The Galapagos Islands have a colorful history that includes pirates, whalers, sealers and even love and mystery (check out the history of Floreana, and read Floreana by Margaret Wittmer)! As most great things in the world, the discovery of the archipelago was accidental when Tomas de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama, was sailing from Panama to Peru.
After reporting great tortoises that looked like saddles, "galapagos," to King Charles V of Spain, the islands were named.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the industrial revolution changed from the need for Spanish gold to oil which came from whale's blubber. 100 years of exploiting the waters, as well as the land, bringing not only tortoises and whales, but also fur seals near extinction, followed. Today, when visiting the islands, you will note how fur seals hesitate to join the crowds like the other animals -- they evolved and learned fear.

Probably the most famous visitor to the islands was Charles Darwin.
1835 The Beagle visited the Galapagos Islands. Charles Darwin studied the flora and fauna. He concluded that the species, to survive, would gradually alter based on environmental conditions. In 1859, after 20 years of his life gathering supporting evidence, Darwin published The Origin of the Species by Natural Selection.

Ecuador claimed the Galapagos in 1832 with the United States and Great Britain vying for the islands the next 100 years. Surprisingly, though, it wasn't until 1959 the islands became a National Park and tourism began in the 1960s.

the Islands were declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO emphasizing its universal value for mankind.

Now, an estimated 70,000 people visit the islands each year.

When I see these Islands in sight of each other and possessed of but a scanty stock of animals, tenanted by these birds, but slightly differing in structure and filling the same place in Nature, I must suspect they are varieties . . . If there is the slightest foundation for these remarks the zoology of the archipelagoes will be well worth examining: for such facts would undermine the stability of species'. -- Darwin


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