|Floreana, Island of Death|
|2||The Ghosts of Post Office Bay|
|3||The Tragic Year|
|4||The Haven of Peace|
|5||The Early Settlers|
|6||The Search for Saydee Reiser|
|San Cristóbal, Island of Springs|
|8||Return To Paradise|
|10||At the Mercy of Wind and Current|
|11||Life in Puerto Baquerizo|
|12||The Americans Arrive|
|14||The Colonization of San Cristóbal|
|15||Of Treasures and Other Things|
|16||The Franciscan Missionaries|
|17||Tourists and Scientists|
|Santa Cruz, Island of the Norwegians|
|18||Date Palms, Wild Goats, Spiny Lobsters|
|19||The Early Inhabitants of Santa Cruz|
|20||Life of the Settlers|
|21||The Quest for Salt|
|22||The Island of the Buccaneers|
|23||Of Tortoises and Cacti|
|24||Goodbye to Paradise|
It was a sunny day, but the heat was not oppressive as there was a fresh breeze coming in from the sea. The sky was beautiful and the few white clouds that moved across it forecast the best possible weather. I could have remained there, standing in the shade of the Research Station's laboratory, regarding the cobalt blue sea, where the mountainous silhouette of Barrington rises against the sky. The blue water of the bay, beribboned with snowy foam, where the waves throw themselves against the black rocks of the shore, was slightly choppy.
The two American tourists I had with me were with the director of the Research Station, and would be busy with him for the time being. I let my mind wander, returning to the past, to the countless times when I had looked at this same landscape, when this place was so isolated from the rest of Puerto Ayora, that many of those who came to visit us lost their way before reaching our house, which stood by the little beach that lies between the laboratory and the sea.
Suddenly, I shook off those memories. This was the opportunity to get some pictures of the station's biggest tortoise, a beautiful male of the Santa Cruz subspecies, whose picture I had wanted to take for some time. Heading for the fenced area where the tortoises were kept, I climbed over the wall of volcanic rocks and wandered among the giant cacti and the shrubbery. I found two small tortoises, hidden under the tangle of woody vines; but the big one was nowhere to be seen, though this was its favorite place.
Going farther, I descended a short and steep slope which had a somewhat familiar appearance. I could not be sure—nearly all my old trails had disappeared with the years. Half crouching, dodging the low branches and concentrating my eyes on the ground to avoid stumbling on the rocks, I finally arrived to the bottom, finding myself in a manchineel grove. I looked up. A strange feeling paralyzed my mind and body for a moment. In front of me were a few date palms and my eyes followed incredulously the rough trunks up to the fronds, which lost themselves among the manchineel branches, seeking the tropical sun and the blue sky.
The emotional shock was tremendous. My senses remained paralyzed for a while. The last time I had seen those date palms, each of them had been barely a narrow grass-like leaf that stood four or five centimeters above the thick carpet of litter under the manchineels. I had planned to cut away the branches and trees by stages, to provide the palms with space for their development; but I went to Colombia and I never got to do it. I had assumed the little date seedlings must have died from neglect. Now, seven years later, they stood there, large and strong, with their roots sinking into the sandy soil and into the brackish water underneath. I had chosen the place well when I placed a fistful of seeds in the sand, the seeds that my Alsatian friend Carlos Kübler had given me. To return and find myself in front of those date palms was the greatest emotional shock I had felt in that place so full of memories.
When we returned to Galápagos at the beginning of 1950, my mother, Eric (my brother) and I had decided to go into shark fishing. Shark liver had at the time a very good price and a year-round demand, unlike salt fish, which was only sold at Eastertime. Of course, we were also going to salt and dry the shark flesh and preserve the fins, the latter having a relatively good price in Guayaquil. But we had bad luck with our project. We were unable to get the property of Kristian Stampa and his boats, which had been set up for sale by his widow. The offer we made her was rejected because there was a much better one we could not match. Later, we found out that this had been withdrawn and we had reasons to suspect that it had not been genuine—just a maneuver by people who wished us ill.
The property ended up in the hands of our American friend, Ernest Divine, who paid more or less the same amount we had offered for it. I must stress that neither Divine nor his wife Doris were behind the fake offer, for when they decided to buy the property they had been on their way to the Marquesas, with no thoughts of establishing themselves in Galápagos, though they eventually settled there for the rest of their lives.
Our second bit of bad luck was the sudden and disastrous collapse of the price for shark liver, which made our project unprofitable. This situation left us uncertain of what to do next. But we had of course to leave the Stampa property, where we had been living temporarily, for we had just received news that Divine had bought it. It had become urgent to build a house somewhere. The best sites were already taken in the neighborhood of Arena Blanca, the Stampa property, and besides there was no brackish water in that area. On the Puerto Ayora side, across the bay, there was good brackish water at the old water hole in Pelican Bay; but the best building sites had been occupied long ago.
My brother and I decided to search on the other side of the village, beyond the little cemetery. Following the old hunting trail to Punta Núñez, we found a small beach that we liked very much, but we doubted if we could find suitable brackish water there, so we finally chose another place, farther away, where we found water that was somewhat salty, but good enough for washing clothes and cooking. It was even acceptable for drinking if it was cool, just out of the water hole.
Just west of the site, we found a stretch of sheltered shore, protected by a reef, where it was possible to land on this otherwise exposed shore. It was a hard job to transport all the lumber for the house, towing it across the bay, behind our small dinghy, while we rowed. We did this little by little, while we were building the platform on which the house would stand. This latter was made of volcanic rocks from the site, topped with coral fill, which we carried from a place just beyond where the house would stand. Finally we placed a thick layer of shell sand from the nearby beach on top of it all. At times, this job made us feel like convicts doing forced labor, so it was a relief to begin the erection of the house itself.
Neither of us had any experience in carpentry, beyond breaking open wooden crates; but we managed with some care to build a house that was neither crooked nor off level. In fact, even at the risk of being called immodest, I must confess that what we accomplished looked like the work of professionals. Of course, we used at least twice as much time as that required by a regular carpenter.
One of the episodes I remember most, besides the time Eric and I thought we had discovered a more direct access to our beach and were swamped in the breakers, is our first night in the new house. We had spent the day transporting our things and we had even carried across a herd of half a dozen goats to the new property. The goats accepted their new residence with the greatest misgivings, and it took them some days before they ventured far from the house to graze. It was very moving to see how they watched us, fearing that we would go away to leave them abandoned and without protection in this strange place. That night, when we went to sleep, they were grazing in the rocky terrain behind the house. Exhausted by the day's hard work, we fell asleep early, my mother in her bed, my brother and I on our respective matresses on the floor, for we had not yet brought over all the furniture.
When the moon came out, its light came in through all the windows, which were still only rectangular holes in the wooden walls. Through the back of the house, the silvery light entered unhindered, for the whole back wall remained unfinished. The moonlight's intensity finally awakened me from my deep sleep. The first sight that appeared before my eyes when I opened them was a narrow face with a black goatee, its jaws chewing slowly, while its shiny eyes regarded me intently. On each side of the mop of black hair on the narrow forehead were magnificent curved horns. Still half asleep, I wondered for a second if my soul had been sent for. I sat up abruptly, finding myself face to face with Negra, the head goat of the herd, who greeted me with a soft guttural sound of affection.
It appears that after they had eaten, the animals had entered the house in search of protection and human company. With the exception of Negra, who was standing over me, all the goats were lying around my matress and that of my brother. Though we found the incident very moving, we decided that the most urgent now was to finish the back wall of the house, though it meant postponing the transportation of a great part of our belongings, which still remained on the other side of the bay. We did not like the thought of having our new home turned into a stable with the smell of goat droppings.
Life in that place was very peaceful, as there was hardly any human traffic because of the difficult access. We used mainly the dinghy for our transportation. The people of Puerto Ayora however, with the exception of two or three people, never took the risk to row through the two reefs that made access to our landing difficult. This rocky shore has now a stone jetty built by the Research Station. The channel has been marked with white-painted wooden posts and a coral head that was in the middle of it was blasted by the American Forrest Nelson, who began the construction of the first building at the Station.
On land, at least for hunters like my brother and I, the trail was an easy one. Once past the last grave in the cemetery, one turned to the left, going into the bush. At one point, it was necessary to go out to the shore for a very short distance, which could be a bit difficult at high tide, for the mangroves extended a little below the high water mark. Now, this trip can be made by car, over a road of stone and coral, built under the supervision of Forrest Nelson, who owns the oldest hotel on the island, and worked for a time at the Research Station. My brother and I used either route at any hour of the day or the night, even after a party, which in the islands meant having more alcohol inside than is convenient for such a trip. We always arrived safely home. My mother, on her part, preferred going by land, in full daylight, if Eric or I were unavailable to row the boat.
Land clearing for planting was a rather slow job. The manchineel trees, which grew in the few places where there was any soil or sand, produce a blistering sap, so it therefore took a lot of care to cut them, most of all to prevent the milky sap from getting into ones eyes. On the other hand, our first plantings were a failure because they were done at a time when the weather was hot and dry, the rains of the warm season having failed completely that year. We tried to water them, carrying buckets of brakish water, an exhausting and slow job, but this proved useless as the water had a salt content that was too high. I also attempted to find water in the area where we had our plants. The result was hardly encouraging, for not only was the terrain very rocky, but the two excavations I made at the cost of so much effort only produced sea water. I gave up, at least for the time being.
Eric, my brother, went to Panama, was later engaged in fishing, and finally went to work for our friend Divine, leaving me his part of the property, as he could not see any future in it. In this he had considerable reason, though it was several unexpected and unfavorable circumstances that played the decisive role in the final failure of our project. In the long run, with the necessary funds to survive a long waiting period, we could have managed, but only without the other difficulties that appeared.
I did much better with my hunting and spiny lobster catching—both without a commercial purpose. When the lowest tides came around new or full moon, I used to go out for spiny lobsters. Outside our landing there was a large reef, regarded as the best place in the bay for catching lobsters. Unfortunately, it had been exploited for many years and one could not count on getting catches greater than six to eight lobsters after three or four hours of work. Quite often, one returned empty-handed.
At that time, commercial fishing of spiny lobster was unknown in the islands, and out of the way places were mostly untouched. For this reason, I preferred to cross the bay in our boat, then continue overland to a stretch of open shore that was too far to have been exploited before. From here I always came back with twenty or more lobsters. Once, I came back with forty-two, a number I never managed to surpass. I always gave away a few lobsters, but most of them ended in a cage that was anchored in front of our landing. After this, we would spend a week eating roasted lobster, lobster cocktail, lobster cakes, lobster in curry sauce, etc. Afterwards, goat meat seemed more delicious than it really is.
Goat hunting was another story. I opened a hunting trail from the shore to a very high cliff inland. This trail, in a much improved version, is now the one that leads to the Charles Darwin Station's seismograph, which is a short distance inland from the edge of the cliff. Later, I cut a trail leading inland, some two-three kilometers from the cliff's edge. I used this latter trail very little, for I seldom met with goats in that area. However, I often found them along the cliff, when I followed it in the direction of Punta Núñez.
Usually, I would shoot two goats, salting some of the meat and giving away some to my acquaintances. Once, I felt especially ambitious and killed three animals. In that sort of country and with so much weight on me, I ended with a terrible pain in the thighs that lasted several days. At the time, I had an old .22 caliber carbine for target shooting, with a barrel that was both long and heavy, which gave it considerable steadiness, but greatly increased its weight. In addition, it was a single-shot gun. Fortunately, I have good aim and a steady hand, which allowed me to hit the target at the first try.
Trusting this, I would only place two or three rounds in my pocket when I went hunting. However, once when I took along only two rounds, I found myself needing three. I had killed one animal and gutted it, cutting off the head and the shanks to make it lighter to carry. I hung it in a tree, intending to take it with me on my way home. The animal was a bit skinny and I was not completely satisfied with it. Luckily, the day was still young, and I was sure I could get something better. Climbing the cliff, I followed its edge in the direction of Punta Núñez. It did not take long before I discovered a young male among some shrubbery. It was a fine specimen. I stopped, aimed at its temple and pressed the trigger. The distance was short, the chances of failure about nil.
But unexpected factors may appear at times. The sound of a broken twig—there were other goats in the immediate vicinity—made the animal raise its head at the precise moment when I squeezed the trigger. My bullet did not hit its temple; it broke the animals lower jaw. It was my last round. It appeared as if the terrain was too broken and the vegetation too close for me to run down the goat and catch it. On the other hand, I could not allow it to slowly starve to death, while suffering the pain of a broken jaw. I did what my common sense considered reckless and without chances of success. I ran after the wounded goat. Somehow, I managed to force it towards the edge of the cliff.
Suddenly, the animal disappeared over the side. Of course, this was impossible, for it was a vertical wall some sixty meters high. I looked over the edge, half expecting to see its broken body below, on the jagged rocks. But there was a narrow, sloping shelf there which the goat had descended. The animal stood there, waiting for me, its head low, ready to rush me should I approach it.
Leaving the gun on a rock, I descended cautiously, my hunting knife ready, while I tried not to think too much about the height and the rocks that awaited me below, should I fall. I reasoned that if I already had risked breaking an ankle and becoming helpless so far from any human help, I might as well continue running risks a little longer and finish the job I had undertaken. Once in front of the goat, half crouching, I reached out my left hand to grab its left horn, and twisted its head enough to keep the beast off balance. With the other hand, I sliced its throat with a single slash. The loss of blood was so fast and abundant, that it collapsed at once.
When returning from a hunt, I used to hang the goat carcasses on a low and thick manchineel branch to skin them and cut them up. Afterwards, I carried the parts to the sea, to clean them of the leaves and soil picked up on the way from the woods. A great part of the cleaning consisted of cutting off the dirty parts, which I would leave on the rocks. It was some time since I had noticed a very large marine iguana, a magnificent male about one meter and thirty long, which used to watch me attentively. I did not make much of this.
Despite their ferocious appearance these reptiles are harmless and, unlike their terrestrial cousins on the islands, they never bite. It did not occur to me that it could be interested in the bits and pieces of meat, as these animals had been described as strictly vegetarian, since they feed on certain seaweeds. They had never been observed eating anything else.
One day I went down to the shore to wash a pot. The iguana, as soon as it saw me, ran towards me, stopping about three paces away. It eyed me for a few seconds and then began to run from side to side in front of me, describing a semicircle, while it once in a while snapped in the direction of my toes, always keeping its distance. This extraordinary behavior surprised me for a moment, then I realized all of a sudden that the reptile was begging for meat. Unfortunately, I did not have any, but remembered some salt fish I had soaking in water since the previous evening. I went to fetch a piece.
The iguana did not follow me and when I returned I found it lying in the sand, staring fixedly at the place where it had lost sight of me. It seemed disappointed with the fish, but finally ate it. After this, I began to leave a generous quantity of small meat pieces scattered on the rocks. I often watched my new friend eating them with obvious enjoyment.
The iguana and I became good friends. Its trust became so great, that it would crawl up on my chest when I lay down on the beach. It would lie there, watching me with one greenish gray eye, in the manner of a bird, its head tipped to one side. It also used to go up to the house to visit my mother and enjoyed lying at her feet while she was embroidering and singing. It seems that it liked her singing, for when she stopped it would wait for a little while, then head back to the beach if she did not start singing again. My mother and I were the only humans this unusual reptile accepted.
Ola, as my mother named it, was probably the first “domesticated” marine iguana in history, though it never became completely tame, for it disliked being touched. If picked up or caressed, it would run off and stay away for two or three days. A few years later, when Karl Angermeyer finished the construction of his beautiful stone house next to the Puerto Ayora anchorage, he got a whole marine iguana colony sitting on the walls towards the sea, soaking up the sunshine. The animals would come running whenever Karl or Marga, his wife, called to offer them the leftovers from their table. The reptiles had nothing against eating any sort of food, be it boiled rice, potatoes, meat or fish. All was swallowed with the greatest impartiality.
