnar Larsen, the last from the Alatga. Amador’s employees, Felipe Lastre and most of the Norwegians left on the Patria on December 22.

The following year there was a modest increase in the island’s population. Mrs. Horneman returned from San Cristóbal with Robert, a healthy baby boy. Two Norwegian families who had been living at Wreck Bay also came to Santa Cruz -- Emil and Olga Larsen (no relations of Gunnar) with their daughter, and Arnulf and Eugenie Greiner with their two sons. These two families owned a fine motor boat, with which the men continued fishing, as they had done at the other island.

The little colony seemed after all destined to survive, especially now that Captain Bruun had become master of the Manuel J. Cobos and regularly defied Alvarado’s orders, calling at Academy Bay to bring mail and supplies and take away the dry fish produced by the settlers. Things began to look promising again, until tragedy struck.

On October 9, 1928, Emil and Gunnar Larsen went to Tortuga Bay, a lagoon to the west of Academy Bay, where the settlers often supplied themselves with sea turtles for meat and oil. The sea was rough that day, and Stampa and Wold, who were familiar with local conditions, warned them to wait until the sea calmed down, as the entrance to the lagoon would be dangerous on account of the large breakers and the reefs.

But the two went anyway. They even managed to get into the lagoon, where they made a very good catch. However, when they attempted to get out with a heavily loaded boat, they did not make it. Later, when the other men in Academy Bay went to search for them, a quantity of battered, dead sea turtles were found scattered along the shore with the splintered planking of the boat. The remains of the two Larsens were carried back to the little settlement and buried next to Rostrup. The three graves with their white wooden crosses on piles of black lava, against a background of white shell sand, formed a sad little grouping until they were removed ten years later by the military garrison. The Larsens and the Greiners left Galápagos at the first opportunity, returning to Norway. They had had enough of the islands.

At the beginning of 1929, a new Norwegian settler arrived. He had been a member of one of several colonization groups that had been organized in Norway and never got beyond the preliminary planning stage. This gentleman has gone down in history as «Grise-Johansen» -- Johansen of the Pigs -- because he has the doubtful merit of having released the first pigs on Santa Cruz. He purchased Tuset’s farm, when the latter decided to try his luck in Colombia.

In June of that year, Tuset and the Hornemans left on the Manuel J. Cobos. Mrs. Horneman expected her second child, and was not willing to go through another birth in the primitive conditions that then existed on San Cristóbal. This time, she would have her baby in Norway; but she also held the secret hope that her husband would give up Galápagos for good. The permanent population of Santa Cruz was now reduced to four bachelors -- Sánchez, Stampa, Wold and Johansen, the last remaining only a little longer on the island.

Things were much the same until 1931, when Hilda and Arthur Worm-Müller moved to Academy Bay. Since the latter could not talk the Norwegians into joining him on Floreana, he decided to join them on Santa Cruz. A Danish engineer, R.H. Raeder and his wife, and their Icelandic associate, Walter Finsen, also arrived that year. Raeder, who had some capital, built himself a very fine bungalow, a short distance from the Norwegian graves. He also had two smaller houses built for his workmen in the vicinity. Raeder and Finsen later started a small farm next to Sánchez, in the lower part of the moist region, calling the place «El Rancho». The Dane had first considered starting a cannery, but instead sent his motor boat out to fish grouper, joining the dry fish production. Aside from Finsen, he had the assistance of Ewald Formo, one of the San Cristóbal Norwegians. Formo remained on Santa Cruz only about a year. Raeder’s activities and the fishing of Stampa and Wold brought a small, more or less seasonal Ecuadorian population to Academy Bay, mainly from San Cristóbal.

The Hornemans returned in 1932, bringing along their eldest son. During the following months, Horneman was busy clearing land and planting coffee. That year, another Norwegian came over from San Cristóbal, Trygve Nuggerud, bringing along his Ecuadorian wife, María. With his motor boat, he increased the dry fish production of the island. Between then and the war, a few independent settlers, some with their families, arrived; but there were no more organized groups in that period. Also, there was a number of would-be settlers who remained for more or less short periods, giving up even before they had made a real attempt at making a living on the island. In early 1932, Captain Herman H. Lundh arrived, being joined later in the year by his wife Helga and their son Jacob. Captain Lundh, who had been skeptical of the «Galápagos fever» that had aroused such enthusiasm in Norway, had originally intended to settle in South Africa, but decided to look at the possibilities that Ecuador and the Galápagos had to offer. At the time, the communications between the mainland and Santa Cruz had nearly broken down, and it seemed like a good idea to do something about it. It was generally believed that Captain Bruun had done well with the Isabela, despite her small size. The local Norwegians were convinced that a small sailing vessel, somewhat larger than the Isabela, could be a good investment, but none of them had the necessary capital.

Captain Lundh had arrived at the time when the partnership between Wold and Stampa had broken up. Stampa bought Wold’s share of their boat, the Falcon, and they divided their property and the house they had in the highlands, the same that had belonged to Rambech and Tuset, later to Johansen. Thus, Captain Lundh got himself a partner, Gordon Wold, who knew his way around the islands. The two went to Guayaquil to find a suitable ship. On a visit to Puná, Captain Lundh discovered a cutter-rigged vessel sitting on the beach, falling at once in love with her beautiful lines, which told the experienced seaman that she was an excellent sailer.

The Santa Inez, as she was called, was duly purchased and taken to Guayaquil to make her ready for the voyage to Galápagos. She was larger than the Isabela, having a greater cargo capacity and a spacious after cabin. Things started well, as they even got cargo for the sugar plantation, the schooner being up for repairs. With the vessels that fished out of Academy Bay and her own catches, they would have enough cargo during the fishing season. During this period there was also a large amount of cargo to be had in Guayaquil, as the Ecuadorians who came over from San Cristóbal to fish from Academy Bay increased the population there at least threefold, which meant more supplies from the mainland. In a very few years, there would also be a production of coffee. Then, there was the possibility of cargo from Isabela. However, it seems that no serious thought had been given to the slack season, and that selling fish outside the Easter period had been very much overrated.

At this stage there was very little happening in the highlands. We have mentioned the two small farms in the lower moist region -- Raeder’s «El Rancho», with its modest area of three and a half hectares (less than nine acres) and that of Sánchez with only one hectare (about 2.5 acres). Some distance above them, a Colombian fisherman called Córdova had a two-hectare property, which he abandoned a couple of years later. Above this, near today’s Bellavista, was Abraham Bedoya’s «La Victoria» of twenty hectares. Bedoya, who arrived around the middle of the 1930’s, lived on Santa Cruz until his death, in the 1980’s, when he was well over one hundred years old. Not far from Bedoya, and higher up the mountain, were the properties of Wold («Fortuna») and Stampa with twenty hectares each. To the east of the latter was Horneman’s «Progreso» then only five hectares. The extent of this latter property was increased in later years and renamed «Vilnis» -- Norwegian for wilderness -- by his third wife, who had a sense for reality.

The growth of the permanent population was slow. In 1933, Stampa had his fiancée, Alvhild Holand, come down from Norway, and they were married in Guayaquil. They had not seen each other for seven years, which did not prevent them from having a long and happy marriage. The following year, their daughter Anne was born, the first birth recorded for Santa Cruz. 1933 also brought out the German don Carlos Kübler, with his wife Marga and his daughter Carmen. This family had lived a number of years in Spain and were fluent in Spanish, a fact that led to don Carlos being appointed comisario. As such, he took up residence in the cannery building, after evicting the Worm-Müllers.

The government had claimed all the remaining property belonging to the cannery, on the basis of some obscure paragraph in the company’s concession. In fact, both Stampa and Wold lost their houses in Academy Bay because of this, the latter being evicted to make place for the soldier who came with Kübler. Stampa was allowed to keep his house until 1937, when a garrison was established on the island. Wold took his loss in stride as he spent much of his time on the mainland and sailing as mate of the Santa Inez. Later, he went to live on his farm, where he grew coffee for shipment to Guayaquil.

Two former members of the cannery group also returned to the island -- Jens Moe in 1934, and Anders Rambech the following year. The latter had recently married a charming redhead from Oslo, Solveig Hansen. Both men started farms in the highlands, Moe above Stampa’s property and Rambech above the former. Both held claims of twenty hectares each.

In the meantime, the Santa Inez was proving unprofitable. There was too little cargo outside the fishing season to make ends meet. There were also other problems, which led Gordon Wold to believe that the ship was jinxed. On her first voyage, while fishing in the Sulivan Bay area (Santiago), she was caught in a calm, drifting north with the strong current to be saved miraculously from shipwreck on waterless Marchena, where Nuggerud and Lorenz would die of thirst less than two years later. However, financially, this trip was fairly good.

The second voyage of the Santa Inez was a total disaster. The near shipwreck on Marchena induced Captain Lundh to buy an engine in Guayaquil. Though supposedly checked by an expert, this engine turned out to be little more than unnecessary ballast. In addition to constant engine trouble, the voyage from Guayaquil was beset by calms, unstable wind conditions, and nearly constant rain. The warm season of 1932-33 was a «Niño year». With the sky overcast all the time, it was impossible to take an altitude of the sun or any other heavenly body, to determine a reliable position. Soon after leaving the mainland, Captain Lundh became ill with symptoms that strongly suggest he had yellow fever. As he became worse, he collapsed into a fever that disconnected him from reality. Wold decided to return to the mainland, to which Mrs. Lundh and the three passengers heartily agreed.

Captain Lundh recovered after a long convalescence, and a third voyage was prepared. Since Mrs. Lundh was expecting, she and the couple’s son remained in Guayaquil, where the second boy, Eric, was born. By then, the Santa Inez was in the Galápagos on what promised to be a good voyage. However, while fishing around Santiago, the engine gave up for good, despite the capable efforts of Hansen, the new Danish engineer. Nuggerud was fishing together with the Santa Inez, but his engine was too small and unreliable for him to tow the larger vessel back to Academy Bay.

Captain Lundh decided to attempt returning to the mainland with the aid of a fickle and weak breeze. He had already seen the results of trying to sail back to Santa Cruz under similar conditions. The water supply was low, so he could not take along all his men. Asking for volunteers, he was left with two of his Ecuadorian seamen and the Dane Hansen. Wold and the rest of the fishermen returned to Academy Bay with Nuggerud. In the meantime, firewood had been taken aboard in quantity, and Hansen had rigged up a still from the fuel lines of the now useless engine, so that sea water could be distilled to supplement their low fresh water supply.

While the Guayaquil press worked feverishly with the story of Baroness von Wagner, whose disappearance had become known on the mainland, they also had an article or two about the Santa Inez, which they claimed had disappeared with all hands in a great storm, vividly described by an imaginative journalist, who blithely ignored the fact that real storms are unknown in the area. In the meantime, the Santa Inez made it to the coast of Esmeraldas, where she was sold to a local trader, after she had broken her anchor chain and ended up on a beach. She had suffered no damage, and could easily have been set afloat again; but Captain Lundh had had enough. He felt he had spent far too much effort and money beyond his initial investment. Buying some mules, he headed south with his three faithful companions, along the seemingly endless, palm-fringed beach of Atacames. When the little band finally reached Guayaquil, they were amazed to learn of their shipwreck and death.

In 1935, some more Norwegians came out -- Thorvald Kastdalen, his wife Marie, their son Alf and their partner Amanda Christoffersen. With them came also the Graffer family -- Sigurd, his wife Solveig, with their sons Arne and Erling. The same year saw also the arrival of a Swedish family, the Lundbergs -- Saimy and John, with their daughter Gloria. Another Swedish family who came with them were so disappointed that they left with the next ship. The Kastdalens and Miss Christoffersen worked up one of the finest farms in the Galápagos. The Lundbergs also had a very fine property. Graffer however neglected his as he became increasingly engaged in construction work, as the settlement in Academy Bay slowly began to grow in later years, and his skills as a builder came increasingly into demand.

When Captain Lundh and his family returned from Guayaquil in 1936, they found a thriving little Norwegian colony. It began to look as if this time the Norwegians would succeed, especially since there was still a certain interest in the islands in Norway, and more people might arrive from there. The Lundhs rented Raeder’s bungalow, the owners moving up to «El Rancho», in the highlands. They had given up fishing, and hoped to sell their boat and the house in the bay. It had all been a pleasant experience, but quite unprofitable. However, finding a buyer was very difficult. At the time, the only likely one was Captain Lundh, but it was still uncertain if he and his family would stay on the island.

The opportunity to sell appeared from a quite unexpected quarter. When Colonel Carlos Puente, the governor, established a garrison on Santa Cruz, the officers were lodged in the former cannery. It was now Kübler’s turn to move out. Luckily for the old Alsatian, he had already purchased Nuggerud’s house from the latter’s widow, a few years earlier. However, the officers did not long enjoy the beautiful view over the bay and beyond. One evening, the tinder dry second floor, which had been built of timber, caught fire. It was the most spectacular sight against the dark sky, and the sound effects that soon followed, after the first flames, were equally impressive, for it did not take long before the ammunition in the ground floor went up in a series of loud explosions.

Fortunately, nobody got hurt, except for a boy servant, who got some minor burns. The garrison’s supplies had however gone up in smoke, and a ship was not expected for some time -- a month, two or three, anybody’s guess was good in those days. Captain Lundh had recently received supplies that were expected to last for six months or so, thus making it possible for the head of the garrison, Lt. Gonzalo Villacís, to borrow sugar, rice, flour and other food for his staff and soldiers, until supplies could be received from San Cristóbal. Other settlers pitched in with whatever they could, and Stampa, who had recently been kicked out from his house by the military, took one of them over to San Cristóbal, so the news of the fire could be duly reported.

When Colonel Puente came over in his yacht with supplies for the garrison, he made a deal with the Raeders to buy their house in Academy Bay, making it possible for them to leave the islands. Finsen kept «El Rancho». Soon after, Mrs. Lundh and her sons left for Quito, so the boys could go to school, while Captain Lundh, who had taken up twenty hectares in the highlands, next to Wold, move in with the latter.

The presence of the Norwegians and the still pristine condition of Santa Cruz made it attractive to European settlers. In 1937, the four Angermeyer brothers arrived -- Gusch, Hans, Karl and Fritz. Hans brought along his first wife, Lizzie, a beautiful Dutch girl, who came from a wealthy family. Her background and interests made it difficult for her to adapt to the primitive conditions she had to live in while working on a pioneer farm in the Galápagos highlands. She worked hard both indoors and out, and did her best to adapt; but she missed the cultural life of the great European cities to such a degree that she eventually gave up and left. This is not to say that her case was unique, but different people will as a rule react differently to the same situation.

Hans Angermeyer, Lizzie’s husband, suffered from poor health, which also made it difficult for him to live on the island he loved so much. He also left, returning once or twice in the following years, before he died on the mainland. Though his three brothers kept the farm, they eventually moved down to the bay, giving up farming for fishing.

In those years there were still few Ecuadorians living permanently on Santa Cruz. We have mentioned Sánchez and Bedoya, who were bachelors. Two other bachelors, both fishermen, who lived on the island were Enrique Salas and Carmelo Triviño. There was also the Colombian Córdova, whom we have mentioned earlier, who was married to one of the Zavala girls from Isabela, all of whom were admired for their good looks. It was the arrival of the garrison that brought the Ecuadorians back to their majority status, though the margin was a small one until, later in 1937, when Captain Rafael Castro and his large family, which included a widowed sister and her two children, landed in Academy Bay. A retired master mariner, he became a neighbor to his colleague Captain Lundh and to Gordon Wold with a hundred-hectare claim. Captain Castro became a good friend to his two neighbors as well as to the other Norwegians on the island.

Europeans continued arriving occasionally, but ended up leaving. An exception was Elfriede Engelmann, a German lady who had met and married Jacob Horneman in England. After one wife and two children, and a second wife with none, the Norwegian mining engineer, who had definitely turned his back on civilization, had finally found himself the wife of his dreams. Resourceful and tough, this frail city woman managed to survive with a smile all the hardships of a Galápagos farm, besides bearing him a daughter and a son.

The last European to reach the island before the war was Håvard Henriksen, who arrived just before the beginning of the war. Henriksen would later marry Lundberg’s widow, and the two created between them a very fine property in the highlands.



Though San Cristóbal is only the fifth in size of the Galápagos, with its 550 kms2, it remained by far the most populated island for over a century, until tourism flourished, greatly speeding up the colonization of Santa Cruz. However, it is still the administrative center of the Galápagos, being the seat of the governor and the other main officials. All its population is in the SW part, where the island rises to 715 meters at Cerro San Joaquín. This is the only part of the island with a moist region and sufficient soil for agriculture.

There are two important reasons that have made this island attractive. It is the only one with several good fresh water springs, a few of them larger than the largest spring on Floreana . In fact, several of these springs form brooks that run for some distance from their respective sources. Two of them even reach the coast, at the open roadstead known for this reason as Freshwater Bay, in the SE side of the island. The other reason is that it is closer to the mainland than the other islands in the archipelago.

After the assassination of Cobos and Reina, peace settled over San Cristóbal. The mutineers and those most discontented with conditions on the plantation had left the island. Those with the greatest resignation or fewer complaints remained, largely numbed and disconcerted by the new situation. A man with the powerful personality of the elder Cobos leaves a great vacuum when he suddenly disappears from among the living. Thus, the new governor and don Rogelio Alvarado, who took over the plantation, had no need to worry about restoring order.

When his father died, don Manuel Augusto Cobos was only six years old. It was therefore his sister Josefina’s husband, don Rogelio Alvarado, took over after don Manuel Julián. The younger Manuel was sent off to Europe to get the proper education for a gentleman of his station. Don Rogelio on his part was left to divide his time between the family interests in Galápagos and his wife and children, who lived in Guayaquil.

There is little to tell about this rather peaceful period. The plantation continued its production of three hundred sacks of sugar per month -- 30 000 pounds. Rum was still made from the molasses. Hides, coffee, dry fish and some jerked beef continued to be exported to the mainland, along with the sugar and rum. Alvarado, though he regarded the plantation hands as an integral part of the property, a feudalistic point of view that was usual at the time, seems to have been reasonably lenient with his subjects.

In January of 1918, the Reverend Aurelio Mera of the Company of Jesus came to Galápagos as a visiting missionary. He sailed on the Manuel J. Cobos, whose master was Captain Pedro Campuzano, a very capable seaman, thoroughly familiar with the Galápagos waters. In later years, his son Nelson would show the same talents, as master of several ships, including the Cristóbal Carrier. Another passenger on the schooner was the young don Manuel Augusto Cobos, who had recently returned from Europe.

The good Jesuit remained half a year in the islands, and was quite impressed by life on San Cristóbal and Isabela, then the only inhabited ones. In his report to his superiors he states, among other things, «... I can assure that the culture and morality of those islands has improved immensely, for their meritorious owners, Messrs. Rogerio Alvarado and Antonio Gil Quesada have sent away, and are sending away, to Guayaquil all those persons who have, in previous years, been pointed out for or accused of bad conduct.

«In this part it must be stated that the islands have been cleaned up, and any honest person may come to them assured that he will find more police and public and private order than in any town on the mainland.»

We have no doubts about Father Mera’s veracity; but his statements were no longer valid six years later. In 1924, don Manuel Augusto Cobos had to flee for his life to seek safety in the plantation’s banana groves. He had been at the refinery, when shots were heard in the direction of the village. A worker came shouting, «The convicts have revolted!»

There was very little that don Manuel could have done. All he had was a revolver, and it appeared as if the convicts had got hold of some firearms. Recalling his father’s fate, he mounted his horse and got away. However, he took time to tell a trusted worker where he was going, instructing that he keep him informed on what went on in the village. The man was also to supply him regularly with food and water.

As had happened in 1904, the plantation commissary was sacked. But there was no Elías Puertas to take control of the mob. The convicts went eagerly ahead with the consumption of the fine French wines and cognac that Cobos and Alvarado kept for their own use and that of occasional visitors. These choice beverages were drunk with democratic impartiality along with the locally distilled rum. In their drunkenness, the convicts gave one another the ranks of colonels and generals, no doubt imagining themselves to be revolutionary heroes.

Some vandalism also took place. Machinery was damaged, fire was set to the cane fields, and a large quantity of papers, accounts and documents were burnt. It is not certain whether it was then or in the fire of the plantation house that don Manuel Julián Cobos’ diaries were destroyed. That loss is a tragedy for those interested in the history of the islands, as they covered the years that led to the definitive colonization of Galápagos, and might have given an insight into the thoughts of Cobos and what kind of a man he really was.

After their orgy of drinking and destruction, the convicts faced the problem of leaving the island. They knew that the Manuel J. Cobos would be in any day. Someone suggested that it would be useful to take with them the money in the plantation’s safe; but they were unable to open it. Nobody had until then worried about don Manuel’s whereabouts. Apparently, the convicts held no particular grudge against him, so they had simply forgotten he existed. But now he had suddenly become important -- he was the only person who could open the safe.

Someone had noticed that one of the workers made regular visits to the plantation house, leaving it with a basket every day. This person would then head for the countryside. Undoubtedly this must be the man who supplied Cobos with food and information. He was promptly seized and interrogated without success. He knew nothing. The threat of a bullet through the head did not improve his memory at all. Finally, the convicts hung him up by his thumbs to a rafter and began to torture him, using some of the methods they had experienced themselves during police interrogations in a not so distant past. It worked. The poor man told them where they could find his master. Later, he would look back on his weakness with shame and remorse, though don Manuel never berated him for giving him away, fully understanding what the poor fellow had been through.

Cobos was located while he enjoyed a peaceful siesta in the shade of some banana plants. He was seized, his hands were tied behind his back, and he was placed on his horse. Suffering the indignity of having his own gun pointed at him, he was taken to Progreso. Once there, he was ordered to open the safe, something he refused to do. In view of this, he was given the choice of opening it or being shot in the head. There was only one sensible solution to this. He got the key in the usual hiding place, and opened the safe.

The convicts were disappointed. Some of them were even angry and frustrated. There were only a few documents in the safe -- no cash. Cobos, fearing the safe would be broken into, had had one of his trusted employees remove all the cash, hiding it elsewhere. For a moment, he must have felt tempted to show them where, for some of the convicts decided to take out their frustration by killing him. However, someone suggested that don Manuel could write out certificates stating that they had completed their sentences and were free to leave. Their logic was that the governor was absent at the time. So was don Rogelio. Thus, the virtual owner of the island must surely have the authority to extend such certificates...

Cobos did not argue these finer legal points, seating himself obligingly in front of his typewriter. Using the plantation’s stationery, he wrote the certificates, signed them, and placed the plantation’s rubber stamp beneath his signature. To the more or less illiterate convicts, the certificates must have appeared impressive and very official indeed. Don Manuel had saved his life, though he was unable to do anything to save the plantation house, which was set afire. When the flames had destroyed the wooden interior, all that remained were the outer walls.

The convicts captured the plantation schooner without difficulty, forcing her master to take them to the mainland. Here, they arrived at Esmeraldas, in the NW of the country, where they were promptly arrested and shipped to Guayaquil. The port officials had become suspicious of them as soon as they arrived. On reading their release certificates, their suspicions were confirmed, seeing that the documents were written on the stationery of a privately owned plantation. Thus, this escape from Galápagos ended in the usual manner.

This would be the last uprising on San Cristóbal. Though conditions were still primitive and the comforts few for the average settler, the island had become more civilized, and what the Reverend Mera had written in 1918 was now fairly close to the truth again, remaining so in the future. When the third group of Norwegian settlers arrived and landed on San Cristóbal in 1926, the island was a rather peaceful place.

The Norwegian San Cristóbal colony was organized differently from the other Norwegian groups. The Floreana and Santa Cruz ventures had been primarily fishing cooperatives, agriculture being seen merely as a source of supplies, not of income. On the other hand, they had consisted of single men or men unaccompanied by their families -- if we except the unfortunate people on the Alatga, who did not make it, except for a very few individuals.

