This page contains two chapter excerpts in which the author describes incidents pertaining to the Baroness and her companions. The page is a 2021 translation into English from the original Swedish, courtesy of Dr. Stein Hoff (Oslo, Norway). A word or phrase [in brackets] indicates an insertion by the website editor of omitted information.
The time was approaching when, thanks to happy circumstances, [Trygve] Nuggerud (“Nuggen”) was about to become a daddy. About one month prior to the event he transported his dark-eyed Ecuadorian wife across to Wreck Bay on Chatham island [now, Isla San Cristóbal] as there was no midwife on his own island of Santa Cruz.
In addition to Nuggen and his wife came his ever-present negro boy Trivino § and myself. As usual we made a halfway stop at Barrington to prepare some food and take a nap. I did not view the island with the same infatuated eyes as the first time, I was quite happy to not be left on the beach with the sea-lions this time and see the boat sail away … .
§ Read Comments about the Trivino's boy's identity on the Notes (J - Z) page.
In Chatham, Nuggen’s wife was installed with the town midwife. Nuggen walked about like he was happily intoxicated and not sure what to do with himself until the big day approached.
“We’ll do a short trip to Floreana”, he said. “I promised long ago to deliver some coffee-plants to the Baroness Wagner. Now is a suitable time. We should be back here in ten days at the latest.”
The Baroness Wagner indeed! Back in Sweden I had read about her in the newspapers and in my wallet had a cutting from an article with the heading Den Dystra Drottningen av Galápagos (The Grim Queen of Galápagos) and illustrated with what looked like a beautiful lady. It was about a Peruvian couple, Pablo Rolando and Rosa Fernandez, who experienced an almost unbelievable adventure during their honeymoon aboard the steamship Santa Rosa. The story went like this: About one day out of Callao, the port of Lima, the ship was hit by a violent storm and started sinking. The newlyweds and the 12 crew-members were forced to enter the life-boats and abandon ship. A few minutes later they watched Santa Rosa disappearing. One life-boat capsized, another one with an unconscious man aboard was rescued by the steamship Eolo. A few days later the boat with the newlyweds and three crew-members drifted ashore on the island of Floreana. Mentally and physically exhausted and very hungry they collapsed on a beach and fell asleep. But they were soon awakened by armed men, apparently European, who arrested them and led them to the interior of the island. Between the cliffs was a house where a beautiful young woman approached them.
She said “I am Baroness Wagner de Bosquet. I am the Queen on this island, and you are my prisoners. What are you doing here?” Without waiting for an answer, she ordered the visitors to be jailed.
They spent four days in a tiny prison, a terrible torture. Worst was the soaring temperature during the day as the tropical sun made their cell radiate with heat. The little food that was thrown in was impossible to eat and Rosa Fernandez became sick. On the fifth day they were released and led back down to the beach. Here the Queen was waiting with a body-guard and several men who looked like pirates and were armed to the teeth.
The Queen looked at her prisoners and said “You can thank me for stopping you from being shot. I am now sending you out to sea again so that you may continue your journey. In order to give you privacy during your honeymoon, you will have one boat for yourselves.”
Rolando and his wife were forced to enter one small boat and the three sailors were driven into another one. Water and provisions were aboard. Then both boats were pushed off the beach and drifted out to sea.
Three days later Rolando’s boat was rescued by a steamship heading for Guayaquil. Before that, Rolando had to shoot the three sailors as they tried to enter their boat to molest his young wife. The article ended by stating that the incident had been reported to the Ecuadorian authorities and it was expected that the self-styled Majesty would receive an appropriate reaction.
Having arrived in Guayaquil on my journey to Galápagos, I tried to do some research on this story and went to see the authorities, but they knew nothing! But by luck I met a Dane [Knud Arends] who at one time had been part of her court and from him I received what I hope is a correct story about how this extraordinary woman and her followers ended up in such a remote corner of the world.
