Robert I. Bowman

December, 1017: This document was transcribed from the original typewritten version into a more legible format by Cultural and Natural Heritage Tours. February, 2018: Additional editing done to conform to HTML 5 requirements. Hover over any text to display Chapter number and title.

Table of Contents
2Expedition Itinerary
3Scientific Observations
4Special Problems of Wildlife Management in Galápagos
5Suggestions for Protection of Galápagos Biota and Scenic Areas
6Factors Determining Feasibility of a Research Station
7Location of a Research Station
8Planning the Research Station
9Organizations Interested in Galápagos
Literature Cited


In July 1957, Ecuador issued a series of six stamps featuring the Galápagos Islands, usable only on the islands. Revenue from the sale of these stamps is to be used exclusively for public works projects on the islands.

Chapter 1: Introduction

The “Archipiélago de Colón,” more commonly known as the Galápagos Islands, is situated approximately 500 miles west of the mainland of Ecuador to which country it belongs. The group is composed of five large and seven small islands, numerous islets and reefs, distributed about the equator at the same longitude as the city of New Orleans.

Historical importance of the Galápagos Islands

Tales of unusual biological productions and of human strife in the Galápagos region have long attracted the attention of historians, story writers, and scientists. During the seventeenth century the islands served as a hideout for pirates of the Eastern Pacific trade routes, on whose shores fresh meat in the form of titanic tortoises and docile doves could be readily obtained. Near the close of the eighteenth century freebooting gave way to whaling, and with the beginning of hostilities between Great Britain and America, gunboats executed many sea raids around Galápagos designed to harass English shipping (von Hagen, 1940). In 1841 the novelist Herman Melville visited the Galápagos Islands aboard a whaling ship and they became the locale of his charming essay The Encantadas.

Scientific interest in the islands begins with the writings of Charles Darwin and particularly his On the Origin of Species which was first published in 1859. When Darwin visited Galápagos in 1835 as naturalist aboard the world-cruising H.M.S. Beagle, he was so impressed with what he observed that he wrote as follows in his diary of 1837:

In July opened first notebook on ‘Transmutation of Species.’—Had been greatly struck from about month of previous March on character of S. American fossils—species on Galápagos Archipelago.—These facts origin (especially latter) of all my views.” (Barlow, 1933: xiii)

The Galápagos Islands present a unique assortment of plants and animals which make them especially attractive to biologists. For example, there is a group of finches composed of 13 species, each of which in some degree resembles the other species, especially in manner of song, plumage, nest, and so forth, but differs from the others most conspicuously in size and shape of bill. However, one of the unusual features is the frequent occurrence of individuals showing such an inter-mediation of characters that they defy specific allocation. To the evolution-minded Darwin these birds, it was reasoned, could have been the descendants of a common ancestor with bills now adapted to “different ends.”

Two kinds of iguanas living on the Galápagos Islands may have provided Darwin with additional “food for thought” on the origin of new species. The brilliantly coloured land iguanas are distributed on many of the islands, often living but a few yards from their nearest relative, the no-less-colourful marine iguana—the only lizard in the world which enters the ocean to forage.

Most impressive to the eyes of buccaneers and whalers of past centuries, as well as modern visitors to the islands, are the gigantic land tortoises, some of which attain a weight of over 500 pounds. These reptilian monsters occur naturally in no other place in the world, save for a few islands in the Indian Ocean where a similar species still survives.

A distinct species of penguin lives inconspicuously amongst the western islands directly under the equator—the sole members of a typically Antarctic or south temperate group of flightless birds occurring in “tropical” waters. Another non-volant bird, the flightless cormorant, lives close by the penguin foraging for fish in the cool nutrient-rich waters of the Humboldt (Peru) Current. This northwesterly drifting oceanic stream is largely responsible for the anomalies in the would-be “tropical” climate, causing widespread aridity along the low cactus-studded coasts and frequent heavy rainfall in the humid forests of the highlands. Giant tree-like cacti and 60 feet tall sunflower trees are but two more examples of the many unusual biological productions for which Galápagos is famous.

Few places in the world offer such a glorious panorama of “moon-like” landscape, or present such an array of volcanoes (some of which are erupting this very day) as may be found on Galápagos. The inhospitable nature of the coastal regions, whose sun-parched lava supports but a growth of spiny plants, is largely responsible for the retarded human colonization of these islands. Within the past century and a half there has been extensive penetration of the moist highlands of the larger islands and the development of plantations, so that these “Enchanted Isles” are now capable of supporting a limited human population.

In the past few years there has been a revival of interest in Galápagos by the government of Ecuador, which is directed mainly at agricultural expansion through increased colonization, and toward the development of tourist attractions. As a result, new demands have come from internationally-minded conservationists that appropriate action be taken to safeguard the Galápagos biota from further destruction.

Coupled with this upsurge of human activity in Galápagos are the dangers presented by predatory feral cats, dogs, and pigs, which find easy prey in the tame birds, lizards, and tortoises.

Recent interest in the conservation of the Galápagos biota

Fearing the possible extinction of the Galápagos tortoise by the oil hunters, in 1928 the New York Zoological Society sent Dr. Charles H. Townsend to Galápagos to procure a breeding stock of the animals for colonization in the southern states of the United States. He brought back 180 individuals from Albemarle Island. Some of the tortoises collected in 1928 are still alive in zoos today.

In 1930, Dr. Townsend reports (1930: 153) that an attaché of the Consulate of Ecuador in New York requested his opinion as to what steps should be taken by the Ecuadorian government for the preservation of the animal life of the Galápagos Islands. This gentleman also made inquiry as to whether a scientific association, such as the New York Zoological Society, would be interested in undertaking the supervision of some method of conservation that might be found desirable.