In the San Cristóbal group there was a number of families and childless couples, besides some men who were single or left their families in Norway until further notice. In fact, twelve of the members brought along their wives. (Hoff, 1985). While the members would live in a small village, they staked separate claims of twenty hectares per family or single man, as the law allowed. In most ways, this was a loosely organized cooperative. Harry Randall, who had organized the venture, was only to lead them to the island, stepping back as soon as they began to establish themselves. This he did with alacrity, as he had become the scapegoat for everything that went wrong. A very few of the members did engage in fishing, but there was no particular emphasis on this activity by the group as a whole.

Harry Randall, like the leaders of the other groups, had a marine background. He had studied navigation and sailed as a deck officer. He never became a master mariner, for he had landed in New York in mid-career, becoming a pianist in a musical show. He was in fact a very good musician, and had studied piano under such distinguished composers as Edvard Grieg and Johan Svendsen. (Randall, 1946). Later, he worked as a theatrical agent and a producer, besides organizing public appearances for such celebrities as the explorer Roald Amundsen, and concerts for the violin virtuoso Ole Bull. He continued with similar activities after his return from Galápagos, also giving lectures on his travels, and working as an editor.

When Randall organized the San Cristóbal project, he was a dynamic sixty-eight-year old, who after his arrival to the island went on long, almost daily rides with his host, don Manuel Augusto Cobos, who also was an excellent horseman. Randall had a long, interesting life, which ended in Oslo in 1955, when he was a ripe ninety-seven.

Randall was accused by many of the San Cristóbal group of misleading them into joining the project. The usual story is that «his» book on Galápagos had painted the islands as a paradise. Randall however claimed no first-hand knowledge of the islands, nor did he ever write a description of them. The book in question is divided into three parts, the first one being written by Randall, who had simply put together all the historical facts he had gathered about the Galápagos. The descriptive parts were not his at all. The book’s second part was the work of the journalists Støren and Bang, who gave a vivid narrative of their own experiences in the Galápagos. The third and last part was written by Christensen, whose Floreana settlement was still in its successful and promising first stage at that time. It could even be said that Randall himself was misled as much as anybody else, having kept company with three great Galápagos enthusiasts, who had only experienced the islands at their best.

There is every reason to believe that Randall acted in good faith, honestly trying to avoid some of the mistakes made by his predecessors. He was also wise enough to set up committees for everything, thus dividing the responsibilities among the members themselves. One such committee was in charge of finances. Randall never bought shares in the project, and received a free passage in compensation for his services. Still, he is likely to have lost more money on the venture than any of his detractors, having put up the bond demanded by the immigration authorities in Oslo for allowing the group to sail. He also gave personal loans to several of the members on the way down. All this also proves his faith in what he was doing. However, it also shows that this group suffered from the same weakness that had afflicted the others -- too little capital.

The book which we have mentioned, in which Randall was one of the authors, was entitled Galápagos -- the World’s End: the Norwegian Paradise on the West Coast of South America. It was an instant best-seller, as it came out in the spring of 1926, when the «Galápagos fever» in Norway was at its height. However, it was the success Captain Eilertsen was having in recruiting prospective settlers that encouraged Randall to organize his own group.

By then, the immigration officials were becoming stricter in their demands for group emigrations. So were the harbor authorities when it came to enforcing their rules. Besides, Randall was sailing from Oslo, the country’s largest port and capital, where the bureaucracy was more numerous than elsewhere along the coast. In fact, officialdom caused considerable delays, even after the ferro-cement ship Albermarle was ready to sail. It was at this stage that Randall had to post a security of seven thousand crowns -- a huge amount in those days -- for the immigration officials to let them set out on their voyage. This money was never repaid to Randall.

Finally, on September 2, 1926, the Albemarle was free to leave. During the voyage, especially while taking in fuel and water at Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, it was found that they had a core of some eight to ten troublemakers on board. These were not only overly fond of drinking, but could not taste alcohol without starting rows and fights. As long as the colonization group existed, these people were a constant source of trouble. (Hoff, 1985).

As had happened before, many of the colonists were bitterly disappointed on seeing Galápagos for the first time. It was a year following a «Niño year» and a drought was on in the Galápagos. A boat was sent over to Floreana to inspect conditions there, which turned out to be worse. Santa Cruz was not even considered, for nobody was willing to depend on catching rain water and otherwise using brackish water. San Cristóbal therefore became their choice, which was no doubt also helped by the luxuriant greenery in the highlands.

Both don Rogelio Alvarado and don Manuel Cobos went out of their way to talk the new settlers into staying on their island. The newcomers were even given individual credit on generous terms at the plantation commissary, as well as the opportunity of hiring men, oxen and wagons at reasonable prices. The settlers proceeded to unload the Albemarle and sent her back to Panama to be sold there.

Each colonist or family received twenty hectares of land in the area that has since been known as «Campo Noruego» -- the Norwegian Countryside. It was here that fourteen houses were built, forming a little village. But before this could be done, ten strenuous days had to be spent unloading the ship. The equipment, personal belongings and building materials were stored under canvas above the beach, until it all could be transported inland. The canvas that was used had originally come from a balloon Roald Amundsen had used in the Arctic, which the explorer had sold at a reasonable price to his friend Randall for his Galápagos venture. (Hoff, 1985).

Though the transportation inland also was a hard job, it did not take long before people were beginning to move into their houses. However, there was much dissent among the settlers from the very beginning, Randall soon becoming a scapegoat for all that was wrong. He was not only accused of having lied to them, but also of having done so with the purpose of making a profit. The fact that he had lost considerably more money than anyone else did not seem to carry any weight as an argument in his defense. Deeply hurt by these accusations, Randall never moved to Campo Noruego, remaining as Cobos’ guest for as long as he stayed on the island. In December, he left disappointed, though he had not quite given up his project of starting a coffee plantation. (Randall, 1946).

Things did not work out well for the settlers in Campo Noruego. They blamed their lack of success on the soil, but the fact is that they did not want to try the crops grown by the local people. Their seedlings, from Norwegian vegetable seeds, were eaten by the ants, and they had trouble protecting whatever they managed to grow from the pigs and other animals that wandered in the area. The feeling of hopelessness was increased by the death of Mrs. Kristen Aune, the seventy-four-year old mother of one of the settlers. She had contracted a severe case of dysentery, which without medical attention and proper medication, took her to her grave. However, there was also an addition to the colony. On January 9, 1927, a baby boy, Erik Greiner, was born. (As we have seen, the Greiners later moved to Santa Cruz).

Of the very few who remained for any length of time on San Cristóbal, only the Guldberg family stayed for good. Thorleiv Guldberg, the head of the family, was born on Madagascar, where his father had been a missionary doctor. Thorleiv had later owned a farm in Norway, and was one of the few in the group who knew anything about farming. He had also the sense to adapt to local conditions and lived the rest of his life in the San Cristóbal highlands, raising chickens and growing coffee. An Estonian engineer, who had fled from Russia during the revolution, moved in with him. This gentleman, Arthur Sem, spoke a number of languages fluently, including a very cultured Norwegian, which he had picked up mainly from reading, as he usually spoke German with Thorleiv Guldberg.

Thorleiv’s only son, Frithjof, moved to Argentine, while Snefrid, one of the daughters, returned to Norway. However, she missed the islands so much, that she came back, living there until her death, at eighty-nine, in 1991. She never married. The last Norwegian remaining on the island was her sister Karin, who died at eighty-eight, at the beginning of 1996. She was also the last of the Norwegians in Galápagos.

In the meantime, the sugar plantation was fast becoming an unprofitable venture. The uprising in 1924 had caused considerable losses to the owners, whose economy seems to have been rather frail even at this early stage. It is significant that some of the Norwegian settlers who visited the refinery at the time of their arrival were unfavorably impressed by the state of the machinery and everything else. At least one of them remarked about the great loss of steam caused by defective fittings. (Hoff, 1985).

At the beginning of the 1930’s, the effects of the world-wide recession was already being felt by Alvarado and Cobos. Their main creditor in Guayaquil, don Lorenzo Tous, had already organized a company, Sociedad Nacional de Galápagos, which held a lease on the plantation and the refinery, controlling their economy. The schooner had been sold and renamed San Cristóbal; but she would continue her rather irregular run on the islands until the early 1940’s.

On April 28, 1932, doña Josefina Cobos de Alvarado signed a promise of sale agreement with Sociedad Nacional de Galápagos, in which she agreed to turn over the plantation and the refinery, confirming at the same time that she had received payment for the property. The company thus took over officially what it had already been in possession of for some time. Much of the machinery was removed to Los Alamos, a sugar plantation on the mainland. From then on, the Sociedad Nacional de Galápagos exploited its coffee plantation, produced dry fish for the Easter season, and did little else. The cane fields had been gradually destroyed by the invading guava trees, the cattle, the pigs, donkeys and horses. The fences that had kept most animals out had not been properly maintained for many years, and most of the barbed wire was gone or about to fall apart.

However, it was not until the end of the decade that the ownership of the plantation was properly legalized. By then, Mrs. Alvarado had died. The reason for this delay was that no procedure had existed until then to change Galápagos property from de facto ownership by possession alone to a more permanent form, as was possible in most parts of the mainland. This problem was solved by the decree of December 18, 1936 and those of April 9 and December 3, 1937.

Thus, at the end of 1937, Colonel Guillermo Freile, who was then Minister of Defense, had the authority to give formal ownership of their San Cristóbal lands to Josefina Cobos de Alvarado’s heirs -- her husband don Rogelio, and their children René, Josefina, Rogelio Edmundo and Manuel Julián. The document confirms the ownership of eleven thousand one hundred and seventy-two hectares, which are later given as eleven thousand one hundred and sixty-two hectares in the survey signed by Major Angel Obdulio Serrano, on December 4, 1937.

The following year, General Alberto Enríquez, who was head of the government, signed a decree authorizing the heirs of doña Josefina Cobos de Alvarado to sell their property on San Cristóbal to Sociedad Nacional de Galápagos. There are however some special conditions attached to this authorization. Its Article 2 states that possession, rights of any kind, or shares or any parts of the property cannot be leased, sold or handed over in any manner to foreign persons, companies or countries. Any such agreement will be legally void, and a violation of these conditions will also cause the loss of ownership to the heirs of doña Josefina Cobos de Alvarado and/or any of their successors.

In Article 4 is stated that the village of Progreso and an area five kilometers around it will not be part of the plantation’s property, this additional land being set aside for the growth of the village. In addition, any lands that were at the time being cultivated by settlers within the limits of the plantation are to remain the property of said settlers. (The right of possession is very strong in Ecuador, as long as the squatters have worked the land and are growing something on it). This article also states that the plantation’s ownership does not include the wild cattle or other feral animals.

No mention is made of don Manuel Augusto Cobos in any of these documents. He had already received a part of the plantation’s lands at an earlier date. When these documents were being signed, he already owned a choice piece of property just outside Progreso, where he had built his first home, at the time of his marriage to Karin Guldberg, in 1930. He also possessed a considerable property elsewhere in the moist region. On this latter, he gradually worked up a coffee plantation, which eventually reached a size of 126 hectares, with about 160 thousand coffee trees. This is a large coffee plantation by any standard.

It is possible that don Manuel realized what was coming and broke away in time. It is also possible that he decided to begin on his own, since he was starting a family. He never made comments on this matter. However, it must have been a sad experience for him to see how the plantation, the work of so many years, the result of so much sacrifice, human suffering and bloodshed, crumbled to become a mere shadow of what it had been. However, he seemed to end his life in happiness, when he died many years later, at the ripe age of ninety-five, in February 1993, surrounded by his numerous grandchildren.



Before the 1850’s international interest in the Galápagos had centered around the advantages the islands offered to American and British whalers. As these came and went at will in the area, their respective governments did not worry about who held possession of the islands. A few naturalists had discovered the fascinating flora and fauna of this part of the world, notably Charles Darwin, who, more than anyone else, realized their importance to science. To the general public however the Galápagos were a more or less esoteric subject. It is doubtful that very many had even heard of them.

Spain had never formally taken possession of the Galápagos, probably considering them of no particular value. Despite the lack of this formality, nobody challenged Spanish ownership of the group. Captain David Porter’s suggestion that the United States should take possession of Galápagos was firmly rejected by his government at the time it was made. Later, when Ecuador took formal possession of the islands, no nation objected. In fact, even in later years, when several nations became interested in gaining concessions or taking over one or more of the islands, these nations implicitly confirmed Ecuadorian sovereignty over the archipelago by their attempts at negotiating with the Ecuadorian government for whatever concessions they were after.

It has occasionally been claimed that the diplomatic history of the Galápagos begins with the claim for compensation made by the owners of the George Howland against the Ecuadorian government. This is not quite true, as it actually begins a little earlier, in 1851, when Ecuador was considering turning the islands over to the British. At the time, a law was submitted to Congress for approval to give the government authority to hand over the islands to Great Britain as payment for Ecuador’s share of the debt Gran Colombia had contracted during the War of Independence.

The Peruvian chargé d’affaires in Quito, don Francisco de Paula Moreyra, learning of this, promptly wrote a note to don José Modesto Larrea, the Minister of Foreign Relations. He pointed out that Perú and other South American nations would consider it dangerous that the British hold a possession so close to their continent. He also mentioned that other friendly European powers with trade interests on the Pacific coast would view the matter with justified alarm.

This mistrust towards European powers at the time can be largely traced to the fact that the Latin American republics had not so long ago won their independence from one of them. Also, European powers were still actively expanding their possessions elsewhere. On the other hand, these same powers were important markets for exports and the main sources of most imports, so it would have been poor policy to alienate any of these important trade partners. Besides, seen from the view of most small nations, the more powerful countries of Europe behaved like unpredictable bullies when sufficiently aroused. It was indeed a dangerous world for the small and weak.

It must be mentioned that Ecuador had been through territorial disputes with Perú, so Peruvian diplomats were not much trusted. However, the chargé d’affaires had convincing arguments, so his note was forwarded to the National Congress. The second round of discussions on the proposed law was dropped, in great part due to Moreyra’s arguments. (Larrea, 1960).

Though there were many who wanted to trade the islands off to some foreign power or make concessions on them in exchange for loans, cash payments or other such advantages, nothing much happened for some time. Such people have often been viewed as little better than traitors, a judgment that seems exceedingly harsh if taken in its historical context. The islands were actually a liability to Ecuador, something they would continue to be for a very long time. They produced no income to the state, and hardly any other benefits to the country. They were, in those days of sail, too far away to administrate properly, and keeping a presence there, even a small garrison or a penal colony was an almost unaffordable luxury to governments that were perpetually short of money and had to struggle against all sorts of odds to keep things under control on the mainland. Selling the islands would not only rid the country of a liability, but would also provide much needed funds for some of the innumerable improvements that were needed on the mainland.

It was at this point that the George Howland incident came back to haunt the Ecuadorian authorities. The American chargé d’affaires, Cartland Cushing, sent a note from Guayaquil, on March 1st 1853, presenting a claim made by Matthew Howland, owner of the whaler. Howland wanted U. S. $ 40 000.00 to cover the losses he had allegedly suffered from the capture of his ship. At that time, this was a very large amount of money. Cushing must have found the claim somewhat steep, since he advised the U. S. State Department that he would most likely need evidence to justify Howland’s claim.

At the same time, he informed his superiors that the Ecuadorian government was in no position to properly look after the islands, and that these produced no income to the country. He suggested that Ecuador might be willing to cede the islands to the United States on reasonable terms. The presentation of the Howland claim, Cushing reasoned, would be a good opportunity to sound out the government officials in Quito about the possibility of making a deal on Galápagos. Cushing also informed that he had seen several private letters in which was mentioned the discovery of rich guano deposits in the islands. (Larrea, 1960).

The Howland claim was never settled; but interest in the Galápagos was kept alive several years on account of the supposedly rich guano deposits. The letters mentioned by Cushing may have been part of General Villamil’s correspondence. The former governor of the Galápagos had reported the existence of large guano deposits on the islands to General Urbina’s government. This report had been submitted by him shortly before he left for Washington, to take up his post as chargé d’affaires for Ecuador, in June of 1853.

For a while, the British government showed much interest in taking over the islands. At the same time, an American citizen called Julius de Brissot claimed to have discovered rich guano deposits in the Galápagos. According to him, these were so rich that they could be compared to those on the islands outside the coast of Perú. This claim led to a letter, dated August 14, 1854, in which the U. S. Secretary of State instructed his new chargé d’affaires in Quito, Philo White, to give his support to de Brissot, when the latter was to negotiate for a concession to exploit the Galápagos guano.

The great importance given to guano at the time may seem exaggerated in our days. However, guano was most important as a fertilizer, being used in agriculture to provide phosphorus and nitrogen to the soil. Perú, by far the largest source, also produced the highest quality, and was in a position to influence the world market to a considerable degree.

Several possibilities of reaching an agreement with Ecuador on the guano exploitation were considered. One of them was that Ecuador should give American citizens access to exploit the guano in exchange for an agreed tax, not to exceed that paid by citizens of other countries. Another was that the United States should take possession of the Galápagos for an agreed number of years, Ecuador receiving in exchange a suitable financial compensation. A third possibility was that the United States should get a concession to exploit guano for an indefinite period, on conditions to be agreed on. It was however stressed that regardless of whichever agreement was decided on, de Brissot’s rights must be respected.

In a letter dated September 20, 1854, Philo White confirms to the U. S. Secretary of State that he has been authorized by President Franklin Pierce to enter into negotiations with the Government of Ecuador. However, he also reports that an expedition, headed by an experienced master mariner, Captain Game (the American consul in Guayaquil) has returned from the islands on the Guayas, a small sailing vessel provided by the Ecuadorian government. Captain Game’s report states that there are no guano deposits in the Galápagos Islands. One of the members of the expedition, General José Villamil, must have been greatly disappointed, as this had been his most recent hope of developing something in the islands. As we shall see, the former governor did not give up completely. Nor did Philo White, the American chargé d’affaires. He continued negotiations.

It has been speculated on whether Captain Game’s report was fully accepted or not. If accepted, the negotiations continued with the guano as a mere excuse for obtaining territorial concessions in the islands. In any case, whatever intentions White may have had, there remains the fact that General Villamil continued hoping for guano deposits in the Galápagos. In fact, he even went so far as to encourage de Brissot into making further explorations with this possibility in mind.

On November 22, 1854, Philo White sent a report from Quito to President Pierce, informing him that an agreement had been signed with the Government of Ecuador. He described the many difficulties that he had encountered before reaching this agreement, stressing that he could not have hoped to gain better terms, as the Ecuadorians were in a position to make similar agreements with a number of European investors, who were keenly interested in the Galápagos guano deposits.

White’s agreement led to considerable activity among several foreign diplomats in Quito. The chargés d’affaires of Spain and France, the minister plenipotentiary of Perú, and the British consul went together to see don Marcos Espinel, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Arrogantly ignoring the customary request for an audience, they came to the minister and protested against the proposed treaty with the United States, demanding that it not be submitted to Congress for ratification. (Larrea, 1960).

Don Marcos Espinel, though he must have been understandably outraged by the attitude of his visitors, reminded them politely that Ecuador had the right to enter into agreements with any other nation on earth, in order to regulate trade with any or all of the country’s products. He also pointed out to them that their own nations had as much right as the United States to enter into agreements with Ecuador regarding the trade of guano or anything else. Then, he demanded to have their protests confirmed in writing.

Though Minister Espinel repeated this request later, none of the foreign representatives ever sent him a satisfactory confirmation, though there was some polite exchange of letters. Obviously, they did not want to provide written evidence of their high-handed attitude. However, M. André Jean Baptiste Willamus, the French chargé d’affaires, stuck to his arrogant behavior, attempting to press Ecuador into renouncing the agreement with the United States. The French diplomat managed to talk the Chilean government into sending a mission to Quito with the purpose of influencing the government there. The mission had no success, and the French Government received a request from Ecuador to recall the chargé d’affaires. (Larrea, 1960).

As is often the case, some opposition politicians saw the proposed treaty as an opportunity to further their own interests. Instead of rallying around a government that was defending Ecuador’s rights as a sovereign state, they used the situation to agitate public opinion against the government. This campaign went on for about eight months, but finally lost the wind in its sails when it was confirmed that Captain Game had been right all along -- there were no guano deposits in the Galápagos.

On December 20, 1854, White reported to his superiors in Washington, analyzing at the same time the reasons behind the protests of the several foreign representatives. His conclusions are undoubtedly correct. Great Britain had seen in the Galápagos a means of collecting Ecuador’s share of the debt from the War of Independence. It was the only likely opportunity for collecting it, and with the guano deposits adding a great value to the islands, it was also a most attractive solution. Perú was understandably worried about seeing its dominant position in the guano market threatened. Spain felt entitled to preferential treatment from its former colonies, and was resentful because of Ecuador’s refusal, the previous year, to sign a commercial treaty. France, like other contemporary European powers, was in the midst of imperial expansion, and had trouble accepting that an upstart power like the United States should get a foothold in an area the French regarded their sphere of influence.

With a letter dated August 9, 1855, Minister Espinel enclosed a copy of a government resolution that declared the concession granted to de Brissot and General Villamil void. The same resolution declared the agreement with the United States equally void, as the U. S. Congress had failed to ratify it.

Some recent writers have made Philo White the villain of the events of 1853-54, to the point of ignoring the unforgivable arrogance of some of his European colleagues. It was in fact the United States chargé d’affaires who behaved correctly, showing proper respect for Ecuador as a sovereign state. However, it has become increasingly fashionable to criticize the United States even when there is no reasonable cause for doing so, and White has become, as one author puts it, «an agent of American imperialism». The same author mentions as evidence of American expansionism that the United States took possession at that time of Howland, Jarvis and Baker, three remote and uninhabited islands of doubtful value, except for their guano deposits. These consisted of guano phosphate, which must be treated with sulfuric acid before it can be used as a fertilizer.

Even American scientific expeditions have been accused in latter years of being part of imperialistic plots because they visited the Galápagos. Such reading makes it a relief to know that there are also serious historical sources such as Larrea (1960), who present facts with rigorous objectivity.

During the period of President Francisco Robles, Galápagos became again news. In 1858, negotiations were considered to obtain a three million dollar loan from the United States. The Galápagos Islands were thought of as a likely security. Two opposition senators, don Gabriel García Moreno and don Pedro Moncayo, accused the government of trading off national territory to a foreign power. This was indignantly refuted by President Robles, and the matter of the loan was dropped.

Even long before this time, the French had been active in the Pacific, and several of their war ships had called at the Galápagos. Admiral Abel Aubert du Petit-Thouars, commanding the frigate La Venus, stayed among the islands from June 21 until July 15, 1838. Collections were made of plants and birds. (The admiral was a nephew of the noted botanist Louis Marie Aubert du Petit-Thouars). Not long after, in 1842, the admiral brought the Marquesas under French rule, and soon after, in 1843, the Island of Tahiti. There is a lovely, tree shaded avenue that follows the top of the beach at Taiohae, on the south coast of Nuku-Hiva Island, in the Marquesas, that bears the admiral’s name. A Galápagos cactus, Jasminocereus thouarsii is also named after him.

Captain Henri Louns, Compte de Gueydon, spent about a month in the Galápagos, in 1846, while commanding the brig Le Genie. He had instructions to look for suitable anchorages and other information that could be useful for shipping. He left a very interesting report, in which he claims that Cartago Bay, on the east side of the Perry Isthmus, on Isabela, is the only good harbor in the Galápagos.

In May 1887, the corvette Descres, commanded by Captain La Guerre, visited the Galápagos. Drawings were made of Wreck Bay (San Cristóbal) and Black Beach (Floreana). La Guerre mentions a Frenchman, M. Leon de Ituburu, as having bought a part of Floreana, but the French visitors found nobody living on the island. De Ituburu actually rented the island from Villamil’s heirs, but abandoned his plans of exploiting it.

