|1||The Islands and their Names|
|2||The Arrival of Life|
|3||The Altitudinal Zones|
|6||Buccaneers and Privateers|
|8||The Villamil Period|
|9||Briones the Pirate|
|10||Valdizán and Cobos|
|16||The War and After|
|17||The Struggle for Conservation|
|18||Conflict of Interests|
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.
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. Lundh (1928-2012)
e-mail: (Jake's daughter)
Author's 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.
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 the cutter-rigged Santa Inez, a ship owned by my father, Captain Herman H. Lundh. We sailed to Santa Cruz, an island about the same size as Tahiti, which 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 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 Nourmahal. 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 el 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 1950s, 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.
§ The author's “The Galápagos Islands Flag …” gives more details on this.
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 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. §
§ The English translation of Drømmen om Galápagos is now (2014) available on this website.
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 Vice-president 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.
A brief discussion about the names of the main islands and their areas.
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 km2 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 Fe, is about 25 km2 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 km2 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 km2 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 km2 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 km2 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 km2 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 km2 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 km2 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 km2 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 km2 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 km2 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 km2 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 km2 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 km2 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 km2 reaching 253 m at its highest point.
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.
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 Columbus' first voyage was being celebrated.
The islands are located on the equator, spreading from almost 160 km north of it to a little over 180 km to the south. There are about 950 km from Punta del Este (San Cristóbal) to Cabo San Lorenzo, on the coast of Ecuador. The shortest distance to Central America is 1,150 km 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.
CLIMATE: 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 semi-arid 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 rainy. 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 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 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 Tagus 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 Galápagos 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.
A brief description of the botanical regions that exist at different altitudes on the greater islands and their fauna.
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. Alban Stewart, who divided and named the Galápagos 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 Galápagos 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 Galápagos 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 Galápagos. 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.
§ Now, Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove).
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 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 Palo Santo (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 Palo Santo, 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 Palo Santo (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 Palo Santo 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.
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.
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 Inca 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 Inca 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 Inca.
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 Yupanqui with those who remained ashore.
Topa Inca 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 Inca 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 Inca, 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 Inca 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 chair cannot have come from Mangareva. There is the possibility that they 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 Fe, 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 Chimú Kingdom, which was conquered by the Incas around 1466, when the Inca Túpac Yupanqui threatened to cut off 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 Chimú 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 not 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 orchil 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 abundant, 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.
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.
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 to 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 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 eighth 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 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 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, 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 no 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 the 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 Charles 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 negative. 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 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, the Bishop 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. §
§ An English translation may be viewed on this website.
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 re-conquered 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 vice regal 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 Antwerp 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 one 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 otherworldly 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.
§ There is no known record of an Ortelius chart showing the name Encantadas. In fact, the only known charts showing this name are by Robert Sayer (1775), Laurie & Whittle (1794), and John Reid (1796).
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.
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 discourage 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 Havana 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.
§ Actually Hawkins mentioned, but did not visit, Galápagos, as reported in the entry for Richard Hawkins on our Notes page.
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 diseases 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 heterogeneous 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 marmalade 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.