In 1936 formal action was taken to enforce the 1934 statutes which provided for the protection of the Galápagos fauna and flora. On 14 May of that year a decree was signed by Ecuador's Provisional President Paez, by which the following islands were declared to be national parks and reservations for the flora and fauna: Hood, James, Barrington, Jervis, Seymour, Daphne, Tower, Bindloe, Abingdon, Culpepper, Indefatigable, and that part of Albemarle between Albemarle Point and Perry Isthmus. It was further stated that a board of directors should supervise the protection of plant and animal life on the islands and the establishment of research stations (Atwood, 1940: 49). It is uncertain whether the provisional committee of Dr. Teodoro Maldonado Carbo, Dr. Antonio Parra V., and Messrs. Francisco Campo K., Eduardo Mena, and Jonas Guerro, named in the decree, ever functioned as intended.

One of the most active American scientists Interested in obtaining better protection of the Galápagos biota during the latter part of the 1930's was Dr. John S. Garth of the Allan Hancock Foundation, University of Southern California. Dr. Garth accompanied the Foundation’s research vessel [Velero III] to Galápagos on its numerous expeditions (see Meredith, 1939). § In 1937 he called upon Dr. John C. Phillips, then Chairman of the Executive Committee of the American Committee on International Wildlife Protection to see what might be done through that organisation to promote more effective conservation of the Galápagos biota. Cooperating with Dr. Garth was Dr. Waldo L. Schmitt of the United States National Museum who with Dr. Garth always maintained that a permanent station on the Galápagos Islands was the only way to study and protect its fauna and flora. Unfortunately, nothing tangible resulted from these efforts.

§ See also C. McLean Fraser's Table of scientists …

In 1946 efforts were renewed to bring the Galápagos Islands under more favourable wildlife management, and at a meeting of the Pacific Science Conference of the National Research Council, held in Washington, D.C, 6-8 June, the following recommendation was presented:

“That steps be taken toward the establishment of a base research station for various types of scientific investigation in the Galápagos Islands, making use of existing installations. The base should be of a permanent nature because of the importance of maintaining continuous oceanographic, biological, and meteorological records from this island outpost of South America. By way of specific illustrations of projects for this station, it may be pointed out that various elements of the land fauna are little known; that the extraordinary humid zone of the south face of the larger islands offer the opportunity for a unique ecological mountain transect, especially from Academy Bay and Indefatigable Island; that the more barren coasts and islands afford simplified ecological conditions, comparable to those of Arctic islands, and provide a veritable field laboratory in themselves; and that the biological interest of these islands is so great that conservation measures, under the control of such a research station, are urgently required.” (Bull. Nat. Res. Council, No. 114, Sept. 1946, p. 43.)

Active in promoting this and other recommendations were Dr. Harold J. Coolidge, Executive Secretary, Pacific Science Board, and Vice-chairman of the Continuation Committee designated to implement this and other recommendations of the conference, and also Dr. Dillon S. Ripley of Yale University.

“UNESCO, under the guidance of its first Director, Dr. Julian Huxley, had on several occasions shown its anxiety that at least certain parts of these islands might be allowed to become effectively protected and maintained intact.” (Press Release of the I.U.C.N., Sept. 1956)

In the Fall of 1955, Dr. Robert I. Bowman and Dr. I. Eibl-Eibesfeldt wrote independently to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and presented their first-hand observations on Galápagos, pointing to the need for more effective conservation practices and the desirability of establishing a permanent research installation on the islands.

In January 1956, Dr. Bowman sent copies of an article to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as further evidence of the immanency of the dangers to the Galápagos biota. Subsequently, public interest in this cause was effectively aroused through letters from numerous other scientists in America and Europe addressed to I.U.C.N. President, Prof. Roger Heim, and its Assistant Secretary-General, Mme. Marguerite Caram.

Mr. Jean Delacour, President, and Dr. Dillon Ripley, Secretary, of the Pan-American Section of the International Committee for Bird Preservation, met with Ecuadorian officials in Quito during May 1956 in an attempt to interest them in the creation of a biological field station and national parks on the Galápagos Islands. (See Bull, of the I.C.B.P. for 11 July 1956, p. 2)

These activities were culminated in the following resolution passed at the Fifth General Assembly of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, held in Edinburgh, 20-28 June 1956:

“The Fifth General Assembly, having taken note with approval of the interesting report submitted by the Survival Service Committee, is deeply concerned by reports which have been received by the Union regarding the precarious situation of various species of fauna and flora endemic to the Galápagos Islands which are entitled to protection under the Ecuadorian laws which were established in 1934. The General Assembly is likewise concerned by reports in the press of plans for the large tourist and economic development of the resources of the Galápagos Islands which might further jeopardize the endangered species found there. They recommend that qualified naturalists should be encouraged to visit the Galápagos Islands to make a survey and ecological studies of the fauna and flora and express their hope that facilities will be provided by the Ecuadorian government or through some form of international technical aid so that a small housing unit or laboratory might serve as a base for such scientific work. It is hoped that additional funds may be found to support a long range scientific programme in the Galápagos Islands and as part of such a programme, certain islands of the Galápagos Archipelago might be set aside as permanent reserves to enable the fauna and flora to remain undisturbed and so as to provide for long term research.”

Dr. Harold J. Coolidge has informed me that the 9th Pacific Science Congress held in Bangkok (1957) passed the following resolutions:

“In view of the endangered status of many elements in the indigenous fauna and flora of the Galápagos Islands, the Congress resolves that:

“The Congress views with satisfaction the institution of efforts by UNESCO and by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources with the support of the Government of the Republic of Ecuador, to establish protection for the fauna and flora of the Galápagos Islands. The Congress especially recommends the establishment, as soon as possible, of a research and observation station in the archipelago, and urges the support of such station by international funds.”

In April, 1957 the I.U.C.N, was successful in obtaining financial assistance from UNESCO to send Dr. Eibl-Eibesfeldt on “a first mission of reconnaissance” to Galápagos. Through the energetic activities of Dr. Dillon Ripley, acting as coordinator of several American organizations also keenly interested in the Galápagos reconnaissance, financial support was obtained for Dr. Bowman in order that be might serve as the American delegate on the UNESCO reconnaissance. The four groups contributing to his expenses were, International Committee for Bird Protection (Pan-American Section), Life Magazine, New York Zoological Society, and the Conservation Foundation.