It was in the following year, 1888, that a treaty with France was considered. The French were to be allowed to set up a supply depot on one of the islands. There were also to be facilities for servicing their ships in the Pacific, including coaling and repairs. Ecuador agreed also that no other concession would be made to other nations without offering them first to France. On May 12, a treaty was signed in Paris by don Antonio Flores Jijón, Minister Plenipotentiary of Ecuador. In Article 26 of this treaty France explicitly recognizes Ecuador’s sovereignty over the islands.

This recognition by a foreign power was of great importance to Ecuador at the time, since there had been an attempt made in the United States Senate to make it appear as if Ecuador had no formal rights over the Galápagos. This attempt was of course absurd, Ecuador having taken formal possession of the islands in 1832, an act that had never been disputed at any time by any nation. On the other hand, the United States had tacitly confirmed Ecuador’s sovereignty over the islands by presenting the Howland claim to her government and by entering into negotiations in order to obtain the guano concessions in the 1850’s.

The background for this ridiculous claim was a report written by Commissioner George Earl Church, which was presented to the United States Senate on February 15, 1883 by President Chester Alan Arthur. Church attempted to prove that Ecuador’s claim to the Galápagos was not valid. Dr. Flores, the Ecuadorian diplomat who would later sign the treaty with France, wrote the New York Herald on May 9, explaining Ecuador’s rights and the historical facts they were based on. He also pointed out what a dangerous precedent would be set by disregarding international laws and practice in such matters. Several newspapers took up the subject, fueling an unfavorable public reaction to Church’s report. Whatever purposes lay behind this report are not clear, but the matter was promptly dropped.

The treaty of 1888 was not ratified by the French. However, in 1891, both the French and the American governments requested permission to carry out scientific research in the Galápagos. In this particular case, it is reasonable to suspect that the real purpose behind this was to study the islands with their strategic position and geopolitical value in mind. As Larrea (1960) points out, the United States was considering at the time an interoceanic canal through Nicaragua, while the French were already engaged in the construction of the Panama Canal.

Any attempt to sell or lease the Galápagos to a foreign power or other foreign interests is a liability to any Ecuadorian government. The opposition will invariably make the most of the situation, making the government in power appear treacherous, regardless whether they themselves had been considering the same while running the country. In 1893, the opposition press accused Dr. Luís Cordero, then president of Ecuador, of being involved in talks with a foreign power with the purpose of selling the islands. Dr. Cordero indignantly described the accusation as absurd.

After General Eloy Alfaro had ousted the Cordero government, in 1895, the new government continued its allegations that the previous one had attempted to sell parts of the national territory. After being elected president in 1897, General Alfaro presented a letter in the National Congress, on August 27, 1898. It was dated September 26, 1895, and in it one Gustav Wilczinski proposed to arrange the sale of the Galápagos Islands to the United States. General Alfaro also informed Congress about inquiries made by the French chagé d’affaires regarding the truth of a rumor that Ecuador was selling the islands to a group of foreign powers. If this was the case, the French would be willing to offer one hundred million francs to Ecuador, to be allowed to establish a port in the Galápagos, which would be open to free international trade.

Later, the same year, on October 25, General Alfaro informed Congress that two previous governments (both conservative) had been dealing with France regarding the Galápagos Islands. These two governments were those of José María Plácido Caamaño (1884-88), and of Dr. Antonio Flores Jijón (1888-92). The latter president is the diplomat mentioned earlier, who was a son of General Juan José Flores. General Alfaro further accused General Francisco Javier Salazar of having handled the negotiations with the French, later destroying all incriminating documents that were filed at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Guayaquil press, always inclined towards the liberals, took up the matter, alleging that the conservatives had been on the verge of selling Galápagos to France.

How much of the above is true or an exaggeration of facts is hard to tell, but Dr. Antonio Flores, who had prudently removed himself to France when the liberals took power, published two pamphlets in Nice, in 1899, defending the treaty with France that he had signed as a diplomat in 1888, pointing out the benefits that could have come from this agreement, had it been ratified by the French. He also stressed the fact that Ecuador would always have remained in full control of the islands. Flores further challenged anyone to bring forth evidence that he had ever attempted to sell the Galápagos. There is no record of anyone having taken up his challenge.

On September 12, 1904, don Galo Irarrázabal, Minister Plenipotentiary of Chile, proposed a commercial treaty to the Government of Ecuador. This agreement included, among other things, the establishment of port facilities in the Galápagos, for merchant ships as well as for the navies of Ecuador and Chile. The Chileans also promised to support Ecuador’s diplomatic efforts to maintain sovereignty over the islands. The treaty was viewed with some favor in Ecuador, as relations between these two countries have always been cordial. There was also considerable distrust of the United States at the time, due to its support to the Panamanian separatists, who wanted to break away from Colombia. Panama’s independence had given the United States highly favorable conditions for the construction of the Panama Canal, which had been abandoned by the French. However, despite the favorable circumstances, the treaty with Chile was never signed.

General Eloy Alfaro had been greatly incensed by the alleged conservative efforts to sell Galápagos. Despite this, during his last presidential period, he sent out a proposal to the provincial governors, dated January 16, 1911. In it, he informed that the United States were interested in a ninety-nine year lease on the islands, in return for which Ecuador would receive the then tempting amount of fifteen million dollars. The United States promised to guarantee the territorial integrity of Ecuador.

General Alfaro pointed out that the islands had never been of any profit to Ecuador, causing on the contrary only expenses. The agricultural potential of the Galápagos was very limited, though its fisheries held great possibilities. He stressed that the strategic position of the islands would increase once the Panama Canal opened. He further visualized the archipelago as a port for bunkering and taking in supplies, serving the shipping that was to go through the canal.

Then, he warned that the strategic position of Galápagos could endanger them in a war, and that Ecuador, a small and militarily weak country, risked losing the islands, seeing them seized by some military power, without receiving any gain from their loss, which could be a permanent one. This, he argued, made the lease of the islands to the United States most desirable. It would secure the Galápagos for Ecuador, at the same time providing much needed funds for important public works on the mainland. High priority was given to the sanitation of Guayaquil, the main port of Ecuador, then notorious for yellow fever, malaria and frequent outbreaks of bubonic plague. For this project, the studies for which were already at hand, eight million dollars had been earmarked. The remaining seven million would be used for extending the existing railroad system, opening some of the richest areas of the interior. Here, it should be remembered that General Alfaro had taken much interest in completing the Quito-Guayaquil railroad, which had been inaugurated in 1908.

General Eloy Alfaro stated that he had the necessary authority to go ahead with negotiations with the United States, and that he could count on getting the treaty ratified by Congress. However, he considered the lease of such great national importance, that he felt the need to consult with the people of Ecuador. He proposed therefore that the governors get together the most prominent citizens of their respective provinces, regardless of political affiliations, to discuss with them the proposed treaty. General Alfaro ended by promising that he would bow to the decision of the citizens.

Opposition to the treaty with the United States proved stronger and more widespread than expected. However, true to his word, General Eloy Alfaro stopped negotiations. The minister of Ecuador in Washington, Dr. Rafael María Arízaga, wrote a report later that same year. He pointed out that the establishment of the Canal Zone and the military installations set up by the United States at both ends of the canal and on the offshore islands in Panama Bay provided sufficient defense for the canal. Dr. Arízaga maintained that United States interest in the Galápagos was purely a matter of preventing another power from seizing the islands for hostile purposes.

In 1914, the Germans attempted setting up a clandestine coaling depot on one of the islands. The port captain of Guayaquil was promptly sent out to demand that the Germans respect Ecuadorian neutrality. Whether this demand in itself would have done much good is debatable; but the value of their coaling depot was automatically lost once its existence was known to people other than the members of the German Navy. Furthermore, several British war vessels appeared in the area at the right moment. The battle ship Leipzig and the accompanying freighters, with their coal cargo, prudently sailed away. However, it is known that at least one German used the islands as an occasional refuge during World War One. Count Felix von Lückner called at the Galápagos several times while he operated in the Pacific.

Despite all this, the Galápagos remained a neglected and unimportant corner of the world. Still, their potential as an outpost for the defense of the Panama Canal continued to arouse sporadic interest. Occasionally, American war vessels visited the islands, frequently without the required permission from Ecuador. American tuna clippers began to operate in Galápagos waters, very often without the corresponding fishing permits. Rumors of a sale of the archipelago to the United States kept appearing regularly, most of them, if not all, lacking even a core of truth.

In the meantime, the interest of scientists for the islands had kept increasing. The visiting naturalists of the 19th century had discovered the uniqueness of the Galápagos fauna and much of their flora. As more and more scientists visited the archipelago in our own century, it was realized that the flora and fauna of these remarkable islands were in urgent need of protection; but the chances of saving any of the endangered species seemed hopeless under the existing circumstances. This impression kept alive the large scale collecting of specimens -- if the animals could not be saved, they could at least be stuffed and placed in museums for coming generations to admire. As the situation was between the turn of the century and World War Two, this seemed quite justified.

A noted Ecuadorian diplomat, don Colón Eloy Alfaro, a son of the liberal leader General Alfaro, took a keen interest in the Galápagos. He reported that several projects were being discussed in the United States, with the intention of establishing protected areas for saving endemic species from extinction. The establishment of a biological research station on one of the islands, as well as a national park were also among the projects considered. It had long been realized in Ecuador too that something must be done. In Part Three of the Regulations for Fisheries and Marine Game, published in the Registro Oficial No. 257 of August 31, 1934, most of the Galápagos fauna is placed under protection, and the islands of Hood, Barrington, Seymour, Daphne, Jervis, Duncan, Santiago, Marchena, Pinta, Tower, Culpepper and Wenman are declared natural reserves, along with the parts of Isabela north of the Perry Isthmus. In 1936 Santa Cruz was also added to this list, though a small human population was living there.

However, the scattered settlements and small garrisons that existed in Galápagos, the lack of means for patrolling the islands, and the total absence of trained personnel for the purpose, made these laws impossible to enforce, except sporadically. Also, conservation was not then by far the important subject it has become in more recent years. Even in Europe and the United States, where conservation and national parks had some support, these were not given the sort of priority they deserved, as the general public had as yet a limited awareness of their importance. It is in fact surprising that these ideas should have appealed to many Ecuadorians at a time when the country still had vast areas of wilderness, the still abundant life forms of which made wildlife appear as inexhaustible to most people. It is equally remarkable that so many foreign scientists became so greatly interested in the conservation of the Galápagos fauna.

An Ecuadorian scientist, Dr. C. A. Castro, was very active in promoting the protection of Galápagos wildlife. He succeeded in arousing the interest of Dr. John Campbell Merriam, a distinguished American paleontologist, who was at the time president of the Carnegie Institution, in Washington DC Dr. Merriam made contacts with the Government of Ecuador in 1937, receiving a very favorable reaction from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The same year, the University of Quito had sent out a scientific expedition to Galápagos. Among its members was the noted botanist Dr. Misaël Acosta-Solís, who became very active in promoting the need for conservation and protection in the Galápagos. The University of Guayaquil and the Corporación Científica Nacional were also very active.

However, the problem of funding any project of this sort, be it effective patrolling, a research station or a national park, was beyond what the Ecuadorian government could afford at the time. Schools were being built on the mainland, roads were constructed and the health services were being expanded, while other equally necessary projects were taken care of as fast as a tight budget allowed. In Ecuador, as in any other country, it would have been unthinkable and highly unpopular for any government to channel away urgently needed funds from the more populated areas of the country to finance conservation projects in a remote, sparsely populated region almost one thousand kilometers out in the Pacific. But there was sufficient interest in high places in the United States to give hope of getting funds and the necessary expertise for setting up a research station and/or a national park.

In fact, while Dr. Castro made his contacts in the United States, so was Consul C.M. Egas, who lived in California. While he kept urging his government to do something, he cultivated influential contacts at several institutions. Among these were Harry S. Swarth of the California Academy of Sciences and Robert T. Moore of the California Institute of Technology, as well as Dr. Harold J. Coolidge of the International Wildlife Committee.

There were several Americans of influence who became actively interested in the conservation problems of Galápagos, quite independently of the efforts of those who were now promoting legislation, national parks and research stations. One of these was the Hon. Gifford Pinchot, who was enthusiastic about the national park idea. He was the first professional forester of the United States, had held a number of positions with the government, and a professorship at Yale University, where he and his brother Amos had founded the Pinchot School of Forestry. after his first term as governor of Pennsylvania (1923-27), Pinchot visited the Galápagos in his yacht, in 1929. A keen conservationist, he saw at once the need to protect the islands against further depredations.

In 1935, the Charles Darwin Memorial Expedition was organized thanks to the efforts of Victor Wolfgang von Hagen, to mark the centenary of Darwin’s visit to the Galápagos. A bust of Darwin was placed at Wreck Bay, where it still can be seen in the garden of the naval base. The expedition gained favorable publicity in Ecuador, the United States and Europe. Von Hagen later continued his promotion work in the United Kingdom, where Julian Huxley helped towards organizing the London Galápagos Committee. On it were represented such leading scientific bodies as the Royal Society and the British Association. Attempts were made to raise funds for a research station in the Galápagos.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had visited the Galápagos on a presidential cruise, in 1938, was a supporter of the national park project. He was in contact with Dr. Waldo Schmidt of the Smithsonian Institution, who had been with Captain Allan Hancock’s expeditions on the Velero III. Dr. Schmidt went to Galápagos in 1941, to visit Baltra, where a laboratory and a meteorological station were planned.

Had the various efforts and projects been coordinated so that they could have been channeled into a single international project, it is quite possible that a research station and even a national park would have been created, at least on a modest scale, before the war. However, the outbreak of war in Europe, in 1939, effectively cut short all the British efforts. Dr. Schmidt’s laboratory on Baltra lost precedence to an American base on the same island, when the United States were drawn into the war. The strategic position of Galápagos for the defense of the Panama Canal and the west coast of South America was far more important at the time than the protection of the insular flora and fauna.

Shortly before the war broke out, unidentified submarines had been reported in Galápagos waters. They were believed to be Japanese. As tensions built up in Europe and Asia, new rumors spread about the Galápagos being up for sale. The government of Dr. Aurelio Mosquera Narváez (1938-39) emphatically denied such stories. A letter was sent out to all foreign stations, stating that the government rejected even the thought of leasing the Galápagos Islands. But after Pearl Harbor it was realized that a Japanese attack on South America and the Panama Canal was a distinct possibility. Ecuador, in a gesture of solidarity with the United States and with her neighbors, allowed the construction of an American base in Salinas, on the Santa Elena Peninsula, on the mainland.

Another base, as has been mentioned, was built on Baltra Island, in the central part of the archipelago. Radar stations were set up on Point Albemarle (the north end of Isabela), at Webb Cove, on the west side of the same island, and near Puerto Villamil. Another such station was also placed on the south side of Hood, the southernmost of the Galápagos. On July 15, 1946, the Galápagos bases were formally handed over to Ecuador. The 6th Army Air Force moved out its last men later in the year. During this same period, the Jefe Territorial, the army governor of the Galápagos, was replaced by a Gobernador Marítimo, a naval officer.



The American presence in the Galápagos had very little effect on the daily life of the average settler. Even on San Cristóbal, which was visited frequently and regularly by a sea going tug with a cistern barge in tow to fetch fresh water for the base, there was only a limited trade in fruits, especially limes and oranges, which are abundant on that island.

There was also a regular traffic between the base and Academy Bay, where the Americans obtained fresh vegetables. However, there has been a great exaggeration regarding the vast amount of dollars that were supposed to have been earned by the local farmers. Actually, much of the trade was done on the basis of barter, as the Americans were supposed to be getting all their supplies from the Canal Zone, and there seems to have been no budget for buying anything much from the settlers. To get around this, the vegetables were paid for in powdered milk, flour, rice, sugar and canned goods. The farmers on the island divided the orders among themselves, and the profit per farmer was therefore far from high.

A few settlers got work at the base, mostly during the construction period; but the great majority of people working there were brought out from the mainland. In fact, most settlers preferred to fish and farm as they always had done, thus spending more time with their families than would have otherwise been possible. There were however other advantages because of the base. We know of a few people who were hospitalized in the Canal Zone, and the Americans were always willing to give free medical attention and medicines from their well stocked pharmacy.

The person who benefited the most from the American presence was Kristian Stampa, one of the Norwegians from the 1926 colony. He amply deserved this, for he had struggled for years to continue fishing, while his friends in the highlands kept advising him to give up and become a farmer. When the Americans arrived, he was the only Galápagos fisherman with a fair-sized vessel (she was thirty-two feet L.O.A.) with an engine. This earned him an agreement to supply fresh fish and lobster to the base, with additional orders often coming from the Canal Zone as well. Stampa, his persistence and hard work rewarded, prospered. This prosperity also benefited others, as he was always ready to do people favors. Several of his fishermen became boat owners towards the end of the war or shortly after, largely due to Stampa’s readiness to help them with the purchase of lumber through his mainland contacts, and to get them discarded pump motors from the base, which the men overhauled and adapted for running their small boats.

However, the greatest and most lasting effect of the American presence, except for the construction of the base itself, was the water pipeline on San Cristóbal. Until the war, very few people lived in Puerto Baquerizo (Wreck Bay) because fresh water had to be carried from the interior on donkeys, in small barrels. Aside from the military garrison, the population in the bay consisted of the García family, the caretaker of the navigation beacon, the plantation storeman, and Captain Levick’s ailing widow.

As the sea water stills that the Americans installed on Baltra could not provide sufficient fresh water for the base, a pipeline was built from the small dam that had formerly provided water to the sugar refinery. The pipeline went to Progreso, thence to a reservoir that was built a little above Puerto Baquerizo. From there, the water was carried in another pipe to the end of the pier, where it was loaded in large cistern barges to be towed to the base. The Americans generously allowed the local population to supply themselves from the pipeline, thus starting a minor population boom in Puerto Baquerizo. A number of families moved down from the highlands, though they still kept their farms there. These were of course people who derived most of their income from fishing, and had a boat to look after. Thus, Puerto Baquerizo became the largest settlement in Galápagos, and remained so until the end of the 1960’s, when tourism stimulated the growth of Puerto Ayora, in Academy Bay, on Santa Cruz.

The total population of the islands grew a little during the war, mostly on account of births, and the fact that some Ecuadorian Army people became settlers. Thus, after the war, there were a number of fishermen and farmers who were being addressed as «sergeant» or «corporal», because they had once belonged to one of the garrisons. There were even two retired men with commissioned ranks on San Cristóbal.

Despite the negative attitude on the mainland to the sale or lease of the Galápagos to the United States, most Ecuadorian settlers regarded both possibilities as very attractive. Among them existed the hope that the Americans would take over the islands, for they were certain that great improvements would come in the wake of such a take-over. This hope was of course shattered when the last soldiers were flown from the base to the Canal Zone. The foreign settlers, while appreciating the advantages of an American presence, much preferred that the Galápagos remain a neglected corner of the Republic of Ecuador. After all, they had all fled from the stress of civilized living, accepting the loss of most comforts in exchange for a more peaceful existence.

But changes came increasingly without the Americans. In the 1940’s much was beginning to happen on the mainland. Road construction was greatly increased, schools began to appear in the more isolated communities, and the national health service gradually spread beyond the urban areas. These improvements also began to reach Galápagos, where new schools were built during the war and after. Even Floreana, at the time with a population of a little over forty people, got its little school at Black Beach, in the 1950’s. In the early part of that same decade, dispensaries, headed by a nurse, were set up on each inhabited island.

To increase the available number of teachers and nurses, the government launched a program of scholarships for girls living in remote areas, including the Galápagos. These girls were given the necessary training on the mainland on the condition that they serve the first two years after graduation in their home communities. Many remained of course longer, as Ecuadorians are very attached to their families.

During the army’s administration, a health service had begun to take form. While its purpose had mainly been to take care of the health of the soldiers, it also served the civilians who happened to need help. Towards the end of the 1930’s, this service consisted of a physician and a dentist, as well as one or two male nurses, all stationed at San Cristóbal. The service was free of charge even to civilians, except for a reasonable fee for materials used in dentures and fillings. Unfortunately, though both the dentist and the physician traveled around the islands whenever there was an opportunity, ships from the mainland, their main means of transportation, came out very irregularly.

This health service was continued by the navy, when they took charge of the administration in 1946. The navy’s doctor also had the supervision of the dispensaries during the first few years of their existence. Later, in the early 1960’s, a civilian dentist and a physician were sent out, the latter taking over the supervision of the dispensaries. This expanded service proved advantageous to the settlers, as the navy and the civilian health services cooperated with each other at all levels.

It was also in the 1960’s that the apostolic prefect, Mosignor Juan de Dios Campuzano, who had already founded a convent school for girls in Puerto Baquerizo, began to talk about building a hospital. Senator Pareja’s dream of a hospital in Galápagos also took a step nearer reality in that decade, when Colonel Carlos Morán Vera, head of the coastal health service, came out to look for a building site.

At the time, San Cristóbal was by far the most populated island, as well as the administrative center of the Galápagos. Nobody dreamed of the great increase in population Santa Cruz would experience in the next few years. Thus, Colonel Morán’s decision to build the hospital on Santa Cruz surprised everybody. However, the decision was a practical one, taken on San Cristóbal, while standing on the bridge of the Cristóbal Carrier, with Captain Nelson Campuzano and the author. With the chart of the islands spread out on the chart table, Colonel Morán asked questions about distances and the location of settlements, coming to the conclusion that Puerto Ayora, in Academy Bay, was centrally located with regard to the other inhabited places in Galápagos. It was also the inhabited port nearest the airstrip at Baltra. As for San Cristóbal having the largest population, the fact seemed to carry little weight, as the existing medical service was located there, and Monsignor Campuzano would soon be building a hospital at Puerto Baquerizo. As it happened, both hospitals would be built within the next few years, though it did take longer than expected.

The Franciscans had established themselves in Galápagos in 1950. The previous year, two monks, Fathers Castillo and Benavides had visited the inhabited islands, beginning their missionary work. Until then, the Church had sent out priests very sporadically. It was on January 5, 1950, that the Pope authorized the Bishop of Guayaquil to created the Apostolic Prefecture of Galápagos. The first prefect was Monsignor Pedro Pablo Andrade, who with the aid of five other Franciscan monks organized the various missions and had churches built at several locations. This work was completed in seven years.

The policy of the Franciscan missions was largely directed towards helping the settlers to a better life, rather than concentrating only on their spiritual needs. After all, the large majority were already Roman Catholic, and there was no need to convert them. In fact, the Franciscans have always been a pragmatic, down to earth order, and they gained from the very beginning the respect of even the Protestant foreigners, one of whom, Ernest Divine, gave them the Stampa farm, in the Santa Cruz highlands, which he had acquired when he bought all the Stampa properties from the latter’s widow.

There was also a complete continuity in the projects that were planned by the Franciscans. Of the several that Monsignor Andrade’s successor, Monsignor Campuzano had planned in the 1960’s, only the school for girls was completed during his prefecture. The hospital and the crafts-school for boys had to wait until Monsignor Hugolino Cerasuolo took over in 1966. Mons. Cerasuolo also started two radio stations, a museum and a fishermen’s cooperative. Many years later, he became Archbishop of Loja, in the south of Ecuador.

In the meantime, the Scandinavian community had slowly begun to decline. It had remained fairly stable after the tragic death of Trygve Nuggerud, in 1934, and while some members had left, new ones had also arrived, though in small numbers. During the war, the Swede John Lundberg passed away, and in 1945 the Icelander Walter Finsen died in his sleep. In 1947, Captain Herman Lundh lost his life in an accident. Most of the younger generation -- mainly the Lundh and Graffer boys -- began increasingly to spend long periods away from the islands. Strongly attached to the Galápagos, they could not quite break away, while seeing little future in remaining there.