The Dane started his story: “The Baroness Eloisa [sic, Eloise] Wagner, originally from Austria, had ten or so years earlier married a Frenchman and settled in Paris. To the distress of the Frenchman, the marriage remained childless, and when he met another woman, to whom he had in the past had a relationship, and was told that he was father to her son, he wanted freedom in order to marry this woman. Out of love for her husband, the Baroness agreed to divorce, but became very unhappy with all kind of desperate ideas nurturing her fantasy. In the beginning she lived in a relationship with the German Rudolf Lorenz, but it was only when another German businessman, Robert Philippson, appeared on scene, that she became more adventurous. Philippson, who must have fallen in love with the Baroness, told her to forget her old existence and together they would seek a new life far away from civilisation. She agreed. That was back in 1931. About the same time as the couple made their decision, there was a lot of interest in the book The Modern Robinson Crusoe by Dr Friedrich Ritter from Berlin.§ He had settled on the island of Floreana in Galápagos, not alone, but in the company of a woman [Dore Strauch Koerwin]. Descriptions overflowed with tales of paradise-like islands, waving palm-trees, American millionaires visiting “the Robinsons,” the constantly blue ocean and clear, blue skies. You know how it goes. That would suit the Baroness and Philippson perfectly. Accompanied by the obviously far too good-natured Lorenz they travelled to Guayaquil, rented a boat and sailed off. Leaving a curious crowd on the quay, the Baroness declared: ‘We sail to create “The New Eden” where we shall build “The Paradise Hotel.” Our lives shall be real lives, the original way of living.’ With this statement they sailed off to the Enchanted Islands aboard the bark San Cristóbal, now also accompanied by an Ecuadorian man [Manuel Valdivieso Borja] who wanted to share their dreams. On Chatham island my Danish friend met them and came over to Floreana to give a hand in creating their “Paradise.”
§ The author is apparently mistaken: Ritter's The Modern Robinson Crusoe was posthumously published in 1935. Its actual title was Friedrich Ritter † Als Robinson Auf Galapagos. (“The Robinson [Crusoe] of Galápagos.”) The † symbol indicates its posthumous publication. Blomberg probably meant Dr. Ritter auf der Galapagosinsel. (“Dr. Ritter of the Galápagos Islands”), which was published in 1931.
There were three small streams of fresh water on the island. Beside one stream Ritter had his small plantation, by the other stream lived another German family, Mr and Mrs Wittmer with two children, and beside the third the Baroness had started building her colony.§ After a while, however, the Dane was hit in his abdomen by a shot from the Baroness during hunting and he had to be transported as fast as possible to Guayaquil. He claimed that it was a pure accident, but others involved suspected it had to do with jealousy. Whatever the cause, the Dane was happy to be away from Galápagos and had no desire to return. About the Ronaldo story, he did not believe a word, it was pure fantasy he claimed.
§ Again, Blomberg appears to be mistaken: the “three small streams” did not exist, and the Wittmers' second child (Rolf) was born in January, 1933.
Before leaving he gave me an introductory letter for the Baroness, and with this unique document in my pocket, I would now visit the colony and attempt to create an independent impression.
My Norwegian friends on Santa Cruz did not like the Baroness and were quite suspicious of her. We had often discussed her during our trips together and when on Chatham I produced the blood-dripping article from among my papers and read aloud the story of the infamous honeymoon, they nodded thoughtfully. They were very dubious about the positive characteristics the Dane had given her. [Kristian E.] Stampa himself had an experience on Floreana which gave a totally different impression. Once when he sailed across to the island to hunt cattle, he was stopped and threatened by Philippson and the Baroness. She was dressed in shorts, pointing a gun at him and supported by Philippson, threatened to shoot him unless he immediately left her island! Stampa had to hurriedly leave the island after a useless visit. Well, now Nuggen and I were about to travel across to find out about all these stories.
Back in Santa Cruz we were joined by the fit, old [Arthur] Worm-Müller, who also wanted to go to Floreana and say hello to his friend Dr Ritter. And Trivino was as always aboard as his assistant. The coffee-plants were stowed and we had a few hours’ sleep before setting off long before dawn.
I felt that the departure itself had something unreal about it. It was pitch dark, but our wake was like a green, sparkling veil of phosphorescence. And the surrounding sea was heaving deep sighs … . Pirates sailed these waters in days gone by. Certainly, there would always be room also for a Pirate Queen … .
How my fantasy played tricks on me in the dark!
