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Galapagos Travel

Human History

After the Islands discovery in 1535 there was little in the way of human activity for many years. In fact, the first reasonable navigation charts of the Galapagos didn’t appear until more than a hundred years after their discovery, in 1684. In these early years the islands were sought out by whalers, and even pirates as base for their raids on Spanish colonial ports in the mainland. Of the original sailors and buccaneers who passed through Alexander Selkirk is perhaps the most famous as he is likely the man who Daniel Defoe’s novel “Robinson Crusoe” is based.

In 1807 the first official resident, Patrick Watkins, made his home on Floreana Island after being marooned. Around this time whaling was in full swing and had a detrimental effect on the whale, fur seal, and giant tortoise populations. In 1832 the Islands were officially annexed by Ecuador and a penal colony was sent out which housed political and other prisoners. In 1893 the settlement Puerto Villamil was established on Isabela Island, which still exists today. About 40 years later, on Floreana Island, a strange series of deaths and disappearances occurred involving a German philosopher and his mistress, Heinz and Margaret Wittmer, and a Baroness and her three lovers. The Wittmer family still resides on Floreana owning and operating a hotel. During World War II the U.S. used Baltra Island as a Naval base.

Now, centuries after it’s discovery, the once thought to be a cursed and desolate location has become one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet.

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