In 1948, Kristian Stampa and his family -- there were three children by then -- left for Norway. Stampa had been away for twenty-two years, he was doing well, and he decided it was time for a visit to the old country. In Norway, he came in contact with a group of would-be settlers, who wanted to start a cannery on Santa Cruz. The project had been organized by Arne Christian Karlsen and Lars Karterud. The former came from a fishing village in the north of Norway, had owned a farm near Oslo, and later a lumber yard in Stavanger. After selling this business, he invested all his capital in this Galápagos venture, thus becoming its main shareholder.

Karterud and Stampa were old friends, as the former had also been one of the original Santa Cruz Norwegians. Unlike Stampa, he had left as soon as the group began to break up, traveling extensively and engaging, among other things, in the spiny lobster fisheries of South Africa.

Several of the Norwegian settlers on Santa Cruz ordered equipment and tools to be brought down on the hundred-ton Thalassa, the former yacht that had been purchased by the colonization group. The project looked indeed promising. Stampa’s and Karterud’s experience would prevent them from making the same mistakes that had led to the collapse of the 1926 project. Besides, Stampa already had a working arrangement for making all needed purchases in Guayaquil and for selling their production there.

As usual, there were delays. The group was unable to leave in September or October as had been planned. Finally, the Thalassa sailed on November 28, 1948, when the sea had become rough and conditions unfavorable for an easy passage. However, there were several good seamen aboard, including Captain Carsten Willumsen, a man reputed to be competent, who had been a master on several ships.

Soon after leaving port, the Thalassa had to return to have one of her bilge pumps repaired. While this was not the only pump of its kind on board, the members of the group had decided it was best to repair it. One of Stampa’s children had been terribly seasick, so Mrs. Stampa and the children made arrangements to travel on a whaling ship, which would take them as far as Curaçao.

There were more delays. It was found that other repairs were needed besides those on the pump. Thus, the Thalassa did not sail until December 17. Despite continuous foul weather, they arrived safely to Vigo, in the north of Spain. Here, they spent Christmas and rested from their exhausting voyage. Looking forward to the better sailing conditions farther south, the travelers sailed again in the night of December 31, in very rough seas. Just outside the harbor, the vessel was thrown by the huge waves onto a reef, where she broke in two. Only one person survived -- the ten-year old Arnhild Karlsen, whose father barely managed to get her into a life jacket before a huge wave crashed on top of them, separating them. The girl was washed ashore later, battered and cold, but without serious injuries.

The news of the Thalassa tragedy was a blow to the Santa Cruz settlers -- Ecuadorians and Europeans alike. It was not only that Stampa’s death was taken as a personal loss by everybody, but the death of all those new colonists caused considerable grief. Everybody had looked forward to welcoming them as new members in their still small community.

Towards the end of 1949, the Ecuadorian government made a decision that would change the appearance of Galápagos settlements for years to come. It had been realized that, while the American base at Salinas could be used by the Ecuadorian Navy, the one on Baltra presented serious problems. The island was then in an isolated position with regard to the inhabited parts of the archipelago, and has always depended entirely on outside sources for all its supplies, including drinking water. For this reason and many others, maintaining a base there was prohibitively expensive for a small nation, especially since there was nothing to justify such a sacrifice. Thus, the token force that had been kept there by the navy would remain all that Ecuador was willing to maintain on the little island.

This left a considerable number of wooden barracks standing empty, deteriorating in the salt air and burning sun. It was decided that it was far better to let the Galápagos settlers make use of all this lumber. With this in mind, it was announced that any family or single settler in Galápagos could apply for a house. The families were given the larger barracks, the single men the smaller ones. The only condition, aside from being a resident of the islands, was that the person or persons receiving a house had to disassemble it and arrange for its transportation.

A great majority of the settlers took advantage of this generous offer, as did the Franciscan mission. A man by the name of Falconí obtained several barracks, so that he could build the first Galápagos hotel on San Cristóbal, which with its four stories became the tallest building of the archipelago. In fact, «Baltra pine» rapidly became the most common building material in the Galápagos, even displacing the traditional mud-plastered twig constructions with roofs of sugar cane straw that were so common in Progreso and elsewhere in the San Cristóbal highlands.

Concrete blocks had already made their first appearance among the settlers in 1946. It was in that year that Sigurd Graffer built a storage building for Kristian Stampa, using this material. He made the blocks in wooden molds, using empty beer cans from Baltra as a core, to save cement. Due to the availability of «Baltra pine», concrete blocks took some time to become popular, but became increasingly so towards the end of the 1950’s.

The European population of Santa Cruz, though now a minority, was still much in evidence and gave the impression of being larger than it actually was. This was because many of the Europeans lived near the anchorage, and since they ordered most of their supplies directly from the mainland, they came aboard every arriving ship to receive their cargoes. The Norwegians however were less in evidence now, most of them living in the highlands.

The Angermeyers and Kübler still lived at Academy Bay, and several more Germans had arrived after the war -- Bernhard and Traudi Schreier, in the late 1940’s, and the Sievers in the 1960’s. All settled in the same area. (Traudi is a niece of the Angermeyers). For a short period, the Norwegian colony showed signs of recovery, with the arrival in 1951 of Rasmus Larsen, Kåre Høstland and Arthur Wiig. The three fished together, using a motor boat that Larsen had brought from Norway. However, Høstland and Wiig saw little future in the Galápagos, leaving soon. Both had considerable success in the prawn fisheries of Ecuador and Colombia, and in more recent years, raising salmon in Norway.

Rasmus Larsen eventually left for Canada, in 1955. In the meantime, two Norwegian families arrived, also to Santa Cruz. One of these, the Stenersens, gave up after a few months, while the other -- Alvhilde and Bjarne Steffensen with their four children -- remained altogether three years. Bjarne left disappointed, as he had expected fishing to be much more profitable than he found it. Only their eldest daughter, Bjørg, who had married one of the Graffer boys, remained for a few more years.

In the 1960’s began what would be the definitive decline of the Norwegian population. Early in the decade, the Graffer boys saw the islands for the last time. In 1965, Captain Lundh’s widow, Helga, died on Santa Cruz, and their eldest son, Jacob, who had been living on San Cristóbal, left with his wife María Isabel and their children. In the next few years, several more Norwegians left or died, so that by the 1980’s there remained only the Guldberg sisters on San Cristóbal and Thorvald Kastdalen on Santa Cruz. But even these are now gone, Karin Guldberg Cobos being the last one to pass away, on January 14, 1996. The only descendants of the Norwegian settlers remaining in the islands are her eldest and youngest son, Dagfin and Tito, and their children, on San Cristóbal. On Santa Cruz, the Kastdalen name survives thanks to Thorvald’s two grandchildren, Torbaldo and María.

Europeans other than the Norwegians and the Germans also came to the islands from time to time. In the 1940’s the Swiss Roberto Schiess and Adolfo Coray settled on Santa Cruz, the latter with is wife and daughter. Both had lived several years on the mainland and were fluent in Spanish. Schiess late married a Swiss lady. They had three children, who are still living on the island. Another Swiss settler, who had also lived a number of years on the mainland before settling on Santa Cruz, Adolfo Haeni, set up a carpentry shop in Pelican Bay, where he also grew coconuts, figs and grapes. All three men have since died.

Americans usually came to Galápagos only as visitors, mostly on yachts. There had been an American living in the Santa Cruz highlands for several years, in the earlier part of this century. A very few others had come and given up after a brief stay. Worth mentioning are Ainslie and Frances Conway, who lived a few months at James Bay, on Santiago, then for a period on Floreana. Shortly after the war, the Conways made a second attempt at settling in James Bay, but had to leave because of Ainslie’s failing health. In fact, it is Ernest (Bud) Divine and his wife Doris who can be described as the first long time American settlers in the Galápagos.

Divine had been stationed on Baltra during the final months of the American base there. As he worked on the tugboat, he had the opportunity to visit both Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal, befriending some of the Europeans on the former island. After his discharge, Divine came out from the Canal Zone on his ketch, the Symbol, bringing along his wife. Both became very friendly with several of the settlers, and were warmly welcomed when they made their second visit, on their way to the Marquesas, in 1949. They never made it to their destination, remaining on Santa Cruz, where they bought the Stampa properties. Years later, the Divines raised horses in the highlands, until Bud’s death, in the early 1980’s.

A second American, Forrest Nelson, first came to the Galápagos as a yachtsman, in the early 1950’s. Later in the decade, he returned, marrying Friedel, Elfriede and Jacob Horneman’s daughter. The Nelsons sold their yacht and became settlers in 1960, when they began building the first hotel on Santa Cruz, at Eden, a property they had bought from Sigurd Graffer. Nelson later bought up several fine properties along the shore, between Eden and Pelican Bay. The hotel is now operated by Nelson’s son Jack, who took over when Nelson moved to Thailand. Friedel lives now in the north of Norway, with her second husband, Per Vonka, and their three children.

A number of Belgians arrived to Santa Cruz towards the end of the 1950’s, few of them remaining long. One of them, Edgar Pots, with his wife and two daughters, stayed several years, and worked for the Charles Darwin Research Station, before moving to the mainland. Another Belgian family, Jacqueline and André De Roy, and their two children, remained on Santa Cruz for good.

After the unfortunate Thalassa venture, there were no further Norwegian colonization projects. However, in 1950, a small group of young Ecuadorians arrived to Santa Cruz. They brought with them two rowboats, with the purpose of fishing, and had plans to start a farm in the highlands as well. All were city boys with no experience in fishing, agriculture or any other form of physical work. They were also very short on capital. Soon, they had sold their boats, most of them returning to the mainland. A very few of them remained a little longer, working for some of the local boat owners. Only one stayed, Arturo Ramírez de Luca, who started a farm in the highlands, and built a house near the seashore. Two other members of the group returned in the early 1960’s. These were Gustavo Negrete Plaza and Max Castillo Celi. Negrete did not remain for long, moving eventually to the United States, while Castillo started raising cattle in the Santa Cruz highlands. During this same period, Julio and Jorge Herrería Malta and their wives spent several years on Santa Cruz. Jorge sold his farm to Eric Lundh, Captain Lundh’s younger son, in the early 1950’s.

Another colonization project was organized on the mainland towards the end of the 1950’s. Behind it was Oswaldo Chapi, a former farmer and cattle hunter in the Santa Cruz highlands. By 1959, this group had obtained government lands in the vicinity of Santa Rosa, in the western parts of the Santa Cruz highlands. This was not a tightly organized group like the previous projects, being more of a common interest organization. Each member remained independent and responsible for his own survival. Each member got a two-hundred hectare claim, which he could develop as he wanted -- agriculture, cattle raising or whatever.

Several of the foreign settlers also joined the Santa Rosa group, among them Ernest Divine, who raised horses, and Roberto Schiess, who raised cattle. From the 1960’s on, cattle was becoming increasingly important on the island, the farmers going more and more over to this activity. In fact, at present, most of the moist region outside the National Park, which owns a relatively small area to the west, is covered with grasses, there being very little left of the original woodland.

It was in 1959 that Fruit Trading Corporation of Esmeraldas set up an increasingly regular ship service between the Galápagos and Guayaquil. The initial reason for this had nothing to do with fruit -- the company exported bananas -- but was wholly related to cattle. The company had decided to set up a cattle ranch at Iguana Cove, on the SW side of Isabela.

Apart from the workers Fruit Trading Corporation had in the area, there was an agronomist by the name of Mayorga, who settled at Iguana Cove at about the same time, as well as an American, Dr. Roy Sudbury, who arrived a little later, after attempting to settle inside the main crater of Fernandina. After Mayorga abandoned Iguana Cove, there was an eruption east of this area, which led to the abandonment of the cattle project, though the Fruit Trading Corporation camp never was in any danger. Dr. Sudbury remained until his death, which took place a few years later.

1959 was indeed a year of great expectations in the Galápagos, especially on Santa Cruz. There were persistent rumors that a biological research station would be built on the island, that there was a project to develop tourism to the Galápagos, and that a large American company was about to become established in the archipelago. For a change, there was a considerable amount of truth behind such rumors. Fruit Trading Corp. was considering several projects besides the cattle ranch at Iguana Cove. There was the exploitation of the salt mine at James Bay, on Santiago, and the possibility of a few hotels being built on the islands.

Folke Anderson, the Swedish managing director of Fruit Trading Corporation, discussed his Galápagos projects with the naturalist and traveler Rolf Blomberg, who had visited the Galápagos several times since 1934. He also sought advice from the Hon. Ivan Bohman, Consul General of Sweden in Guayaquil. Both recommended that he contact the author, which he did towards the end of January 1959. This resulted in the former making two trips to the Galápagos, followed by reports and meetings at Timbre, one of Anderson’s plantations in Esmeraldas.

Among other things, it was proposed that a large yacht be used instead of the two or three hotels originally planned by Anderson. The argument against these was that, should the project fail, it was easy to take the yacht elsewhere and sell it, while the hotels would become a total loss. It was agreed that the most practical way to handle tourism would be to fly the visitors from the mainland, then meet them with the yacht at Baltra, to take them around the islands.

On his second trip, towards the end of April, the author made a report on the salt mine at James Bay. Anderson was already negotiating with the owners, the heirs of don Darío Egas Sánchez, who held a claim to the whole west side of the island. Unfortunately, no agreement was reached.

In February of 1960, the author was appointed agent for Fruit Trading Corporation in the Galápagos. The ship service between Guayaquil and the islands was thus continued on a regular basis, mainly by means of the Cristóbal Carrier. An attempt was made to send out the ship at twenty-day intervals, but this proved too unprofitable. However, a regular monthly service was maintained, with schedules set up for six months at a time. The sailing dates were rigorously kept, except on two occasions, when unexpected and extensive repairs had to be made on the ship. For Galápagos, this was an extraordinary record, especially if we consider that this happened over a period of six years.

With tourism in mind, a daughter company was organized later in the year -- Compañía Ecuatoriana de Turismo Galápagos S. A. (CETUGA). Unfortunately, tourism never went beyond carrying a few visitors around on the Cristóbal Carrier, which got most of her income from the regular cargo and passengers provided by the islands. The projects discussed with Anderson in Esmeraldas in 1959 never became a reality. A disease wiped out the company’s three plantations -- as well as many others -- and all available funds had to be diverted into converting the plantations into cattle ranches with adequate port facilities and everything else, besides the cattle.

There are of course those who have complained about the Cristóbal Carrier and her lack of comforts. This seems incredible when coming from people who had traveled between the mainland and Galápagos in earlier years, for compared to previous ships, the Carrier was pure luxury, with her clean toilets that actually worked, hot and cold fresh water in the showers, clean bedding, and abundant good food. The cuisine was not fancy -- just varied, good Ecuadorian home cooking, which is considered by many foreigners to be excellent. The crew and officers were always friendly and helpful. All this continued until after CETUGA folded up and the José Ricaurte Agency took over the Guayaquil end of the operation. Shortly after this, the author resigned, in March 1965, to take charge of a fishing operation in the Gulf of Guayaquil. The ship continued sailing to the Galápagos for another year or two, while a regular air service became established.

The year of 1959 was also one of other important beginnings. A civilian administration was established, headed by a civilian governor, who had a small police force to back him. This administration had actually been slowly taking shape since the early 1950’s, with the establishment of dispensaries on all the inhabited islands. Not long after this, a teniente político was appointed, first on Isabela, later on Santa Cruz. This civilian official is in charge of the civil registry and performs weddings. In small communities and in the countryside, he often has police duties as well. He may be roughly described as both a sheriff and a justice of the peace.

The first officials of this kind were don Bolívar Gil (a grandson of don Antonio Gil) on Isabela, and don Miguel Suárez Checa on Santa Cruz. Both were boat owners and fishermen. The first civilian governor, who took possession in 1959, was don Bolívar Naveda, a Quito journalist who had visited the islands some years earlier, writing a book about them.

The large American company that was to establish itself on the Galápagos turned out to be a colonization project similar to the Norwegian ones. This group had been organized by Donald Harrsch, an unemployed tugboat master in Seattle. He had become increasingly aware of the negative sides of modern society, and decided to get together a group of people with similar ideas, to start a new and better society elsewhere. There is no question that Harrsch was an idealist with the best of intentions and a sincere belief in his dream. That he failed through a combination of bad luck, limited capital and overly optimistic expectations was not entirely his fault. These were the same factors that had caused the collapse of other such projects and, unfortunately for Captain Harrsch, there had been no records available for him to learn from their errors.

Harrsch was definitely not a pot-smoking hippie, though he may have been something of a dreamer, yearning for a society where human values would take precedence over gain; where everybody worked to create a better life not only for him- or herself, but also for the group as a whole. An advertisement in a newspaper brought together the first few members of the group, as well as the first contributions of two thousand five hundred dollars, which was the share paid by each family. Even by 1958 values, and considering the purposes of the project, this was a modest amount to pay for membership. The first meetings were held in the basement of the Harrsch home, but the group grew fast, making it soon necessary to rent an office and legalize the project. It was registered under the rather fanciful name of Filiate Science Antrorse Island Development Company.

Donald Harrsch had long since decided on the Galápagos as the site for his social experiment. He reckoned that catching spiny lobster, fishing tuna, and growing coffee would provide a good economic foundation for his colony. He also counted on being able to produce most of the food needed by the settlers. As future possibilities he contemplated cattle raising and tourism. It must be said that all these projects were within the feasible in the Galápagos.

A sociologist at the University of Washington, Dr. Stuart C. Dodd, became interested in the Harrsch venture, providing him with much free advice, though he seems never to have considered joining the group. Eighty-three families joined up, and though the initial plans had considered one hundred as a goal, no further recruiting was carried out.

At this stage, it became necessary for Captain Harrsch to visit Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands, to make preliminary arrangements and to find a site for the colony. He, Clarence Elliot (one of the future settlers) and the latter’s son visited Quito, Guayaquil and San Cristóbal, signing an agreement with don Lorenzo Tous Jr. to buy the properties held by Sociedad Nacional de Galápagos on the island. The plantation, which was now producing a considerable amount of coffee, was to be purchased for one hundred and ten thousand dollars. The freezer plant at Puerto Baquerizo and all its annexes -- several dwellings, a mechanical workshop, storage facilities, fuel tanks and a dock -- would go to the Americans for two hundred thousand dollars. The freezer plant, which had stood idle for several years, would be overhauled and handed over in working condition. The Americans paid a deposit of thirty thousand dollars to close the deal. This last amount was later returned to them by don Lorenzo, when the group gave up.

Strictly speaking, the Sociedad Nacional de Galápagos could not legally enter into this agreement with the Americans. As we have previously seen, the plantation itself could not be sold to foreign citizens and/or enterprises. At this stage, the properties in Puerto Baquerizo were in a similar situation, as existing laws did not allow foreigners to own property less than fifty kilometers from the seashore or from international borders. In practice, this restriction had seldom been observed, but it could have left the Americans wide open to confiscation.

During the 1960 elections there were those who were convinced that don Lorenzo ran for senator just to use this position to obtain some sort of dispensation for the Americans from the National Congress, allowing them to hold properties despite existing restrictions. However this may be, don Lorenzo lost the election to the popular incumbent, don Manuel Pareja Concha, something he never forgave the islanders. This was unfair of him, as he was hardly known outside San Cristóbal and, despite this, lost by a surprisingly narrow margin.

Island Development then purchased two ships -- the Alert, a thirty-year old tuna clipper, one hundred-foot length over all, which cost them 13,500.00 dollars cash, and the Western Trader, a hundred and thirty-foot freezer vessel, which cost thirty-two thousand dollars, also cash. The Alert sailed from Seattle with seven families, consisting of eleven minors and nineteen adults. Donald Harrsch sailed as her master. The Alert arrived to San Cristóbal on March 16, 1960.

Captain Harrsch had counted on taking back twenty tons of lobster tails, which he expected would produce a net profit of forty thousand dollars when sold in Seattle. We cannot say whether a fishing permit had been secured or not, but it would have made little difference. The Alert had arrived while the fishing season was still on, making it difficult to secure a local crew who knew where to find the lobsters. Besides, the most experienced lobster fishermen were already fully engaged on the Villamil, a freezer vessels operated by don Miguel Seminario Gómez, a gentleman from Guayaquil, who was running an efficient and successful all year operation.

To make matters impossible for the Americans, the refrigeration equipment on the Alert broke down. The alternative of buying and/or catching lobsters for the next voyage of the Alert was considered, but proved impossible as the freezer plant had not been overhauled as promised and needed extensive repairs. Thus, after a short visit to Santa Cruz, the Alert set course for Seattle, leaving behind the first small group of hopeful settlers on San Cristóbal, where they worked with great enthusiasm, repairing the dwellings near the plant, installing cooking facilities and a large, airy mess hall above the latter, plus a number of other improvements.

The Western Trader was supposed to sail from San Diego a week after the Alert had left Seattle. Instead, news kept arriving about constant delays in obtaining the visas for the settlers who were to travel on the Trader. These delays had no reasonable explanation, as the settlers who already were on the islands had been in exactly the same situation and had had no difficulty getting their visas. These constant delays have been attributed to the 1960 elections, during which part of the left wing politicians on the mainland claimed that Island Development was an instrument of «American imperialism» and had been created for the express purpose of taking Galápagos away from Ecuador, «in the same manner as was done with Texas, when it was taken from Mexico». There were however others of the same political hue, who saw the American settlers in a wholly different light. These interpreted their colonization project as a rejection of the American capitalist system, applauding this attempt at establishing a cooperativist society on the islands.

Whatever the reasons, these delays caused serious problems for the Americans, and contributed in a considerable measure to their eventual failure. Trusting that they would obtain their visas within a reasonable time, as had their companions on the Alert, those on the Trader had quit their jobs and, in many cases, sold their homes and other assets. Unknowingly, they had burnt their bridges before crossing them.

Thus, seventy-eight human beings found themselves confined -- men, women and children -- within the limited space of a small ship, which originally provided comfortable accomodations for a very small crew. Here, the weeks became months, and frictions and antagonisms built up tensions that would survive for as long as these people were together. The situation also increased the company’s expenses far beyond what had been allowed for, since Island Development had to provide for all these members, who had been urged to settle their affairs and make ready to travel.

Three cases of hepatitis caused panic aboard the Trader. The sick had to be hospitalized, while everyone else aboard got gammaglobulin shots. Then, at long last, the visas arrived, and the group made ready to begin the long awaited voyage to the promised land. But a new problem appeared unexpectedly. The Ecuadorian authorities demanded a heavy import duty on all equipment, machinery and even personal effects. This is at least as surprising as the delay of the visas. Prospective immigrants were always allowed to bring their personal belongings and household goods into the country without paying duty. As for machinery and equipment, it was then quite usual to request and get a dispensation from the government so as to pay no duty for their importation, if they were to be used in agriculture, industry or fishing. This was a routine formality in Ecuador at the time. Obviously, some official (or officials) who did not know their job or felt ill-will towards the Americans was or were behind the problem, which even then could have been solved, had Island Development’s lawyers in Ecuador looked after their clients’ interests. In any case, much useful equipment was left behind.

Then, twenty-eight members of the group had to be left behind as well. The harbor officials in San Diego, who had been watching for months how all these people lived aboard the ship, suddenly decided that the Western Trader was too small for them. Still, bureaucratic stupidity notwithstanding, the organizers of Island Development had their share of blame, as they should have investigated, months earlier, how many passengers would be allowed aboard the ship.

The master of the Western Trader was Captain Lloyd Van Kirk, a former naval officer. Though recognized even by his detractors as a competent seaman, he enjoyed little if any popularity with the settlers, who seem to have resented his attempts at maintaining some semblance of order on the ship. The voyage to Galápagos took seventeen days, which is a good time for a ship like the Trader, especially if one considers that she was towing a clumsy, square-bowed landing barge that was to be used for lobster fishing.