At dawn we started seeing the silhouettes of Floreana’s many extinct volcanoes. Every hour the island grew bigger and soon we could make out the distinct shape of La Corona del Diablo—The Devil’s Crown. It is a small, submerged volcano, with only the irregular volcano tops above sea level and looking like a crown.
After a ten-hour long sail we dropped anchor in a big bay headed by a white coral beach—Post Office Bay. It is named after its famous attraction, an old barrel which in the old days was frequently used by sailors. During what was often a journey lasting years, ships would stop by, look for posts or add letters to the barrel while those heading for home would bring mail with them back to civilization. In the bay was an old house, another memory of a Norwegian settlement expedition.§
§ Translator’s note: Members of the 1925 Floreana expedition named the house Casa Matriz.
But no pirate queen in shorts and revolver came to greet us. The only item that caught our attention was a hand-written note fastened to the side of the house:
A yung man in the interior here is forced to leave, because he has no longer any [way to] make a living here. Therefore he begs every shyp for an occasion to take him off to Chatham or Guayaquil. I live by caverne, way marked road [in red] 1 auer to go. 27th May 1934. Rudolf Lorenz.
This was very strange and we now suspected something was seriously wrong on the island. While Worm-Müller remained down in Post Office Bay, Nuggerud, Trivino and I hiked up to New Eden. We brought mail from Chatham, the first letters the settlers would have received in more than six months. Through an unusual terrain of small, open fields and dense scrubby thickets, the path led us up towards the house of the Baroness. There would have been no problem finding the way even alone, as the white sculls of cattle and donkeys were placed at regular intervals either on the ground or hanging from the trees. Stones and tree-trunks were also marked by red spots.
After about one hour of marching, we arrived at a forest of wild lemon and orange trees dripping with ripe fruit, here the path divided. The right one led to Dr Ritter’s hacienda, the other one to the houses of the Baroness and the Wittmer family.
After another hour of hiking we saw a clearing in the forest ahead. We quickened our step, the trees became fewer and we were suddenly at an idyllic, small field. Behind the clearing was a small mountain with caves, below which were planted banana palms, broad-leaved otoy, the sword-like leaves of agaves and large, yellow sunflowers. This was “The Paradise!”
“But where is the house?” Nuggerud exclaimed. He pointed out the spot where it once stood, now not a trace, no matter how much we looked. Not a living soul was seen and it did not look as if anybody had been there for a long time either. A puzzle!
“Maybe she is in one of the caves, like the first period when they were still building the house.” Nuggerud said and started calling and shouting towards the caves. Only an echo answered.
We proceeded to the Wittmers’ small plantation. A house, manly built of stones, sat in a lush field. Two men stood by the door and as soon as they saw us rushed over laughing.
“Ah, Sie haben Post mit … kommen Sie … kommen Sie … Schnell, schnell!” (“Ah, you have mail with you …Come … come …quickly, quickly.”)
Wittmer turned out to be a fairly tall man of about 45 with a moustache, a goatee and glasses. Lorenz—that was the identity of the other man—was emaciated and did not look well. He could have been a little more than 30. Both greeted us in a most friendly way. Next we met young Mrs Wittmer and her two children, the youngest was born on the island [Rolf, b. 1933] and was something as rare as a true Galapagonian.
We asked “Where is the Baroness?”
“Disappeared” Lorenz replied.
After all the mail had been read and we had got to know each other a bit better, Lorenz himself told me the story of the Baroness, her life and her mysterious disappearance. At first it all corresponded to what I knew from the Dane in Guayaquil. Lorenz continued:
“When the Baroness arrived in Floreana in 1932 she realised that the island was not as paradise-like as she had believed. First of all she realised, as the intelligent woman she was, how important it would be with the yachts of American millionaires visiting in order to provide adequate provisions. But why should they visit her? The modern ‘Robinson Crusoe,’ Dr Ritter was a much more interesting person. From the beginning he had around him a web of mystery, he had abandoned both his wife and civilisation and travelled to this remote island, at the time uninhabited. He was a philosopher, a vegetarian and a nudist. He had had all his teeth removed before leaving for Floreana, as the only thing that could possibly make him leave the island would be toothache. And just look how lots of people were fascinated by his peculiarities!