The main purposes of the survey were as follows:

  1. To determine the practicality of establishing a permanent scientific station on the Galápagos Islands.
  2. To locate a possible site for such a station.
  3. To explore with Ecuadorian officials the possibility of setting aside one or more islands in the Galápagos as an International wildlife reserve.
  4. To check on the distribution, relative abundance, and ecology of certain “vanishing” species.
  5. To obtain adequate photographic documentation of the Islands and their biota for publicity purposes.

On 5 July 1957, accompanied by personnel from Life Magazine, namely, Mr. Rudolf Freund, illustrator, and Mr. Alfred Eisenstaedt, photographer, Eibl and Bowman departed by airplane from New York City for Guayaquil, Ecuador.


In addition to the philanthropic organizations mentioned above whose grants made it possible for the writer to participate in the Galápagos reconnaissance, there are many individuals who have contributed directly or indirectly to the success of the survey. The following deserve special mention: Prof. Roger Heim and Mme. Marguerite Caram of the I.U.C.N., who in large part are responsible for the successful guidance of the present project from its inception to the commencement of the field work; Dr. I. Eibl-Eibesfeldt, whose enthusiasm and initiative in promoting this project with the I.U.C.N. was instrumental in obtaining the support from UNESCO; Dr. Dillon S. Ripley, Yale University, who has combined his long standing scientific interest in the Galápagos biota with his administrative talents to coordinate American support for this project; Miss Patricia Hunt, Nature Editor of Life Magazine, who cheerfully accepted and skillfully carried out a large share of the work of planning the expedition; Dr. Fairfield Osborn, New York Zoological Society, whose prestige and administrative experience in organizing scientific expeditions have served the Galápagos mission most profitably.

Active cooperation of the government of Ecuador, on whose request the survey mission was sent to the Galápagos Islands, facilitated the field work through the generous contribution of rapid transportation to and among the islands, and the free use of the wireless radio, and in many other ways. The friendly cooperation of official and non-official Ecuadorian citizens wherever we went was most gratifying.

The members of the expedition extend to the following Ecuadorian officials special thanks for their aid and hospitality; Dr. Camilo Ponce Enrique, President of the Republic; Sr. Ingo Alfonso Calderon Moreno, Minister of National Defense; Sr. Carlos Tobar Zaldumbide, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Dr. Jose Baquerizo Maldonado, Minister of Education; Sr. Guillermo Ordonez, Commander General of the Navy; Sr. Rafael Andrade Ochoa, Commander General of Aviation; Sr. Jorge Crespo Toral, Coordinator General for Technical Assistance; Sr. Guillermo Davalos, Capt. of Patrol Boat 04; Sr. Arturo Menu and Sr. Rovere, Port Captains at Academy Bay, Indefatigable Island; Sr. Gomar, Governor of Galápagos, and Sr. Larrea, Acting Governor of Galápagos.

Especially helpful in practical matters on Galápagos were Mr. and Mrs. Miguel Castro, Mrs. Helen Corey, Mr. Karl Angermeyer, Mr. Erling Graffer, Mr. Gilberto Moncayo, Mr. Enrique Fuentes, Mr. Cecil Moncayo, and Mr. Carl Kübler. Mr. Ernest C. Devine put his amateur radio services at our disposal and helped in other ways.

Mr. Anthony E. Balinski, resident representative of the United Nations Technical Assistance Board in Ecuador, served as our official adviser and guide while in Quito and assisted in many other ways; Mr. Christian Ravndal, United States Ambassador, and Sr. Jorge Jurado of El Comercio, aided our group on many occasions; Sr. Ralpho Del Campo of Panagra, was of much service in expediting our official duties while in Guayaquil.

The writer is grateful to Dr. Alden Miller, Director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, for advice, material aid, and loan of scientific equipment. Dr. Carl L. Hubbs, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Dr. R.C. Miller, Dr. Robert T. Orr, and Dr. Earl Herald of the California Academy of Sciences, and Francis and Ainslie Conway, Berkeley, California, offered freely their advice in the planning stages.

I am grateful to the administration of San Francisco State College for releasing me from academic duties during the Fall semester, 1957.

Finally, special acknowledgment should be made of the enthusiastic participation of Mr. Pruand and Mr. Eisenstaedt throughout the course of the survey. Life Magazine should be highly commended for additional contributions which made it possible for the group to extend their activities to important areas which would otherwise have been by-passed.