The tensions accumulated during the long sojourn in San Diego became unbearable during the voyage. Despite this, many of those coming on the Trader were more than willing to repeat this unpleasant voyage, returning to the United States on the ship, rather than remaining on the Galápagos. The desolate lowlands of Puerto Baquerizo simply scared them away. Some even went so far that they did not even go ashore, fearing that if they did, their places on the Trader would be taken by those who had arrived on the Alert. Most of them listened with considerable suspicion to the latter’s descriptions of the fertile highlands.

A few of the braver ones did however move ashore with the intention of staying, while a few others took the risk of landing to wash their clothes and take fresh water baths, always making sure to leave behind some family member to watch that their places on the ship were not taken. They need not have worried. Those who had landed with the intention of staying did so, while those from the Alert still believed in the project. Thus, there were a number of free places available on the Trader when she sailed.

Unfortunately for those who had remained aboard, they would soon regret their decision. Outside the coast of Guatemala, the ship lost its screw, and they were left helplessly adrift, until a tugboat could be contacted to tow them to Salina Cruz, in Mexico, where the ship remained tied to a dock for several months. Neither the Alert nor the Western Trader ever returned to the Galápagos as planned.

Bad luck, plus the usual errors, errors largely caused by a lack of knowledge of conditions in the islands and in Ecuador, led to the final collapse of Island Development. The shareholders, who most likely would have committed the same mistakes and got the same results, voted to have Captain Donald Harrsch replaced by Alex Reuss as president of the company. Reuss was soon replaced in his turn by Galen Kaufman, one of the shareholders living on San Cristóbal.

Kaufman was a sensible, intelligent person who had all the qualities needed to save the project. Unfortunately, he was elected a few months too late to do much good. Funds were by then low and those remaining on the island had largely lost their faith in the project. As early as in October of 1960, a small group of settlers had already left for the mainland, to continue on their way to the United States. The following month, another group left. Soon after, two families moved over to Santa Cruz. Of these, Roger McGough and his family remained two or three years. So did Eddy Niles, who joined them a little later. All these Santa Cruz Americans made a modest living from fishing, during the time they remained on the island.

The few who remained on San Cristóbal after Kaufman was elected president of the company, were just continuing the enjoyment of what they had come to regard as a lengthy and exotic vacation. These four or five families had not sold their homes as so many others, and had joined the project with the thought that, should it fail, it would still be an interesting experience that was worth the investment in time and money.

Despite the language barrier, the Americans made many friends on San Cristóbal. The local population had a friendly attitude towards Americans, developed from contacts with visiting yachtsmen, the crews of California tuna clippers, and the U.S. military from the base at Baltra. The Island Development people, on their part, showed great interest in the local people and were prompt to join in such community projects as the annual cleaning of the water pipeline and the reservoir. Everybody was sad to see the American settlers leave.

Looking back, it can be seen that there was a certain loss of interest among the Americans for their project at an earlier stage than what was apparent at the time. The first group -- those who arrived on the Alert -- worked very hard to get the houses ready, to improve the path to the village, and do all the other tasks that were necessary to better conditions for themselves and those who were later to arrive on the Western Trader. Then, they appeared to run out of purpose and energy, probably discouraged by the unexpected difficulties that appeared one after another.

The lobster shipment that the Alert did not get, the freezer plant that was not working -- and was impractical because of its enormous, single, two hundred-ton chamber -- the delays and other problems of the Western Trader, and the failing economy that resulted from it all must have appeared to most of the members as the inevitable death of their project. We have mentioned the few who made a new attempt by moving to Santa Cruz. Another optimist who did not easily give up was Donald Harrsch himself -- if one is to believe the rumors that reached Galápagos. After he was deposed as president of the company he had founded, it is said that he tried to organize a new group of idealistic people, with whom he wanted to start a colony in the upper Amazon.

The exploitation of the salt mine at James Bay finally started in 1963, while President Carlos Julio Arosemena Monroy was still in power. The heirs of don Darío Egas Sánchez obtained a contract to supply salt to the state monopoly, at a price that made it profitable to reopen the mine on the west side of Santiago. This mine is located at the bottom of an extinct crater, in a low mountain that hugs the south side of the lava flow that divides James Bay in two parts. This low mountain is about two kilometers from the shore and more or less three from the best landing beach, in the south of the bay.

The salt is at the bottom of a shallow lake, forming strata that are separated from one another by thin layers of compacted mud, the result of the silt washing down the rather steep inner side of the crater during rainy periods. In «Niño years», when the rains prevent salt from forming in the salt pans of the inhabited islands, the fishermen would travel to James Bay, to supply themselves with salt from this crater.

At such times, the water level in the crater may be two or more meters high because of the rains, and the men had to dive, breaking up the layers with crowbars. The resulting chunks of salt were piled up on a small raft, to be taken later to the shore to drain. The next operation was to fill the salt in jute sacks, which were carried up the almost vertical crater side, with the warm season sun burning mercilessly from above into the windless crater. While carrying the salt up the steep slope, the men could not use shoes, as they needed their toes to help them up the slippery, hard-packed dirt, which was wet with the brine from their loads and the sweat from their bodies. This hard work and the irritated eyes that smarted from the brine made this job extremely unpleasant.

The outside slope of the volcano is much gentler on the side where the trail went down to the foot of the hill. However, carrying the heavy sacks all the way to the shore in the heat was still hard work. Then, before the salt could be used, it had to be pounded into small fragments, so that it would dissolve fast enough to prevent the fish from decaying in the warm weather of the fishing season. It is not surprising that the people of Isabela, who had an abundance of mangroves, would prefer to use their wood to cook the brine from their flooded salt pans, producing the most beautiful salt that can be imagined, consisting of tiny, perfect crystals of a lovely pink coloration.

The James Bay salt is of a very high quality, its reputation being very good even on the mainland. According to don Darío Weisson, who was superintendent of the mine, it has a 98% content of sodium chloride. His grandfather, don Darío Egas, had obtained a concession on the lands west of an imaginary line extending from Buccaneer Cove to Cape Nepean -- i.e. the west coast of the island. This happened in 1922. However, it was not until 1926 that he could get a contract with the state monopoly profitable enough to make it worthwhile to work the mine. The salt pans at Salinas, on the Santa Elena Peninsula had flooded, drastically reducing salt production on the mainland.

Don Darío Egas had a winch installed on the southeastern side of the crater rim, at the point where the mountain is most accessible from the surrounding terrain, making it possible to carry the salt down to the shore with carts. From 1926 until 1928, the year the Salinas production returned to normal, the Egas mine produced thirty-two thousand hundredweight bags of salt. Then, the government, having again an abundant supply on the mainland, rescinded the contract. James Bay was abandoned, but the remains of the winch still stand on the rim of the crater.

It was with great difficulty that the children and grandchildren of don Darío Egas managed to obtain a new contract with the government. They finally succeeded under the presidency of Dr. Arosemena. In 1963, don Darío Weisson Egas, whom we mentioned above, came out to begin work in James Bay. He set up a bunkhouse for the workers and a small prefabricated bungalow for the staff and an office. Later, he had a house built of concrete blocks above the landing beach. This was to be the residence of a port captain, who was to be sent over by the Ecuadorian Navy. This house was never finished, and still stands there, roofless and abandoned, like the winch at the crater rim, a silent warning to those who expect to do long term business with the government.

With a motor grader, a road was built from the landing beach to the camp and then inland to the crater. The section inside the crater required however a considerable amount of explosives, due to the very hard rock that was found under the soft surface. Another road was built behind Sugar Loaf Mountain to a small bight that it had been hoped would make a good landing, but it proved too exposed.

Water was of course a constant problem. It was brought each month on the Cristóbal Carrier, a small concrete reservoir was built at the main spring, on the western slopes of Sugar Loaf Mountain, and a still was improvised from galvanized piping and fifty-gallon fuel drums. This last piece of equipment was operated sporadically with the help of the abundant heartwood from long dead trees that lay scattered all over the landscape.

A seemingly abundant supply of fresh water was discovered in a most unexpected place. While taking a sample core in the middle of the salt lake, don Darío Weisson was shocked to see a spout of water issuing from the hole. The water was completely fresh. However, it was in a very wrong place, so he hastened to have the hole plugged with concrete. But it also made him consider the possibility of finding water somewhere along the shore of the lake. After several attempts, brackish water was found. Its quality was rather poor, but it could be used for cooking and washing.

The project remained, for as long as it lasted, completely dependent on outside supplies, except for some goat meat and fish. Most food was brought from Guayaquil, and a little from the other islands. No attempt was made to grow anything in the moist highlands, something don Darío Egas also had failed to do, in the 1920’s.

Unfortunately, after Dr. Arosemena fell to a military coup, the junta that took over, presided by Admiral Ramón Castro Jijón, demonopolized salt, causing the mainland price to collapse. This happened shortly before the first shipment from Santiago was ready. The company continued however to send salt to the mainland, while waiting for some machinery that had been ordered from Germany, to be used in the production of iodized table salt. This would have been the first such salt produced in Ecuador, where the lack of iodine is a problem in many inland areas. The machinery was delayed, and negotiations to refinance the company’s debt with the Banco Nacional de Fomento (Ecuador’s development bank) were drawn out over such a long time that the company had to close down. The western part of Santiago was taken over by the bank, which in turn handed it over to the government later, and it became, like the rest of the island, a part of the National Park.

Around the middle of the 1960’s, Galápagos tourism looked like wishful thinking. A few tourists had arrived on the Cristóbal Carrier, as did a few scientists, the latter often making the tour of the islands before or after their stay at the Charles Darwin Research Station, which had been attracting researchers since 1960, before it had any facilities to speak of. These passengers however were too few to make much difference to the income of the Cristóbal Carrier. It was often said at the time that it would still be some ten to twenty years before anything could be done with tourism.

As it happened, we were all wrong. In the final years of the decade, things started to happen. Tour operators like Metropolitan Tours invested in luxury yachts, TAME -- the air service operated by the Ecuadorian Air Force -- began regular flights to the Galápagos, local fishermen began to modify their boats for charter trips around the islands, and small hotels and restaurants appeared here and there. The pioneers like Forrest Nelson on Santa Cruz and the Wittmers on Floreana finally saw their hotels becoming good, steady sources of income.

In two or three years, tourism suddenly became an environmental problem of some importance. Fortunately, the National Park had become a reality, and the Charles Darwin Research Station was already in place to give advice and help. These two organizations also trained tourist guides and the park had a numbers of wardens. The tourist operators -- most of them -- were prompt to cooperate, realizing that conservation is essential to maintaining the islands as a tourist attraction.

Unfortunately, as we shall see in the next two chapters, the conservation of Galápagos nature is an endless job, and those doing it will never be able to relax, as there will ever be those willing to imperil and even destroy what is beautiful and unique in order to make a short term profit.



Towards the end of the 1950’s considerable changes could be noticed in the Galápagos environment, both on the inhabited islands as well as on a number of the uninhabited ones. Even visiting scientists who came to the islands for the first time were alarmed at some of the changes, which had been for some time sadly obvious to those long-time residents who were aware of what happened around them. A complete picture of the situation would require considerable space, so only a few examples will be mentioned here.

Most tortoise populations had been brought close to extinction, a few having disappeared entirely. Considering the merciless exploitation these reptiles had been subjected to since the days of the whalers and other hunters, it is indeed amazing that there were any left. More so if one considers the continuing destruction of eggs and young by introduced animals such as rats, dogs and pigs.

Large colonies of land iguanas had been partly or totally destroyed, more often than not by humans, some as early as at the turn of the century or possibly before. Marine iguanas had disappeared from the shore settlements, except for two or three much reduced populations that still survived on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz. Doves and hawks, once so numerous around this settlement, had nearly disappeared from the island as a whole.

Plant life had suffered greatly from human activity, especially because of land clearing and, on Floreana and San Cristóbal, from the introduction of the aggressive guava, which had practically taken over the highlands on both these islands. Goats, pigs, cattle and donkeys had caused even greater destruction than humans and over much more extensive areas. That the guava had spread so successfully on Floreana and San Cristóbal can most likely be explained by the more open woodland that had resulted from early agricultural activity and even more from the destruction of the formerly dense undergrowth by the foraging and movements of cattle and pigs.

It may be of interest to mention the case of Santa Cruz. Colonization, except for a very few and minor attempts, had taken place here much later than on the other inhabited islands. The population of Santa Cruz remained also very small until fairly late, increasing significantly only after the 1970’s. Feral animals, except for donkeys, were introduced in the second half of the 1920’s. This island is relatively large and had a very dense vegetation in most parts, including much of the lowlands. Despite this, the deterioration of the vegetation was surprisingly fast. This has an explanation. As wild dogs were a rather late introduction, there were no predators to limit the number of introduced animals. There were no mortal diseases affecting them, and few of the small number of inhabitants engaged in regular hunting.

As late as in the 1940’s the highland settlers who hunted regularly maintained hunting trails, as this much reduced the work of cutting their way through the dense undergrowth that existed in most parts. However, the cattle and pigs were already beginning to change this situation, as their increasing numbers moved through the vegetation, making more animal trails, and feeding on the plant life. In addition, several dry years in the 1940’s and the natural increase in numbers caused the goats and donkeys to move up towards the highlands.

At the beginning of 1947, while camping at Conway Bay, in the NW of Santa Cruz, Kristian Stampa was much surprised to find goat droppings in that area. He had lived on the island since 1926 and never before found evidence of goats in the northern parts of the lowlands. However, in the next decade, sightings of goats and donkeys became increasingly common even in the highlands, sometimes as high up as the open grasslands.

The members of the California Academy of Sciences Expedition of 1905-06 could not penetrate the higher parts of Santa Cruz on account of the dense undergrowth. (Slevin, 1931). In 1953 the author and two friends, accompanied by a donkey carrying equipment and supplies, went on a three-day excursion into the SE part of the highlands of Santa Cruz. The forest had by then become so open, that the machetes were only used for cutting an occasional blaze to help find the way back. The following year, a shorter hike was made into the SW parts of the highlands. Conditions here were found to be similar.

Still, Galápagos remained surprisingly pristine in 1954, when Dr. Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, a young ethologist from the Max-Planck Institute, visited the Galápagos. He detected enough evidence of damage to cause him concern. He also realized that the presence of man and introduced animals made certain that the destruction would continue at an increasing pace. Eibl-Eibesfeldt sent a report on his observations to the Ecuadorian Government and to the Union for the Protection of Nature -- which was later renamed International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). He also made other contacts to obtain support for a research station in the Galápagos, thus resurrecting the project that had been cut short by the war. Among his contacts was Dr. Robert I. Bowman of San Francisco, who had spent several months in the islands (1952-53), gathering material for his outstanding paper on the Galápagos finches. (Bowman, 1961). Dr. Bowman would later play an important role in the formation of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galápagos Islands (CDFG), in which he served as Secretary for the Americas during its early years. Other key persons behind the Foundation were Sir Julian Huxley and Prof. Misaël Acosta-Solís.

This time there was a much wider and more effective support for a research station than there had been before the war. Things got rapidly under way. Jean Delacour and S. Dillon Ripley went to Quito on behalf of the International Council for Bird Preservation to obtain approval for establishing a research station in the Galápagos. It was most fortunate that the Assistant Secretary of the IUNC, Mme. Marguerite Caram, also became involved with the project at such an early date. She contributed enormously to the coordination of the different efforts in favor of the research station. (Corley Smith, 1990). Mme. Caram also obtained aid from UNESCO, which contributed with crucial financial support during the early, difficult years of the Station.

With the backing of UNESCO and Life Magazine, a five-month expedition was sent to the Galápagos, consisting of Dr. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Dr. Bowman, Alfred Eisenstaedt (photographer), and Rudolf Freund (artist). A survey of the animal life and recommendations for the construction of the research station were the goals of this mission. Two settlers who are thoroughly familiar with Galápagos, Karl Angermeyer and Miguel Castro, accompanied the group around the islands. (Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1959; Bowman, 1961).

While it still remained urgent to protect the insular environment from destruction, it was found that most animal species survived in sufficient numbers to offer considerable hope. A site for the research station was chosen at the beautiful lagoon of Tortuga Bay. It was an excellent location, provided a road could be built from the village of Puerto Ayora, to the east of it. The road was essential because the entrance to the lagoon is dangerous when the seas outside it get rough, huge breakers blocking the channel. Eibl-Eibesfeldt presented a concise and very accurate report on the state of the Galápagos fauna. (Eibl-Eibesfeldt, 1959).

In 1958 the 15th International Congress of Zoology met in London to celebrate the centenary of the publication of Darwin’s and Wallace’s theories of evolution. Both Eibl-Eibesfeldt and Bowman presented reports and proposals. (Corley Smith, 1990). The Congress gave unanimous support to the Galápagos project, and K. Curry-Lindahl, who headed the section on conservation, became later actively engaged in the resulting Charles Darwin Foundation. The same year, Prof. Jean Dorst of the Muséum National d’Historie Naturelle of Paris was sent by UNESCO to negotiate the first agreement with Ecuador. (Corley Smith, 1990).

The support from UNESCO became vital for the construction and operation of the research station. Another important supporter in the early stages, both with economic aid and advice, was the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). An organization committee of supporters was established, with Sir Julian Huxley as its chairman. Among the dedicated members of this committee was Prof. Victor Van Straelen, who was a key person in the formation of the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galápagos Islands, which was created as an international, independent organization on July 23, 1959. Van Straelen, who had organized the Congo National Park and had been engaged many years in conservation, became the Foundation’s first president.

These auspicious beginnings did not hide the difficulties that lay ahead. A good general picture of the state of the Galápagos fauna had been given by Eibl-Eibesfeldt’s report, but the actual work of conservation demanded more detailed information. Gathering such data in turn demanded certain facilities -- a laboratory, dwellings, office space, means of transportation. With limited funds, priorities had to be worked out. This as well required considerable data. The feeling that time and opportunity were slipping away too fast would accompany everyone involved with the research station during the following years.

In the meantime, the government of Dr. Camilo Ponce Enríquez had issued its Emergency Law-Decree No 17 on July 4, 1959, to mark the century of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. The decree declares all of Galápagos a national park and reserve, with the exception of those lands already occupied by settlers.

Until February 1960 few in the Galápagos believed the Charles Darwin Research Station would become a reality -- at least not in the foreseeable future. Projects of every sort had in the past aroused hopes and then turned to nothing. But it was in that month that the Cristobal Carrier brought out a young Swiss ornithologist, Dr. Raymond Lévêque, who had recently been studying the avifauna of the Camargue. He was to be the first director of a research station that still had to be built. He knew nothing about local conditions; he knew nothing about construction. However, Lévêque had the good sense to ask around and gather all sorts of information that could be useful.

He found out what termites and dry rot do to timber in the tropics. He also discovered that the ubiquitous volcanic rock, while free for the taking and a most durable material, requires so much labor and cement that it ends up being quite expensive. Concrete blocks turned out to be the best and cheapest construction material. Unfortunately, the building site chosen by Eibl-Eibesfeldt became impractical. The recently created Galápagos Public Works had run out of funds before the road to Tortuga Bay could be built. Lévêque found a good site just east of the Puerto Ayora settlement, on a claim that had been taken by the Lundh family in 1950; but this turned out to be no problem.

Conservation gained some early support in the Galápagos. Soon after Lévêque’s arrival, Captain Julio Hernández, at the time master of the Cristóbal Carrier, and the author agreed to drop the visits to the albatross nesting sites on Hood, one of the major tourist attractions on the ship’s schedule, fearing that human visitors might disturb the birds enough to make them abandon their nests. A number of Ecuadorian officials and naval officers were also becoming increasingly aware of the need for conservation. When the salt mine at James Bay reopened, don Darío Weisson, the superintendent, ordered his workers to refrain from hunting or disturbing the wild animals on the island, except for goats and pigs. Captain Hernández had earlier prohibited his crew to hunt doves here and on Hood Island.

From the very beginning, Lévêque was much concerned about the introduced animals and the damage they were causing. However, there were too many of them and they were found in too many places for him to do anything much with the limited means at his disposal. But he succeeded elsewhere, beginning the construction program with a building for the laboratory. He had engaged the services of an American, Forrest Nelson, who at once built a road from the village to the construction site. Nelson hired Sigurd Graffer as his construction foreman. The United Nations Andean Mission was also very helpful at this stage, with personnel and the presence of Rene Champiot, a very capable person who was sent from Riobamba. Unfortunately, there was a conflict of interests with Nelson, since the latter was at the same time constructing his own hotel, and could not devote all his time to the CDRS.

A new station manager was engaged. The Belgian Edgar Pots became a most fortunate addition to the tiny staff that the Station had at that time. Experienced, resourceful and practical, Pots pushed ahead with the building program. It was undoubtedly an advantage that Pots had worked under difficult conditions before, as a plantation manager in what had been the Belgian Congo.

Unfortunately, Lévêque’s health began to fail, forcing him to resign in 1962. Overworked and frustrated at not being able to solve the many problems that he considered urgent, he left with a feeling of great disappointment. However, considering the circumstances, he could not have done better with what he had. Despite all the time he had had to sacrifice from his scientific work, he had managed to gather a great amount of information that was important in estimating the survival chances of many endangered species. He also initiated a ringing program, using rings provided by the British Trust for Ornithology, marking a considerable number of sea birds. Tortoise marking was begun under him on Santa Cruz, and he left the beginnings of an herbarium.

Lévêque was succeeded by a French zoologist, Dr. André Brosset. The latter continued the survey of animal populations. Like his predecessor, he was forced to charter local boats, which limited his mobility. Chartered boats, while reasonable in those days, did cost enough to strain his budget, which was also insufficient for the hiring of extra help for his field work. Still, he somehow managed to add the Galápagos mammals to his program. His estimate of the fur seal population as consisting of about five hundred animals confirmed Lévêque’s claim that this once nearly extinct subspecies was well on its way to recovery. The construction program was continued, and a much needed meteorological station was set up at the CDRS.

By 1962 a number of scientists were already working in connection with the Station, using its still limited facilities. Several research programs went on, making the CDRS a scientific center long before its official inauguration. It was that year that Dr. Herndon Dowling, Curator of Reptiles at the New York Zoological Park, collected tortoises on the islands for captive breeding. Dowling doubted that the Galápagos tortoises had any chance of surviving in the wild. It was also in that year that a new and better system for marking tortoises was introduced on the advice of Prof. C.C. Carpenter, consisting of a combination of notches cut into the edges of the carapaces.

In January 1963 a new director arrived. Dr. David Snow, a British ornithologist from the Edward Grey Institute at Oxford, which wasdirected at that time by Dr. David Lack. The latter was the author of The Galápagos Finches and Darwin’s Finches. Snow had also worked at the research station that the New York Zoological Society operated on Trinidad.

On Snow’s arrival, the construction work at the CDRS was well advanced, and many of the facilities were finished when he left. The number of visiting scientists continued growing. A seismograph, financed by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, was installed on a cliff inland from the Station. Bird ringing was continued, and the surveying of tortoises was extended to other islands apart from Santa Cruz. Snow’s report on the Galápagos tortoises (1964) included some unexpected good news. Evidence had been found by J.P. Lundh that the San Cristóbal tortoise, believed to have probably been extinct, indicated that this race had reproduced as late as the 1950’s. (Snow, 1964; Dorst, 1964). A few years later, Miguel Castro, Conservation Officer of the CDRS, located and marked more than sixty of these reptiles in a remote area of San Cristóbal. Snow also reported that a very few tortoises were still surviving on Hood. He recommended that top priority be given to the elimination of goats on Hood and Barrington.

It was during Snow’s administration that the Charles Darwin Research Station was officially inaugurated, on January 20, 1964. High ranking officials came from Quito, including two of the four member of the Military Junta. The ambassadors of the countries that supported the CDFG were present, along with the representatives of UNESCO, Ecuadorian universities, and members of the Foundation, including its President, Prof. Victor Van Straelen.