“To draw attention away from Dr Ritter and onto herself the Baroness started writing, anonymously of course, the most fantastic stories in which she described herself as ‘The Pirate Queen of Galápagos’ and other tales in similar fashion. She wrote about her refined bravados, her aristocratic heritage, her beauty and her cruelty. All these stories she managed to disperse to the world press.
“Her tactics worked. In one year Dr Ritter was forgotten, he was no longer the main attraction in Galápagos; The Queen had taken over. An increasing number of luxury yachts headed for ‘New Eden’ and her empire. She was photographed and filmed, received lots of provisions, gifts and offers of marriage. And she was not humble in asking for support. In a letter to a large, American tobacco company she asked them so send her 20,000 cigarettes. The letter was signed: Baroness Wagner de Bosquet, Empress of Galápagos, Philippson, Minister.
“The Ecuadorian soon abandoned the party. ‘That women is mad’ he said.”
For Lorenz that meant trouble. He was no longer her companion as he had been in Paris, but was degraded to cook and attendant. Increasingly he was physically abused by the lazy and brutal Philippson. He made several attempts to escape from the island, but he had no cash as the Baroness kept all their money. Finally, after more than the usual abuse from Philippson’s fists, he fled to the Wittmers, who were willing to shelter him, and he finally had some peace and quiet.
One day in March 1934 the Baroness and Philippson disappeared. On March 27th they had visited Wittmer’s house and asked for her cook. Lorenz was somewhere working in a field with Harry, Wittmer’s son, so Mrs Wittmer asked if she could give him a message. The Baroness told her that a yacht with some English friends had arrived and were going to take Philippson and herself aboard on their way to the South Seas. Mrs Wittmer was asked to relate this to Lorenz and ask him to look after the house and the animals until further notice. When Lorenz returned and heard this, he was very surprised and hurried over to the Baroness’s house. It was empty. To make sure that they had really left, he immediately went down to Post Office Bay. He found nothing except footprints in the sand.
So, it must be true: The Baroness and Philippson had to everybody’s relief actually left the island! Lorenz hurried back to inform the others about his findings.
However, nobody else had seen these Englishmen, nobody had seen the yacht and nobody had ever heard of these particular friends. The story did not seem quite right. But with no further delay, Lorenz sold the house and everything in it to the Wittmers and the Ritters and started looking out for boats that could offer him passage back to South America. Eventually he wrote the piece of paper we had come across in Post Office Bay, and now after a long wait, we had appeared as possible liberators capable of taking him away from “paradise” and back to the real world again.
This was all that Lorenz could tell us. We could not make much sense of it no matter how we twisted and turned the story. What English yacht could this have been? Nobody on Chatham had seen one, nobody on Santa Cruz and nobody on Floreana. And if the Baroness had not left the island, where else could she have gone?
We stayed overnight at the Wittmers. They were pleasant and contented people completely devoid of desire for fame, interviews and being photographed. They lived a satisfying, hard-working life and were now particularly happy as the rain they had longed for after a long drought, a drought that had caused of a lot of the island animals to die like flies, had finally returned.
It was important to continue our investigation. We rose early next morning and without much discussion agreed to call on Dr Ritter. It was quite a long hike and we had plenty of time to listen to Lorenz entertaining us with more stories about the Baroness. According to him, she was a sensation-hungry and sadistic person, capable of mistreating animals and people alike, but who in spite of all this had a sort of winning charm.
As we approached the Ritter hacienda, Nuggen told us to stop and shout before entering as Ritter and his mistress often walked about dressed in the way God had created them. We needed to give them time to get dressed and get their teeth in place. Accordingly, we shouted and only after a reply, did we enter. We passed through a well-kept plantation of bananas, coconut palms and ciruela trees before arriving at a rather charming house. Dr Ritter, a short man with lively, intelligent eyes and long, curly hair, walked towards us followed by his companion in his Robinson Crusoe-life; Dora [sic, Dore] Strauch Koerwin was her name.
