Galapagos Colonization - History and Mistery
1850-1860 - The Prison
After Villamil left the island, the Galapagos was considered an ideal site for a prison, as its distance from the mainland made escape nearly impossible and the inmates would have insufficient food and water to survive. Sometimes the prisoners were without supplies, which prompted the delinquents to commit other crimes. A prisoner named Briones, who captured a whaling boat, escaped with other prisoners to the mainland, and killed 28 men in the entrance to the Gulf of Guayaquil, committed the most famous crime. This incident provoked a strong controversy, because the owners of the whaling ship demanded large payments as compensation from the Government of the United States and threatened to send war ships if they didn’t pay.
1869-1878 - Second Colonization
1860, a whaler discovered the orchilla lichen, a valuable plant for dyeing. Several businessmen tried to exploit it, among them Mr. Jose Valdizan, a Spanish businessman residing in Guayaquil. He obtained exclusive rights in 1869 and moved to the islands of Floreana where he organized plantations once the business of the orchilla crashed. He believed, against the opinion of everyone that he could take delinquents to work on his properties and win them over with kindness and work. He was treacherously murdered July 23, 1878. The island was abandoned, the domesticated animals and cattle went wild and the workers didn’t want to return because they considered it a "cursed island".
1879-1940 - J. Cobo's Empire
Starting in 1879, on the island of San Cristobal, Manuel J. Cobos formed an advanced agricultural center, called "El Progreso", not far from the port. The first products included leather from the feral cattle, oil from tortoises and fishing, while sugar cane plantations were prepared for a factory, which was installed in 1891. Various ships maintained an active trade with Guayaquil. Unfortunately, "El Progreso" turned into a concentration camp with forced labor and where the will of Cobos was the only law. He imposed his own circulation, made decisions regarding the life, death or exile to isolated islands of many of his workers. Camilo Casanova was exiled to the Island of Santa Cruz, becoming an exact replica of Robison Crusoe. M.J. Cobos was assassinated by a group of his workers on January 15, 1904.
1926-1929 - The Norwegians
The Norwegians had shown an interest in the Galapagos since 1880 owing to the abundance of fish and opportunities to hunt whales. In 1908, a Norwegian sailboat crashed on the West Side of the archipelago and part of the crew was abandoned on the island of Santa Cruz for many months. Upon their return to Norway, they convinced many of their countrymen to immigrate to the islands. Many groups arrived during 1926 and two colonies were formed on Floreana and Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, the conditions weren’t as they had expected and in less than two years, the majority of the immigrants had returned to Norway. Captain Bruun of the Norwegian marines made a final attempt to colonize the islands, but he died tragically on Isabela in July of 1931.
1929-1934 - The Germans in Florena
In August 1929, Doctor Friedrich Ritter and Dore Stranch arrive to the island of Floreana, two lovers anxious to live under their own philosophy, isolated from their decadent civilization. Their writings attracted others with similar ideas, but none of them lasted long except for the Wittmer family (Heinz, Margaret, and Harris) from Cologne. A few months later, an Austrian woman arrived, who introduced herself as the Baroness together with three lovers, and the island was transformed into a small hell, due to intrigues of the new inhabitants. The first lover returned to the mainland after a few weeks.
In March 1934, the Baroness disappeared with one of her lovers, Phillipson, and even though Margaret affirms that they went on a yacht to the Pacific Island, no one has given any credit to her story. Margaret convinced Lorenz, the surviving lover, to return to Germany. He disappeared along with another Danish man, Nuggerud, before arriving to the island of San Cristobal. A few months later, Dr. Ritter was poisoned (on purpose or by accident?) by Dore, and died. In December, the mummified bodies of Lorenz and Nuggerud were found on the island of Marchena. Out of the seven colonists four died mysteriously, this mystery has never been solved. However, the Wittmer family still lives on the island.
1946-1959 - Penal Colony
Once again, Ecuador made the error of opening a penal colony on the Galapagos Islands. In 1946, it was used as military installations on an alternative base, which operated during the war. Unfortunately, the situation grew worse and the colony turned into a concentration camp until 1950, when a police chief forced the people of the penal colony to construct a wall. This wall is known as "the Wall of Tears". In February 1958, there was an uprising, an intelligent prisoner named "Patecuco", disarmed police and took "Valinda" the yacht that belonging to an American millionaire and used it to escape to the mainland. No deaths occurred during the uprising, but the incident caused international repercussions and the government shut down the penal colony and stopped sending prisoners to the islands.