The inauguration was even more impressive because it was made to coincide with the Galápagos International Scientific Project (GISP), which was directed by Drs. Robert I. Bowman, Robert L. Usinger, Mrs. James K. Kermeen and Dr. Nathan Cohen. It was funded by the University of California and the National Science Foundation. (Bowman & Cohen, 1964). Sixty-six scientists of different nationalities participated. The California Maritime Academy provided their ship, the Golden Bear, for transporting the expedition during the ship’s annual cruise. In the Galápagos, the U.S.S. Pine Island and her helicopters helped with inter-island travel, as did the patrol boat that the Ecuadorian Navy usually kept at San Cristóbal, and a number of chartered local boats. The scientists also held several symposia in Guayaquil.

On February 14, 1964, the basic agreement between Ecuador and the CDFG was signed in Quito by don Armando Pesantes García, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Prof. Victor Van Staelen. The agreement was for twenty-five years and renewable for five-year periods. It gives the Foundation the right to operate and own the Station, and to further conservation and scientific investigation in the Galápagos. (Corley Smith, 1990). On February 29, shortly after his return to Belgium, Prof. Van Straelen died. Though he was deprived of seeing the project he had done so much for blossom fully, he had at least the pleasure of seeing it off to a very auspicious start.

On March 12 of the same year, the Military Junta, headed by Admiral Ramón Castro Jijón, issued Decree No. 523, in which the CDRS is given powers to determine natural reserves, to decide which plant or animal species need protection, to exterminate animals harmful to the environment, etc. It also prohibits the unauthorized settlement of lands for agriculture, the clearing and use of fire in protected areas, the use of insecticides, the removal of native animals from one island to another, and the introduction of animals from the mainland.

Before leaving, Dr. Snow had begun a project to eliminate rats on Duncan, a program for the elimination of goats on Barrington, and for the elimination of wild pigs on Santa Cruz. The Duncan program was of considerable importance, since the rats had prevented the tortoises on the island from producing young for several decades. Also, he was able to employ a conservation officer for the CDRS, with funds funds provided by the New York Zoological Society. Miguel Castro, who had then several years behind him working with visiting scientists, was appointed for this position.

The Station’s ship, the Beagle II, a 55-foot Looe lugger, sailed from England in December 1963, arriving to the Galápagos in April of the following year. Though late for the inauguration, her arrival was of great importance to the Station, as she provided the much needed independent transportation so necessary for research work. Karl Angermeyer was appointed master of the Beagle II, a wise choice, as he was an excellent seaman with considerable experience with sail and had lived in the Galápagos since 1937, mostly engaged in fishing among the islands. From September 1966, Bernhard Schreier took over as skipper, remaining in charge until the ship was dismantled and sunk, about a year later. The old lugger had a relatively deep draft that made it difficult to maintain her hull by beaching her in the islands. To send her twice a year to Guayaquil to have her bottom cleaned and painted was too expensive for the CDRS. Besides, she was constantly needed in the islands.

However, as long as she was seaworthy, the Beagle II made it possible for Dr. Roger Perry, Snow’s successor, to carry out a program of intensive exploration and research. Perry had graduated in Zoology from Christ’s College, Cambridge. Among other activities, he had studied plant life in the Colombian Andes (1957 and 1958). Later, he had been four years with the BBC’s Natural History Unit, then travelled through the forests of the Upper Amazon. As a UNESCO wildlife conservation specialist, he was appointed director of the CDRS, a position he held from 1964 to 1970.

With most of the construction work finished and an independent means of transportation, Roger Perry was able to devote more time to scientific work than his predecessors. Under him, the CDRS expanded its conservation activities. He already had the able assistance of Miguel Castro, the conservation officer. When the Station manager, Edgar Pots, resigned, leaving for the mainland, he was replaced by Rolf-Dieter Sievers, a young German settler, who became much involved in field work. Later, a resident ecologist, Dr. Tjitte de Vries, was employed. Both the latter and the ornithologist Dr. Michael Harris made significant contributions during this period.

During Perry’s first year in the Galápagos, H.R.H. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, visited the islands. With him came the Hon. G.T. Corley Smith, then British Ambassador in Quito. Corley Smith had also participated in the inauguration of the CDRS, and would become very much engaged in the Foundation’s activities, serving for ten years as its Secretary General and twelve as editor of its magazine, Noticias de Galápagos.

Prince Philip’s party also included Aubrey Buxton of Anglia Television. He later sent out a camera team -- Alan and Joan Root -- who filmed The Enchanted Isles, a documentary for the Survival Series. Prince Philip spoke the commentary for this outstanding film. The Prince became later patron of the CDFG. The premiere of the Enchanted Isles was used by Aubrey Buxton and Sir Robert Adeane to raise £10,000 towards getting a replacement for the Beagle II. For this same purpose, Mrs. Vincent Astor also made a generous contribution from a fund created by her late husband. In the 1920’s and 1930’s Commodore Vincent Astor had taken several expeditions to the Galápagos on his yacht, the Noormahal.

From the very beginning, Dr. Roger Perry saw the need for educating the local people in coservation and making them aware of the value of the environment around them. With the cooperation of the Galápagos school supervisor, don Lucio Saltos Gómez, a program of natural history was introduced, along with courses of biology and nature conservation for local officials and teachers. This, as expected, led to an increased awareness of the need to protect the unique Galápagos environment. The program was later expanded to the mainland under Peter Kramer, Perry’s successor, who also was able to offer scholarships to university students, so they could work at the Station and in the field alongside experienced visiting scientists. Under a later director, Friedemann Köster, the education program was further expanded, as increased personnel at the CDRS and better funding became available from the Ecuadorian Government.

It had been found that ten of the original fifteen races of tortoises known from the Galápagos were still surviving. Most were however found in such small numbers that they needed active help if they were to survive. The damage caused by dogs, rats and pigs, species that are also a threat to other endemic animals besides the tortoises, was confirmed beyond doubt. As early as in 1965, Roger Perry initiated an experiment that would become one of the Station’s most important programs and one of its greatest successes. A small tortoise population still survived on Duncan, one of the lesser islands. They had been breeding for years without success, due to the introduced black rat which destroyed their eggs and young. Perry had the few recent nests that could be found dug up and the eggs brought to the Station.

Nothing was known about how to hatch the eggs or how to raise the resulting young, if any. Under the supervision of Perry and the devoted care of Miguel Castro and Anders Rambech, one of the earliest Norwegian settlers, the experiment succeeded. This encouraged Perry to extend the program to include other races that had little or no chance of successfully reproducing in the wild. In May of 1969, Rolf Sievers, the station manager, designed and built a house for the incubation and rearing of tortoises, with financial support from the San Diego Zoological Society. It was inaugurated in January 1970. The first twenty tortoises hatched at the Station had come from Duncan eggs, collected in 1965. Towards the end of 1970, the resulting young reptiles were released on their island of origin. Two years later 52 more and an adult female were released on Duncan. All thrived in the wild. (The female had been donated by the New York Zoological Society and had been collected on Duncan in 1928).

Until 1965 nothing had been done about establishing the National Park. It was in that year that the Ecuadorian Government made a request to the British Overseas Development Programme to arrange for a mission to the islands that would make recommendations on the organization of a national park and the development of tourism. (Corley Smith, 1990). The same year, two experts were sent out for this purpose -- Ian Grimwood, an expert on national parks, and David Snow, former director of the CDRS. Their report was presented to President Clemente Yerovi Indaburu the following year. The proposals in this report would be followed, from the control of tourism to the establishment of a marine reserve. Thus, in 1968, the Galápagos National Park Service (GNPS) took its first cautious steps into the world. It was placed under the Forestry Service of the Ministry of Agriculture. At first, the Park had no facilities, and had to use those of the CDRS. The first officials of the Park were don Juan Black and don José Villa, who arrived in time to see the expansion of tourism beginning in the Galápagos.

The small groups that had arrived on the Cristóbal Carrier, during the first half of the decade, had constituted no problem to the environment. Aside from the visiting scientists, these travelers had been mostly ecologically aware nature lovers, who went out of their way to avoid littering, disturbing nesting birds or anything else that could have the remotest negative effect on the environment. These visitors lived on the ship and were accompanied by the conservationist ship’s agent, who had taken it upon himself to be their host and guide. But now tourism was on its way to become big business. Fortunately, the largest operator was Lars Lindblad, an enthusiastic conservationist, who had also pioneered, in 1966, tourism to the Antarctic. Another large, early operator was Metropolitan Tours, also holding positive views on conservation.

On the basis of Emergency Law-Decree No. 17, mentioned earlier, and from the logic that increased colonization would be detrimental to a national park and conservation in general, many of us had taken for granted in those early years that the establishment of the National Park would stop further colonization of the Galápagos, limiting population growth to that resulting from the natural increase of the already existing population. However, nothing was done to stop or even slow down the arrival of new settlers, and the increase in tourism led inevitably to a rapid increase in population through immigration from the mainland, especially on Santa Cruz. This produced a series of problems, including encroachment on Park lands. In time, even more serious problems would result, as we shall see later.

It took several years before anything was done about the marine reserve that had been proposed by Snow and Grimwood. Luckily, good cooperation existed between the CDRS, the GNPS and the National Institute of Fisheries. This had prevented significant damage to the internal waters of the islands. The originally proposed one thousand meters wide protected zone along the shores of the archipelago was extended to include the whole of the internal waters of the Galápagos, once the reserve was established.

On June 22, 1966, the Foundation lost its Secretary for the Americas, Dr. E. Yale Dawson. Dawson, who had succeeded Bowman in this capacity, and was at the time Curator of Cryptogams at the U.S. National Museum of Natural History. He lost his life while collecting algae in the Red Sea. Among his many activities, Dawson was also engaged in the production of a Galápagos flora. This magnificent volume would be published in 1971, under the direction of Ira L. Wiggins and Duncan M. Porter. In November of the following year, the Foundation suffered another great loss with the death of Prof. Jacques Laruelle, who had recently resigned as Secretary General, a position he had held since 1963. (Dorst, 1967).

Fernandina, the island that had produced such a spectacular eruption in the 1820’s, had undoubtedly been active a number of times since, but its remoteness in relation to the inhabited parts of the archipelago brought little attention to the fact. However, in later years it has received considerable attention, and seems to have increased its volcanic activity. In June of 1968, Roger Perry visited the main crater, after a great eruption on the island. The bottom of the enormous caldera had collapsed, the lake in it having shifted to one of the sides. On previous visits, Perry had found the bottom to be eight hundred meters below the rim. Now it was eleven hundred meters below -- a subsidence of three hundred meters. The walls of the caldera were still unstable, the rocks rolling down in great quantity, so that the dust made visibility so limited that Perry and his companions could not assess all the changes produced by the cataclysm. (Perry, 1972). The island’s considerable volcanic activity would continue attracting scientists in the following years.

In 1970 the Law for the Protection of Wild Animals and Fisheries Resources came into effect. It forbids the capture and commerce with rare species of the national fauna, the use of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides that may affect the endemic flora and fauna, and prohibits all activities that may damage natural reserves and national parks.

It was also this same year that Peter Kramer took over from Roger Perry, holding the position as director of the CDRS until 1973. Kramer had been in the Galápagos earlier, as a member of a German expedition, in 1962-63. Thanks to the efforts of Snow and Perry, he found a local population with a greater awareness of the importance of conservation. It was during his administration that the CDRS established an information center in Quito, thanks to support from the Frankfort Zoological Society. This center was headed by don Juan Black, formerly of the GNPS. Black also wrote a book, Galápagos, Archipiélago del Ecuador, the first natural history of the islands in Spanish. The book, printed in 5,000 copies, filled a great need. One thousand copies were distributed free to educational institutions in Ecuador.

On May 28 of 1971 the Ministry of Agriculture issued the necessary regulations for the enforcement of the 1970 law for the protection of the fauna, naming a National Commission for the Protection of the Wild Fauna and Fisheries Resources. The Forestry Service was assigned the duty to carry out these regulations. The same year, President José María Velasco Ibarra signed Decree No. 1,306 by which areas of outstanding beauty or scientific interest are to be declared of national utility, and shall be made into reserves or national parks. In them is to be forbidden all exploitation of cattle, forests or mining, hunting, fishing and colonization. They may be used only for tourism and scientific research. A fee was also established for entering reserves and national parks, in order to help towards their maintenance. A Committee for National Parks was established.

The year 1971 was also important in other respects for the islands. From April through July, the University of Oregon Galápagos Expedition visited the islands. The scientists worked on the geology, seismology and plant ecology of the Galápagos. (Noticias de Galápagos No. 21). This was only one of the seventeen scientific missions that came to the islands that year, a great increase over earlier activities of this sort. Unfortunately, increased scientific activity has also brought its problems, as all scientists are not equally careful and responsible . In some cases, animal populations have been disturbed, and there has been some carelessness with campfires and littering. The introduction of fire ants on Santiago has been another negative result of this activity.

In the meantime, the GNPS had been expanding. A park superintendent, don Jaime Torres, was appointed in 1972, and independent buildings for the GNPS were built near the CDRS. Conservation work was expanded, and patrolling of the park increased. Barrington was finally freed of its destructive wild goat population, while recently introduced goats were eliminated on Jervis. Goat hunting on Hood and Pinta, which had been neglected due to the islands’ size and the lack of funds was started.

In 1971 and 1972 Japanese ships increased their activities in Galápagos waters. Japanese long-line fishermen had been operating in the area for about a decade, but now their activities were being extended to the exploitation of the green turtle. These reptiles were captured by local fishermen and frozen aboard the Japanese ships. Since the turtles were taken by the thousands, this new activity became a source of considerable concern. Director Peter Kramer of the CDRS made the government aware of the problem, and an indefinite ban was imposed, until more research could be done on the species.

The research on green turtles was intitiated by Peter Pritchard, Miguel Cifuentes and Judy Webb, and continued later by Derek Green. With the support of the National Geographic Society, and helped by successive teams of volunteers, Green devoted nearly eight years to this project. Among other things, hatching success was estimated, about three thousand adult turtles were tagged and about 12,000 hatchlings were notched to provide identification for a long-term population study. (Noticias de Galápagos Nos. 25 and 28).

On January 17, 1973, a ceremony was held on San Cristóbal, declaring Galápagos a full province of Ecuador. This ceremony was presided over by General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara, head of the governing military junta. General Rodríguez and his entourage visited the CDRS and were much impressed by what they saw and were told. When the islands were declared a province, it had already been stressed that the local officials had the duty to help protect the flora and fauna, in cooperation with the competent institutions, and give the necessary aid towards the defense and conservation of said flora and fauna.

The same year a committee was set up to create a master plan for the protection and use of the Galápagos National Park. In this group were represented the recently organized Department of National Parks and Wildlife, the National Planning Board, FAO and UNESCO, this last one represented by Peter Kramer. The resulting Master Plan, while following the outlines given by the Grimwood-Snow proposals, went into more detail. The 1969 boundaries of the park were confirmed, and a two-mile marine zone added. The park was divided into areas, according to their use and the degree and type of visitors allowed in each. It was also decided that tourists had to be accompanied by special guides, trained by the CDRS and the GNPS. (Corley Smith, 1990).

The CDRS itself had been a tourist attraction from the very beginning. The author, with the blessing of Raymond Lévêque, who agreed that it was good public relations for the CDRS, had been taking tourists to the Station even since the first building work began. Since most of the early visitors were conservationists, they had great interest in what was being done. In later years, the tortoise rearing center became an even greater attraction, as would the Van Straelen Hall, an exhibition and lecture building, erected thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Anne Byron Ward, and inaugurated in 1973.

During the Kramer administration, the CDRS library, the herbarium and the zoological specimen collection were expanded, and a new house for the director was built. A new vessel, the Beagle III arrived from England. In December of 1973, Dr. Peter Kramer resigned to work at the University of Essen.

Attempts at protecting plant life from extinction in the more endangered areas had been made early. Dr. Tjitte de Vries had established the first study quadrants on several islands, at different altitudes above sea level. These quadrants, protected from introduced herbivores, allowed the long-term study of the effects of these animals on the surrounding, unprotected vegetation, providing at the same time seeds for the future spread of plant species at the time these destructive animals could be eliminated. This project was further expanded and improved on by Dr. Ole Hamann in 1971-72, and continued by other botanists in the following years. (Dr. Hamann was until recently Vice-president for Europe of the Charles Darwin Foundation).

Dr. Craig MacFarland, from the University of Wisconsin, took over as Director from 1974 to 1978. Like Kramer, he had already worked in the Galápagos, where he had carried out research on the tortoises. He had written several papers together with J. Villa and B. Toro on this work, contributing considerably to the knowledge of the existing populations and how they can be helped to survive. MacFarland expanded and improved the Station’s captive breeding program. The San Diego Zoological Society contributed to this program with a male Hood tortoise, thus adding to the limited genetic pool of this almost extinct race.

The 1970’s had slowly brought some new problems. Aside from a limited use of insecticides inside dwellings, such poisons had been unknown in the Galápagos. From the 1970’s on, long lived insecticides began to be used increasingly in agriculture, and appeared more and more in the environment. The population increase and a greater and more frequent contact with the mainland brought new insects and plant diseases. The population increase and the larger numbers of tourists are also causing a serious waste problem. While the larger tourist operators showed concern for the environment, this was not always the case with the smaller local operators, many of whom were outright irresponsible, as were many visiting yachtsmen.

Despite these and other problems, progress was still being made on the conservation front. In 1975, the oldest of the young tortoises of the Santiago and Hood races that had been raised at the CDRS were taken to their islands of origin, where they did well in their natural environment. (Noticias de Galápagos No. 23). The San Cristóbal tortoises were also doing well, after the local people had eliminated a considerable number of wild dogs, reducing markedly the predation on small tortoises.

As early as in the 1950’s many of us on Santa Cruz had worried about the possibility that a wild dog population could develop on that island. Several people who owned dogs and had trained these for hunting allowed them complete freedom. However, it took some years and a considerable increase in the human population before it happened. The production of young tortoises in the period 1971-75 in the tortoise reserve on Santa Cruz was nearly destroyed by wild dogs. (Corley Smith, 1990). The wild dogs had also spread to the lowlands, where they almost destroyed the small population of land iguanas still surviving there. A similar disaster took place at Cartago Bay, Isabela, where dogs had spread from the south, killing most of the land iguanas that remained near the bay. (Noticias de Galápagos No. 25).

At the time all this was happening, Dagmar Werner of Basel University was doing research on land iguanas, with support from the National Geographic Society. She promptly abandoned her work to devote all her efforts to the rescue of these two iguana populations. (Corley Smith, 1990). Provisional pens were erected at the CDRS, where the rescued iguanas were placed, and a captive breeding program was started. The program was so successful, that it rapidly led to overcrowding. Heidi and Howard Snell, two scientists with the U.S. Peace Corps, took over the iguana project, allowing Dr. Dagmar Werner to return to her research. The Snells were engaged in the iguana project for several years. Unfortunately, it took some time to bring the wild dogs under control, so that further space problems kept developing at the CDRS, as the young iguanas born there could not be returned to their places of origin. (Noticias de Galápagos No. 26).

The fact that the great majority of scientists visiting the Galápagos had been -- and still were -- zoologists had led to much greater attention being given to the protection of animal species, especially birds and the larger reptiles. Despite this, some progress was made on the botanical front. Lévêque, an ornithologist, had started the Station herbarium, which was expanded by his zoologist successors. Snow had shown a special interest in the genus Scalesia, while Perry was thoroughly familiar with the Galápagos flora in general.

Still, there had been no extensive botanical work published since Alban Stewart’s two on the Galápagos flora. (Stewart, 1911 and 1915). After this, small papers and monographies had appeared on the subject, except for Svenson’s work on the plants of Floreana, Santa Cruz and Santiago (1935) and the brief botany by Prof. Acosta-Solís (1937). Dawson’s papers on the Galápagos cacti (1962 and 1965) had brought increased order to their classification, completing in many ways the earlier work on the subject by Howell (1933). During the GISP, the subject received more attention, and a number of papers began appearing under various authorships besides Dawson’s. All this work culminated in the superb Flora of the Galápagos Islands, edited and co-authored by Wiggins and Porter, with the collaboration of 28 contributors, a work that was published by the Stanford University Press in 1971. Since then, a number of botanists have been working in the Galápagos.

In February of 1976 don Eduardo Andrade, Superintendent of the GNPS, was succeeded in this capacity by don Miguel Cifuentes, who had worked on the sea turtle

project. By then, the GNPS had almost completed its facilities and its personnel had been increased to thirty-three persons. Its wardens had also gained much greater mobility thanks to four patrol boats that had been obtained largely with aid from the Frankfurt Zoological Society. (Noticias de Galápagos No. 24).

A report on the tourist impact on the Galápagos environment was sent to the WWF, which had funded the corresponding research. The authors were Dr. M.P. Harris and Dr. Tjitte de Vries, and it was based on studies made from 1971 to 1975. It was a great advantage that Dr. Harris had already done extensive work on sea bird populations before tourism increased significantly. He had also done research on tourism impact in the period of 1970-71, with support from tour operator and conservationist Lars Lindblad. A number of other people, both Ecuadorian and foreign, had contributed to the WWF project. No conclusive evidence was found that tourism had had any negative effects, which no doubt can be attributed to existing regulations and the trained guides. (Noticias de Galápagos No. 24).

MacFarland was succeeded as director of the CDRS by Hendrik Hoeck, who remained in charge from 1978 to 1980. A Colombian, he was familiar with South America, had worked in Africa, but had never been to the Galápagos before. However, he had a great advantage in the vast amount of data that had accumulated at the Station in previous years. All this information gave a clear picture of what had been solved and the numerous problems that still remained. All this was taken up in a seminar of experts held in Quito, which resulted in a report entitled Twenty Years of Conservation in the Galápagos. (Corley Smith, 1990).

It had been early realized that the elimination of introduced animals, wherever they existed, required much time and effort, which in turn cost money that was not available in large enough amounts to complete the task. For this reason, pigs and goats had been largely left to themselves on rugged and large Santiago (570 kms2). Progress was made elsewhere. Goats were eliminated on Hood by 1978, and on Marchena the following year. Pinta became the next target for intensive goat hunting. There were an estimated twenty thousand goats on this relatively small island, and they were about to destroy Pinta’s vegetation and with it all its terrestrial ecosystems.

The problem of controlling the increasing wild dog populations on Isabela and Santa Cruz had once more become urgent. Attempts at eliminating dogs on Isabela had been made with little success earlier. Dr. Arturo Farfán, medical officer at San Cristóbal, had in 1960 initiated a campaign to eliminate the dogs, fearing what might happen should rabies ever reach the islands. Since Isabela had by far the largest dog population, his project was started there. However, the lack of adequate funding and Dr. Farfán’s transfer to the mainland made this a short-lived project. The following year, Governor Enrique Vallejo launched a new campaign against the dogs on Isabela, with the intention of protecting the wild cattle, which he saw as a valuable resource. This project also had little effect for lack of funding.

Hans Kruuk, an expert on canines, and Howard Snell, a herpetologist, made a three-month study of the wild dogs, finding that there had been a considerable increase in the dog population of SW Isabela, which endangered the marine iguanas, the flightless cormorants, penguins and fur seals in that area. There was also the danger that dogs might cross the Perry Isthmus, reaching that extensive part of the island that had until then remained free from most introduced animals. Both on Isabela and Santa Cruz, swift action had become necessary. Fortunately, in a matter of two years, these dog populations were practically eliminated. (Noticias de Galápagos Nos. 29, 31, 32). Though there still remained a distinct possibility that tame dogs could become wild -- as had happened before -- the captive bred iguanas were released in their areas of origin.