All morning we stayed at the Ritters while he shared some details about his extraordinary life. He had left Germany and his wife back in 1925 together with Mrs Dora (who was also married), and when they settled on Floreana were the only humans on the island. His main reason for abandoning civilization was that in solitude he would get to know his inner self better, as well as obtaining the peace required to write a dissertation on his philosophy. No desire for making a sensation, he assured us, drove him to make this leap, which had created such a sensation back in Europe. And together with Dora, he now led a happy life, working hard and discussing philosophy.
That was how Dr Ritter described himself. But regarding the apparent need for privacy and isolation, we got another impression from Dr Ritter’s many questions about what was written about him in papers and his obvious willingness to pose in front of the cameras: Tilling the soil, pressing sugarcane while using his home-made apparatus, resting on a stone with a philosophical expression; he certainly wanted to be photographed.
He claimed that visitors bothered him, but Nuggen told me that as soon as a yacht would anchor at the island, Ritter would grab a backpack and go down to the beach. Dora appeared trained to agree with anything he said, and if she spoke before he had finished, he either looked at her disapprovingly or gave her a scolding.
Nuggen said “We brought some coffee-plants for the Baroness, but now that she is no longer her, don’t you want them?”
“Ohh,” Dora said and clapped her hands with joy at the thought of again a chance to drink a cup of coffee.
“No, thank you,” Ritter replied, “we do not use stimulants of any kind: No coffee, no tea, no tobacco, no alcohol.”
Dora realized she had said something unacceptable, and quickly assured [us] that of course coffee was completely out of the question; It was just a funny thought.
While Ritter left me to read about his philosophy, he prepared a meal for us, he being the principal cook. It turned out to be an excellent dish of bananas and eggs. Meat was never on the menu. But the taste was wonderful and I had to admit that I valued his culinary diet more than his attempt of spiritual feeding.
After a couple of hours Nuggen and Trivino bade farewell to hike back to Post Office Bay and motor the boat around to Black Beach, the bay closer to Ritter’s Frido, [sic, Friedo] which he had named his little plantation. Later in the afternoon, when Dr Ritter had finished several letters for us to post, Lorenz and I also said our goodbyes to Dora as Dr Ritter wanted to accompany us down to the bay.
“What do you make of the Baroness disappearing?” I asked.
Dr Ritter replied, looking very happy, “Well, it is simply wonderful that this creator of intrigues, this disturbance of peace, this—I simply do not how to sum her up—has finally gone from the island.”
“But how do you think she vanished?”
“I have my own theory,” Dr Ritter replied, ”when it became obvious for the Baroness that it would be impossible to realise her dream of this ‘Paradise Hotel,’ when she realised that she could not continue acting the role of a pirate queen repeatedly without becoming ridiculous, and when she saw the devastating effect the recent drought had on the island and how difficult it was to cope since Lorenz no longer worked for her, she solved it all with a desperate action, Philippson also joining her in death. That is the most natural explanation.”
Arriving down at Black Beack, Dinamita was already at anchor rolling in the swell. Ritter and Worm-Müller greeted each other and then we sailed back to Post Office Bay to stay overnight in the Norwegian house. But we were attacked by millions of mosquitos throughout the night and did not get much sleep. Very early next morning, before daylight, we returned aboard and made our course for Santa Cruz.
Halfway between Floreana and Santa Cruz we observed the bark San Cristóbal leaving Isabela, where she would have taken aboard a cargo of sulphur and was now heading for Chatham. Lorenz realized that here was a chance for a passage from the administrative island back to the mainland. When we arrived in Academy Bay, Santa Cruz, late at night and dropped anchor, he begged Nuggen to carry him to Chatham as soon as possible. The San Cristóbal was expected to remain there for another day moored in Wreck Bay.
But Nuggen was not particularly happy, partly as it would mean sailing on Friday 13th, and as most sailors, Nuggen was also superstitious. Also the current was kicking up some steep waves and finally, he was a bit short of fuel. But when Lorenz offered 50 sucres for the transport, Nuggen agreed; 50 sucres was for him a lot of money.
At dawn, Friday 13th, we watched the boat sail away.
Worm-Müller, Trivino and I remained on Santa Cruz where we had work to do; we were also quite tired after the long journey. As a replacement another young negro boy named Pazmiño came aboard.