Chapter 2: Expedition Itinerary

5Leave New York City by airplane.
6Arrive in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Freund, Eisenstaedt, and Eibl depart for Quito. Bourns remains in Guayaquil for discussions with Mrs. Helen Coray, domestic manager of our expedition.
7Bowman departs for Quito. Reception for mission at home of U.S. Consul, Mr. Jerry Culley. Among officials attending were Mr. Ravndal, U.S. Ambassador; Mr. Balinski, United Nations Technical Assistance Board; Sr. Calderon, Minister of National Defense; Sr. Andrade, Commander General of Aviation, etc. Dinner at home of Sr. Jorge Jurado of El Comercio.
8Meeting with the Coordinator of Technical Assistance for Ecuador, Sr. Jorge Crespo. This was a “work” session to present details of the Galápagos mission. Mr. Balinski acted as interpreter.
Meeting with American Ambassador to arrange details of passports.
Meeting with Minister of National Defense and Commander-Generals of Navy and Aviation to prepare details of transportation to Galápagos via Government airplane and ship.
Reception at home of Mr. Jan Schreuder, Director of Arts at UNESCO`s Casa dela Cultura; other guests included Sr. Carlos Mantilla, Editor of El Comercio, which newspaper has given the Galápagos mission much favourable publicity, and other local dignitaries.
9Airplane trip over Andes courtesy of the Ecuadorian Government, accompanied by many officials.
Audience with the President of the Republic, Dr. Ponce.
Meeting with Dr. Acosta-Solis, Director of the Instituto Ecuatoriana de Ciencias Naturales.
Meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sr. Tobar.
Meeting with the Minister of Education, Dr. Baquerizo to discuss practical measures which the Government of Ecuador might take to further the cause of our mission.
Attended meeting of the Comité Nacional del Año Geofísico Internacional and the Subcomisión Técnica de Trabajo de Oceanografía to inform members of the importance of a research station on Galápagos.
10Leave Quito for Guayaquil.
Meeting with Naval Commander of District No. 1 concerning the shipment of cargo on El Oro to Galápagos.
Meeting with Mrs. Helen Coray to prepare list of materials to be purchased for expedition.
11Clear baggage through customs. Made purchases of food, etc. end load these on board El Oro.
12-14Relaxation in Guayaquil and Playas, awaiting departure of Catalina for Galápagos on 15 July.
15Leave Guayaquil by Catalina at 10.45 a.m. Arrive Baltra air strip, 3.45 p.m. Transfer cargo to El Oro which was awaiting our arrival at the air strip.
16Sail from Baltra to Academy Bay, Indefatigable Island.
17-19Make preparations at Academy Bay.
20-23Trip to “Tortoise Country,” Indefatigable Island.
24-26Academy Bay
27Academy Bay to Duncan Island.
28Duncan Island.
29Duncan to Jervis Island.
30Jervis Island.
31Jervis to James Island.
1-2James Bay, James Island.
3James Island to Bartholomew Island.
4Bartholomew to Eden Island.
5Eden to Conway Bay, Indefatigable Island.
6-12Academy Bay. [11 Aug. Eisenstaedt and Freund leave for Baltra Island.]
13Academy Bay to Cartago Bay, Albemarle Island.
14Cartago Bay to west side Abingdon Island.
15Abingdon Island.
16Abingdon to Tower Island.
17-18Tower Island.
19Tower Island to Academy Bay, Indefatigable Island.
20-29Academy Bay. [Freund returns to Academy Bay, 23 August and departs for Narborough Island, 2 August sic, September?]
30Academy Bay to Barrington Island.
31Barrington Island.
1Barrington Island to Academy Bay.
2Academy Bay to Tagus Cove, Albemarle Island.
3-15Narborough Island.
16Narborough Island to Elizabeth Bay, west side of Albemarle Island.
17Elizabeth Bay to Academy Bay.
18Academy Bay.
19Academy Bay to Charles Island.
20Charles Island.
21Charles Island to Gardner-near-Hood Island.
22Gardner-near-Hood Island.
23-24Hood Island.
25Hood Island to Academy Bay.
26-27Academy Bay.
28-29Highlands of Indefatigable Island.
30Academy Bay.
1-7Academy Bay.
8Highlands of Indefatigable Island.
9Tortuga Bay, Indefatigable Island.
10-11Academy Bay.
12Tortuga Bay, Indefatigable Island.
13Academy Bay.
14Academy Bay to Barrington Island.
15Barrington Island to Gardner -near -Hood Island.
16Hood Island.
17Hood to Chatham Island.
18Chatham Island.
19Chatham to Barrington Island.
20Barrington to Academy Bay, Indefatigable Island.
21-30Academy Bay.
1-21Academy Bay.
22Academy Bay to Chatham Island.
23-25Chatham Island to Guayaquil, Ecuador.
26-27Guayaquil, Ecuador.
28-29Guayaquil to Miami to San Francisco.

Discussion with Ecuadorian Officials

During our brief visit to Quito, 7 to 10 July, inclusive, numerous discussions were held with various Ecuadorian officials, all of which, in general, reflected considerable interest in our mission and assured us of full cooperation whenever requested. Expressions of their sincerity and willingness to help are reflected in the following:

  1. The Minister of National Defense, through the Commander-General of Aviation, placed a Catalina Flying Boat at our disposal for transportation to Galápagos on 15 July, and for the return of Mr. Eisenstaedt in mid-August.
  2. The Commander-General of the Navy coordinated the sailing schedule of the Government operated El Oro in order that we would not be inconvenienced in any way upon our arrival at the airport on Baltra Island. El Oro was awaiting our arrival and took us directly to Academy Bay.
  3. A modern speedy patrol boat was placed at the disposal of Eibl sad Bowman whenever we requested it. Captain Davalos and his crew cooperated with us in every way possible to make us comfortable and to land us wherever we requested, and often at “wild” anchorages.
  4. The government-operated wireless radio was placed at our disposal on numerous occasions, thus greatly expediting our field work.
  5. The Minister of Education was so keenly interested in the Galápagos project that he requested monthly reports of our progress and any recommendation we might wish to make for the establishment of wildlife reserves on Galápagos. It was explained that quick action on our part would make it possible, if we so wished it, to present to the Fall session of the 1957 Ecuadorian Congress, legislation in support of our recommendations.
  6. The National Committee for the International Geophysical year expressed much interest in the possibility of a research station on Galápagos, and wished to know if we envisioned oceanographic studies being carried out there. We indicated that we did.
  7. Ecuadorian scientists such as Dr. H. Acosta-Solis, Dr. Julio Arauz, and Prof. Gustavo Orces of the Comité Nacional de Proteccíon a la Naturaleza y Conservación de los Recuraos Naturales del Ecuador, have indicated their enthusiasm for our mission and hoped that a research station would materialize on Galápagos.

Chapter 3: Scientific Observations

In the following paragraphs I shall present some of the more significant biological observations made by the various members of our group. Systematic collections and observations were restricted for the most part to terrestrial vertebrates because of limitations of time. The writer also made notes -on the distribution of the vegetarian and prepared some herbarium specimens.

At the time of this writing (10 January 1958) not all of the collections on which many of the following observations are based, were at hand. For this reason certain conclusions are necessarily tentative, pending closer scrutiny of the specimens.


A relatively small collection of plants was made principally on Indefatigable Island, but a few specimens were also obtained on Jervis, Abingdon, Albemarle, Narborough, Chatham, Gardner-near-Hood, and Hood.

Of special interest was the procurement of specimens of the endemic species of Compositae, Scalesia Helleri, from the west side of Tortuga Bay on the south shore of Indefatigable Island. This curly-leaved, highly aromatic, shrubby species is known only from three previous collections; the first two from Barrington Island and the third, a previous collection from Indefatigable Island. Mr. Thomas Howell, California Academy of Sciences, who is an authority on Galápagos plants, has identified this new material.