In the past, research had been carried out on a number of Galápagos birds, especially the finches and several sea birds. Among the latter, increasing attention was being given to the dark-rumped petrel (Pterodroma phaeopygia). This species spends most of its life in the relative safety of the open sea, coming ashore only to nest in the moist highlands, where it digs burrows in the soft ground. Unfortunately, these nests are raided by rats, pigs and dogs, while human activity and the trampling by cattle have caused much damage to some nesting areas. Research by Dr. M.P. Harris, Robert Tompkins, Ruth Baker and Fiona Bass showed that this species was in rapid decline. (Corley Smith, 1990). The research on the dark-rumped petrel led eventually to a protection program. Under Malcolm Coulter, at the time ornithologist at the CDRS, Felipe and Justina Cruz maintained poison bait around a nesting colony in the Floreana highlands, keeping the black rats away from the burrows. This resulted in 72 of about hundred eggs producing young. (Noticias de Galápagos No. 39). (Years later, Cruz was appointed director of the National Park). This experiment led to an expanded program that later gave good results on Santa Cruz as well.

Dr. Friedemann Köster, a German scientist familiar with South America, was Director from 1981 to 1983. The Station’s staff was enlarged to include a botanist, a marine biologist, a herpetologist, an entomologist, an ornithologist, an officer in charge of feral mammal control, a human ecologist, and a coordinator of education. The environmental education in the Galápagos schools was reorganized and new texts were introduced. (Corley Smith,. 1990).

The land iguana breeding and protection program was continued with uninterrupted success. The work of Dagmar Werner, Howard and Heidi Snell, don Miguel Cifuentes of the GNPS and Robert Reynolds of the CDRS contributed enormously to this success. However, the control of the fire ants (Wasmannia auropunctata), launched by the Station’s entomologist, Yael Lubin, was less successful. (Corley Smith, 1990). These pests had been introduced to Santa Cruz in the early 1930’s, spreading many years later to some of the other islands. Difficult to control at best, it was realized that the fire ants could only be kept in check to a limited degree.

The wardens of the GNPS had led a strenuous struggle to control a number of introduced plant species on Santa Cruz -- quinine, balsa, avocado and guava. The results had been disappointing compared to their efforts. Attempts were made to use plant poisons and controlled burning. (Lawesson, 1986). It was realized that fast growing native species would be needed to replace the eliminated introduced plants, and the CDRS botanist Luong Tan Tuoc made an inventory of the plant species found on the island at the time. He was disappointed to find that introduced plants had spread at an alarming rate on Santa Cruz. The project resulted in the establishment of nurseries for growing Galápagos plants.

The marine laboratory recommended by Snow was finally set up. Gary Robinson, the CDRS marine biologist, continued the underwater research begun earlier by Gerard Wellington. Detailed plans for a marine park were drafted. Robinson and doña Priscila Martínez of the National Institute of Fisheries studied the extent of the black coral populations and their rate of reproduction. These corals were being used for making souvenirs, and had besides suffered considerably from the effects of the 1982-83 «Niño year».

We have mentioned elsewhere the exceptionally severe «Niño year» of 1982-83, and its disastrous effects on the Galápagos environment. About half the cormorant population died out, as well as three-quarters of the penguins. Great numbers of marine iguanas perished, while sea lions and fur seals lost most of their young, along with a third of the adults. For some scientists this extraordinary rainy period was of considerable interest, providing as it did unusual material for the study of fluctuations in the animal populations of the islands. (Noticias de Galápagos Nos. 38 and 39). While a year like this one had never been recorded, it is of course likely to have happened in the distant past.

Dr. Ole Hamann, the distinguished Danish botanist, had the opportunity to study the effects of this unusual rainy period on the Galápagos vegetation. Having worked in the islands since 1971, he as thoroughly familiar with the island flora and in a position to compare normal conditions against the effects of these excessive rains.

Dr. Peter Grant, who had been leading a group that was doing a long-term study of the finches, also had the opportunity to observe the effects of a climate completely out of balance. The abundant rains and the resulting increase in vegetation and insect life led to an extraordinary increase in land bird populations, including the various finch species. The following severe drought reduced these populations drastically, leaving only the stronger, hardier individuals. The Foundation published a volume of 30 articles on the 1982-83 «Niño year». It was edited by Gary Robinson and Dr. Eugenia del Pino, then Vice-president for Ecuador of the CDFG. Published in Quito, half the articles are in Spanish, half in English.

After ending his duties as Director, Friedemann Köster remained in the Galápagos to join the CDRS ornithologist -- Sylvia Harcourt -- Dieter Plage and Maria Plage in the production of a series of five one-hour films for the Anglia Television Survival Series. (Noticias de Galápagos No. 39). This project took them three years.

From 1984 to 1988, Dr. Günther Reck held the position of Director of the CDRS. He was already familiar with the Galápagos, where he had worked as a guide. Later, he had been with the National Institute of Fisheries, which kept him in constant contact with the CDRS and the University of Guayaquil, in connection with studies on the protection of marine resources in the Galápagos. This background was most useful to him, as discussions were finally initiated on the creation of a marine reserve.

In 1986 President León Febres-Cordero signed the decree creating the marine reserve. It went far beyond what had been recommended in the Grimwood-Snow report and in later proposals. According to the decree, the Galápagos Marine Reserve not only includes the interior waters of the archipelago, but also a 15 nautical mile zone, measured from the outer limits of the islands. This totals about 80,000 kms2. To make this reserve a reality, all the official bodies with jurisdiction over the various activities within these limits had to be coordinated. For this purpose, a commission was set up, headed by the Minister of Agriculture, under whose jurisdiction the GNPS is.

It took some time to work out an administrative program for the Reserve. This was done with advice from the Great Barrier Reef National Park of Australia, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the last two in the U.S.A. (Corley Smith, 1990). The importance of the Marine Reserve is considerable, as several great currents of the Eastern Pacific meet at the Galápagos, creating an unusual marine environment. Also, a great number of species depend for their survival on the marine life in these waters -- sea birds, seals, sea lions, marine iguanas.

It is surprisingly lucky that frequent bush fires did not take place during the drought that followed the 1982-83 rainy period. However, a fire did break out in the CDRS administration building, destroying most of the records and other material in the office. Fortunately, the fire was contained, preventing it from spreading through the tinder dry vegetation to the other buildings.through the tinder dry vegetation to the other buildings.

However, in February of 1985, the greatest bush fire on record in the Galápagos broke out on the southern slopes of Santo Tomás Volcano (Sierra Negra), on Isabela. It is believed that it was started by farmers who were burning vegetation that had been cut down while clearing land. Under the existing conditions, it did not take long for the flames to spread, destroying 175 kms2 of what had been largely wilderness. (Noticias de Galápagos No 42). The fire lasted until July, receiving considerable attention in the foreign press.

The settlers, armed forces personnel sent out from the mainland, and fire fighters from Canada and the U.S. fought hard to control the fire, working under most difficult conditions. A fire break was cut around the burning area, a huge strip about forty kilometers long. What finally remained of the fire, much of it still smoldering under the vegetable mold, was extinguished by the first cool season drizzles. While such large endemic species as the local tortoise race remained out of danger, much insect and plant life -- part of it probably unknown to science -- was destroyed.

The captive breeding of tortoises and land iguanas had continued with increasing success, as experience was gained and improved procedures were developed. Now, the breeding was carried to its ultimate refinement. The CDRS and the GNPS set up experiments with advice from Heidi and Howard Snell, hatching tortoise eggs at different temperatures and humidity levels. It was realized that incubation temperatures will determine the sex of the resulting tortoises. This discovery led to the production of a greater proportion of females, thus speeding up the repopulation program. (Noticias de Galápagos No. 45; Corley Smith, 1990)

In 1987 seventy botanists from eleven different countries met at the CDRS. They had all worked in the Galápagos during the previous quarter of a century. In 1988 a similar workshop was held by sixty herpetologists. By the same year, over four hundred Ecuadorian students had received training at the CDRS.

In 1988 more than a thousand captive bred tortoises had been released on their islands of origin. Hood, where only a very few old tortoises had been surviving at the time when Dr. Snow discovered their presence, now had a population of more than two hundred young captive bred animals. The land iguana program was also successful, with a survival rate of hatchlings up to six times above that observed in the wild. (Noticias de Galápagos No. 47).

Introduced animals still remained a serious problem in some parts. However, wild goats had been eliminated from all the smaller islands where they had been found, including Hood. Pinta was nearly free from goats, and its vegetation was well on its way to recovery. Santiago, large and rugged, still remained a great challenge, though the wild pigs had been greatly reduced by the GNPS hunters. Black rats had been kept in check at the nesting sites of the dark-rumped petrel in the Floreana highlands, and had been considerably reduced on Duncan.

Jonas E. Lawesson, the staff botanist of the CDRS, became engaged in a timber growing project. (Noticias de Galápagos No. 45). The settlers who had lived on the islands up to the 1970’s had used mostly imported timber for construction, and had depended largely on dead trees and trees felled while clearing land as their main source of firewood. The growing population, especially on Santa Cruz, where it had increased greatly, made unprecedented demands on the available timber. Not only was the demand for firewood much greater, but native timber was being used increasingly for construction. Experiments were therefore started, together with the local farmers, planting fast-growing trees that could be used as substitutes for the slower-growing Galápagos species. A reforestation program for partially denuded woodland areas on San Cristóbal was also launched. (Lawesson & Estupiñan, 1987).

In 1988 Dr. Reck was succeeded by Dr. Daniel Evans as Director of the CDRS. Dr. Evans had graduated in ecology from the University of California, Davis, and is a specialist in introduced animal control, with considerable international experience. He had worked, among other places, in the Dominican Republic and the Comoro Islands, with a two-year period in Ecuador. (Noticias de Galápagos No. 47).

In the 1980’s tourism expanded far beyond expectations. Between 1984 and 1988 the annual number of visitors increased from less than twenty thousand to over forty thousand. (Corley Smith, 1990). It became necessary to increase the personnel of the GNPS, but this proved difficult under existing conditions. The cost of living had increased enormously in Galápagos, where even fruits and vegetables were now imported from the mainland. Prices were based on U.S. dollars rather than on the increasingly devalued national currency. Government employees such as the park rangers were paid salaries that were based on mainland conditions, which placed them at great disadvantage in the Galápagos. The result was that the GNPS was losing personnel to tourism, as these well trained people began to work as guides. In fact, there were other serious problems too, which were about to endanger much of what had been won.



The Ecuadorian Government, the local officials and a considerable number of settlers have for many years shown remarkable good will towards the GNPS and the CDRS. The Government has supported the cause of conservation with laws that go further than what had been hoped for, especially where the Marine Reserve is concerned. This very positive attitude could also be seen when the National Institute of Galápagos (Instituto Nacional de Galápagos -- INGALA) was created in 1980. While the purpose of this organization is to improve the living conditions for the islanders and to find ways to better use exportable resources, it was also to regulate tourism and cooperate in the protection of nature. It is obvious that the people governing until a few years ago were aware of the importance of conservation. After all, the destruction of the islands’ ecology is equivalent to killing Galápagos tourism, a source of fifty to sixty million dollars a year of much needed foreign currency.

The islands had by then become, as we have seen, an international center of scientific research. On July 29, 1980 a ceremony was held declaring the islands a part of the World Heritage. The event was presided over by General Fernando Dobronski, Minister for Education of Ecuador, and Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, the Director General of UNESCO.

Throughout the years that followed the construction of the Research Station, the fame of the Galápagos has only increased, due to the activities of the many journalists who kept visiting the islands, as well as the several TV programs filmed by various foreigners like the British we have mentioned in the previous chapter, and the Swedish photographer and writer Sven Gilsäter, who has visited the islands several times since the 1960’s. The Galápagos have also received many distinguished foreign visitors like the Duke of Edinburgh, the King and Queen of Spain, the King and Queen of Sweden, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and many others. All these have admired the work and accomplishments of the GNPS and the CDRS, and have been impressed by the positive attitude of the Ecuadorian Government and its officials in Galápagos.

This Ecuadorian attitude was given further expression when the agreement between Ecuador and the Charles Darwin Foundation was up for its most recent renewal. The first agreement had been signed for a period of twenty-five years, to be subsequently renewed for five-year periods. This was done until 1991. However, the agreement signed on October 28 of that year allows the Foundation to own and operate the CDRS for twenty-five years instead of the usual five.

But all was not well. The increased traffic with the mainland has brought in a number of new plant diseases as well as small animals like insects and geckos, the effect of which on the environment is still little known. Around 1989, a black fly (Simulium bipunctatum) was introduced to the San Cristóbal highlands (Abedrabbo, 1992), becoming a serious nuisance on account of its bite. A gecko (Lepidodactylus lugubris) had been introduced on Santa Cruz some time earlier. (Hoogmoed, 1989). Another gecko (Phyllodactylus reissi), first discovered near the landing at Puerto Ayora (Academy Bay) in 1975, seems to be gradually taking over the habitat of the species native to this island (P. galapagoensis), which is smaller in size. (Hoogmoed, 1989).

The introduction of small animals like geckos and insects is not of course a new phenomenon, as cargoes began to be unloaded in the Galápagos from the time the first colony was established on Floreana in 1832; but the traffic between the mainland and the islands is so much greater today, and the importation of fruits and vegetables provides much better hiding-places for small animals than did the crates, lumber and split bamboo in the past. Fortunately, the establishment of new species ashore is no easy matter. The environment has to be favorable, which is not often the case in the dry Galápagos lowlands. Furthermore, males and females have to arrive in such a manner that they can meet and mate (Lundh, 1998), unless a gravid female capable of producing several young at one time is involved.

Dr. George Baur collected four geckos on San Cristóbal in the 1890’s, which must have been introduced. The California Academy’s expedition of 1905-06 collected, on the same island, a total of 21 specimens of Phyllodactylus tuberculosus, a mainland gecko that seems to have been well established on the island at the time. The author collected and observed geckos in the area near the landing at Puerto Baquerizo (Wreck Bay) in the early 1960’s (Lundh, 1998), which probably belong to the mainland species Gonatodes caudiusculus, which has been later reported from both here and Progreso, inland. (Hoogmoed, personal communication of July 9, 1991).

Of the eighteen ant species he reports from Galápagos, Wheeler (1919) describes six as «relatively recent introductions», while Hebard (1920) lists nine species of cockroaches, only one of them endemic (Anisopygia snodgrassii). He considers the other eight species as introduced from the mainland in cargoes brought out to the islands. The German roach (Blatella germanica) is reported by Hebard (1920) only from Hood. This small roach had become very common in the inhabited parts of Santa Cruz by the middle of the 1940’s and was believed by the settlers of that island to have been imported from Panama via the American base at Baltra.

The red ant (Wasmannia auropunctata) was first introduced on Santa Cruz in the early 1930’s and was carried from here to several of the other islands. It was unknown in the Galápagos in 1932, but had established itself in a small area at the beginning of the inland trail from Puerto Ayora by 1935, having been noticed earlier in some shrubbery near the landing. This ant was found in great abundance on Cocos Island by the Hopkins-Stanford Galápagos Expedition (1898-99), which stopped at that island. (Snodgrass & Heller, 1902). It is likely that this insect was introduced to Santa Cruz from Cocos, as a number of expeditions in the 1930’s stopped there before coming to the Galápagos. (Lundh, 1998).

In 1992, Dr. Chantal M. Blanton took over as director of the Research Station. She holds a Ph. D. from the Institute of Ecology at the University of Georgia. One of her concerns has been the introduction of small animals and seeds to the Galápagos and she succeeded in obtaining the support of the Ecuadorian authorities on the mainland, who promised to set up a stricter control. This will of course improve the situation considerably. However, because of their size, insects, geckos and seeds cannot be stopped entirely from entering the Galápagos, and will always be a problem for conservation.

Introduced plant and animal diseases are also a reason for concern. Towards the end of 1995, there was an outbreak of Marek’s disease among San Cristóbal poultry, wiping out much of the local chicken population. This outbreak seemed to cease at the beginning of the following year, and it was thought that it had run out. However, in October 1996 it reappeared, this time in the Santa Cruz highlands, causing considerable losses. The possibility of the disease spreading to the native bird species is a cause for concern, though there have not as yet been any clear indications that this has happened.

We have mentioned the problems caused by increased population and the growth of tourism. The steadily increasing quantity of solid waste produced by both has made it necessary to consider new ways to handle this problem, which is already serious. Another persistent problem is the sloppiness of some boat owners, who throw over the side all sorts of waste, which often ends along the shore, polluting the beauty of the landscape. Worse than this is the fact that sea turtles swallow plastic bags, sea lions are cut up by discarded food containers and even choked to death by motor belts and old ropes that have been thrown overboard. Strange to say, most of these boat owners make their living from the tourists who come to enjoy the pristine beauty of the islands and the Galápagos animal life.

There are however also some good news. The tortoise rearing still continues with success, and the cultivation of trees for timber is well under way. To the project of raising island tree species was added, in 1990, another for the production of trees that are known not to spread out of control, and will in time produce useful lumber. This project was set up by the CDRS, the GNPS and the Provincial Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Seedlings have been produced from teak, walnut, «amarillo lagarto» (Centrolobium patinense), mahogany, «madera negra» (Tabebuia sp.), etc. The seedlings have already been transplanted to five private properties and seem to be doing well. (Prado & Kolbe, 1992).

Considerable progress is being made in the eradication program. In May 1996 a hunting party was sent to Volcán Alcedo, the huge mountain just north of the Perry Isthmus. Until a few years ago, the only introduced animals there were the donkeys descended from those left behind by the tortoise hunters. In relatively recent years, goats have managed to cross the barren, desolate isthmus to establish themselves on the slopes of the volcano. Their numbers increased rapidly in a few years. This party was the first attempt made to control the spread of goats in the area, and an outstanding job was done. Over 12,200 goats and 366 donkeys were killed in twelve days. While the goats and donkeys have not been eliminated, the destruction to the vegetation will be much reduced.

Hunting has continued regularly on Alcedo since then, and a hut with facilities for collecting rain water has been erected on the rim of the crater. It has space for 15 hunters, and will greatly help in this work. The construction was finished in February 1997, thanks to a donation of £ 25,000 from the British Foreign Office. It must have been a very tough job to carry up all the materials the long and difficult way up to the crater, though fifty men were employed in this effort. Also, the same month, two plots of land -- 300 m2 and 500 m2-- were fenced in to protect some of the more threatened vegetation.

Wild pigs have been nearly eliminated on Santiago, and the dry season that is expected after the 1997-98 Niño-year is likely to be a help in making great inroads in the goat population of that island. Unfortunately, goats have also become established on the slopes of Volcán Darwin, in the northern end of Isabela, and their numbers have been rapidly increasing.

This Niño-year was extremely strong, in many ways more severe than that of 1982-83. However, the effects on the fauna do not seem to have been so generally destructive. The penguins, one of the causes for great concern, seem to have fared fairly well, while marine iguanas suffered high mortality as did the sea lions in many places.

Unfortunately, there was in recent years a trend on the part of the government to see the GNPS and the islands as a source of income requiring little or no maintenance and investment. While the GNPS and tourism to the Galápagos doubled their respective incomes in the period of 1992-96, the CDRS no longer gets support for the visitors site, which receives about 40 thousand visitors per year. Though the GNPS has competent personnel and clear goals, too little of the park’s income is reinvested, thus making it difficult to carry out much of the work that should be done.

There has been great concern recently because of a disease that has affected some of the tortoises in the Santa Cruz Reserve, in the western part of the highlands. The disease was detected in 1996, and it was found that most of the affected animals were old males. By the end of the year eight tortoises had died and nine were ill, all limited to a relatively small part of the reserve, which was placed under strict control by the GNPS. The dead animals were burnt, and samples of pool water, droppings and blood were being examined at the CDRS, the Puerto Ayora hospital and the University of Florida. Both the possibility of plant poisons and of a contagious disease are being considered.

However, the really bad news have been originating from the Marine Reserve. This enormous area of nearly 80 thousand kms2 looks good on paper and offered great hopes, but to administrate, control and effectively patrol such an area is a huge and expensive task; but no funds had been made available for the purpose. As could be expected, sooner or later, someone would take advantage of this situation, and many did.

Illegal fishing has been going on for years. As early as in the 1960’s, several Japanese fishing vessels were caught by the patrol boat stationed at San Cristóbal, but this vessel made no regular cruises around the islands, and it is likely that these two-three Japanese ships were only a fraction of the total; but we cannot know this for certain. These fishing vessels, we understand, were using long-lines, a method that has since been banned but is still in use.

In the previous chapter we mentioned the enormous amount of turtles that were purchased by the Japanese vessels, and how the government banned this activity indefinitely. This ban seems to have been respected until fairly recently, but the 1990’s brought with them new interests, people from the mainland, obviously well connected, whose greed has led to the plunder of marine resources, and whose methods to get their way, law or no law, are in many ways reminiscent of gangsterism.

In 1992 the effects of certain forms of exploitation were becoming obvious. Uncontrolled shark fishing led to a very noticeable reduction in the shark populations along the Galápagos shores. This activity produces shark fins for export to the Far East, and is extremely wasteful, as most of the shark meat and the skins are discarded. The black coral souvenir industry has so reduced this resource, that black coral is now being imported from the mainland. Spiny lobsters are also very much reduced in numbers, having been exported since 1960.

The sea cucumber, a new resource for export to the Far East, was discovered on the mainland and began to be exploited without thought for its future. This holothurian enjoys great demand in the Far East, where it has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, perhaps because of its shape. The unusual preoccupation that men in that part of the world have about their potency has been very bad for a number of threatened species such as the rhinoceros, the tiger, etc. This same market resulted in sea cucumbers being exploited to near extinction in the Solomon, the Cook and Fiji Islands. Once practically eliminated from that part of the world, sea cucumbers began to be caught on both sides of the Pacific. This activity was started in Ecuador, on the mainland, in 1988. By 1991, this resource had been depleted along the whole coast. (Sitwell, 1993). This led to an illegal fishery in the Galápagos in 1992.

The Government of Ecuador had by then banned all exploitation of sea cucumbers in Ecuadorian waters. Considerable pressure was then exerted by some mainland interests to have this changed. Strange to say, the National Council for the Development of Fisheries joined in these efforts, though this organization should have stood for sustainable exploitation of marine resources, not for their plunder. While the ban was on, sea cucumbers were being captured at the rate of 130,000 to 150,000 per day, which will more or less wipe out these holothurians by the end of the decade. (Sitwell, 1993).

Some areas in Melanesia that were exploited half a century ago have not recovered at all. This is easy to understand if one considers the manner in which sea cucumbers reproduce. The sperm and eggs of these animals are released into the surrounding waters, successful fertilization thus depending on a relatively high population density. It is obvious that the exploitation as it has been practiced so far, and is still being practiced, will rapidly destroy this resource.

Seen from an ecological point of view, the extinction of sea cucumber populations is a tragedy. These animals carry out an important function in the muddy bottoms where they live, a function similar to that of earthworms on land, passing the mud throughout their digestive tracts to make use of the organic waste found in it. While this waste cleaning by the adults is important, the sea cucumber larvae may be even more so, forming as they do a considerable part of the zooplankton which feeds a large number of fish and crustaceans, which in their turn serve as food for larger species. It is obvious that the disappearance of sea cucumber larvae from the environment will have an unfavorable effect on the food chain. That this may harm commercially valuable species is also likely.

The plan for the administration of the Marine Reserve was approved by the Government of Ecuador in 1992. As had been intended from the beginning, the reserve was divided into areas, some of them open to commercial fishing. Unfortunately, sea cucumbers happen to be most abundant in areas that are closed to all forms of fishing. Furthermore, the cucumber fishermen have been setting up camps in areas of the National Park that are closed to visitors. These camps are likely to help the introduction of insects, rats, seeds, etc. into the most pristine and untouched areas of Galápagos, such as Fernandina and the Elizabeth Bay area of Isabela.