Dinamita became smaller and smaller until she disappeared from view altogether.
A few days after Nuggen’s departure, a small fishing boat sailed over from Chatham. It was one of Garcias’ sons with a negro. When we asked if they had met Nuggen, they explained that they had not seen either him or Dinamita. As soon as we heard this, Stampa got his Falcon ready to sail out and search.
A busy, depressing period followed. We spent weeks out at times, searching far and wide, inspecting bays for signs of life and walked black lava beaches looking for signs of wreckage. We finally tried to sail to the small islands further north, but the current was strong and Falcon’s engine too weak. We might never be able to return and we finally gave up. Dinamita was gone, for now and forever.
Soon it was time for my own departure. After staying in Galápagos for eight months I had to prepare myself for a return to the mainland. I bade farewell to all my friends. For me this was a tragic end to a fantastic time in these enchanted islands.
I will never forget saying goodbye to Mrs Nuggerud. Her big, black eyes were full of tears, and in her arms she held her son [Oscar Trygve Nuggerud], a miniature Nuggen, obvious even as a small baby.
Again I was flat on my back on the cabin-roof of San Cristóbal, staring straight up to the stars which in their sparkling beauty spread myriads of tiny lights across the dark-blue night.
The ship’s bow was pointing east, but I had in fact been close to sailing west towards the real South Pacific and its thousands of exotic islands. Funny thinking back to that missed opportunity. Just as we were wandering about in Wreck Bay a ship sailed in. It was a circumnavigation by the famous Seth Parker [i. e., Phillips Lord], in America an incredibly popular radio-voice. Weekly he transmitted entertaining travel-stories from his ship. Aboard was his friend Karl Karlsson, Swedish to his fingertips! I met both Parker and Karlsson and was invited to join them if I wanted. But I decided not to, not this time anyway.
The swells gently rocked me back towards the continent, to the big world. That also felt good and I had enjoyable company. Beside me on the cabin roof was the young and energetic professor, Martin Vögel from Switzerland. Like me, he was returning to his homeland. On behalf of the Government of Ecuador he had investigated the possibility of sulphur-mining on the island of Isabela. In his spare time he was occupied with different and more exciting work: He collected and exported live animals for zoological gardens, among them Hagenbeck in Hamburg. We had met briefly in Guayaquil, and I had vivid memories of his back yard crowded with all kinds of animals. Myself, when safely back ashore, I was hoping to get to know some of South America’s rich fauna in their natural habitat. Vögel and I had a lot of common topics to talk about as we spent the nights on that cabin roof of San Cristóbal.
Again I was wandering about among the crows of Guayaquil. I might on my first visit have thought that the local conditions were a bit strange and primitive compared to my homeland, but this time it felt like I had arrived at the height of civilisation! To lie in a proper bed, to eat unlimited food on a plate, to dress with collar and tie, to shave (and cut myself)—it was wonderful!
There was a welcome-back party in the restaurant Fortich on my first night ashore. Bohman, Lilliegran and Ästrøm were present and I have written in my diary in my best hand-writing that I never knew that the Swedish language could be so beautiful and that Swedish knäckebröd (crisp bread) could be so incredibly good.
However, gloomier aspects of life intervened and I soon had other issues on my mind than ties and knäckebröd. Professor Vögel and I were soon besieged by enquiries from the outside world and the local press about what had really happened in the New Eden colony. To where had the pirate queen disappeared and what was Dr Ritter’s part in the mystery? We considered it best to combine our statements and we signed a long and detailed description together, to the best of our ability, using the facts and observations that we possessed. It created an enormous interest and was telegraphed immediately to the rest of the world.
But that was far from the end of the Galápagos drama. The American expedition leader and millionaire Alan [sic, Allan] Hancock, who from past visits knew the Floreana hermits, heard about the strange events and immediately started out for Floreana in his yacht Velero III, determined so solve the mystery. While still out at sea, he received a telegram saying that an American fishing vessel, Santa Amaro [sic, Santo Amaro] from California, had discovered two bodies on Marchena, one of the small desert islands in the north, so Hancock decided to first head for that island.