Under the leadership of Mr. Rudolf Freund, an expedition was organized to penetrate the interior of Narborough Island for the purpose of making scientific observations in and around the large central crater. This expedition represents the fourth of its kind to reach the rim of the large central crater on Narborough Island. The first was in 1899 by Snodgrass and Heller who climbed to the north rim of the crater (Heller, 1903: 40). The second was by Mr. R. Beck in 1906 who examined the southeast rim of the crater having started from Mangrove Point (southeast corner of the island). The third expedition was organized by Mr. Otis Barton who in 1956, with the aid of Mr. Karl Angermeyer, climbed to the east rim of the crater from Point Espinosa (northeast corner of the island). Three of Mr. Barton’s carriers entered the crater and brought out fresh water from the lake.

Our expedition provided an excellent opportunity for the writer to compare the altitudinal distribution of the vegetation and compare it with that on the south-facing slope of Indefatigable Island. Regrettably, no herbarium specimens were obtained on Narborough (only seeds) because of severe weight and space limitations.

Although the north and northeast rim of Narborough crater is at an elevation of over 4000 feet, nonetheless no grass-fern formation is developed here as it is on the south-facing slope of Indefatigable island at 2000 feet elevation. Rather, the Scalesia tree forms a uniform forest growth about 8-10 ft. high at its maximum development, which is in marked contrast to the 50-60 ft. high Scalesia trees occurring on the south-facing slopes of Indefatigable Island. This situation may be due to differences in rainfall and wind exposure.

Some authors (viz. Lack, 1947: 78-79) have given the impression that “conditions” on the various islands of the Galápagos are more or less the same. It came somewhat as a surprise, therefore, to discover rather striking differences in the growth-form of the vegetation and the degree of dominance of certain species on the different islands visited, many of which, presumably, have similar climates, For example, on Indefatigable Island the thorny tree Parkinsonia forms a very inconspicuous element in the coastal vegetation, whereas on Duncan Island, all members of our group can attest to the dense tangle of dwarf trees of this species over large areas of the Island. Another example is the Opuntia cactus, which is so common throughout the arid coastal zone on Indefatigable Island that it forms one of the most conspicuous elements in the vegetation. On the north-facing slopes of Narborough Island this cactus is extremely rare, and we did not encounter our first tree until reaching the 1260 ft. elevation.

Wild tomato seeds were obtained from plants representing two distinct forms which were growing along the edge of the crater lake on Narborough Island (2325 ft.) This represents the first collection of its kind from this area and has been presented to Dr. Charles Rick of the University of California who actively engaged in genetical studies on Galápagos tomatoes.

About four miles inland from Academy Bay in the Scalesia forest zone and above, there has been a rapid clearing of the virgin forest for agriculture. During the interim of 4 years since the writer was last, in Galápagos, many great changes in the native vegetation have taken place. The farming community of Fortuna has now been extended to a distance of about one mile to the west of the main trail, and northward into the lower Miconia brush zone (above the Scalesia forest zone). It is nearly impossible to find an area of forest that has not been disturbed by man or his introduced animals in much of the area directly north of Academy Bay.

The zonation of the vegetation on the south-facing slope of Indefatigable Island, presents a unique biological situation far Galápagos. This is especially true for the Opuntia-Cereus forest around Academy Bay which is one of the tallest and densest of such formations on Galápagos, and the Miconia brush belt at elevations above the Scalesia forest. The latter formation has been the main obstacle in the penetration of the highest elevations on the Island.



Very few species of freshwater fishes have previously been taken from the Galápagos Islands. It was, therefore, with much interest that Hr. Freund and the writer collected four species of fish from freshwater pools about 1000 yards inland from Academy Bay, Indefatigable Island. Mr. Richard Rosenblatt, Curator of Marine Vertebrates, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, has identified these specimens as Gerrescinereus, Bathygobius lineatus, Philypnus maculatus and Electric pictus. He reports that the last two species are freshwater electrids which have never been recorded previously from the Islands. Bathygobius and Gerres are marine forms which are known to enter freshwater.

Circumstances surrounding the discovery of a small species of fish in the crater lake of Narborough Island is of some interest. Several medium sized fish hooks baited with fresh meat were hung from a float about 25 yards from the east shore of Narborough Lake. Several members of our group noticed a slight bobbing of the float and close examination through the 300mm. lens of my camera suggested that the motion might be due to winds, waves, or currents. No fish were caught by the books and note were observed along the shore in the murky green waters. On the last morning in camp the writer captured a large snake (Dromicus) by a clump of vegetation adjacent to the lake. This and other snakes were carried alive in my pack as our group climbed out of the crater. At the end of the first day's climb, all snakes succumbed to the heat and were preserved in formalin. For lack of space, the snakes were forced into a very small jar. Two days later when we sorted our collections, a small, near transparent fish, about one inch long, was discovered at the bottom of the jar which had contained the snakes. Mr. Rosenblatt informs me that it is a post-larval clinid, almost certainly Labrisomus and probably L. dendriticus, which is a Galápagos endemic. It is surprising to find a clinid being taken in freshwater since the family is not known for its euryhalinilty. The surface water in Narborough crater lake was definitely sweet although heavily tainted with sulphurous flavours. In view of the fact that the lake level is over 2000 feet above sea level, we are obliged to assume that there is no saltwater intrusion at the lake bottom, depth probably under 100 feet.


(1) Tropidurus. Van Denburgh (1913:164) reports that the lava lizard “appears to be nearly extinct on Charles Island”, which he attributes to the abundance of cats on the island. Eibl informed me that he obtained one on 21 September 1957, in the region of Black Beach.

(2) Conolophus. According to Van Denburgh and Slevin (1913:188) the land iguana was formerly abundant on James, Indefatigable, South Seymour, Albemarle, and Narborough Islands. “It is now rare on Albemarle and probably extinct on James and Indefatigable.”

None were observed on South Seymour Island by our group where Beebe (1924: 277) found them numerous twenty-five years previous. No doubt the apparent extermination of this iguana on South Seymour is attributable to the activities of the United States military on this island during World War II.