The sea cucumbers are cooked before being dried, a process that requires a large quantity of firewood. Thus, the formerly untouched mangroves of Elizabeth Bay is one of the places that has suffered the most from this activity. The destruction of the mangroves signifies the destruction of a very limited Galápagos ecosystem, which is the habitat of some rare endemic species, like the mangrove finch (Camarhynchus heliobates), a bird known only from the eastern coast of Fernandina and some very limited areas of Isabela. Besides this, there is the constant danger of fires spreading from the camps to the adjacent areas, which can happen easily and with serious consequences in the dry lowlands.

This merciless exploitation is equally merciless to its human participants -- those who do the actual work. As can be seen from the above, sea cucumber fishing has no future in it, as one area after another is rapidly depleted. The divers, who do all the work, live in miserable conditions, spend most of their time away from their families, and earn very little compared to the efforts and sacrifice their occupation demands. In a very few years, they will be without work and with their health impaired. At the same time, they will have left behind them a seriously damaged marine ecology that will no doubt have a highly unfavorable effect on a number of species that could have been used as the basis for a more sustainable, rational exploitation.

The ban on sea cucumber and shark fishing has had no noticeable effect. Japanese illegal use of monofilament nets has continued as before. These nets have very small meshes, which catch a large quantity of fish that are so small that they are discarded. This enormous waste destroys fish that, if left to grow, could have commercial value or could at least serve as food for commercially valuable species. Shark fishing not only affects sharks, but also sea lions -- a protected species -- which are killed and their flesh used as bait. This practice is common among local as well as foreign fishermen.

The lobster fisheries have been exploited to such an extent that they will soon be depleted. The lack of control and the irresponsible attitude of those involved in lobster fishing are to blame for this. Laws and regulations are constantly broken. Lobster under the legal size as well as females with eggs are caught and frozen. No respect is shown for those periods when lobster fishing is banned.

The traditional fishing activity of the Galápagos settlers is based on catching groupers, mainly for salting and drying. Though many local fishermen abandoned this activity to devote themselves to taking tourists around the islands, the supply of groupers has continued declining through the years. Many years ago, we noticed that the percentage of large groupers was already declining. This could be noticed in several places as early as in the 1940’s. It was also in that decade that the Galápagos fishing fleet became increasingly motorized, its range growing rapidly to include the whole archipelago. In the last few years there has been clear evidence of overexploitation, despite the modest size of the local fishing fleet. More than three quarters of the groupers caught are below sexual maturity, a clear indication that things are headed in a very wrong direction. This notwithstanding, in 1994, a plant for the processing and freezing of fish for export was set up on San Cristóbal.

The CDRS and the GNPS have been opposed to sports fishing, but the authorities have allowed it in the Galápagos as well as on the mainland. The fact that sports fishing in the Galápagos is supposed to be of the «catch and release» type does not help matters from the point of view of conservation. It is very difficult to ensure that existing rules are respected, for as so often happens these rules were made without providing the necessary controls to enforce them. This «catch and release» fishing has another serious weakness -- not enough is known about the survival rate of the released fish. There is also a question of how many of these fishes are actually released. The Galápagos Newsletter of the 1996 autumn (published by the Galápagos Conservation Trust) carried a photograph of marlin steaks being sold on San Cristóbal, which causes some doubts about whether all the fishes caught for sport are actually released. Furthermore, some of the more popular sports fishes are also in a critical situation -- since 1970 the breeding population of swordfish has been reduced by 80% on a world basis, and blue-fin tuna is now considered by the experts as an endangered species.

The greatest attraction for those tourists interested in diving is of course the marine life. Much enthusiasm has been shown for the fishes, which in most parts of the Galápagos have been unusually tame. Unfortunately, this has been changing. While fishing from tourist vessels is forbidden by law, many boat owners not only allow tourists to fish from their boats and dive with spear guns, but also let their crews catch fish, with the result that fish is becoming both scarce and wild in many places. This lack of foresight on the part of some boat owners is incredible, as they are helping to destroy a valuable tourist attraction.

Unfortunately, some of the people who should be doing everything possible to protect marine species and their environment do things that defy common sense. The National Institute of Fisheries, which in previous years had cooperated so well with the CDRS and the GNPS, carried out some sort of study in April and May of 1996, during which all of 4,500 Kgs of fish were killed with spear guns in a matter of three weeks. The quantity of fish and the methods used for their capture must have had a serious impact on the surviving fishes in the areas where the catches were made.

A great number of fishing vessels, both foreign and Ecuadorian, have been operating inside and outside the Marine Reserve. Their numbers have increased in recent years, and the organizations in charge of conservation seem to have very little knowledge about their permits and the conditions on which such permits have been granted. Some of these vessels are rather large and have been using long-lines, despite the fact that these are forbidden. The latter has caused great concern among conservationists, as long-lines are notorious for catching sea birds, which dive, catch the bait, are hooked and drown. Among these sea birds, the Galápagos albatross stands out as a very vulnerable species on account of its limited numbers. This albatross (Diomedea irrorata) is a protected species.

The bans on the capture of sea cucumbers and sharks led to a series of problems from the very beginning, in 1992. Fishermen who were engaged in these illegal activities, instigated by mainland exporters, carried out a number of actions that were gross violations of law and order. The gate of the CDRS was occupied, access being blocked for a shorter period. When the Darwin Foundation held its annual meeting in October of 1993, some of these people blocked the CDRS gate and burnt an effigy of don Alfredo Carrasco, the Secretary General of the Foundation. In June 1994 threats were made to block all Galápagos airports and sites visited by tourists.

The authorities, which should have taken a strong stand from the very beginning, capitulated ignominiously before the threats and the vice-president of Ecuador, don Alberto Dahik, ordered the National Council for Fisheries Development to «solve the problem» with other groups that would act as observers. It is significant that neither the GNPS nor the CDRS were invited, despite the fact that both institutions are the best sources of information and those in charge of conservation work in the islands. It is obvious that all of it was a farce, and that the decisions in the matter had been more or less made beforehand.

In a matter of only three days, the Council reached a decision that was made into a decree that is totally in disagreement with previous decrees and laws, none of which had been previously voided or modified by the corresponding legal procedures. Fishing seasons and quotas were established for the capture of lobster, sea cucumbers and sharks, these fishing seasons and the size of the allowed catches being set arbitrarily. The control of the established seasons and catches was left to the same officials who had been incapable of stopping illegal fishing at the time when a complete ban had existed for all these species, though one should think that it is far easier to control a total ban than to keep track of quotas and fishing periods.

To give the decree an even more scientifically valid appearance, reserves were also established, where fishing was to be totally forbidden. These «reserves» have barely a cosmetic value, as they were not only arbitrarily chosen, but are also of such limited extent that they are of little value, even if they should be respected. These maneuvers to give a legal appearance to activities that are in conflict with already existing Ecuadorian legislation are not the only problem. An attempt has also been made to place the National Park under the control of politicians and special interest groups. The law proposed to gain this absurdity was fortunately vetoed by President Sixto Durán Ballén on September 1, 1995.

The same month, from the 3rd to the 5th, two politicians and a group of illegal fishermen, once more instigated by mainland interests, carried out actions that led to the damage and stealing of government property, and the occupation of municipal property such as airports and public roads. The administration building of the National Park on Santa Cruz was taken, as well as its facilities on Isabela. Siege was laid to the Research Station, blocking access to the personnel, who like those working for the National Park were threatened physically and verbally. On Isabela, the CDRS’ Land Rover was taken, forcing Arnaldo Tupiza, an employee of the CDRS, to use a motorcycle to travel from the highlands to Puerto Villamil. On the way to the shore, he collided with a truck, and was killed by the impact.

The leaders of these actions also threatened to set fire to parts of the National Park and to take tourists as hostages if the government did not enter negotiations to accept their demands. These threats were repeated through the Galápagos radio stations, on national television and in a letter to the President of the Republic. The matter ended with the authorities’ second capitulation in less than a year to the demands of people who had used all sorts of illegal tactics to be allowed to continue illegal fishing even in supposedly restricted areas.

The majority of the islanders are against what these people -- mostly outsiders and recent arrivals -- stand for. Groups have been formed to oppose these people, notably the Committee for Peace and Well-being (Comité de Paz y Bienestar), which disapproves of the methods and attitudes of these outsiders, support conservation and wish to preserve what is attractive to tourism. Their point of view is that a controlled ecotourism is the only source of income in Galápagos which, if sensibly operated, can last indefinitely.

Unfortunately, some of the threats against the National Park have been carried out. In April of 1994 a bush fire was started on Isabela, inside the limits of the National Park. The fire spread over an area of six thousand four hundred hectares in eleven days. There is every reason to believe that this fire was no accident. Also, tortoises have been killed as a reprisal against the GNPS and the CDRS. The repeated threat of introducing animals into protected areas has also been carried out. Newly introduced goats were found on Pinta, where considerable economic resources and more than twenty years of effort had been employed to eliminate the more than forty thousand goats that had been about to destroy the island’s vegetation. Goats have also been found in the north of Isabela, a place where there had never been any of these animals, which could only have been brought there by humans.

It is obvious that the people behind all this, besides being unscrupulous and greedy, also have good connections and considerable influence on the mainland. In one case, when naval personnel and National Park wardens discovered several illegal camps on Isabela and Fernandina, they confiscated the fishermen’s equipment and catches. The fishermen acted aggressively and attempted to board the GNPS patrol boat, besides threatening both the naval and the Park personnel. Despite this behavior, all confiscated equipment and the catches had to be returned to them on orders from the mainland.

This attitude on the part of higher officials on the mainland sets a deplorable precedent, greatly undermining the principle of authority and causing discouragement and frustration among local officials who fulfill their duties only to see their work undermined by superiors, who for the sake of friendship or other reasons, give their protection to those who break the laws rather than see to it that these laws are respected

Certain recent developments are rather interesting. In April 1996, the Colombian Jorge Castrillón Henao was arrested in Panama. He was accused, among other things, of exporting drugs to the United States and Europe from the Galápagos Islands. Shortly after this, Interpol carried out an anti-drug operation in Guayaquil, and several people were arrested, among them one Francisco Puig Plaza. Puig happens to be the owner of the freezing plant on San Cristóbal and one of the sports fishing vessels operating in the Galápagos. Puig was later released on some obscure technicality, to the great frustration of the police, who insist he is guilty.

Apparently, the drugs were not shipped from the Galápagos, but from Guayaquil. Arriving in hidden compartments on tourist buses from Colombia, the drugs were then placed inside frozen fish shipments that were to be sent to United Seafood in Miami. The Director General of Fisheries, Byron Moya, who seems to be implicated in this and/or similar operations, took flight and, as far as we know, has not yet been located.

We do not know the extent of corruption affecting the administration of the islands and their natural resources; but much points in the direction of bribing and personal interests. One parliamentarian, Fanny Uribe, was found, in 1994, to be hiding a considerable quantity of dried sea cucumbers in her residence, a fact that she denied, but the personnel from the National Park who discovered the fact had the support of a video that had been taken during the operation, and which is in the hands of the local TV station.

Uribe is not the only parliamentarian with personal interests in the continuation of illegal fishing. Eduardo Véliz, who was one of the greatest agitators during the Galápagos troubles, going to the extreme of threatening to take tourists hostage, and arousing his supporters to attack conservationists, has been revealed to be totally corrupt. He was nearly lynched in the Galápagos when information became uncovered about his connections and interests, and had to be saved by the Police and the Navy whom he had given so much trouble in the past. After the fall of the short-lived Bucaram government, he was kicked out of Congress along with a few other deputies, and his arrest was ordered on several criminal charges. His whereabouts are unknown.

The interim government that took over after the National Congress ousted Bucaram and his friends on charges of corruption, nepotism and incompetence, carried out a general clean-up, and while illegal fishing has continued, the local authorities, notably the Ecuadorian Navy and the Galápagos National Park Service have been doing an excellent job. In March of 1997, Park personnel raided a camp on the western coast of Isabela. While the fishermen escaped, having heard the noise made by the patrol launch, some 5,000 dried sea cucumbers were taken, along with the processing equipment. The camp was cleaned up and all garbage removed. The following day, another camp was located in the NW of Fernandina. Here, 22,000 dried sea cucumbers were taken, and the same clean-up routine repeated.

On March 3, a mainland fishing vessel, the Magdalena from Guayaquil, was boarded near the west coast of Isabela with a total of 40,000 dried sea cucumbers. She had neither clearance papers nor a fishing permit. This is the first vessel captured of those that transport sea cucumbers to the mainland. The port captain on Santa Cruz, Lt. William Recalde jailed the six crew member. Unfortunately, the Magdalena case led to some illegal maneuvering on the part of her owners, their lawyer and a local judge.

The owners claimed that they had been completely unaware that their vessel was being used for illegal activities. This was the excuse used by Second Civil Judge Alberto Avellán to suspend the auction of the Magdalena. However, the police discovered that the judge’s decision had been written on the PC of the Notary Public of Santa Cruz, together with the owners’ lawyer, Luz María Pico Díaz. Pico Díaz had earlier been removed from her position as criminal judge in Guayaquil by the Supreme Court on account of «improprieties».

Violence has also been associated with the war on illegal fishing. When one of the Park’s patrol boats approached a camp on the west side of Isabela, she was received with gunfire. The approximately twenty men working at the illegal camp turned out to be armed. One of the Park’s men, Julio López, was wounded, being flown later to the Navy’s hospital on San Cristóbal in a helicopter, from where he was taken to Guayaquil. López recovered, and the reinforcements sent by the Park and the Navy cleaned up the camp, confiscating the production of cucumbers and shark-fins.

A peaceful demonstration was carried out by about 300 people on Santa Cruz, to protest against the violence, several representatives of institutions and local officials being present. The illegal fishing has not been stopped, but the authorities are now carrying out frequent operations to curb this activity. A recent capture, on June 7, 1998 produced 20,000 dried sea cucumbers and 15 sacks of shark fins aboard the Niño Dios.

There are a number of groups engaged in defending conservation in the Galápagos, aside from the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galápagos and the Galápagos National Park Service. The Comisión Permanente para las Islas Galápagos in Quito has been doing a great job, as have the Friends of the Galápagos organizations in Europe. The Galápagos Coalition has an e-mail address thanks to the generosity of the Emory Law School and Emory University, in Atlanta, Georgia. Addresses to these and others are given at the end of the bibliography.

Dr. Chantal M. Blanton was succeeded as director of the CDRS by Dr. Robert Bensted-Smith, who had been a naturalist guide in the Galápagos in the early 1980’s, later a guide on special nature tours in Latin America. Bensted-Smith is a graduate in natural sciences from Cambridge and has worked in research in East Africa, has held several positions directly related with conservation in both Kenya and Zanzibar, and is member of several organizations engaged in the protection of nature. Apparently, our hopes that this new director would be luckier than his predecessor seem to be about to be fulfilled.

But first he had to face some very sad losses to the cause of Galápagos conservation. On October 7, 1997, G.T. Corley Smith, former British Ambassador in Quito, who was Secretary General of the Darwin Foundation and Editor of Noticias de Galápagos for many years, passed away in England. The following year, on April 20, the President of the Darwin Foundation, Engineer Jorge Anhalzer and Fabricio Valverde, head of the Technical Department of the GNPS died in a plane crash near Bogotá, while returning from the Foundation’s meeting in Brussels.

However, things were far from settled. The Marine Reserve had been turned into a fiction on paper. There was also the danger that conservation on land would be the next to suffer the consequences of the inability or lack of will that the authorities in Ecuador had been showing in recent years in applying existing laws. It would have been very easy for such a precedent as that set regarding the Marine Reserve to be extended further. Once the battle for conservation was lost on land, the tourist attractions offered by the Galápagos would be utterly lost. With all economically valuable marine resources gone, there would only be left some cattle in the highlands that in the long run would further destroy what little was left of the environment.

All this would have been very sad, especially if we consider all the effort, the good will and the contributions given to the cause of conservation by so many institutions and people since 1960, and how much the Government of Ecuador has helped with laws, funds and a great understanding for what was being done, an understanding that now seemed to have vanished. That all this could end in nothing was bad enough. That Ecuador should become discredited in the eyes of the world would have been far worse, as neither Ecuador nor the majority of Ecuadorians deserve something like this to happen.

The local people in Galápagos had been exerting increasing pressure in favor of conservation and the Marine Reserve. Even the local fishermen were involved in this effort to obtain legislation that would prevent the depredation of Galápagos and the senseless exploitation of the Marine Reserve. This was an effort of the settlers, the conservationist, the scientists, a number of politicians and tourist boat owner, as well as the Darwin Foundation, the Station, the National Park and the World Wide Fund for Nature in Ecuador. Against them were the powerful fishing interests on the mainland, who had even stooped to bribe officials and parliamentarians, who continued a furious opposition to the protection of local resources. They were not at all willing to give up their hopes that the Marine Reserve should become a free-for-all area that could be exploited to depletion.

The forces of conservation seem finally to have won. In April 1997, interim President Fabián Alarcón and Foreign Minister José Ayala signed an emergency decree on Galápagos, increasing the powers of the Minister of the Environment and the Director of the National Park. Supervisory bodies at national and local level were created to uphold the law inside the Marine Reserve. Limitations were established for the introduction of motorized vehicles, and obtaining residency in the islands was prohibited until a new law could be worked out for migration to Galápagos.

The interim government also cleaned up the administration at all levels, and one of the newly appointed ministers was that for the Environment, doña Flor de María Valverde, a highly respected academic from the University of Guayaquil, whose advisor on Galápagos was former CDRS Director, Dr. Guenter Reck, who is presently Dean of Environmental Sciences at the University of San Francisco de Quito.

In November 1997, a demonstration was held in Quito in favor of the Marine Reserve, the participants including such people from Galápagos as fishermen, persons working in tourism and conservation. It was a clear protest against those opposed to conservation. The Subsecretary of Fisheries, pressed by his patrons in the private mainland fishing interests, resigned from the Presidential Commission that was drafting the special law for the Galápagos, rabidly attacking the proposal that was to be sent to Congress.

Since May 1997, the various Galápagos interest groups have presented a united front in the defense of the Marine Reserve, through the initiative of the National Park, and the Darwin Foundation, with support from USAID, GEF and the WWF. This group (Grupo Núcleo) has gained consensus among the settlers, and its proposals have been taken into account by the Presidential Commission.

The new law establishes a boundary around the islands that extends 40 nautical miles offshore, inside which only tourism and local artisanal fishing is allowed, thus providing protection to most of the ecologically important shallow areas and banks, and protecting marine mammals, sea birds and other species. The Marine Reserve has been established as a protected area under the Galápagos National Park Service with the cooperation of the local authorities and the Ecuadorian Navy.

The distribution of the visitor’s fees has been revised, so that the Park now receives 40% of the income, the local municipal and other authorities another 40%, which is earmarked for projects related to conservation and tourism. The remaining 20% is to be divided in equal parts among the quarantine program, the Marine Reserve, the national protected areas and the Ecuadorian Navy.

Regulations are provided for the transportation of introduced species, their eradication on farmlands, quarantine inspections, and the studies of environmental impact, as well as environmental education and the promotion of the participation of local residents in conservation activities. The regulations on residence in the islands are however too liberal, as they allow the unlimited possibility of return to the islands of descendants of present day settlers even if they have never lived in Galápagos. Nor have the incentives to colonization been removed, which with the lack of control continues bringing in a great number of new settlers, despite the legal restrictions.

The tourism sector is worried about the part of the law that requires them to hire permanent local residents as guides in preference to outsiders, regardless of the latter’s qualifications. There is also some concern about the possibility offered for the increase of the number of tourist boats. Still, this new law would have been an excellent foundation for the future conservation of the Galápagos, if the mainland authorities had shown more interest in applying the existing laws and punishing severely the acts of vandalism and other unacceptable practices of the fishermen, when they want increased quotas once they have reached the established limits.

The active participation of the local population has been greatly stimulated by the recent developments, and will hopefully be more so in the near future. Two important projects lead in that direction. One is the opening of Resource Centers on the three most populated islands -- Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristóbal. These centers will provide educational activities both on an informal and a formal level, and will have libraries and other educational resources. Funding and advice will be provided by the British Council. The other activity is a fisheries monitoring project started by the Darwin Station with the cooperation of the local fishermen. The latter are keeping records of their catches, including such data as species, locations, type of boat and method of fishing.

In September 1998, one of the parasitic cones of Cerro Azul, the great volcano in the SW of Isabela, began to erupt. This particular cone is on the SE side of the mountain, and its eruption caused some concern for a part of the local tortoise population, as the flowing lava continued and spread down the slopes. Frequent monitoring was undertaken, and when the flow approached the nearest tortoise population, a recue operation was organized by the National Park and the Ecuadorian Army, thanks to the good cooperation between the Ministeries of Defense and the Environment. According to El País of Madrid (06.10.98), eleven tortoises had been transported to the tortoise breeding center at Puerto Villamil. Only one tortoise was found to have been killed by the lava. The remaining tortoises in the endangered area were being forced to move closer to the shore, to make their removal easier.

We hope that the recent acts of vandalism perpetrated by local fishermen (mostly new settlers) against the National Park Service and the Darwin Foundation are severely punished, and that the Ecuadorian authorities take the situation more seriously, so that the new regulations may be carried out in full, and remain a reality for the future. It would be sad to see all the great effort and money that have been invested in conservation wasted because the authorities were unable to apply the law to a handfull of criminals. What is worst, it would be infinitely more sad to see the Galápagos environment further destroyed by the ignorance and greed of man, as whatever is lost cannot be replaced -- ever.

A final note: The more recent news from Galápagos have seriously shaken our careful optimism. The oil spill that took place recently is nothing compared to the attitude of certain outsiders who are fishing in the islands. The new laws have not been applied by the Ecuadorian authorities. A great number of new fishermen have arrived since these laws were passed, most of them of the same criminal frame of mind as the troublemakers we have mentioned earlier. With this increase in the number of fishermen, the already too high quotas for spiny lobster and sea cucumbers that the government had previously established were filled in record time.

Once this happened, considerable increases in the quotas was obtained by the fishermen by resorting to terrorism -- the destruction of government property, destruction of the private belongings of people employed in conservation, kidnapping of protected tortoises, harassment of tourists, threats against people who speak up against them, etc. That this situation is incredible in itself is one thing, but that the authorities are reluctant to act and carry out their duties is even more astonishing. The police on Isabela even went so far as to refuse to arrest some of those involved in acts of terrorism. The cravenness and ineptitude of the authorities is however only a part of the problem.

There are those officials who have personal interests in the illegal fisheries. Some again seem to have been bribed into inactivity, while the mainland government turns a blind eye on the situation, despite the constant reports and requests for help from the officials of the National Park Service, who see their work being undermined by lawbreakers who appear to be able to get away with all their lawlessness. In the meantime, bribing, threats, short-sighted profits and corruption, coupled with governmental ineptitude are rapidly destroying the marine resources of Galápagos, undermining the principle of authority and damaging most of the work that has been carried out by a dedicated National Park Service personnel and the Charles Darwin Research Station.

The great majority of Galápagos settlers, most of them a law-abiding lot, view the situation with alarm and consternation, as they intend to stay in the islands and therefore see the necessity of a reasonable and sustainable exploitation of existing resources, so that these may last during their lifetimes and continue being available to their children. It would not be surprising that all this violence and the lack of a forceful intervention by the authorities will, in a near future, lead to a violent reaction from this peaceful part of the population, exploding into the wanton destruction of the fishing boats belonging to these protégés of the mainland fisheries mafia in Manta. One cannot but wonder what the reaction of the Ecuadorian authorities will be if this happens. In any case, the situation in Galápagos is bound to cause considerable damage to the credibility of the Ecuadorian government and its officials, something that those of us who have lived in Ecuador and know the people find painfully regrettable.



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