A long distance from the island, one of the crew on Velero III spotted a tall pole that the shipwrecked must have erected in the hope of being discovered. A white cloth was fluttering from the top. But up on the black, hostile beach they found two mummified bodies; Santa Amaro [sic, Velero III?] had arrived too late. Hancock immediately identified them as Nuggerud and Lorenz. The first man was lying underneath the small, flat-bottomed dinghy that he always kept aboard and used to row ashore from Dinamita. His head was resting on a rock as if he had understood how hopeless the situation was and he may as well lie down to rest forever.
The dead body of Lorenz was found a couple of metres away. They also came across the remains of sea lions, lobsters and pelicans; most likely the two men had died of thirst. Normally, there is not a drop of water to be found on Marchena. There was no sign of Dinamita or the negro boy, but it was still possible for the locals to figure out the most likely sequence of events.
“Almost certainly,” the Norwegian Stampa wrote to me, “they either developed engine problems or ran out of fuel, and Dinamita drifted away from Chatham, where somebody had actually observed her. The current would have carried her north to Marchena. Nuggerud would have dropped the anchor, left the boy as watchman aboard and gone ashore with Lorenz. They would have caught an animal, made a fire using the lens from the binoculars and eaten sea lion or pelican. Maybe they were searching for water away from the beach, had fallen asleep exhausted and on wakening rushed back to find Dinamita gone. The wind and current would have made Dinamita pull out her anchor and drift out to sea with the negro boy aboard. The current can be very strong up there and after a couple of hours, the boat would have disappeared from view.”
We had still more dramatic events in store when Velero III reported that on Floreana they found Dr Ritter dead, apparently from some sort of poisoning. In spite of being a vegetarian he had actually eaten a dead hen and shortly afterward become sick. Dora, his companion, was overcome by grief and may have joined Dr Ritter in death if Hancock had not taken care of her. She was taken to Guayaquil aboard his yacht, where a ship gave her passage back to Germany.
What had really happened on Floreana? Had Dr Ritter been killed because he knew too much about the disappearance of the Baroness and Philippson? And where could those two be, dead or alive? These questions buzzed around in Ecuador and poured in from around the world. The South American press came up with one theory after another and one newspaper claimed that I had been a witness to murder § and between the lines indicating that I ought to be taken in for questioning immediately!
§ Perhaps an early example of “fake news:” As noted above, Blomberg arrived at Isla Floreana after the Baroness had gone missing. He therefore could not possibly have been a witness to her murder (or whatever her fate was).
One of Ecuador’s biggest newspapers, El Telégrafo, managed to dispatch a journalist to the islands. He sent back a whole series of spectacular reports that almost everybody read. It was a scoop! But when the ship returned to Guayaquil, the ship’s radio operator contacted the other main national newspaper, El Universo, saying that all the articles written by the journalist were lies from beginning to end. He had hardly done anything other than sleeping and eating aboard and had barely been ashore…
The battle that followed this disclosure in El Universo caused spectacular verbal fighting between the radio operator and the journalist, but I will refrain from details. Not a day passed without fierce accusations. The readers joined in the daily columns on both sides; this sort of battle was just up their sleeve!
In spite of all these reports and theories, as time passed it became less and less certain what really happened on Floreana. Months passed and no real news or facts emerged.
Rumours emerged even here in my homeland, but never contained anything substantial. But it was definitely proven that Nuggerud and Lorenz had lost their lives. The strong and handsome Nuggen, that Viking descendent in the Pacific had become a close friend. I could still feel his solid handshake, and when I recalled his wife and small baby, my sorrow was painful, almost unbearable.
The Pirate Queen and her Minister were gone forever. The only likely fate beyond doubt, is that they ended their lives on or near the island. But why and how, may never be known. Their New Eden never became much of an Eden, not even a hint of Paradise, and the end of the play was stained with blood.
Whenever Professor Vögel and I discussed what had really taken place, we recalled a statement by the Baroness that we had heard quoted in Galápagos. It referred to Philippson and herself:
“One day”, she apparently said, “we shall smoke our last cigarette and drink our last whisky and together swim out on the big ocean …”
The enchanted islands, or rather, the bewitched islands, are hiding yet another puzzle.