Occasionally, I would vary my hunting trips going to the highlands, where I hunted wild pigs with Miguel Castro, with whom I share a friendship that goes back to the time we were both nine years old. At other times, I would go hunting with Víctor Hugo Castro and Marina Fuentes. Víctor Hugo was not related to Miguel, and had arrived to the island many years later. He and Marina had a farm next to one Eric, my brother, had bought from a friend who left the islands. Once, when I went up to spend some days at the latter property, I heard that the couple had caught a young bull near their vegetable garden. Their plantings were protected by a fence made of branches and tree trunks, like those used on San Cristóbal. Much wild cattle came down to that area, as well as feral pigs, so a good fence was a must.
Víctor had discovered the young bull close to their fence, and approached it cautiously, making the best possible use of the cover offered by shrubs and bushes. The breeze came from the cattle towards him, so the animals were unable to scent his presence. They first discovered Víctor Hugo when he jumped the young bull, grabbing it by the horns and twisting its head.
This and the momentum carried by Víctor Hugo, together with the muddy ground, caused the animal to slip and fall over. Víctor promptly placed his knee on the side of the bull's head, applying all his weight. It was then that he realized how precarious his situation was. He had a terrified wild beast kicking under him and carried no weapon with which to kill it. He did not know how long he could hold this position; but he also realized the danger of letting the animal go.
Luckily, Marina had seen it all. She always was a woman of action. She carried a hunting machete in her hand. These have a two-edged point, so she was able to approach the bull, and thrust the weapon into its heart. Jumping wild cattle in this manner was not the usual way of hunting in the islands, not even in the most primitive years of early settlement, and deserves admiration if we consider that this young man had lived barely two or three years in Galápagos, after many years as a taxi driver in Guayaquil.
I could tell an infinity of hunting stories, some funny, others full of suspense, but I shall limit myself to mention what happened to my old and faithful single-shot carbine. When I left for Colombia, I sold it to Bolívar Aguirre, an old Isabela settler who had established himself on our island. He later sold it to a young farmer, who later used it to murder his wife and stepdaughter. This was the first crime on record on our usually peaceful island. When I describe it as such, I think of the period beginning in 1926, for we know very little about the early history of Santa Cruz. Acts of violence and bloody happenings could have taken place in older times, but we have no records of them.
The foundation of the Santa Cruz settlement is attributed to the Norwegians who arrived on board the schooner Ulva in 1926. In fact, though this group broke up, the few of the members who remained formed the nucleus of the first permanent population of the island. It was also this group that founded Puerto Ayora, at the head of Academy Bay, on the south side of the island, a village that is now the center of Galápagos tourism. But when they arrived, the Norwegians did not find—as they had expected—a totally uninhabited island. Some seven kilometers inland, at the area then known as Fortuna—now Bellavista—six men from San Cristóbal were tilling the soil.
As has been stated, all this recent colonization started on the south side of the island, but there had been for many years two abandoned farms in the western parts of the highlands, one near the Santa Rosa spring and another, somewhat closer to the dry region, in a place called Salazaca. The Norwegian settlers attributed these plantings to the pirates, following the island custom of explaining any human work of unknown origin as something created by the buccaneers.
In the northwest of Santa Cruz there is a small anchorage which may be easily identified by an isolated and steep hill above a small beach. Unlike most other beaches in the region, which consist of shell sand, this one consists largely of crystals of chrysolite, a greenish mineral. From here, a trail, dating at least from the days of General Villamil, led to the interior of the island. In 1846, the Comte de Gueydon, commanding “Le Genie”, found in this anchorage two or three huts, at the foot of the hill. The few inhabitants provided themselves with water from a spring which was located about ten miles inland. This could be none other than the spring at Santa Rosa Hill. De Gueydon mentions nothing about any plantings and it can be said without any doubts that the inhabitants devoted themselves to collecting archil and catching tortoises for General Villamil.
When the Swedish botanist Nils Johan Andersson visited the place on May 18, 1852, he saw two huts at the foot of the hill. From these several men came out, fleeing inland at the sight of the boat in which Prof. Andersson and his companions were approaching. The visitors found a woman in one of the huts, but were unable to communicate with her as none of them could speak Spanish. On San Cristóbal, they had heard that a group of criminals lived here, their leader being a woman. It is possible that these could have been convicts from Floreana, sent to Santa Cruz as punishment, or people who had escaped from the penal colony. I have never been able to find out their origin or their fate.
In May of 1950, when I visited the place for the first time, I found no remains of human habitation, no trail to the interior, nor any other signs of human presence past or present. However, I have heard that at the beginning of the 20th century there were still the remains of a hut here. Like Andersson, I spent only a very few hours at the place and could not let my desire for exploring the coast and the inland area take over. Andersson, in the series of letters he wrote during his voyage around the world, states that the place held no special interest; but in his Galápagos botany he regrets that he had so little time to remain there, for it turned out that he had discovered a relatively high percentage of new species in the three or four hours he had to collect plants. Andersson is, as far as we know, the first botanist who visited this great island, which is the second in size of Galápagos.
San Cristóbal tradition attributes the plantings at Santa Rosa and Salazaca to don Manuel J. Cobos, who used to maroon people on Santa Cruz and other islands as a punishment for rebellious behavior, when the lash proved insufficient to subdue them. Some of the people deported to Santa Cruz were set to work on the plantings in the interior, no doubt to provide fresh food for the archil collectors and other workers Cobos had in the region. If we recall that this was also the original purpose of the Cobos plantings in the San Cristóbal highlands, it is easy to believe that this tradition is correct.
Among the old San Cristóbal settlers, the anchorage with the chrysolite beach was known as Puerto de las Chacras (Harbor of the Farms), and the hill was called Cerro Gallina, a name that is given now to a larger hill in the southwest of the island. Later, Puerto de las Chacras became known as Whale Bay because of the remains of a sperm whale skeleton found on the beach. The hill was named Cerro Ballena, these two being among the very few geographical names that survived until recent years from the early Norwegian settlers. Santa Rosa and its vicinity are now occupied by an agricultural colony and the road that crosses the island, after going inland from Bellavista, makes a detour by Santa Rosa, before circling the mountains to descend to the north coast and the Canal de Itabaca, from where one may reach the airfield on Baltra.
When the earliest Norwegians arrived to the island in 1926, they found, as stated, six inhabitants. Five of these had been working for a Mr. Amador Baquerizo of Guayaquil, who had attempted to start a cattle ranch on the island. The few heads of cattle that had been brought over from San Cristóbal were released by these workers, who abandoned Santa Cruz shortly after the arrival of the Norwegians, except one—Elías Sánchez, who had been living on the island since 1917. He continued living on Santa Cruz until 1937.
Once they were abandoned, the cattle headed for the open pastures in the highest part of the island, where they were later joined by two or three cows that were brought by a Norwegian mining engineer, Jacob H. Horneman, who settled near Fortuna in 1927. When he went to work for a mining company in Chile, Horneman released his cows. All these animals would originate the herds of feral cattle wandering in the moister parts of the island in later years.
The sixth inhabitant was an old Mexican, who is supposed to have lived on Santa Cruz since 1911. This man, Felipe Lastre, whom the Norwegians called “Latri”, had worked many years at the Cobos plantation. It is said that it was he who supervised the construction of the series of ditches and pipes that carried water from the San Cristóbal grasslands down to the cisterns at the Cobos sugar mill. The course followed by this primitive aqueduct was so good, that it was used by the American engineers when they installed their pipeline during the war, to bring water to the end of the old pier in Puerto Baquerizo. Like Amador's men, Lastre also left Santa Cruz in 1927.
The Norwegian group, officially known as la Colonia de Santa Cruz, worked with great enthusiasm. In the short period of four months, they erected seven wooden houses and a cannery, and built a solid stone jetty that is still in use. They also opened an access channel to the lagoon where the jetty is, thus creating a magnificent harbor for small vessels, a great necessity in Academy Bay, where the former landing had been a small beach of fine sand, near the old brackish water hole. This last place, formerly known as la Aguada de Chávez, and named Pelican Bay by the first Norwegian settlers, is a poor anchorage, being exposed. The small beach is a comfortable landing only at high tide.
The Colonia de Santa Cruz began, once the machinery was installed, to produce canned mullet, sea turtle and spiny lobster, all of which, due to the high quality, was well received in Guayaquil. The new settlers also managed to adapt well to the conditions on the island, accepting willingly to change their food habits, adapting themselves to the use of such tropical crops as cassava, taro and plantains.
They also made good use of the plantings left by Amador's men and the Mexican Lastre, to which were added temperate climate vegetables such as cabbage, potatoes, cucumbers, and turnips, products that proved successful, as did a number of other vegetables that were tried. Everything seemed to go well, for though they depended on rain for their fresh water, they had an advantage over the settlers who had chosen Floreana—brackish water. This was available even in years of drought, as it originates from rain water filtering slowly down from the mountains. It may contain different proportions of salt, according to where it reaches the shore. Sometimes it only has the taste of the minerals it has dissolved during its long voyage from the highlands.
Unfortunately, like all previous cooperatives—and later ones—the Colonia de Santa Cruz lacked a suitable reserve capital, which left it vulnerable to unexpected expenses and the inevitable problems that came in their way. There were also disagreements among the members, which became increasingly serious as the economic situation deteriorated. The canning cooperative finally broke up, as the colonization group on Floreana had done, and as was happening with the group on San Cristóbal. Gradually, the Norwegians abandoned Galápagos. When my mother and I arrived to Galápagos to join my father, in 1932, only two members of the original group remained on Santa Cruz—Gordon Wold, who had recently become my father's partner, and Kristian Stampa. These two have been mentioned earlier. By then, the Worm-Müllers, a mature couple, and Trygve Nuggerud, all three from the San Cristóbal group, had settled in Academy Bay. The Norwegians continued however as the majority group on the island, the permanent population of which barely reached at the time a dozen souls.
At first, the small settlement grew very slowly, mainly with the arrival of Europeans. In 1931, a Danish couple, the Raeders, arrived together with their Icelandic partner Walter Finsen. We, as has been mentioned, came in 1932. In 1934, Jens Moe, one of the original Norwegians, returned, after living some years in Colombia. That same year, the Alsatian Carlos Kübler came with his wife Marga and their daughter Carmen. The Küblers had lived a number of years in Spain, where don Carlos had worked at the German Embassy. The following year, the population had a sudden increase with the arrival of the Lundbergs, a Swedish family, and the Norwegian families Graffer and Kastdalen, the latter accompanied by their partner, Miss Amanda Kristoffersen, adding eight people to the small colony. One of the original Norwegians, Anders Rambech also returned that year, this time accompanied by his wife Solveig.
The establishment of a garrison in 1937 doubled the island's population and the Ecuadorians became definitely the majority group of the population, as they were on the other islands in the archipelago. That year also brought Captain Rafael Castro and his family—one of whose sons is my old friend Miguel. At this time, the four Angermeyer brothers also came, three of them establishing families on Santa Cruz. The garrisons would have a certain influence in the later population increase, for some soldiers returned as settlers after retiring from the army, and when Eric, my brother, and I came back in 1946, we found a number of former army men living on the island as settlers.
After the second world war, the population grew at a somewhat faster rate, and though a number of Europeans arrived, few of them stayed on the island. However, though they at present are a small minority, and despite the disappearance of the Norwegians, visitors often have the erroneous impression that they form a considerable percentage of the population. This is largely due to the fact that most of them live close to the anchorage and are very much in evidence.
The Norwegian colony on Santa Cruz might have become larger and possibly survived, if everything had gone as planned in 1948. A new group of settlers, the last one to be organized in Norway, seemed to have the best possibilities of succeeding. Behind this project stood Arne Christian Karlsen and Lars Karterud. Kristian Stampa, who was in Norway visiting with his family, also became a member of this group, which was registered under the name of Stillehavsfangst (which means more or less “Pacific Fishing”—fangst covers fishing, hunting and whaling). Both Karterud and Stampa had participated in the Colonia de Santa Cruz and the cannery that was built at Puerto Ayora in 1926. They had both witnessed closely how and why that venture went wrong. Furthermore, Stampa had well established contacts in Guayaquil who took care of the sale of his dry fish and his necessary purchases there, without charging him unreasonable commissions.
There were great expectations on Santa Cruz when the news arrived about the Stillehavsfangst project. Gordon Wold and several others bought shares in the enterprise and ordered equipment and tools from Norway through Stampa. Karlsen himself had contributed with one hundred thousand crowns, which was a considerable amount of money at the time, and provided, together with the shares of the other members, a good financial foundation for the group. Karlsen had recently sold a lumber yard he owned in Stavanger and his home in Asker, near Oslo.
Stillehavsfangst purchased an old American motor yacht of one hundred tons. The vessel had been built in 1933, and was provided with two engines that gave her a maximum speed of 16 knots. An experienced skipper was also engaged, Capt. Carsten Willumsen of Stavanger. But the group was faced with the usual delays. The purchase of equipment and complications with the Norwegian officials contributed to this. As usual, the authorities were out to collect money. The vessel was supposed to pay import duties because she was registered in the United States, and should therefore be considered as an import. Fortunately, it was possible to inform the officials that the purchase was not valid before the yacht arrived to Panama. It was also demanded that the two engines be thoroughly overhauled or replaced, as they were considered to be in an inadequate condition. This was solved by informing the authorities that, since the vessel was American, they had no say in this matter.
Still, the Thalassa was delayed, and did not sail until November. Then, she had to return to Stavanger after a few hours, as one of her bilge pumps was giving problems. Once the pump was repaired, it was found that a few other things had to be looked into as well, with the result that the Thalassa did not leave again until December 17. Stampa decided to leave his family in Norway. Anne, the eldest, was going to school in Norway anyway, while Mrs. Stampa and the two younger children were lucky to get more comfortable accomodations on the factory ship of a whaling company, the Kosmos V, which would drop them off at Curaçao. This proved to be fortunate for Mrs. Stampa and her two youngest, Marit and Knut.
As could be expected at that time of the year, the voyage was a stormy one, with great seas and many seasick people. Despite this, they arrived well in Vigo, in the northwest of Spain, where they celebrated Christmas. On New Year's Eve, they started out again with the intention of reaching the Canary Islands. The weather was extremely bad when they left, and deteriorated rapidly. The storm made them lose control of the vessel, and they drifted onto a shoal, where the ship broke in two. The after part remained for a while on the rocks, before it was shoved into the deep by the huge waves. Of the fifteen people on board only the ten-year old Arnhild Karlsen survived. Her father had barely managed to get a life jacket on her before a great wave separated them.
When the news reached Santa Cruz, there was considerable grief among the settlers, both Ecuadorians and foreigners. At the time, there were barely 120 inhabitants on the island and the Norwegians were regarded with cosiderable good will. That several new ones were coming was looked upon as a positive addition to the small population.
In 1951, three new Norwegians arrived. One of them was Arthur Wiig from Ålesund, a young man who had intended to come down on the Thalassa, and had changed his mind at the last moment. The other two were Kåre Høstland from Oslo and Rasmus Tjøsvold from Karmøy. The latter had a small but very good boat with him, which the three of them used for fishing. But Wiig and Høstland saw no future in the islands and soon left for Guayaquil, where Wiig got a boat sent down from Norway, with which the two fished prawns. This was the first time that trawling was practiced along the coast of Ecuador. While the original vessel was shipwrecked, the two Norwegians did well in the following years, moving later to Colombia and thence to Surinam. In more recent years, they raised salmon in Norway. Tjøsvold remained in the islands until 1955, later spending a few years in Canada, before returning to Norway.
The disappearance of the Norwegian element from the Santa Cruz population was inevitable. Few of those who had remained remained on the island had children, and my own generation—though we all felt a great love for our island—sought our future elsewhere because of the lack of incentives. The peace and tranquillity that had attracted our elders to Galápagos, which we also greatly enjoyed, demanded what we considered a too costly sacrifice to make it a good bargain. In the 1950's, my brother, the two Graffer brothers and I left. However, I would return the following decade for a period of five years. However, the 1960's saw the rest of us leaving, except Alf Kastdalen, who later married and had a son and a daughter. He died on the island in an accident, in 1984. The older Norwegians either died on the island or returned to die in Norway, when their health began to fail.