The California Academy of Sciences expedition in 1905-06 found the deserted burrows of what at one time must have been a large colony of land iguanas on Indefatigable Island. Van Denburgh and Slevin (1913:189) considered the species extinct on this Island. It was with much excitement, therefore, when Sr. Miguel Castro and Mr. Erling Graffer brought our group to a colony of land iguanas, hitherto unknown to science, at Conway Bay (northwest side of Indefatigable Island). We estimated the number on the colony at about 25.

Mr. Freund and I were guided to a lava tunnel by Herr Carlos Kubler, which was situated about one mile and a half inland from Academy Bay. On the floor of this half mile-long tunnel we found a large assortment of land Iguana bones, many of which were of very large proportions.

Land iguanas were observed on Narborough Island from the north coastal region inland to the top of the north rim, and down into the crater to the edge of the freshwater lake. Reports of land iguanas measuring nearly six feet long were not confirmed by our group. None we observed was much over three and one half feet in length but they were exceedingly numerous, and droppings were often seen on barren lava great distances from sources of food.

One female land iguana captured by Eibl on 11 September in the crater of Narborough, contained nine eggs with shells wall formed. Van Denburgh and Slevin (1913:191) reported large eggs in animals on Barrington Island on 22 October, whereas none had enlarged ovaries on 6 April. This observation supports the view that the land iguana breeds in the Fall season on Galápagos (dry season).

Van Denburgh and Slevin (1915:190) remark that the Academy Expedition found no burrows of land Iguanas on Narborough Island. Rather, the animals lived in cracks in the lava. Our group found active burrows in the soil from sea level to the north rim of the crater, and in the latter location they proved to be somewhat of a hazard while walking because of unexpected cave-ins.

We found the land iguana very common on Barrington Island, especially on a plateau inland from the northeast coast, presumably in the same area where the Academy expedition reported that “natives had visited the island and cleared out the entire iguana colony”. Inasmuch as they are very common there today, we can see how this species is able to re-establish itself even when the population has been almost completely killed off by hunters. Apparently, the animals are killed chiefly for their skins which are used for leather.

At Tagus Cove, Albemarle Island, I observed dried droppings which I thought were those of tortoise. However, since R. Beck observed 6-8 land iguanas here in 1906, possibly the species is still intact. No land iguanas were observed in the vicinity of James Bay, the only place our group landed on this island.

Heller (1903:85) believes that the extinction of the land iguana on islands where it formerly was abundant (i.e. Junes, Indefatigable) is due chiefly to the introduced dogs which destroy both eggs and adults. This may very well be true for wild dogs were once known to roam Indefatigable Island in considerable numbers and then rather suddenly disappeared. The land Iguana was thought to be extinct on this island. Human colonization has been too recent to account for the absence of the land iguana around Academy Bay and inland, where we may presume it once flourished, in view of the large number of cave skeletons we obtained. With the disappearance of the dogs, it might not be feasible to transfer stock from Conway Bay to Academy Bay and to other points around the island where possibly they once occurred.

Heller (loc. cit.) also remarks that “all the individuals observed were somewhat shy and would scamper to their burrows as soon as alarmed. This is undoubtedly an acquired habit due to their persecution by dogs.” The writer is skeptical of this statement for wild dogs were never known to occur on Islas Plaza or Narborough Island and at both these places the iguanas were found to be very shy and ferocious.

(3) Amblyrhynchus. In recent years there were no reports of the enormous herds of marine iguanas, which, in some localities, were so numerous that they more or less completely obscured the rocks (see Heller, 1903:90, and photo by Beck taken around 1900 in Beebe, 1924: Fig. 28).

Mr. Freund discovered a herd of several hundred marine Iguanas at Point Espinosa, northeast corner of Narborough Island in September, before the onset of territorial behaviour in the males. (See Life Magazine, 8 September 1958, page 67.)

On Hood Island in September and October individuals were found in their brilliant colours distinctive of breeding condition. Slevin remarks that “the iguanas are now very brightly coloured—green, red, and black” on 5 February 1906 (Van Denburgh and Slevin, 1913:193), and Eibl-Eibesfeldt (1956) described this population as a new race.

No marine iguanas were found on Charles Island in the region of Black Beach and none were seen by any of the members of the Academy expedition in 1905-06 (Van Denburgh and Slevin, 1913:193).

(4) Dromicus. In 1952-53 the writer found no snakes on the south side of Indefatigable Island where once they were known to occur in abundance. At that time feral cats were also plentiful. In 1957 several snakes were collected, and coincidentally the cat population was very low due to a recent poisoning campaign.

Van Denburgh (1912:336), under “Suggestions to Future Students”, remarks that “future collectors in these islands should strive to secure specimens of the snake of Chatham Island, if such there be”. It was of much scientific interest, therefore, to learn that Sr. Luis Perez and his brother from Guayaquil had collected a specimen or two of snake around Wreck Bay, Chatham Island during November, 1957. These were taken to the museum at the Colegio San Jose, in Guayaquil. Eibl also obtained representatives of this island form whose systematic position is yet to be determined. The writer obtained one snake from Bartholomew Island from which no snake has previously been taken.

Two specimens of snake were obtained on Albemarle Island from which island existing museum collections have few representatives. Eibl found one snake in September at Tagus Cove, and the writer obtained one from Cartago Bay in August.

As noted previously, snakes were found in the crater of Narborough Island and one of these regurgitated a small fish, presumably caught in the crater lake. The presence of a fish in the stomach of Dromicus represents a new item in the diet of this reptile. The tail of Tropidurus. the foot and tail of a gecko, and grasshoppers, have all been previously reported in the stomachs of Galápagos land snakes (see Van Denburgh, 1912: 341, 353, and 355).

(5) Sea snake. Mr. Slevin reports the Academy group observed a bicolour sea- snake (Pelamydrus platurus) about 20 inches in length, black on top, and bright yellow below, on the open ocean between Chatham and Hood island on 24 February 1906 (Van Denburgh, 1912:355).

On 20 November 1957, the writer observed a bright yellow coloured snake alongside our boat which was anchored in Academy Bay. The details of coloration could not be discerned since the observation was made after dark and the animal was visible only for brief moments in the light from the deck. The crew was aroused and made an unsuccessful effort to capture the snake. This observation constitutes the second known record of the sea-snake in Galápagos waters.