In fact, there are very few of our other old friends left. If Eric, my brother, and I should ever return, we would find very few familiar faces among the five thousand or so who now live on our island. This population is a great increase over the fewer than seven hundred who were there in 1965. Of course, Santa Cruz itself has also changed greatly, being no longer the peaceful place of only thirty years ago. There is a modern hospital, a radio station, eleven hotels, several bars, a cinema, and at least one disco, twenty or so shops, a whorehouse four and a half kilometers up the inland road, a bus service across the island, plus a great number of small vessels engaged in taking tourists around, apart from the several ships and yachts of different sizes. In the year 2000, Ecuanet initiated Internet services and Bell South introduced mobile phones. There is also a commercial bank, Banco del Pacífico.
With all this traffic, things cannot be expected to remain unchanged. On the other hand, the great natural beauty of the island has also suffered. The greater part of the woodlands of the interior have been replaced by pasture for cattle. The island that rises with its about thousand square kilometers to an altitude of 864 meters at Mount Crocker—ascended for the first time on August 10 1932, by members of the Templeton Crocker Expedition of the California Academy of Sciences—is still there, but it is not the Santa Cruz I knew and loved.
As is to be expected, the settlers on Galápagos lived in former years a rather primitive life, devoid of much of what we usually take for granted in a modern society. Many visitors found it difficult to understand how people from Europe could voluntarily abandon their civilized background and willingly accept such conditions. Most of the Ecuadorians living in the islands were more or less used to such conditions, coming as they did from the poorer classes on the mainland; but there were also among them a number of city people, who were used to more comfortable circumstances. Of course, to the American or European visitor, with no knowledge of the language and the country, they were all “natives” and therefore assumed to be well adapted to such a life. The term “native” is of course misleading for, at least on Santa Cruz, there were extremely few Ecuadorians who had been born on the islands.
Though we have little information about the life of the earliest settlers, it must have been very similar to that of later ones, up to the 1960's. The one great exception is that the earliest settlers depended largely on archil collecting and the production of tortoise oil for their income, and made much use of tortoise meat and oil for their sustenance.
Some improvements appeared from the middle of the 1930's, like medical attention and a dentist on San Cristóbal. Both the physician and the dentist visited the other inhabited islands whenever a ship from the mainland was in Galápagos. Also, in time, the old sailing vessels were replaced by ships with steam and/or diesel engines, so that the fortnight's sailing from San Cristóbal to Guayaquil eventually became reduced to a three-day voyage. This improved ship service was however—for the most of that period—unreliable and at best monthly.
The average settler still depended largely on what he could grow in the moist highlands and/or wrest from the sea. For some, hunting was also an important source of food—wild cattle, pigs and, to a lesser extent, goats. In the case of these last, it was not that they were scarce, but they were found mostly in the lowlands, being therefore hunted by the shore dwellers, who also had access to fish, spiny lobster and sea turtles, which they preferred. The main imports from the mainland were—as from the beginning of colonization—rice, flour, sugar, lard, oil, beans and lentils. Of course, sugar would not have been imported at the time it was produced on San Cristóbal, nor would lard and oil have been of much importance at the time when tortoises were hunted regularly.
From the point of view of most outsiders, this life must have seemed a bleak affair; but it was not. It was not a life devoid of some degree of happiness and even charm. We who have known Galápagos of pre-tourism days invariably look back on those years with a feeling of loss and nostalgia, though we readily admit that it could often be a hard life. However, the conditions that existed also made us appreciate fully the simpler pleasures of life which, believe it or not, are many.
Building materials have always been a problem to Galápagos settler. From the days of the earliest colonization, building materials have very often been imported from the mainland—corrugated steel roofing, and timber have been common imports, as has been split bamboo for walls. Bamboo was not produced in the islands until after the 1940's, when such trees as Cuban cedar, mahogany and teak had also been introduced on Santa Cruz. This is not to say that the islands could not offer building materials of one sort or another.
Until the 1950's, the most common constructions in the San Cristóbal highlands were huts built on a frame of thick branches and slender trunks, covered with thin branches and twigs that were plastered with the sticky reddish brown clay that is common in the highlands of that island. The roofs were thatched with bundles of sugar cane leaves. On Santa Cruz we used mostly imported timber, as what is available in the islands is very little suitable for planking or frames. The few native trees that produce good timber are the guayabillo in the highlands and the matasarno in the lowlands. There are also several mangroves along the shores.
However, trees in Galápagos are of a small diameter and few trunks are straight for any reasonable length. My father bought a house that had been built from guayabillo timber by the Angermeyer brothers. All the planking was rather short and narrow, and all the nail holes had been drilled to prevent cracking when the nails were hammered in. White mangrove is usually sought for curved pieces such as frames and knees for boat building.
One recent author has claimed that the lack of large trees in Galápagos may be due to a great export of timber to the mainland in earlier times. I cannot understand where he could have got such an idea. This is a most unrealistic assumption, since the terrain in Galápagos would make it impractical to take out timber on a scale sufficient to eliminate all the large trees, had there been any. It also seems rather strange that an occasional large tree is never found even on such large uninhabited islands as Santiago—one would think that at least a few would have escaped the ax.
Something else that makes this claim absurd is the fact that good timber was relatively cheap and easily obtained on the mainland, even in Guayaquil. As late as after the war, when increased demand made it necessary to go farther afield to obtain it, there was still plenty lumber to be bought on the mainland. I recall buying high quality lumber at reasonable prices in Guayaquil as late as in the 1950's. If one thinks about the tremendous job it would be to obtain trees in the islands and get them down to the coast, the freight from the islands to the mainland, etc. this seems like an effective way of committing economic suicide.
The lechoso tree (Scalesia pedunculata), is the largest species in this endemic genus, which is closely related to sunflowers. The tallest tree in Galápagos, it may reach a height of 20 meters. It is also very straight, but has a relatively small diameter and a large pith, making it unsuitable for planking. However, being long and straight, it has been used at times to build log cabins on Santa Cruz. All other trees are much smaller, though their diameter may be significantly greater. The problem however is to find something that is reasonably straight.
In recent years, especially on Santa Cruz, there has been a great destruction of native trees mostly for firewood, and to a certain extent for construction, despite the small number of straight pieces obtainable. Experiments have been carried out with some success to cultivate trees that are suitable for producing timber, in the hope of saving the wild trees from extinction. However, some introduced arborescent species have also become a problem in recent years because they have spread out of control in the highlands, since their introduction many years ago. Some of these can be used for timber, such as avocado and quinine, which are both suitable for cabinetmaking. The guava tree, which is small, makes good firewood and would probably be excellent for charcoal.
In a place like Galápagos one is tempted to think that stone is the most natural building material, especially in the lowlands. However, building a stone house is a slow job and, if one uses cement to hold the stones together, an incredible amount of that material is required. Since a new settler would be hard pressed to start producing food and income as early as possible, stone constructions would seem impractical. This doubtlessly explains why there are so very few of them.
On an island like Santa Cruz, where rain water was the main source of drinking water, especially in the highlands, the only suitable roofing would be corrugated steel—and to a certain extent asbestos-cement sheets, which eventually were found to be a health hazard. One would of course also have to consider something in which to collect the water. In earlier years, it was usual to open the tops of 55-gallon drums, covering the inside with cement. When the metal corroded away, a cement container remained. Unfortunately, one would require a large number of such drums to obtain sufficient water. In time, people began to build cisterns of cement blocks and of reinforced concrete. When there was a drought, fresh water was used sparingly, and clothes were often washed on the shore, where brackish water is available. Frequently, some of the Norwegians would borrow my father's house in Pelican Bay to come down and wash their clothes.
It was during the war, when there was a serious drought, that my father thought of using banana trunks as a source of coffee water. He and his partner, Gordon Wold, had had very little fresh water left, and had been carrying up brackish water from the shore. Neither of them liked this water in their coffee, so my father cut down a banana plant and made a hollow in the stump. The trunk and the leaves were cut up for the donkeys and goats, which also needed the water from these juicy plant parts. A considerable amount of water collected in the hollow, so this method of obtaining coffee water was also used by some of the other Norwegian settlers while the dry weather lasted. This may seem terribly wasteful, but many more banana plants grow up than are needed. Also, it became necessary to cut up banana plants for the donkeys and goats to prevent them from dying of thirst. Of course, the first plants to be cut down were those that had produced fruit, as they only do so once in their lifetime.
Banana plants are formed by shoots from the actual trunk, which growns underground. Each shoot that comes up forms a false trunk with the leaf sheaths, which surround one another. Several shoots come up from each knob on the underground stem. When growing bananas commercially, a number of these shoots are cut away, only the two or three strongest being allowed to develop. This results in larger bunches and fruits. The sheaths forming the false trunk consist of large cells that contain a considerable amount of water. When cattle raising began in earnest on Santa Cruz, it became usual to cut up banana plants to provide the cattle with water during dry periods.
I will always remember an incident that happened to me during the drought in the warm season of 1946-47. I headed for the shore to wash some clothes. The weather was extremely hot, so I had waited until after supper. When the evening had cooled, I hit the trail. The full moon gave me a good light on the way down to the coast. My rucksack was packed with clothes and food for the two or three days I expected to stay in my father's house in Pelican Bay. Since everything seemed so beautiful and quiet, I enjoyed the night greatly while I walked down from the interior.
Suddenly, a tall, emaciated figure appeared in front of me, its clothes hanging loosely from the gaunt frame. The skull of the weird apparition shone in the moonlight, while the enormous round eyes were like orbs of fire. With a moonlit forest of giant cacti and twisted, nearly naked trees around me, the experience was made even scarier. I felt my blood turn to ice.
The shock vanished as quickly as it had come over me. The being I had met with was none other than our friend and neighbor, Jacob H. Horneman, who had also decided to take the trail in the moonshine to avoid the heat. He had been down in Puerto Ayora for supplies, and was towing three loaded donkeys behind him. Since he was bald and sweaty, his skull shone in the moonshine, while his thick glasses reflected the light very strongly. We both laughed at my experience and wished each other a good trip the rest of the way. It was not long after this experience that I went out on my first commercial fishing trip with Kristian Stampa. This would be a great experience, since we traveled a great deal among the islands, searching for new fishing grounds.
Fishing in Galápagos was not always a tale of sun and moonshine. The mosquitoes could be very annoying at dusk and daybreak. I remember that I once smeared my whole body with diesel oil in a desperate attempt at getting some peace while we were salting fish in the late afternoon. Nor can I forget those nights when I had to get up time and again to wring the rain water out of my blanket, during a warm season when we had a considerable rainfall.
The work itself was also hard. We stood up before daybreak to get into the cold water with the net, to catch small fish for bait. Then, we were out fishing for several hours, returning to camp around noon. We would unload the fish, wash our hands in the sea and sit down to a meal of fish soup, fried fish with rice and bean stew, before salting the catch. We were served a similar meal in the late afternoon. Things could vary a little (not the food so much as the work); but, in general, our days were very much the same.
Once, we spent a week on uninhabited Duncan, where there is a tiny sheltered cove on the northeastern side. Fishing was not bad as far as the number of fish went, but their size was rather small. Thus the work to produce a ton of salted fish became much greater than usual. Finally, we set course for Cape Marshall, on the east side of the largest island, Isabela, which is about 132 kms long and about 4670 kms2—a little over half the total surface of the whole archipelago. The anchorage we arrived at is protected by a small point to the south (Cape Marshall) and is mostly calm, except when the wind sometimes comes in from the north, during the warm season.
The landscape is forbidding, there being only two or three small green trees by a salt water pond, in a corner close to the lava field, which surrounds the small flat area above the beach. The beach itself consists of rounded stones that must be considerably older than the jagged lava that covers the landscape as far as the eye can see. This black mass of sharp rocks also extends up the sides of the main mountain, the 1707 meter high Volcán Wolf (Mt. Banks in the older literature), which forms the northern end of this great island. Volcán Wolf is the only place in Galápagos where the equator crosses land. I still keep a chunk of obsidian as a souvenir from desolate Cape Marshall.
The first boat unloading our supplies got hold of a sea turtle near the shore. It was promptly captured and butchered. While we unloaded the water and fuel drums, the supplies and everything else, the cook started a fire and began preparing a meal. When we were finished, the day was so far gone that we did not fish, taking the afternoon off. Everybody felt happy about the meat, after a whole week of eating fish. After our evening meal, we continued getting up to grill turtle meat, eating like dogs until our bellies were distended, before we turned in for the night. There was no meat left for the next day, but the cook used the bones and the flippers for making soup, something we all appreciated.
Fishing was in those days an important source of income to the settlers, and it was usual, except on Santa Cruz, for the fishermen to work farms in the highlands as well. This is a very practical combination, as most of the agricultural work is done during that time of the year when fishing is most unprofitable. The fishing for producing dry salted fish is dependent on the increased prices obtainable just before Easter, when the demand is at its highest. In fact, it does not pay to fish outside the fishing season and store the salted fish, because it becomes rancid.
Even if we have little information on fishing at the time of the earliest settlers, it is likely that such a season-dependent activity would receive little mention, as the production of archil and tortoise oil were year-round operations of far greater value from an economic point of view. Still, it is possible that the rather primitive but practical fishing gear that was used in Galápagos developed at that time. The most outstanding feature of this piece of equipment is the large, heavy lead sinker that so often was the source of laughter and jokes on the part of some new settlers and visitors. But the lumpy sinker is necessary for getting the hook and the bait to the bottom in spite of the strong currents. It is down there that our catches were to be had.
The original gear, which was still in use when I went out with Stampa, consisted of a heavy, rectangular sinker with a hole in each end. One of these was for tying on a heavy cotton line, while the other held a steel wire with a hook in the end. Since the several species of grouper that we fished have a large mouth and a roomy throat, it was necessary to use a large hook, lest it disappear far inside the fish, which would make it a job to get it out again. This fishing gear was used for innumerable years, despite the fact that it often hooked itself firmly to the rocks on the sea bottom.
After all those numerous years, someone had the idea of placing the sinker at the bottom, securing two or three hooks at convenient distances above it. This revolutionary invention, which appeared in the second half of the 1940's, was thought up by Antonio Sotomayor, a boat owner and fisherman from Santa Cruz, who had lived previously on Isabela and San Cristóbal, and been a settler since the 1920's. Sotomayor was an unusually capable fisherman. He had an incredible ability to sense the fish's slightest nibble even at depths of forty fathoms. This made him give the line a sudden pull, hooking the fish, while others could not feel that they had a fish inspecting their bait. He could stand there, pulling up one fish after another, while his frustrated companions got few or none.
During my first trip with Stampa, we met with Antonio Sotomayor and his crew, who had set up camp on a small, uninhabited island. I knew all of them from Santa Cruz, but had never met them out fishing. They were all able men, who were unfraid of hard work. One of them told me that Sotomayor had had his birthday on their previous trip, and the crew had complained that it was a pity that he could not celebrate it properly. Sotomayor had only smiled, got up from where he was sitting by the campfire, disappearing into the bush. After a short while, he reappeared carrying a gallon bottle of moonshine, which he had hidden in a lava crevice on an earlier trip, in case he should happen to crave a drink on his next visit to this desert island. I understood that there had been no fishing the following day. Galápagos moonshine of good quality is not to be taken lightly.
Like most of the fishermen on Santa Cruz during the first years after the war, Sotomayor had worked for Kristian Stampa. Like all the others, he adopted the Norwegian point of view regarding fishing boats: a boat must have an engine. Therefore, all Santa Cruz boats were provided with a motor, while those of the other islands still used oars and sail. This was the case with most island boats until the beginning of the 1950's. These boats had a shallow draft and could not take advantage of the wind unless it came more or less from aft. To row in the waters that surround the islands is a terrible job on account of the strong currents. In early 1947, I was surprised to come across two boats from Puerto Villamil (which is in the east-southeast part of Isabela), north of Cartago Bay, which is some distance up the east coast of the same island. This, using a rowboat is a considerable distance. The thought of the job these men would have to get home, rowing against the wind and the current, made me feel sorry for them.
When the great majority of Galápagos boats had installed engines, it had also become time for them to travel farther to get fish. The fishing banks near the inhabited parts had become unprofitable, and it was necessary to go farther afield. At the beginning of the 1960's, it had become usual that the boats from San Cristóbal even went to the northernmost islands—that is, from one end of the archipelago to the other.
Agriculture was of course always important for survival. It is not hard to say what the earliest settlers could have grown. From observations made in Ecuador and Colombia one may reach fairly accurate conclusions. The main problem in Galápagos has always been that the production of crops belonging in one season seldom overlaps those produced in the next one. The warm season is mainly one of fruits, while the cool season produces mostly vegetables. However, there are in normal years such crops as cucumbers, taro, cassava and plantains that are available also in the warm season, along with the water melons, melons, bananas and oranges. Bananas and papayas are also available in the cool season, though they mature more slowly at that time of the year because of the cooler weather and the lack of sunshine.
Bananas and plantains are certainly among the earliest introductions. They produce within about a year after planting. Another early producer is cassava or yuca (Manihot esculenta), as is also maize. These were surely grown from the beginning, as they are also an important part of the diet in the tropical lowlands. Tobacco for local consumption may also be considered an early introduction. Sugar cane for syrup and rum is a likely crop, though the blocks of raw sugar, called “panela”, could have been imported to supplement the local cane products, as was done on San Cristóbal in the 1940's and 1950's when the demand for locally distilled rum exceeded the local capacity for producing cane juice—a rather sad situation for an island that had been the site of one of Ecuador's largest sugar plantations.
I have some doubts about coffee, though it could have been introduced by General Villamil as a future cash crop—it takes about four years to produce its first harvest. That no wild coffee has ever been reported from Floreana can be explained by the fact that it dies out on that island in years of extreme drought, as happened in the warm season of 1933-34. It must be mentioned here that most of the Ecuadorian settlers used little coffee, preferring infusions of lemon grass, peppermint and spearmint. These and several other herbs seem to have been grown on the islands from the earliest times.
There are two plants that I am certain date from the time of the first colony. These are the two kinds of taro—eddoe (Colocasia esculenta var. antiquorum) and the cocoyam (Xanthosoma sagittifolium). These are cultivated because of their starchy corms and cormlets. In the islands they are known respectively as papa china (Chinese potato) and otoy. Neither sort is much used in Ecuador, and General Villamil may have introduced them because he had lived in the Caribbean region, where they are often popular among the working class. Andersson (1858) mentions potatoes, tomatoes, red peppers, Seville oranges, cassava, papaya, squash, water melon, radishes and parsley growing in the Floreana highlands, when he visited the area in 1852.
Fruits such as papaya, melons, water melons, pineapples, oranges and limes are widely grown in the lowlands of Ecuador. They seem to have been introduced early on Floreana, where limes and oranges have been growing wild in the highlands since very early times. Floreana is the only island where I have met with Seville or sour oranges (Citrus aurantium). Trees of this species are now found scattered in some semi-arid areas inland. Another early introduction is the mombin (Spondias purpurea). The old mombin trees in the oasis above Black Beach are usually attributed to General Villamil.
It is also likely that cabbage, lettuce, some kitchen herbs and carrots were grown. Darwin (1839) mentions that he saw sweet potatoes and bananas in the Floreana highlands. These as well as the other species mentioned above are still grown in Galápagos, along with many more, not a few of them introduced much later. However, vegetable growing has declined very much in recent years because all the farmers have gone over to cattle. Most of what little is grown at present is mainly for the farmers' own consumption.
On San Cristóbal there is a considerable amount of wild fruit trees, besides the infamous guava that has spread all over the more fertile parts of the island, as it did later on Floreana, and is in the process of doing on Santa Cruz and Isabela. Wild oranges and limes are common in the San Cristóbal highlands, but they grow more scattered than on Floreana. On Santa Cruz, the citrus trees have been practically wiped out by a scale insect that was introduced there during the war, by way of the American base on neighboring Baltra.
Santa Cruz has a more recent agricultural history, despite the two abandoned plantations in the western part of the highlands, which were established some time in the middle of the 19th century. The Norwegian settlers and Captain Rafael Castro were the most active in introducing new cultivated plants. Avocado trees spread so much on this island because the Norwegians planted them to mark the boundaries of their properties. They also were in the habit of exploring the Guayaquil markets, where they purchased fruits that were new to them, saving the seeds of those they liked. Thus, one could find star apples (Chrysophyllum cainito)—both the purple and the green varieties—on the property of Jacob Horneman, who also was the proud owner of the only cashew tree (Anacardium occidentale) in Galápagos.
Numerous agricultural experiments were carried out on Santa Cruz, ranging from my father's failed attempt at growing tea in 1938 (the seeds had lost their viability during the long voyage from China to Guayaquil to Galápagos) to the very successful introduction of Idaho potatoes during the war. The success of most of these experiments may have had something to do with the excellent soil of the Santa Cruz highlands. However, there were no markets for these products and no capital to develop any kind of industry based on the island's agricultural potential. Thus, coffee remained the only cash crop of any significance. Coffee, which is harvested manually, had for this reason limitations in a place where labor was almost unavailable, and it is only natural that the only two coffee plantations of any size in the islands were both located on San Cristóbal, which had by far the largest population until recently.
As has been mentioned earlier, the Santa Cruz farmers have, since the 1960's, gone gradually over to raising cattle for export to Guayaquil. This city has always been a good market for beef, and Galápagos cattle have not had any serious competition in recent years, now that there is improved transportation. This activity has made it necessary to increase the size of island properties, which on Santa Cruz were mostly 20 hectares or less. (20 hectares is about 50 acres). Nowadays many have claims of 200 hectares, which is the maximum allowed.
The farms in Galápagos were known as chacras a name that may indicate that there was a large Andean element in the early population of Galápagos. Chacra derives from the Quechua chagra which means a cultivated field. A few recent American writers have used the corresponding Mexican (Nahuatl) term milpa in connection with Galápagos, a name which is totally foreign to South America. Of course, with a size of 200 hectares, a property can hardly be called either chacra or milpa. Hacienda would be closer to reality, though some may think it a bit pretentious.
As has been mentioned, tortoise hunting was an important source of income to the early settlers and they as well as visiting whalers and others caused enormous destruction to the tortoise populations of the islands. It is indeed incredible that ten of the fifteen subspecies of tortoises known from the islands are still surviving and have fair chances of continuing to do so, thanks to the protection and breeding in captivity that are carried out by the National Park and the Research Station. The captive breeding program was initiated by Dr. Roger Perry in 1965, and has since developed into a very sophisticated operation, which even includes deciding the sex of the tortoises before they hatch.
When we were getting better organized with the work on our property, my mother became very ill. It all began with an insignificant thorn scratch on a foot. When it had healed in both ends and seemed almost well, the middle rapidly became a purulent ulcer. Soon came a high fever and we realized that the infection had spread to her whole body. My mother was suffering from a serious case of blood poisoning. We had bad luck, for there was no physician in the islands at the time, so we were left to our own means. Our friend Divine had some antibiotics, but they turned out to be well beyond their date of expiry, so we resorted to sulpha drugs—we had two or three varieties of these. Unfortunately, my mother reacted violently to all of them and we had to leave matters largely to nature. It was a long and painful illness.
During most of this illness, my mother was so weak that she could not even turn in bed without help, and depended on me for everything. Under the circumstances I could not go too far from the house, and my hunting excursions became so short that I often came back empty-handed. The work on the property was abandoned, as I had to do all the housework, from cooking to washing clothes and bandages, to nursing. During nights I had to get up several times to turn my mother over, as the weather was hot and it was bad for her to remain too long in the same position. This period was a real nightmare, but little by little, the end of this dreadful experience approached and things finally returned to normal.
Those months made it impossible to benefit from the following warm season, which came with an abundant rainfall that could have made possible the establishment of permanent plantings, plantings that once growing well would require minimal care, as they are resistant to drought and capable of surviving without problems on brackish water—fig trees, mombins, coconut and date palms. I still managed to clear some land, fencing it in with branches and trunks to keep out the goats. I also left a barrier of manchineel trees towards the sea, in order to protect the plants from the salt-loaded air that came in from the breakers. In the cleared area I planted a large quantity of seeds of water melon, melon and cucumbers. At the time of planting, the results were still uncertain as the rains had not yet arrived. However, this was unimportant. If I lost the seeds, it did not matter—they were already close to their limit of viability.
It was at about that time that María came to live with us. I had gone up to the highlands to go hunting with Víctor Hugo and Marina, and to explore the area between Puerto Núñez and Cerro Camote. The excursion was very interesting, though we suffered from thirst, having had to ration our water. All the ponds that form from the rainfall had dried out, and the warm season rains had not yet arrived. I recall that we killed a wild pig on the second day of our hike, and had grilled pork for supper. Sitting by the campfire, the three of us ate with good appetite the pork and the roasted plantains, our hands stained with blood and soil, as we had too little water to wash ourselves. Suddenly, I realized how much I had changed, for only a few years had passed since the time when the mere mention of a hair in my soup would have been enough to spoil my appetite for a whole day.
When we returned from our three-day safari—without meat, for we had found no game during the last day—I had to return the donkey I had borrowed from Wold and the tent that Mrs. Elfriede Horneman, the wife of the Norwegian mining engineer Horneman, had lent us. When I arrived to their home, it was getting late so they invited me to spend the night. Early in the morning, when I was making ready to head for home, we heard dogs barking towards the main trail. A settler who was passing with his dogs had located some wild pigs near the entrance to “Vilnis”, the Horneman property. The man killed a young pig and caught a small female that he gave to Mrs. Horneman. As she already was fattening two pigs, she asked me if I wanted the little animal, which I accepted without thinking of the complications that it could bring.
The little pig was quite ferocious and backed up against a tool box on the ground floor, facing us four humans who stood there with the obviously evil intention of attacking us with its teeth, should we come any closer. Without any precautions, I bent over, put a hand under its belly and picked it up, putting a yute bag around it. Then, I set out for the harbor, carrying the animal in my arms like a baby. The pig seemed to accept me, for it fell asleep in my arms, waking up when we arrived home, where I placed it in a wooden crate, while I built a pen with a shelter at one end, so it could get out of the weather.
The little pig and I became good friends on the very first day, and my mother, who had the idea of naming the animal “María”, did not take long to earn its affection. A little later, when I had gone to work for a time on San Cristóbal, my mother let the animal run free and the two of them would go for walks along the beach in the afternoons. Unfortunately, María ate like the pig she was, and as I no longer was there to carry down plantains, cassava and taro from the highlands, and bring goat meat, the problem of the little animal soon became great, for pigs develop rather rapidly and their capacity for eating increases even faster than their growth—or so it appears. Thus, the day soon arrived when my brother had to give María a bullet in the brain. My mother had dreamed of chops and pork roast when I had brought María, but she was unable to eat the meat once the pig was dead. The mere thought made her feel like a cannibal.
It was during my stay on San Cristóbal that the warm season rains arrived. The amount of water that fell was impressive. On San Cristóbal, brooks were running everywhere, and as happened about every seven or eight years, the beach between the village and the navy base was cut in two, so that it became necessary to wade with the water up to the chest or use a boat to come across. The silt-colored fresh water that descended from the mountains stained the water of the bay even beyond the reef that protects its entrance. The muddy color would remain there for days after the last shower. Everything was green and beautiful, the same as on Santa Cruz, where I found on my return large quantities of water melons. The cucumbers had failed completely and the musk melons produced results far below what we had expected—obviously the seeds had been too old. Of course, that year about everybody else had thought of planting water melons, so there was no market for them.
Uncertain about what to do next, I started to search for water again, a job suitable for a chain gang, for it meant that I again had to dig in a terrain of large volcanic rocks, under a very hot sun, during the warmest part of the year; but the water melons were juicy and sweet, while the goats in the woodlands had never been fatter. However, my days on that property were to be few. I went out fishing a couple of times with Bjarne Steffensen, a Norwegian who had arrived with his wife and four children while I was on San Cristóbal. His boy, Asbjørn, who was about twelve years old, went out with us.
When I decided to go out with Steffensen, the latter had a great problem—he could not get salt on the island. With the abundant rains that had come with that warm season, the salt pans were flooded, and the only way to get salt was to travel to the west coast of Santiago, to extract it from the bottom of a lake that is found inside an extinct crater, some two kilometers from the nearest beach. Steffensen did not know the place, but had heard enough to realize that this solution was far from attractive. In the best of cases, it was a slow and heavy job. Normally, the lake has very little water in it, and it is possible to enter it without getting wet above the knees. The layers of salt are taken from the bottom with the help of a wrecking bar or a similar instrument. Then, it is left to drain on the shore or on a small raft, the latter anchored near where one is working. After this, the salt is put into sacks and carried up to the rim of the crater.
At that time, there was no road up to the rim, so one had to climb up the almost vertical slope, which soon became wet with sweat and brine, and extremely slippery. For this reason, it was safest to go barefoot, in order to use the toes to get a better grip on the slippery surface. From the rim to the shore, the going was fairly good, but the nearest landing beach was two kilometers away and could be used only when the sea was very calm. It was quite frequent that one had to carry the salt all the way to another beach, farther south, which meant a distance of one and a half kilometer extra.
Working in the bottom of the crater, digging up salt, is very hard work. The walls of the volcano keep out the sea breeze and the sun heats up the brine in the lake to a temperature near the limits of endurance. It is work fit to be used as a severe punishment. On the other hand, the salt from Santiago does not dissolve as easily as the salt from the salt pans, and has to be pounded into smaller pieces before it can be used, otherwise it will dissolve too slowly to prevent the fish from spoiling. This latter can happen easily during the fishing season, which coincides with the warmest period of the year.
To all that has been described must be added that the great amount of rainfall of that year had filled the lake so much that to reach the salt one had to dive about two meters, which made the job even slower and harder. All the men who came from Santiago had swollen, red eyes from diving in the brine. Thus, I decided that we had to find an easier alternative to get the salt we needed. When I discussed the matter with Steffensen, he looked a bit surprised, “But where else can we get salt?” he asked worriedly.
I had turned the problem around in my mind. Fortunately, I had the advantage of having been around the islands, and not only at the uninhabited places where the fishing camps are set up. I was therefore in the possession of much information that could often become useful. Three facts about Isabela came together in my mind, combining with one about Santa Cruz in that mysterious manner that the subconscious uses to bring about those ideas we term inspirations. “We'll get our salt from Isabela,” I stated with a certainty I had no right to feel.
Steffensen looked surprised. “People on Isabela must surely have the same problems as those on the other islands. The rain fell all over the place,” he reminded me.
“It sure did,” I admitted. “But people there have a great advantage over those on the other islands. In Puerto Villamil there are great areas of stagnant sea water, which can even now be described as a concentrated brine. In a year like this, the fishermen in Puerto Villamil cook this brine to get salt, as they have plenty of firewood in the mangrove swamps near the village. You find there, within a few paces, great quantities of white mangrove, button mangrove and red mangrove—all of it good, hard wood. You'll never hear of Isabela fishermen going to Santiago for salt.”
“And you think they will produce salt for us in the middle of the fishing season?” he asked mockingly. “If we manage to talk them into that, it's going to be a very expensive salt.”