(6) Gecko. Our observations on geckos have added little that is new concerning the biology or distribution of this species.

(7) Tortoise. The Galápagos Islands were appropriately named the “Isles of the Tortoises.” From the time of their discovery by the Spaniards early in the sixteenth century, down to the middle of the nineteenth century, their outstanding feature has been the presence of great numbers of land tortoises of gigantic size. No other product of the lonely archipelago was of much more than passing interest to navigators except the fur seals, of which they soon disposed (Townsend, 1925). in the minds of many people “Galápagos” is synonymous with tortoise, both literally and figuratively speaking, and mental images of reptilian monsters weighing as much as a ton are prompted by the numerous tales in historical writing about these islands.

Thanks to the efforts of the late Dr. C. H. Townsend who visited Galápagos on several occasions, we now have good data on the numbers of tortoises taken by whalers in past centuries. For example, he has reported on the log-book records of some 105 whaling ships which carried away over fifteen thousand tortoises between 1811 and 1844, or an average of 122 tortoises per vessel! (See Townsend, 1925, 1928.) These figures by no means represent the entire take by whalers, since during this period there were over 700 vessels in the American whaling fleet alone.

in addition there were British whalers, buccaneers, sealers, and merchantmen who frequented Galápagos shores. As S1evin (1935:10) aptly remarked, “the slaughter was appalling”, and it has not ceased even to this day! The search for Galápagos has been so persistent and so devastating that except on Albemarle and Indefatigable Islands, it requires intense hunting by a person very familiar with the habits of tortoises, to find one.

Dr. George Bauer who visited the Galápagos Islands in 1891 has remarked that ten million tortoises may have been taken from the islands since their discovery, a figure which this writer believes to be much too large. Townsend (1925:70) considers it to be within “safe limits” to credit American whalers with taking not less than one hundred thousand tortoises after 1830!

During the course of our 1937 Galápagos reconnaissance a special effort was made to learn as much as possible about present numbers of tortoises on the various islands where they were once known to occur in abundance.

According to the last monographer of this species (Van Denburgh, 1914), tortoises were once known to occur on the following 11 main islands: § Abingdon, James, Jervis, Duncan, Indefatigable, Barrington, Chatham, Hood, Charles, Narborough, and Albemarle, they have never been known to occur naturally on Tower, Bindloe, Culpepper, and Wenman islands. According to the best available Information in 1914, based primarily on the findings of the California Academy of Sciences' expedition in 1905-06, Van Denburgh gave a “status” for each island population. These are compared with the status as the writer considers it to be in 1957.

§ The author's original text follows the above island sequence. For this online version, the islands have been placed in alphabetical order. In the following table, column 1 gives the English name used by Bowman, which also serves as a link to additional information below; column 2 gives the official (or, official/popular) name for the same island. In the descriptions which follow, Bowman sometimes includes two or more numbers for the quantity of tortoises, but offers no explanation of the reason for this.

IslandStatus in 1914Status in 1957
AbingdonPintararevery rare
AlbemarleIsabelanumerous to rarenumerous to rare
BarringtonSanta Feextinctextinct
CharlesSanta María/Floreanaextinctextinct
ChathamSan Cristóbalnearly extinctvery rare or extinct
DuncanPinzónfairly abundantrare
HoodEspañolavery rarevery rare
IndefatigableSanta Cruznot rarefairly numerous
JamesSan Salvador/Santiagorarevery rare or extinct
JervisRábidavery rarevery rare or extinct
NarboroughFernandinavery rareunknown (See text)

It should be kept in mind that the 1957 estimates of abundance are based on much poorer scientific evidence than those presented by Van Denburgh, but the writer has tried to be conservative. In general our findings suggest that, for the most part, existing populations of tortoises are probably smaller than in 1905-06. Because of better penetration of the interior of Indefatigable Island in 1957 than was possible in 1905-06, I think the tortoise population is greater on this island than was suspected by the Academy expedition or as suggested by log-book records of whaling ships. It would be scientifically valuable to learn through intensive field work if any population of considerable size still remains on Abingdon, James, Jervis, Chatham, and Narborough.

In the following pages I have presented a brief summary of the main published records of the removal of tortoises from the various islands in addition to an elaboration of the evidence, in most cases very feeble, on which my estimate of “status in 1957” is based.


The following are the main published records of the removal of tortoises from Abingdon Island. All records are from Townsend (1925, 1928), unless otherwise indicated.

1822“Plentiful on Abingdon” (Van Denburgh, 1914:219)18533
183512, 1018624
18436718754 (Van Denburgh, 1914: 227
18471, 31888“some” tortoises obtained
184823, 101889none seen by Heller (1903: 59) who states “probably now nearly extinct”
18496, 519012 (Van Denburgh, 1914: 237)
185251905-063 (Van Denburgh, 1914:298)
Van Denburgh (1914:243) designated the Abingdon Island tortoise as “rare”.

Status of Abingdon Tortoise in 1957. Eibl and I climbed the 2000 ft. cliffs on the western side of the island on 15 August and penetrated the dense vegetation almost to the highest peak. We saw no animals but observed one or two paths of somewhat matted underbrush suggesting the trail of a tortoise. I consider the tortoise to be very rare, if not close to extinction on Abingdon Island.


The following are the main published records of the removal of tortoises from Albemarle Island. All records are from Townsend (1925, 1928), unless otherwise indicated.

18352, 6718541
183623185514, 11
183920, 7185824
184110, 12, 47, 24186081, 122, 14, 56+
184264, 36, 10, 518616, 41
18444+, 9186295, 63
184569, 150, 3187236
18462, 11875“Still abundant on the southeast end of Albemarle and tolerably numerous at Tagus Cove (Slevin, 1935:11)
184875190118 (Van Denburgh, 1914:237)
18492, 631902Oil hunters as [sic, at] work on Villamil Mt. southern Albemarle
185121905“Very few large tortoises found on Villamil Mt.” (Slevin, 1935:11)

Van Denburgh (1914:243) gives the status of the tortoise on Albemarle Island as follows: Villamil, abundant; Iguana Cove, numerous; Tagus Cove, fairly numerous; Banks Bay, fairly numerous; and Cowley Mt., rare.