“Not necessarily,” I said. “There's a penal colony on the island, as you may have heard. This means there's a police garrison. The police, like most people in the armed forces, come from the Andean Region and, unlike the coastal people, who can't live without rice, they love potatoes—as much as Norwegians do. Like you, they can't feel happy unless they have potatoes twice a day. Potatoes don't produce well on Isabela. In fact, the only island where potatoes do really well is on Santa Cruz. At the moment, there is a lot of them here, and they are of good quality. I'm sure we can make a good deal with the penal colony—a sack of potatoes for two sacks of salt. What do you say?”
“If we can manage to make that deal,” he said with obvious doubt, “it would be a splendid solution.”
“All we have to do is sail to Isabela, talk with the commanding officer of the penal colony,” I informed him. “We can't contact him by radio without giving away our plan to everybody on Santa Cruz. We don't want any competition. Certainly not at this point.”
He thought it over for a moment. I could understand that he did not want to waste several days and burn fuel to go and investigate something that might become a failure; but going to Santiago meant wasting much more time and fuel, even considering that we could count on getting salt there. I shrugged. “We could spend a month on Santiago, if you prefer that...”
He thought over this for only an instant. “When do you think it would be convenient to go to Puerto Villamil?”
“The sooner, the better,” I assured him.
Steffensen was renting a house from the Norwegian Sigurd Graffer, and I much suspect that he must have told everything to the latter. When we left, Graffer was standing on the shore with a mocking smile on his hooknosed face, showing a rather malicious expression. Later, I would hear that he had been making fun of us among the Norwegians, remarking with a laugh, “Imagine, going to Isabela for salt! Whoever would think up something like that?”
It did not take long for me to understand that most people on Santa Cruz had got to know about our project and were laughing behind our backs. Nobody had ever gone to Isabela for salt. I was amused, for this meant that we would have no competition; we would have the opportunity to secure all the salt we needed for the fishing season. By then, the police would have all the potatoes they needed, and there would be no opportunity to repeat such a deal until several months had passed, and the fishing season was over.
One person who did not laugh at our project—had he done it I would have been seriously worried—was a young man from Isabela who had recently settled on our island. Ernesto Caicedo had grown up on Isabela, and therefore knew well the conditions on that island. Ernesto accompanied us to Puerto Villamil, where we made a most pleasant trip, as the weather was magnificent. It was obvious that the rains were over and that we would have a sunny fishing season with a clear sky.
In Puerto Villamil, Ernesto invited us to stay at his family's home, where we were given a spacious and cozy room. Steffensen however preferred to sleep on board and spent very little time ashore during our stay. He seemed to me a rather strange person, as he spoke as little as possible, never tasted alcohol and was very retiring. Later, I came to the conclusion that he felt ill at ease in Galápagos; that he regretted enormously having settled there, and was therefore rather depressed. My opinion is strengthened by the fact that people who have met him in Norway tell me he is a good host and a vivid narrator—hardly the Steffensen I remember from Galápagos! He accepted very little of the hospitality we were offered in Puerto Villamil, and I never found out if he mistrusted the “natives” or thought that all the inhabitants of the island were convicts. Still, he allowed his son to go with me everywhere, even letting him sleep ashore.
After all the stories I had heard about the penal colony, I was pleasantly surprised by the friendly and kind reception I got at the police garrison. The two or three convicts whom I met at the entrance as well as the policemen I met in the office received me with considerable friendliness. A young officer informed me that their commandant had traveled to the highlands, to Santo Tomás; but, he added with a smile, no doubt noticing my disappointment, “I'll send one of the convicts to tell him that you want to see him.”
He had barely finished saying this, when he ordered one of the men outside to head at once for Santo Tomás, to inform the C. O. of my presence. While the convict hastened to obey this order, the police officer turned towards me and warned, “We'll have no news from the commandant before noon tomorrow.”
When Steffensen got this information, he seemed upset, and I had the impression that I had wasted my time by explaining to him that Santo Tomás was eighteen kilometers inland over a very bad trail. We had no choice but to wait. “You should be grateful that the commandant has not gone to Alemania, where the police have their most distant camp. It is over twice as far as Santo Tomás,” I told him.
Asbjørn, Steffensens son, had a more enjoyable wait than his father, for he spent nearly all his time with me, and shared the bedroom we had been given at the home of Ernesto's family, a low and long building that stood on a sandy stretch of ground, in a place where there always seemed to be a slight sea breeze. The latter gave us much pleasure, for those lovely days of sunshine had also a rather high temperature. My friend's family treated us with great hospitality, and the only complaint Asbjørn could have had—he expressed none—was that people on Isabela are fond of beef and he, as a good son of northern Norway, was used to eating fish at least twice a day.
While Steffensen was bored to death on board his boat, Asbjørn and I tried to make our wait as pleasant as possible. We wandered around Puerto Villamil and its environs, we went to harvest coconuts with some local girls, we bathed at the magnificent beach—the largest and most beautiful in Galápagos—and had three most pleasant days.
I have always believed that one should make the best of a situation that one cannot control, trying as much as possible to enjoy watever is available. To complain is of little or no use when we can do nothing to change existing conditions. The interesting part of the story is that Steffensen, who seemed to heartily hate every moment he spent in Puerto Villamil, would see his boat ending up there forever. When the family decided to return to Norway, three years later, he sold the vessel to Enrique Cisneros, one of the shopkeepers on Isabela. This vessel was also one of those that would be used by the escaping convicts during the famous 1958 uprising in the penal colony.
The following day, a messenger arrived to tell us that the commandant would be in Puerto Villamil the next day, something that made Steffensen go into another spell of frustration. The commandant, who turned out to be a rather young gentleman with a most pleasant personality, arrived as announced, and we had no problems in reaching an agreement. We promised to return with the potatoes in two weeks, when the salt would be ready for us.
When we sailed back to Santa Cruz, Steffensen was in a good mood, though we still had before us what to me seemed the worst part of the whole operation—getting the potatoes down from the Santa Cruz highlands to Puerto Ayora. It was a difficult job under the existing conditions. In fact, the trails were in a frightful state after the abundant rains. These trails were nothing but primitive paths, little better than the trails opened by the wild cattle in the woodlands. Conditions were so bad in fact that the farmers refused to bring down their produce, preferring to see it rot rather than have to walk in the mud that covered two-thirds of the distance down the mountain. Even Alf Kastdalen, my giant Norwegian childhood friend, who normally came every week to Puerto Ayora with his string of donkeys, had given up for the time being.
But Asbjørn and I had to be braver than the bravest, and head for the highlands, sloshing through the watery mud, which began below the halfway part of the trail. Sinking more and more as we ascended and the layers of soil became thicker over the volcanic rocks, we finally made it to the farming area. Once there, we had no problems in buying all the potatoes we wanted at the Kastdalen homestead. They had tons of them and were glad to sell. But Thorvald, Alf's father, shook his head worriedly, considering our project to get all those sacks of potatoes down to the shore a rather reckless venture. All the other Norwegians reacted more or less in the same manner, but behaved well towards us, as none of them refused to lend us the animals we needed for our odyssey. We had no trouble getting together all the donkeys we needed. The big problem was to make them move along in the mud.
The journey down to the harbor, as I had expected, was nothing less than a bad nightmare. With a string of donkeys that felt towards us all the ill will that their species is capable of feeling—which is not small—in addition to the disastrous condition of the trail, one could not expect anything good. Poor Asbjørn, who lacked all experience in the art of handling stubborn asses, walked up ahead, while I was in the rear of our little caravan, swearing and shouting like an pugnacious drunk. Every so often—at intervals that seemed terribly brief—the animals got into the woods, trying to avoid the mud, got stuck among the trees, and upset their loads. Soon, I lost count of the many times I had to unload and reload potato sacks.
To this must be added the torment of the tiny red ants, which climbed from the wet ground to seek drier conditions in the vegetation. These infernal insects got under our shirt collars, climbed up inside our sleeves and, what is much worse, got between the waists of our trousers and our skin, where their bite seemed twice as burning, perhaps on account of the sweat. This scourge is not original to Galápagos, and was introduced to Santa Cruz in the 1930's, probably with a yacht that had stopped at Cocos Island, where the little pests have been abundant at least since the middle of the 19th century. They have spread with the years to several of the other islands in Galápagos.
When Asbjørn and I arrived to the dry region, where the ground was dusty, we felt a deep relief, though we still had before us a considerable part of the trail and we were dead tired. The donkeys also showed a greater willingness to go ahead, giving us little problem while we reached the harbor. We had taken more than six hours to cover a trail that normally takes barely two. After unloading the animals, we took them to drink at the water hole behind Wold's beach house, where there is a magnificent stretch of dusty soil, which makes a first class place for the most demanding donkey to wallow in.
But we had not finished. After a night with a sleep so deep that it seemed more like a state of coma, we had to return to the highlands to hand back the animals, and return the same day. Steffensen was now in a hurry, for the two weeks were over. We sailed for Puerto Villamil, where we started to unload the potatoes on arrival. At dusk, we had begun to load the salt, which we finished getting on board about mid-afternoon, the following day. It was exhausting work, for there was a strong sun and we had to carry the bags to the shore, wade out to the boat and throw them up to the deck, where Steffensen received them, placing them in the bottom of the boat. Asbjørn, who could barely manage a sack of salt, and I had to carry it all.
When we finally finished, the boat was rather low on the water and a stiff breeze was blowing. On seeing this, I considered it reckless to leave for Santa Cruz that afternoon, for I felt no inclination to sail with an overloaded boat along a rather dangerous route in complete darkness; but Steffensen's impatience had turned him foolhardy, so we left anyway.
It was a most unpleasant journey. The sea was rough, there was a stiff breeze blowing. Since the overloaded boat was low on the water, we had to run the engine at half power to prevent taking in water. In this manner, progress became very slow and, with a total lack of visibility after nightfall, I felt quite uneasy. After endless hours, when we reckoned that we were approaching Puerto Ayora, Steffensen and I agreed to keep a sharper lookout, and he went to the bow. There was the danger of sailing past the entrance to the bay, ending up at the line of tall cliffs that stretch from inside the bay all the way out to Punta Núñez. There, we and the boat would have had no chance.
Suddenly, Steffensen shouted from the bow that I turn hard to starboard. Without hesitation, but hampered by the slowness of an overloaded boat and a heavy sea, I did as told, expecting to see the whiteness of breakers smashing against the cliffs towards our port side on completing the turn. In fact, I did catch sight of breakers, but their shape and what little I could see beyond them seemed to indicate a low, rocky shore—undoubtedly the islet at the entrance to Puerto Ayora, which had not yet been provided with a beacon. Though we felt fairly certain of our position, we remained outside the islet, waiting for daylight.
The new day appeared gray and chilly, but the sky cleared while we were entering the bay, and we arrived in splendid sunshine. While I took our clearance papers to the port captain's office, I steeled myself for the unloading of the salt, that I assumed would take place before our well earned rest; but Steffensen too was exhausted and decided to postpone the job until the afternoon. We all went to sleep after a light meal. I felt too tired to go home, so I lay down on top of a large desk in Graffer's house, where I remained as if dead on the hard wooden surface. However, despite my tiredness, I could not help recalling with pleasure the surprised expressions on the faces of all those who had come down to meet us at the landing, when they saw the beautiful salt of fine pale pink crystals that we had brought with us from Isabela.
It was the second of my two visits to Galápagos in 1959. Mr. Folke Anderson, the managing director of the Astral Group wanted me to write a report on the salt mine in James Bay, on the west side of Santiago, the large (570 km2) uninhabited island north of Santa Cruz. I also had to inspect the cattle project at Iguana Cove, on Isabela. I would have preferred doing the latter first, but would have had no way of getting from Iguana Cove to Santiago until the return of the ship, which would have given me too little time at the salt mine, so I stayed on Santa Cruz. Here, I counted on being able to charter a local boat for my transportation among the islands.
However, things were not “normal” that year. I found that many of the local boats were up for maintenance after the fishing season—not unusual—while those I could have counted on had been engaged by my old friend don Miguel Seminario for catching spiny lobster. Miguel was a businessman from Guayaquil who would soon after set up the most successful lobstering operation in Galápagos, but at that time he was just making a trial, and had no mother ship.
He had set up his base camp at Aeolian Cove, on the southwestern side of desolate Baltra, a small island that was the site of an American base during the war. He kept his spiny lobsters in bamboo cages, which were anchored near the dock, and was counting on flying them out on the plane of a Guayaquil company that had started monthly flights to Galápagos. For these, they received a government subsidy. Unfortunately for Miguel, their last flight turned out to be the one immediately before the one he was counting on to take his lobsters to Guayaquil. Fortunately, it was possible to get his catch into the ship's refrigerated storage when she came back from Guayaquil.
Miguel reacted promptly to my complaints about my transportation problems. He proposed, “Let's make a deal. One of the boats I've chartered is that of Segundo Herrera. His usual skipper is away in Guayaquil, and Segundo, as you know, is a farmer with no knowledge of the island waters. All my available men are out catching lobsters. I need someone to make two or three trips with water and supplies between Santa Cruz and Baltra. How about helping me out? I'll get you to Santiago in good time.”
“It's a deal,” I agreed. “But how will you get me there?”
“Manuel Gutiérrez is coming over from San Cristóbal to help me in a week, when he has his boat on the water again. As soon as he arrives, he'll take you to James Bay, picking you up later, whenever you want him to.”
“Fine. How about giving me two weeks in James Bay?”
“If that's what you want, you'll have your two weeks—but if you want more, say so,” he agreed readily.
After I had made the necessary trips for Miguel, we were sitting on the dock at Aeolian Cove. It was the afternoon before I was leaving for James Bay. Miguel had set up camp on the dock, and so had my party—two workers from Santa Cruz and Gabriel Carvajal, a Chilean poet, whom I had invited along for company. Miguel and I were sitting at the edge of the dock, watching how the sky changed colors in the late afternoon. The cooling breeze that came over the arid landscape was most pleasant after the heat of a sunny warm season day. A small dinghy left the American yacht which had arrived earlier that day. A couple in their fifties came ashore and greeted us, delighted to meet two people who were fluent in English. They asked us if we knew a Norwegian called Jacob Lundh, who was supposed to live on Santa Cruz, the mountains of which loomed bluish in the distant background. Miguel smiled. “He's standing right next to me,” he informed.
The couple brought greetings for me from a charming redhead called Angela. They had met her in Acapulco, where she was spending her holidays. She was living in New York at the time, they told us. This was an extraordinary coincidence, as I had been away from Galápagos for five years, and this American couple had found me here, on this barren island, more than a thousand kilometers away from where I was living at the moment.
Angela was an old friend whom I had lost contact with some years earlier. My brother had introduced us in 1950, and we had written to each other for a couple of years. Another unusual coincidence was that she happened to be Maritza's first cousin, a fact I had learnt after I had married the latter. We visited her in New York in 1987, two years or so before she died, and I feel grateful that we had the opportunity to meet her before she passed away. By then, she was married to a very pleasant gentleman, a Chilean engineer.
We sailed with Gutiérrez early next morning, soon reaching the barren east coast of Santiago, with its extensive lava fields and scattered, bare hills, dotting a landscape that appeared like a part of the moon's surface. Then, after a while, we passed Buccaneer Cove, with its cliffs and its dry watercourse, in the bottom of which Captain Clinton Baverstock, a Panama Canal pilot, found a large clay jar in 1950. The vessel dated back to Spanish colonial days, and was probably left there by the buccaneers.
Reaching the northwestern corner of the island, we sighted Albany Island and the high bluff formed by Cape Cowan, which marks the northern limits of James Bay. There are some intermittent springs a little inland, on the top of the bluff. The northern part of James Bay is rugged and steep, with a denser vegetation than that of its southern part, where the terrain consists largely of broken layers of tuff and some loose soil that supports grasses and other seasonal vegetation during rainy periods, along with scattered trees of small size, which gives this part of the bay the appearance of an African parkland.
These two parts of James Bay are separated by a wide, nearly bare lava field that comes down from the inland slopes. To the north of this is the forested area that has been mentioned, known as la Espumilla, with its large beach, above which a fringe of white and button mangroves hide two lagoons that were frequented by flamingos. During the frightful rainy season of 1982-83 the unusually heavy rains filled these lagoons up with silt, obliterating them. There are numerous guayabillo-trees north of the lava field, something that used to attract large numbers of wild pigs, which came down to eat the fallen fruits in the warm season. Unfortunately, these pigs also dug up the sea turtle eggs on the beach. This is the only place in Galápagos where I have seen pigs near the seashore.
In recent years, the numerous pigs, donkeys and goats on Santiago have been systematically exterminated, thanks to the efforts of the Charles Darwin Foundation and Galápagos National Park Service. These animals were about to turn this beautiful island into a bare, rocky waste.
On August 10, 1813, a duel was fought on the beach at la Espumilla. The U.S. Frigate Essex was anchored in the bay, and two officers—Lt. John S. Cowan, U.S.N. and Lt. John M. Gamble of the Marines had a disagreement which ended in a duel that cost the former his life. He was buried in the bay and Cape Cowan was named in his memory. The Essex had arrived on August 4 on one of her visits to the island while she hunted British whalers in the area. Captain David Porter, her commanding officer, a very capable leader, managed to capture a considerable number of British whalers. Some of these were provided with additional guns to form a small fleet, while others were sold to the Spaniards on the mainland.
It was during the visit mentioned above that the first feral domestic animals came to Galápagos. Capt. Porter had four goats and several sheep with him. These animals were so tame that they were set ashore to forage. Water was brought to them every day, and all seemed well. However, one day the animals were gone. About a year later, the goats were seen by visiting British naval personnel, but the sheep were never seen again.
The area south of the lava field is known as Puerto Egas, after don Darío Egas Sánchez, who owned the western side of the island, and exploited the salt from the crater lake. Don Dario's ownership went back to 1922, but he did not exploit the salt mine until December 1926, when he got a contract with the government—salt was then a state monopoly. The salt pans on the Santa Elena Peninsula had been flooded and were out of production. Egas exported salt to the mainland until 1928, when he had shipped a total of 32 thousand 100 lbs. sacks of the mineral.
Don Darío's heirs, the Egas Zevallos, and some of his grandchildren, secured a new contract with the government in the 1960's, investing considerable capital in the venture. They built a road to the volcano and, at great cost, a road to the bottom of the crater, making it possible to transport the sacked mineral from the lake to the landing beach in the south of the bay, using a pick-up. Unfortunately, salt was demonopolized by the military government under Admiral Ramón Castro Jijón, causing the mainland price to collapse to about the same that it cost to ship it from the islands to the mainland. However, the owners continued to work, while waiting for processing machinery to arrive from Europe, so they could produce iodized table salt, which could have saved their project. Delays in the shipment of the machinery and the reluctance of the government owned Banco Nacional de Fomento to come to a reasonable agreement on their loans, led to the abandonment of the venture. The whole island became later a part of the National Park.
The part to the south of the lava field, for which we were headed, consists of a shoreline of low tuff cliffs, cut in several places by intermittent streams that have formed small brownish beaches where they meet the sea. The one nearest the lava field is the closest to the salt volcano, the northern side of which is hugged by the lava flow. The best landing however is on the southernmost beach, which is the most sheltered one. It was here that we landed, making our camp above it.
Near where we camped was a shady acacia tree with a dense crown of green leaves and a great number of yellow flowers. The sweet smell of these has given origin to the name of aromo by which this tree is known in Galápagos and elsewhere along the coast of Ecuador. There was a fence around the tree, made of the flat stones that form the layers of porous tuff covering the ground in this area. This fence had been built by Frances and Ainslie Conway, an American couple, who lived in James Bay towards the end of the 1930's. They returned a little after the war, but had to leave on account of Ainslie's bad health.
The Conways wrote an interesting book about their stay in James Bay before the war, when they, a numerous Chilean family and two or three others lived here. None of these settlers attempted to do any farming inland, and as far as is known no such attempt has ever been made on this island. Much has been made of some naranjilla plants (Solanum quitoense) found on the rim of the main crater. At this altitude the soil is too shallow for farming and conditions lower down would be much more favorable, so it seems most unlikely that anyone would have grown something at this altitude. The naranjilla plants are easily explained, for naranjilla seeds remain viable after passing through human intestines. There are also some avocado trees much lower down that originated from seeds planted by a group of men who were hunting for tortoises in the 1920's. This last information I got from a Colombian, César Moncayo, who was one of these hunters.
There had been a rainy warm season shortly before our visit, so we found the bay green and beautiful—grasses and other annuals grew between the rocks, while the most common tree (the palosanto) was dressed in its tender green, delicate foliage. Between Sugar Loaf Mountain and the small volcano behind it, where there is abundant loose soil, there was a growth of annuals that was chest high, consisting largely of a leguminous plant, which also was abundant at the base of the salt volcano, where the parallel ruts left long ago by don Darío Egas' ox-drawn carts were barely visible among the greenery.
Sugar Loaf Mountain, which dominates the southern part of James Bay, rises abruptly to 366 meters from the surrounding landscape. On its side towards the landing is a spring that produces a small brook which runs for a very short distance. In normal years, water may be found here for a few months. We supplied ourselves here, but I also found another spring on the north side of the mountain, which was running at the time.
Sugar Loaf Mountain looks like the breast of a young woman to those approaching James Bay from the SSE, having even a nipple that is formed by a small pile of tuff near the crater rim. I climbed this mountain in the 1960's, and saw water in the bottom of the crater. Convinced that it would be salt water at that depth, and discouraged by the extreme steepness of the inside crater walls and the heat of the day, I never went down to investigate, an unusual decision for one so curious.
At the place where we camped, there was a large quantity of scattered earthenware sherds, barely visible in the reddish brown soil, among the vegetation. The larger part of this material, found mainly in Puerto Egas, but also in Buccaneer Cove, is attributed to the buccaneers who visited the island in 1684. In fact, we were camped right next to the flat expanse where this buccaneering expedition had established a large camp, mainly for the comfort of their leader, Captain John Cook, who had been ill since before their arrival to the Juan Fernández Islands, outside Chile. Among these men were Ambrose Cowley, William Dampier and Lionel Wafer. All three left interesting descriptions of their voyages, Cowley even drawing a chart of the islands.
At the time, Spain and Great Britain had become friendly and were fighting the French. The buccaneers, whose principal prey had been Spanish ships and ports, found the formerly friendly British ports in the Caribbean closed to them, and many accepted to side with the law and become more respectable, as did the notorious Sir Henry Morgan, who became lieutenant governor of Jamaica and commander-in-chief on that island. However, there was a large group of buccaneers who defied the British authorities by attacking Portobelo and the mining town of Santa María, inland on the Isthmus of Panama. After this, the group broke up, part of it following Bartholomew Sharp. These latter seized several Spanish ships on the Pacific, then sailed down the coast on a rampage of plundering along the shores of South America.
The other group of buccaneers, under John Cook, returned to the Caribbean, where they captured a small Spanish ship, renaming her Revenge. With this vessel, they sailed to the west coast of Africa. Along the coast of Sierra Leone, they seized the Danish frigate Charlotte Amalia, and had her hull scraped and painted by her crew. The Danes were later abandoned with sixty African women slaves who had been on board the frigate. Before sailing, the buccaneers set fire to the Revenge. I have been unable to find out how the Danes got home, but their captain, Thomas Adrian Thorsen, was sailing as master of the Holger Danske in 1687.
When the frigate, renamed Bachellor's Delight, reached the coast of Chile, the buccaneers met the Nicholas, under Captain John Eaton. The two ships joined to cruise along the Southamerican coast, where they captured three small ships, carrying a total of eight tons of flour and a large shipment of quince preserve, from which the earthenware jars are said to have originated.
This small fleet arrived later to Galápagos. The place chosen for their camp gives a good view of the approaches to the bay, and a refreshing breeze blows across it. Tortoises were then to be found near the spring on the slopes of the Sugar Loaf, and north of the lava flow, while the small Galápagos doves were abundant and easily caught, and land iguanas were plentiful. Some of the Spanish supplies were hidden in several places, and the fleet left after twelve days, since John Cook's health did not improve, despite the devoted cares offered him by their surgeon, Lionel Wafer. Cook died on their way to Central America, where he was buried ashore. Edward Davis was elected as the new captain. Davis returned twice to James Bay in 1687, supplying himself from the hidden food, though a Spanish expedition had found and destroyed part of the earthenware jars—probably originating most of the numerous sherds that are scattered in the area.
However, there are more sherds in James Bay than those of the Spanish jars. In 1953, the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition, headed by Thor Heyerdahl, did some work here. The expedition included two distinguished archeologists, the Norwegian Dr. Arne Skjølsvold and the American Dr. Erik K. Reed. They found several pre-Columbian archeological sites in the area, several in the immediate vicinity of our camp. Though the expedition made excavations elsewhere in the islands—in Buccaneer Cove, Whale Bay (Santa Cruz) and Black Beach (Floreana), with a few pieces supplied by the Walt Disney Galápagos Expedition from Cerro Colorado (NE Santa Cruz)—the largest part of their material comes from James Bay. In any case, all this material points to the fact that the islands were known to the aboriginals of the coasts of Ecuador and NW Perú.
It was not far from our camp that I caught my first wild goat by running it down. This had happened some years earlier, in May 1950, when we called at James Bay with the schooner Chance, on a cruise among the islands. Eric (my brother), captain Larry Blanc, Erling Graffer and I went ashore, while Miguel Castro, whose turn it was to cook that day, remained on board. We were out to get a goat or two for the larder. While we walked towards the spring at Sugar Loaf Mountain, we discovered a flock of goats near a tree, resting and chewing the cud, as these animals usually do in the warmer hours of the day. They do most of their grazing at night, in the early morning and in the late afternoon.
The skipper carried a .22 caliber rifle, and he shot at a young animal, which jumped into the air. Before it fell on its feet again, I was off with my hunting knife to slit its throat so there would be no blood on the meat. Contrary to expectations, the goat was neither dying nor seriously wounded. It bounced off, while the whole flock spread in every direction. I had never run after a wild goat before, but made the attempt for two reasons—I was afraid the animal might suffer a slow and painful death from its wound, and I doubted it would be in a condition to go very far.
But the beast showed a surprising amount of energy. I ran after it for a fair distance, then it tried to change course. I moved in the same direction, cutting it off. The animal went to my right, I went right; the animal went to my left, I went left. We did this several times, and the goat decided finally to head down the dry water course that leads to the southern landing. It was beginning to get winded, while I had for a while been feeling a strong urge to give up.
Then, the goat ducked behind a large bush, turned around and faced me through the half naked branches. Behind it was a vertical face of tuff, too high for the goat to jump on to. The animal had two ways out—down to the sea or inland. We began our dance again—left, right; left, right. It was more a balancing of our bodies than anything else, for the goat did not leave its refuge behind the bush. Obviously, there was only one thing I could do—jump on top of the bush and grab the beast by the horns. It was a desperate try, for I had no shirt on to protect me from the stiff branches. I leaped, landing with my chest on the stiff twigs, grabbed the animal by a horn and killed it with my hunting knife.
When I got off the bush, my chest looked as if I had tried to embrace a wildcat. I carried my prey down to the shore, placed it on a flat rock and gutted it. Examining the carcass carefully, I was unable to find any wound from captain Blanc's shot. I suppose the bullet had hit the ground or a branch very close to the goat, spooking it.
In the meantime, the skipper had killed a wild donkey and, father inland, a pig. We had now a good supply of meat, and having no refrigeration, I salted most of it after we returned to the ship. While I was slicing up the donkey meat and salting it, my brother declared darkly, “If anyone serves me donkey, I'll kill him!”
A week or so later, it was my turn in the galley. The previous evening, I had put some salted donkey in water to get rid of the salt. When I served my donkey and pea stew with rice and cucumber salad, my brother asked for seconds. When he finished eating, he remarked, “That stew was delicious, Brother!”
“Yeah, donkey isn't so bad if you prepare it properly.” He said nothing, he just gave me an embarrassed grin. And as I am still alive after all these years, it is obvious that he for once in his life did not keep his word.
After my trips with Steffensen, which offered little of interest, my brother decided to give our mother a new house, in a location closer to the village. Though nothing was ever mentioned about it, I suspect that Eric as well as my mother were convinced that it would not take much longer before I left the islands in search of better opportunities. Eric, who spent much time away from home, was worried that our mother should remain alone in such an isolated place as the one we were living in at the time. He engaged a very capable German carpenter, Bernhard Schreier. Bernhard was married to a niece of the Angermeyers, and had come to the islands with his family after the war. With great efficiency and speed, Bernhard built a house, which existed until 1998, when it had been for many years the residence of José Luís Gallardo and his family.
It is a bit strange to remember that Gallardo, at the time single and without thoughts of marriage, helped me in the 1960's to change part of the roof of that same house, at a time when nobody would have imagined that only a few years later we would sell this house to the man who was soon to become Gallardo's father-in-law. It is often true that nobody knows for whom he works.
The job of moving all we had into the new house was boring; but we managed to do it in two days, leaving the “old” house empty. The latter was taken apart later by Erling Graffer, the younger of old Sigurd's sons, for neither my brother nor I had time to do it. Eric had too much work and I was about to leave for Colombia. We gave Erling all the lumber as he was building a house at the time. When I left that little paradise beyond the cemetery, I felt no regrets. The memory of my mother's long illness and the many disappointments I had suffered there were still too fresh in my mind. In fact, it was our mother who became sentimental when she said farewell to Ola, the iguana.
When I returned in 1959, I went to visit our old homestead, becoming once more captivated by the place, with that open sea of clean, blue water, the giant cacti and the green manchineel groves. The sandy soil at the foot of the thick, short trunks was covered with a soft carpet of dry leaves that was pleasant to walk on after going over the hard lava. It was a place where one could feel peace, and which invited to commune with nature. I did not visit my date palms then, as I assumed they were dead, nor did I have the time to wander along my old hunting trails.
I had more important matters to attend to. One could already feel a new atmosphere over Galápagos—one of urgency that was totally foreign to this part of the world. There was a wind of change blowing, though at the time it was mostly one of speculations largely based on what could have been only rumors. A biological research station was to be set up in Tortuga Bay; a large American company was going to establish itself in the islands; Fruit Trading Corporation had started a cattle project on Isabela, was about to begin with tourism, and had plans to exploit the salt mine on Santiago, among other things. I was myself in the middle of things, for I had just delivered a general report on the islands to the chairman of the board of Fruit Trading Corporation, and I was in Galápagos for the second time that year to look into the company's cattle project and to report on the salt mine and the possibility of exploiting it.
In 1960 things had barely begun to take shape. The American company, as we have seen, turned out to be different from what had been expected. The projects of Fruit Trading Corporation took a different turn from what had been planned. The cattle raising at Iguana Cove had just been abandoned; an agreement with the heirs of Darío Egas Sánchez, the owners of the salt mine, could not be reached; tourism, which was all we had left by that time, was handled wrongly and did not give the results it could have given, others being left to carry it to success, a few years later.
As for the Research Station, it too had its problems. The recently founded Galápagos Public Works did not get beyond cutting a pilot trail to Tortuga Bay, the expected site for the station. The funds were used up and the government, for reasons unknown, preferred to lose face before UNESCO and the Darwin Foundation, who were behind the research station project, rather than provide the necessary funds to complete the road, which was essential.
Tortuga Bay has an excellent harbor for small vessels, but to enter it one must tackle an obstacle course through the reefs. When the sea gets rough, the breakers block the entrance, which in the best of cases is somewhat difficult. Among the oldest Norwegian settlers it was often remembered that Gunnar and Emil Larsen lost their lives in 1928 trying to negotiate this difficult channel with a boatload of turtles, on a day that the sea was rough. I found out that the road would not have been expensive. I walked the pilot trail to Tortuga Bay, discovering that it went through a terrain that was almost devoid of difficult features. I even found some fairly good water in a couple of places.
Thus it was that, soon after we had settled in on San Cristóbal, my friend Raymond Lévêque found himself with a road problem, while the Foundation was impatient to begin building the laboratory, insisting he find an alternative site as soon as possible. Finally, he and Miguel Castro came to see me at our home on San Cristóbal. Miguel asked me, without any explanations and as if he were little interested in the matter, “What do you plan to do with your property on Santa Cruz, Jacobo?”
One needed little imagination to understand the reason behind that question if, like myself, one possesed a little background information. I also understood that neither of them wanted to tell me the purpose of their interest in the property, fearing no doubt to arouse my greed. A strange thought, for we all knew how limited the Foundation's finances were at the time. Their approach hurt me, not so much because of Lévêque—who had known me only for a short time—but because of Miguel Castro, who had been my friend since childhood, and should have known that my love for profit is very little developed, and that I, in any case, would have been unable to take unfair advantage of other people's problems to make a profit. I decided to force them out into the open, and evaded the question, giving them a vague and rather ambiguous answer, followed by two or three of the same kind, when they insisted.
Surprisingly, it was Lévêque who was the first to tire of the game. He began complaining about what had happened to the Tortuga Bay road and about the impossibility of beginning the construction of the laboratory. “Look,” I said, “if you want to build a research station on my property, there's no problem. I love that place as it is now, and I am sure you will change it as little as possible. I, on the other hand, would have to cut down all the trees and plant coconuts and dates all over the place to conform with the colonization laws and be able to keep my rights.”
Lévêque seemed relieved at my answer. “When can we arrange the transfer?” he asked anxiously.
“There's no need to do anything,” I informed him. “I have found out recently that my request for the registration of the property never reached the Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform. A friend who works there went through the files and could not find it. It seems that certain officials out here, who calimed to be my friends, did not send the necessary documents to Quito. As for my right of possession, it runs out in the next few months, so forget it. You have my word that I'm not going to make use of it.” And, in my mind, I told myself that if my word was not good enough they could both go to hell.
But Raymond Lévêque seemed satisfied with my word, for, after a little more conversation, he left contented, taking Miguel Castro with him. Neither of them thanked me. I did not expect Miguel to do so, since he was not getting anything from me; but I had solved a great problem for the Swiss scientist. I suppose the relief he felt was so great that, in a surge of euphoria, he forgot his good manners. I have however occasionally wondered what he reported to his superiors, for nobody ever gave me thanks for my good will.
By the time the station was officially inaugurated, it had been operating for over three years, and was under its third director, Dr. David Snow, a British scientist whose friendship I shall always remember with the greatest pleasure. He, as well as his successor, Dr. Roger Perry, who is also English, showed great interest in obtaining my services for the Research Station. Both kindly mentioned me in some of their writings, and it was precisely during this time that the higher officials of the Foundation discovered my existance. I am sure that an important role in this must also have been played by Dr. E. Yale Dawson, Secretary of the Americas for the Darwin Foundation. I maintained continuous contact with Dawson from the time we first met on the deck of the Cristóbal Carrier, at the beginning of 1962, until his death in an accident in Egypt, in the middle of 1966.
When Dr. Dawson visited Galápagos for the first time, the ship had arrived a little before sunset and there was no time to take the tourists ashore. After talking with most of them in the mess room, I approached Dawson, who was on deck, looking towards the rocky coast, which was now barely visible in the vanishing light. I had the impression that he was unsociable and suspected that he considered it a waste of time talking to the ship's agent; but it was my duty to contact him. He undoubtedly had a great surprise when he discoverd that I was not just one more clerk, but that he could talk with me about his botanical interests. If I did not know much about algae—his specialty—I was able to give him some information about the cacti that earned his attention, as he was also very interested in that plant family.
I remember mentioning to him my disagreement with the classification of the San Cristóbal opuntiae, which seemed to me very close to those of Hood and Floreana. This made him enthusiastic, for he had long suspected that they belonged to the same species. In fact, a few days later, I realized that I had made a friend that very first evening, though we saw each other only for short moments during the tour, for Dawson spent his time wandering along the shores with a plastic bucket, collecting seaweeds, when he was not going around, running with the agility of a goat over the rocks, collecting cactus specimens, which would serve for the superb job he made setting order in the classification of the insular cacti, completing and perfecting the work done by John Thomas Howell, in the 1930's. In his first monograph on the subject, Dawson had the kindness to mention me several times.
These contacts with visiting scientists were repeated many times and not always in my capacity of agent for the Cristóbal Carrier. During one of the visits of the National Fisheries Institute's research vessel, Captain Julio Hernández, who had worked for a number of years for Fruit Trading Corporation, invited me aboard for supper, as he used to do whenever he stopped at San Cristóbal. On this occasion he had an American marine biologist on board, Dr. Malvern Gilmartin, with whom I enjoyed a long and interesting conversation. Among other things, he told me that his wife was a botanist, and that she had a great interest in bromeliads.
Some time later, I received a letter from Dr. Amy Jean Gilmartin, asking me for specimens of the genus Tillandsia from San Cristóbal, Isabela and Fernandina. She had already collected on some of the islands, but wanted more material from the former two, and as much as possible from the last, where she had never been. Unfortunately, this happened a little before we left Galápagos and I only could send her some specimens collected on San Cristóbal. She praised my field notes in the same manner as Dawson had done several times. In fact, she was so satisfied with my work that she later invited me to take part in a botanical expedition to the Andes; but I was then working for La Pesquera S. A., in charge of their operations in the north coast of the Gulf of Guayaquil. I simply could not find the time to go with her. I should mention that my field notes for my Galápagos collections were unusually complete because of my familiarity with the island flora, an advantage very few botanists had at the time, when they visited the islands.
Dr. David Snow and I had a project about which we talked occasionally. I was going to get together all obtainable material about the San Cristóbal flora as it had been observed up to the beginning of the 20th Century. After this, I would make a collection of plants on the island, with my own observations. The earlier material and my own would be compared to give us (hopefully) a better picture of the effects of colonization on the original vegetation. Unfortunately, we never carried out this project, not only because we lacked funds, but also because we got this idea shortly before his departure from the islands. I left only about a year later.
However, I had the opportunity to make Snow happy by sending him some specimens og a Scalesia that was little known. Snow had been very interested in this genus of the Compositae, after he discovered a moth that lives in association with the Scalesiæ along the shores of Santa Cruz. Each variety of this moth only lives associated with a specific variety of the plant. When I sent him the plants, Snow was living in England.
I had collected them one day, while hiking to la Lobería, a place along the coast beyond the naval base of Puerto Baquerizo. I should perhaps mention that there are several “loberías” in Galápagos, such as the islet at the entrance to Puerto Ayora and a stretch of coast with an islet in the south part of Black Beach, on Floreana. The name simply means that it is a place where sea lions (lobos de mar, sea wolves, in Spanish) are or have been numerous. Near the San Cristóbal Lobería there is an open stretch of almost bare ground that appears as if it were paved with great blocks of volcanic rock. Here, I found a few scrawny bushes, scattered over the place, half recumbent on the rocks. One of them, almost a meter and a half high, was the only erect one, no doubt because it grew inside a fissure, protected from the sea breeze.
There was something familiar about the plants, though they seemed unfamiliar at the same time. It was an unsettling impression. I collected several specimens of branches, some flowers and fruits. After a cursory examination, I saw that this was one of the Compositæ, and on my way home it occurred to me that it could be a Scalesia, though this particular plant did not have hairy leaves as is usual in the lowland species of this genus. Fortunately, I had a key to the genus in my office, and I could identify the collected material as Scalesia divisa, a species discovered by Nils Johan Andersson during his visit in 1852. I was enthusiastic and placed the material in a plant press to prepare it for Snow, for this species had only been reported once since its discovery, by Dr. Alban Stewart of the California Academy of Sciences Expedition of 1905-06.
I was however I bit uncertain about my identification, and had a feeling this might be a new species or subspecies close to S. divisa. Later collectors, who were more familiar with this plant genus than I, also identified this plant as S. divisa. Many years later, ex-father Gordillo pointed out the plant to Dr. Ole Hamann, a Danish botanist, who identified it as a new species, giving it the name S. gordilloi. I was happy to hear that the species had been named after my old friend, who has worked so actively for the conservation of Galápagos wildlife.
During my many hikes in the forests, I discovered many things that could have been interesting for those who love botany. One plant that I especially noticed was a cactus that was about six meters high and looked quite different from the Opuntia that was known from San Cristóbal. The usual form is somewhat lower and has a tight, rounded crown and a relatively thick trunk. “My” new cactus is tall and slender, with long branches that grown tightly together and stretch upwards instead of sideways. Against the sky, it shows a silhouette that is reminescent of some cereoid cacti. But the likeness ends here, for these have cylindrical branch joints, while “my” cactus has the flattened joints characteristic of the genus Opuntia. It is likely that the crown has developed its shape because the plant grows in areas with a denser vegetation than that found in places where the other cacti are found. In fact, it grows at higher altitudes with more moisture than the habitat of other related species in the islands.
I had of course to collect plant parts such as blossoms and branch joints, preparing them to send them to Dr. Dawson, with a description of the plant and suggesting a name for it. After his death, much of the cactus material he was working on was turned over to his friend and colaborator Dr. E. F. Anderson, who published a description in 1970. Since this was the year before Wiggins and Porter published the flora of the islands, it was included there under the name of Opuntia megasperma var. mesophytica J. Lundh. Unfortunately, this uncommon plant seems to be on the way to extinction on account of the numerous domestic animals—both tame and feral—that wander over the island. I have seen very few, mostly isolated, specimens, and young plants are very rare.
My cooperation with Dr. Snow led me to another discovery that was even more sensational, at least to those scientists interested in the giant tortoises of the islands. From the beginning of the 20th Centrury, it was assumed that the San Cristóbal tortoises were close to extinction or perhaps even extinct. By the 1950's it was considered even certain that none remained, for they had not been reported again and, after all, San Cristóbal had been inhabited for a long time and there was the example of Floreana, where these reptiles had disappeared shortly after the island was colonized. But San Cristóbal is larger and has areas that are of difficult access, and there was also the persistent rumor that one could almost certainly find tortoises in the northeastern end of the island, where numerous lava fields exist, and also inland from Rosa Blanca Bay.
With a small financial help from Dr. Snow, I made two excursions to search for the missing reptile; but the lack of means forced me to do this on land, on foot, which limited me very much. On my second attempt, I had the company of the Inspector of Fisheries, don Norberto Paredes, who would become governor of the islands a couple of years later. On our way back, we were rather discouraged by our lack of success, more than by the thirst and exhaustion. However, we had a stroke of luck. Passing Soledad, a remote part of the farming region, I discoverd a large tortoise carapace in the yard of the Ballesteros family's homestead.
I did not take long to find out that it came from a specimen caught in the area inland from Rosa Blanca Bay. Apparently, the animal had died of sunstroke some years earlier, and its carapace had ended up as a trough for feeding the pigs on the farm. The family also had two live specimens in their cassava patch. When I went to photograph them, I discoverd they were two small females, the youngest of which could not have been older than four or five years. This was sensational, as it meant that the San Cristóbal race had not only survived, but had reproduced with some success at least as late as in 1958 or 1959. Later, I learnt that there were two more tortoises, held in different farms in the highlands, probably of the same origin.
The San Cristóbal tortoises were located in their habitat four years later by Miguel Castro, who was still working for the Darwin Foundation. During a trip he made to Puerto Baquerizo because of his work, he saw the opportunity offered by having his boat, and made a trip to Terrapin Road. From here, he went inland to the region between the former anchorage and Rosa Blanca Bay. In the two visits he made to the place, he found and marked a total of about sixty tortoises, a larger number than that Dr. Snow and I had dared hope for. As far as I know, no attempt has been made to find out if these reptiles are to be found in the northeast of the island, as rumor had it on San Cristóbal at the time.
Not all my naturalist activities gave me equal satisfaction, some even causing me frustration. Once I took three geckos in formaldehyde solution to Dr. Andrée Brosset, when he was director of the Research Station. These specimens belonged to a species I had never seen before, and I was very interested in finding out their identity, as they could equally well belong to a new species or be animals imported in some cargo, a distinct possibility since they were found in an area rather close to the Puerto Baquerizo landing. Dr. Brosset did not take long to send them to an herpetologist in Germany.
Unfortunately, I never found out anything more about the matter, as Dr. Brosset left the islands before he received news from the specialist. Many years later, I mentioned these lizards to Dr. Marinus S. Hoogmoed of the Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie of Leiden, who had studied Galápagos lizards and was a member of the board of the Darwin Foundation. He suggested they might belong under Gonatodes caudiusculus, a mainland species that has been reported from San Cristóbal several times in recent years.
There is nothing unusual about strange species appearing on the islands. In fact, it is most likely that the ancestors of the animals belonging in the archipelago have arrived in this manner. What is surprising is that these visitors do not establish themselves more often. During the warm seasons, San Cristóbal used to be visited by groups of mainland gulls, belonging to the species Larus pipixcan (Franklin's gull). Other migratory birds also visit Galápagos regularly, scattering to all the island shores, as they are birds that belong by the seashore and on the sea. But, at times, one could also meet with species that had never been reported from the islands, as a nighthawk I met on the road to Progreso.
It was getting dark, and I did not pay much attention to what I thought was a bat, which was flying in the characteristic manner of these mammals when they hunt insects. Then, I paid more attention, noticing its size, that was greater than that of Galápagos bats, which are rather small animals. This arose my curiosity, until the animal made another pass, nearly touching my head. Though the light was rather poor, I could see that it was a bird. By its shape and the flight it could only be a nighthawk, though this one was almost a thousand kilometers out to sea from its normal habitat.
Later, I learnt that a nighthawk had also been seen, more or less during the same period, in the north of Isabela. I had also seen, on two or three occasions, during that same warm season, a small group of tree ducks (Dendrocygna) in the marshes near Puerto Villamil. These appeared in 1961, always in the same place. Ospreys seem to visit the islands rather regularly, but are never numerous. They seem to prefer places like the south of Isabela, where there are extensive mangrove swamps and salt lagoons. Lévêque and I observed one that was flying over Puerto Barahona, west of Puerto Villamil, and they have been reported several times by visiting scientists.
Whenever I visited Santa Cruz it was like coming home. Not at all strange of course, if we consider how much I had lived in Puerto Ayora. My program on these visits changed very little. After the usual hike to the Charles Darwin Research Station, my tourists and I would stop at Jimmy Perez' shop to sit in the shade and refresh ourselves with an ice-cold beer, while we felt the caress of the sea breeze on our skins that had been overheated by the sun. After this, came another of the day's pleasures—a refreshing shower on the ship, before sitting down at the table to discover the surprises, always pleasant, that the cook of the Cristóbal Carrier had in wait for us. In the afternoons, the program varied little, though it often included a swim at the little beach near the house of my Belgian friend Gym Bowens. After this, it was almost certain that we would stop by the home of Marga and Karl Angermeyer, that hospitable German couple who lived in a stone house at the edge of the cliff by the anchorage.
Gym also built his house of stone, with the help of another Belgian, his neighbor André De Roy, who later would devote himself to take tourists around the islands. Gym's house was very cozy, and I spent many pleasant moments there, together with Gym and a young Frenchman, Lionel de Thouchessin, who had arrived on the Alert with the American settlers. His lack of faith in their project made him move over to Santa Cruz soon after arrival, and he at once found a companion and friend in Gym, for the two were very fond of diving and underwater fishing. It became a custom that the two of them invited me to have supper, invariably serving me spiny lobster, caught that very afternoon in the neighboring reefs.
But good things do no last forever. My two friends left the islands a little before they had been there a year, going on to Polynesia with Captain Norman Young, an Englishman with a long, white beard, who had retired from the Foreign Service, arriving to the islands on his old sailing vessel, the Diana. They wrote me a collective letter from Atuona, in the Marquesas, and all of them were kind enough to send me a few lines each, even Hans-Petter Newe, a German whom I had barely met on Santa Cruz, who wrote me in Swedish.
The letter they promised from Tahiti was reduced to a post card with a promise of a very long letter; but I really did not expect to hear more from them after looking at the stunning Polynesian vahine that brightened the front of the card. Both Gym as well as Lionel—they were the ones who sent the card—must have found too much to hold their attention in Papeete, too much of what they had missed during their sojourn on Santa Cruz.
Marga and Karl Angermeyer have a very special place in the hearts of all of us who have lived on Santa Cruz and even of those who only passed through. To me they are even more special, as the Angermeyer brothers bring me memories from one of the happiest times in my life, when my parents, my brother and I were living in Puerto Ayora in 1937, the year these charming Germans arrived. They became good friends with my father from the first moment. Marga was at the time married to my old friend, the Alsatian Kübler, from whom she divorced a few years before her marriage to Karl Angermeyer. In 1937, the Küblers' daughter Carmen and I used to play a lot together in the rocky landscape of Puerto Ayora or we would sit eating water melons in the shade of an enormous button mangrove tree that grew near a water hole by the stone wall surrounding Kübler's property.
When Karl Angermeyer and his wife went to live near the Puerto Ayora anchorage, many on the island did not take seriously their project of building a stone house at the edge of the near-by cliff; but what was only a dream at the beginning of the 1950's began to take shape as a rough platform of volcanic rocks when I left the islands in 1954. When I came back in 1959, I found Marga and Karl settled comfortably in their lovely house, with its impressive view of the mountains and the bay. They had been there for some time then, enjoying their residence, which is a monument to the persistence and patience of both.
In the same manner, many took Karl's artistic inspiration rather lightly, when he all of a sudden had the idea of painting landscapes. I remember how lightly Karl took the difficulties he had in obtaining what he needed for his artwork. He would resort to all sorts of substitutes, like old sheets for want of canvas, and paint of various colors, often left over from the boat he was builidng at the time.
When I returned to the islands, I found that Karl had already held two exhibitions in Guayaquil, in the Casa de la Cultura. Both had received very favorable criticism. Karl however continued talking about his paintings in his usual irreverent manner. In later years, he discarded his brushes in favor of his fingers, which he moved over the canvas with admirable speed and skill, creating dramatic rocky wastes adorned with cerei and opuntias standing against sunsets that may seem incredible to those who have never been in Galápagos during the warm season.
At times, when I was alone, I would also visit Arena Blanca, the old property of Kristian Stampa. The place held many pleasant memories; but I did not go there only for their sake, but rather to spend a while with Bud Divine and his wife Doris. One of the last times Bud visited me on San Cristóbal, he praised my home made anisette, and I gave him a bottle. When I visited him a long time later, I was surprised that he had not opened the bottle, keeping it in wait for my next visit so we could drink it together. We had nearly half a bottle that evening, which is not so much if we consider the long time we sat talking. When I was leaving, he pressed the cork in with force, saying, “Next time you come, we'll finish it.”
There would be no next time, for I had no opportunity to come back. My mother had arrived from Guayaquil and, after spending a couple of months on San Cristóbal, she went to Santa Cruz to have some work done on her property. I spent all my spare time on Santa Cruz with my mother during my two last trips around the islands. Bud and I met twice in Guayaquil, and he assured me that the bottle was still there, awaiting my next visit, but I never made it. In 1985, after several years with bad health, Bud died—another of my good friends who will not be there to meet me when I come back to Galápagos.
Nor will my old friend Carlos Kübler be there either. Don Carlos had a fine property in the “older” part of Puerto Ayora, extending inland from the village, covering—if I remember correctly—some eleven hectares, mostly volcanic rock. The old Alsatian carried out a titanic job in that stony waste, building enormous rock walls, terraces, paths and steps to go down from one level to the next. He also had two brackish water holes and a number of fig trees, coconut palms, date palms and many other plants, not few of them planted in holes that were dug into the basaltic rock with the help of a sledge hammer and a steel bar. These were then filled with soil and dead leaves brought in from other places. All this work he had accomplished alone, with no other help than his own strength, patience and persistence. While this is admirable in itself, more so is the fact that he was a man in his fifties when he began this work, a man who had not been used to this kind of hard labor, which he kept doing until he was well into his seventies.
Carlos Kübler had very few friends on account of his great pride and excessive susceptibility. He was incapable of forgiving an offense, real or imaginary. However, he gave away his sensibility by showing his great love for nature and animals, as well as by the way he reacted to beauty. I remember one afternoon Eric, my brother, and I were visiting the old Alsatian. Suddenly, he turned around, discovering an impressive sunset. Enormously excited, he pointed at the horizon, which was painted with intense colors. “Look!” he exclaimed almost trembling with emotion. “But look, look!” In that moment, he was completely at loss for words, something most unusual in him.
Kübler made me an unusual honor once. He took me with him to hunt goats. As if this were not enough, he took me along his secret trails, showing me his markings and false trails, made to confuse those who intended discovering his secret paths. This trust shown me by Kübler moved me deeply. This happened in the 1950's, during the same period when he told Eric and me, while we stood together watching the sea from under the shade of his tall coconut palms. “When I find that I'm getting too old and ailing to fend for myself, I'll go into the woods, where not even Christ can find me, and I'll shoot myself in the head with my revolver.”
At the time, Kübler was strong as a bull and in excellent physical condition, something I had found out during the two hunting trips we had made together. I had then made use of all my resistance to keep up with him, despite the fact that I was at least forty years younger than him, and in excellent condition—in fact so excellent that I could catch wild goats by running them down. Because of this, when Eric and I heard his words, we did not take them too seriously, though we did not for a moment doubt his sincerity.
Many years later, when I was living in Australia, I learnt that Carlos Kübler had disappeared. I remembered his words, which the circumstances around his disappearance seemed to confirm. Before disappearing he had transferred all his property to one of his granddaughters. He had said he wanted to move back to Spain, where he wanted to spend his last years. When the ship arrived, he made a reservation for Guayaquil. The afternoon he was to leave, Enrique Fuentes, my friend Marina's brother, went to see Kübler to offer to take him aboard in the evening. The Alsatian thanked him for his kindness, telling him that he had already arranged for another settler, Segundo Herrera, to take him aboard. Later, it was found out that when Segundo Herrera had offered him his boat, Kübler had told him, “Thank you very much, Segundo, but I have already told Enrique Fuentes to take me to the ship this evening.”
The following day, when the port captain on San Cristóbal checked the passenger list as was usual, it was found that Kübler's name was on it, but he had not requested the required traveling permit to the mainland. A search was made to locate him, but nobody had seen him. An enquiry was made to Santa Cruz with no results. It was soon discovered that he had deceived both Fuentes and Herrera, and that nobody had taken him out to the ship. No signs of violence were discovered in the Alsatian's house, nor any apparent indications of robbery. He had simply vanished without leaving traces.
Two or three years later, I received news that his remains had been found by chance. A man who was looking for timber for boat frames had discovered a small cave. Entering to take a look, he found a human skeleton. This was identified as the mortal remains of don Carlos Kübler on the basis of the few personal effects that were near him, among them his favorite weapon, a beautiful revolver with a mother-of- pearl handle, which my brother and I had so often admired.
But there is one person whom I shall miss more than any other from among the many people I hold dear and whom I have lost throughout my long life. When Maritza and I decided to return to the mainland, my mother was still on Santa Cruz, supervising different jobs that were being done on her property in Puerto Ayora. The last evening the ship spent at Santa Cruz, I went to bid her farewell. The moon was shining outside, reflecting itself on the dark sea, with its scattering of silvery foam, where the waves broke on the rocky shore, almost at the foot of the house. There was no sound other than that of the sea, with its regular rhythm of waves that broke themselves up against the rocks with the sound of thunder, then to flow back with the sigh of moving water.
Inside the house, the light from the candles projected our shadows, enlarged and wavering, against the oiled wood of the walls and the ceiling. Conversation had ceased for a moment. My mother had in her face that expression which came over her sometimes, when her blue eyes seemed to see beyond the merely physical, losing themselves in depths that are hidden from ordinary mortals. Suddenly, her absorbed, absent expression changed and she seemed to discover that I was still there, at the other side of the table. She smiled slightly, a bit sadly, and said, “You'll never again come to live in Galápagos. This is the last time we see each other.”
She said it with such conviction that I did not know what to answer. A little later, I protested. I was only going to live in Playas, a little more than an hour from Guayaquil, where she would be living within three or four months. If she expected to die, this was also absurd, for she was enjoying excellent health, was only sixty-one years old, and came from a family whose members reach a very advanced age. Then, on the other hand, those premonitions that came to her from time to time used to become true with such accuracy that they could not be taken lightly.
Several months went by. My mother continued to enjoy good health, and her last letter was very optimistic. Her return to Guayaquil was approaching rapidly. One evening, while she was having supper at the home of the Rambechs, an old Norwegian couple, she lost consciousness. She had suffered a stroke. The physician was called—there happened to be one on Santa Cruz at the time—but he could not help her.
Before daybreak, my mother had died without recovering consciousness. We got the news of her death through Bud Divine, who had contacted another radio amateur in Guayaquil. Because of the communications existing at the time, I could not travel at once to the islands. Fortunately, Lt. Pablo Rueda was head of the island garrison. He and his wife were very fond of my mother. My good friend Dr. Roger Perry was still director at the Darwin Station. These two took charge of the funeral. She was laid to rest at the small cemetery of Puerto Ayora, by which she had often passed so many years ago on her way to the place where the Charles Darwin Research Station is today. There she rests, near the sea that she loved so much, on her beloved Santa Cruz, so full of memories, some bitter, but many of them happy.
We shall mention here only a few works about the Galápagos Islands which could be of interest to those who wish to find out a little more about the islands. The most extensive bibliography I have come across until now is that by Carlos Manuel Larrea, in his El Archipiélago de Colón. The second edition (1960) has a bibliography of 117 pages. Since then, much has been written about the islands, so this, extensive though it is, would probably cover only half the material that has been published until today. Some of the titles that follow will however serve as a good introduction for those who wish to increase their knowledge about these islands.
|Andersson, N.J.||1854||Optegnelser paa en reise rundt jorden, 1851 - 1853. Cappelen, Christiania. A Norwegian translation of the letters written by Prof. Andersson during his voyage around the world on His Swedish Majesty's Frigate Eugenie.|
|Bognoli, J.A. & Espinosa, J.M.||1917||Las Islas Encantadas. Guayaquil. This book has for many years been difficult to get hold of. It contains much material of historic interest, especially about the murder of Manuel J. Cobos and Governor Leonardo Reina in 1904|
|Bowman, R.I.||1961||Morphological Differentiation and Adaptation in Galápagos Finches. University of California Publications in Zoology. Vol. 58. Uni. of Calif. Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles. This is the most exhaustive work on Darwin's finches and of great interest to those interested in the evolution and adaption of species.|
|Darwin, C.R.||1839||The Voyage of the Beagle. J.M. Dent & Sons, London, 1979. There are many earlier and later editions of this book, in many languages|
|Dawson, E.Y.||1962||“Cacti of the Galápagos Islands and of Coastal Ecuador.” Reprint from the Cactus and Succulent Journal of America. Vol. XXXIV Nos. 3 and 4. These two papers complete and update the classification of Galápagos cacti, a most interesting group of plants.|
|Eibl-Eibesfeldt, I.||1959||Survey of the Galápagos Islands. Unesco Missions Report No. 8. Paris. An excellent introduction to the fauna of the islands and the problems around their protection|
|Harris, M.||1974||A Field Guide of the Birds of Galápagos. Collins, London. An excellent illustrated guide that is useful both to the professional and the amateur.|
|Hoff, S.||1985||Drømmen om Galápagos. Grøndahl & Sønn, Oslo. This is the history of the Norwegian settlers in the islands, the only one existing at present. Very well written, well illustrated and absolutely trustworthy. Unfortunately it is only obtainable in Norwegian. An English translation by the late Mrs. Elfriede Horneman exists, but has not yet been published. [NOTE: Web version is now online.]|
|Larrea, C. M.||1960||El Archipiélago de Colón. Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana. Second Edition. Quito. The book contains a great amount of historical information and an extensive bibliography. It is a very valuable and reliable source. There is a later edition that is supposed to have come out in Mexico.|
|Lundh, Jacob||1950||Recuerdos de las Islas Encantadas. Letras del Ecuador. Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana. Quito. Historical, mainly dealing with the 1920's and 1930's.|
|1966||Viaje por las Islas Encantadas. Vistazo. March 1966. Guayaquil. A general description of the inhabited islands.|
|1971||“Apuntes sobre las Islas Galápagos.” In Revista del Colegio Vicente Rocafuerte No. 74, pgs. 44-89. Guayaquil. A general introduction to Galápagos, which was used for a long time as a text for teaching local geography and history in some Galápagos schools.|
|1995||“A brief account of some early inhabitants of Santa Cruz Island.” In Noticias de Galápagos No. 55. Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galápagos Islands. A short account of the earliest known inhabitants of Santa Cruz.|
|1998||“Insidious Invaders.” In Noticias de Galápagos No. 59. C.D.F.G. An introduction to the problem of small animals that have been brought to the islands accidentally in the course of the years. The author has written about the islands in other publications, including a few articles in Noticias that are not mentioned here.|
|Perry, R.||1972||The Galápagos Islands. Dodd, Mead & Co. New York. Dr. Perry was director of the Charles Darwin Research Station during seven years, and his book is an entertaining and short introduction, especially to the fauna.|
|2000||Island Days. Minerva Press. The first part of this book is about the Galápagos Islands. The whole book is very interesting and gives insights into the author's life in Galápagos, the Line Islands and Tristan da Cunha.|
|Slevin, J.||1959||The Galápagos Islands: A History of their Exploration. Occ. Papers Calif. Acad. Scie. No. 25. S. Francisco. A historical work that covers from the Spanish discovery to the scientific expeditions of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. His rather brief information about Norwegian settlers is however totally misleading.|
|Snow, D. W.||1964||The Giant Tortoises of the Galápagos Islands. Oryx Vol. VII No. 6. A brief introduction to the giant tortoises and their status on the eve of the Darwin Station's conservation program. Dr. Snow was director at the Darwin Research Station before Dr. Perry took over.|
|Stewart, A.||1911||A Botanical Survey of the Galápagos Islands. Proc. Calif. Acad. Scie. 4th Ser. Vol I No.2. S. Francisco. Until 1971 this was the most complete work on the botany of the islands. It is still of great interest, especially because it gives the altitudes at which the different island plants are found.|
|Swarth, H. S.||1931||The Avifauna of the Galápagos Islands. Occ. Papers Calif. Acad. Scie. XVIII. S. Francisco. A very useful work for the ornithologist, based mainly on the extensive collections at the California Academy of Sciences.|
|Van Denburgh, J.||1914||The Giant Land Tortoises of Galápagos Archipelago. Proc. Calif. Acad. Scie. 4th Ser. Vol. II Pt. 1 No. 10. S. Francisco. This is the most detailed work that exists about these reptiles. It is based manily on the large collections of the California Academy of Sciences and the field notes taken during their capture. The 4th Series also includes papers on the snakes and geckos, both by Van Denburgh, and one about the lava lizards and the island iguanas, written by Van Denburgh and Joseph Slevin.|
|Wiggins, I. & Porter, D.||1971||Flora of the Galápagos Islands. Stanford University Press, Stanford, Calif. An encyclopedic work about the vascular plants of Galápagos, written by 28 specialists. Richly illustrated, mainly with ink drawings.|
|Wittmer, M.||1959||Postlagernd Floreana. Verlag Heinrich Scheffler. Frankfurt am Main. There is at least one English edition. The book is of great interest as it gives an excellent description of life in Galápagos and the problems the settlers had to face in the 1930's and 1940's.|