Status of Albemarle Tortoise in 1957. Our group was informed by Sr. Gonzolo Garcia that inland from the north shore of Albemarle Island between Point Albemarle and Cape Berkeley tortoises are still numerous. Eibl found a mummified specimen of a newly-hatched tortoise a short distance inland from Tagus Cove. Four years earlier (1953) he found another small mummified tortoise in the same general area. Along the ridge of the crater containing the salt water lake by Tagus Cove, I discovered two dried droppings composed of plant material, presumably of tortoise, although possibly of land iguana, and there were trails suggestive of those made by tortoises in evidence here.

Mr. Freund and I saw one or two live tortoises at Wreck Bay that were being kept as pets and which were supposed to have been found on Albemarle Island. We were told that tortoises are still to be found in the highlands north of Villamil in the vicinity of the penal colony, but these are quite reduced in numbers. Thus, tortoises are still plentiful in certain localities on Albemarle Island, particularly those regions in the northern port of the island that are not readily approached by boat. In the immediate vicinity of settlements they are very rare.


The following are the main published records of the removal of tortoises from Barrington Island.

1839   22 (Townsend, 1925)

1853      1 (Townsend, 1925)

The California Academy of Sciences expedition found only old eggs and tortoise remains on Barrington Island so that Van Denburgh (1914:243) considered the population to be extinct. In 1957 learned that colonists from Academy Bay released two small tortoises (obtained from Indefatigable Island) on Barrington Island. One of these was discovered by yacht people in July of the same year.

Status of Barrington Tortoise in 1957. No signs of tortoise were observed by our group in 1957 and the species is considered to be extinct. No doubt the early disappearance of this island population of tortoise is due to the fact that the island la not densely covered with vegetation, making for easy penetration of the interior, and also to the large number of feral goats which might have been food competitors.


The following are the main published records of the removal of tortoises from Charles Island. All records are from Townsend (1925, 1928), unless otherwise Indicated.

1812400-500 (Townsend, 1930:141183550, 40
18281001847“some terrapin”
1831155, 1791848“got some terrapin”
1832226+1875Reported extinct on Charles (Slevin, 1935:11
1834100, 350, 100 

Charles Darwin who visited this island in 1835 stated that the main animal food of the colonists was derived from the tortoise (Townsend, 1925:63). According to the log-book records of 79 whaling ships examined by Townsend (1928:157), the last tortoises were taken from Charles Island in 1837. Heller (1903:53) considered the Charles Island tortoise to have been extinct since 1840, stating that the penal colony which was established on the island by the Ecuadorian Government in 1829 had brought about their extermination directly because the animals were killed for fresh meat, and indirectly, as suggested by Broom (1929:313), by the feral dogs and pigs. Broom (1929:313) states that probably the native tortoises were extinct by 1850, any specimens collected after that date are most likely to have been animals brought from neighbouring islands. The California Academy of Sciences expedition of 1905-06 obtained no specimens from Charles Island. In 1928 several barrels full of tortoise bones were obtained from a cave (Townsend, 1928:156, Broom, 1929:313).

Status of Charles Tortoise in 1957. Extinct.


The following are the main published records of the removal of tortoises from Chatham Island. All records are from Townsend (1925, 1928), unless otherwise specified.

1813100+ (Slevin, 1935:10)184854, 70, 200, 4, 177
1836201850150, 110
1838671852107, 47
184059, 65, 1151853315, 13
1842118, 107, 301855152, 28, 4, 310
1843262185978, 70
184424, 130, 1001861188, 50, 42, 105, 50
184614, 190-, 1201863208
1847100, 4, 100  

In 1875 few tortoises were reported surviving on Chatham Island (Slevin, 1935:11); and the California Academy of Sciences expedition collected only two live animals in 1905-06 (Van Denburgh, 1914:326), the latter author (loc. cit. p. 243) considering the Chatham Island population “nearly extinct” in 1914.

Status of Chatham Tortoise in 1957. Mr. Rudolf Freund and the writer purchased two live tortoises at Wreck Bay in October, and these animals were reportedly taken from Chatham Island. Since there was some reason to trust the accuracy of this report, the island population may still be intact; but it is probably near extinction.


The following are the main published records of the removal of tortoises from Duncan Island. All records are from Townsend (1925, 1928), unless otherwise indicated.

1848  50 1891  8 (Van Denburgh, 1914:228)
1850131 189729 (Van Denburgh, 1914:233)
1855  17 1900  4 (Van Denburgh, 1914:237)
1865208 1901  5 (Van Denburgh, 1914:237)
1888  18 1905-0686 (Van Denburgh, 1914:311
1891    1 1923  1 (Beebe, 1924:224)

We learned from the colonists at Academy Bay that in 1954 the Walt Disney Photographic expedition discovered live tortoises on Duncan Island.

Status of Duncan Tortoise in 1957. Our group searched the east slope of the island and the top crater for tortoises but none were found. Mr. Rudolf Freund later made two separate trips to the south slopes of the island, where the California Academy of Sciences expedition found most of their specimens. After much hard labour one animal was found but not without the help of Sr. Gilbert Moncayo, son of a veteran tortoise hunter. In view of the effort expended to locate this one animal, the tortoise on Duncan Island should be considered “rare.”


The following are the main published records of the removal of tortoises from Hood Island. All records are from Townsend (1925, 1928); unless otherwise indicated.

1831335, 250, 86184420, 14
1834237184767 “got but few terrapin”
1839121875“number so greatly reduced they were no longer hunted.” Slevin, 1935:11)
1840451905-063 (Van Denburgh, 1914:315-316)
1842173, 5 “terrapin very scare” [sic]19292 taken by Pinchot expedition (Townsend, 1930:142)
 Van Denburgh (1914:243) designated the Hood Island tortoise as “very rare.”

Status of Hood Tortoise in 1957. Mr. Rudolf Freund purchased one small live tortoise at Wreck Bay in October which was reported to have been taken on Hood Island. The writer was on Hood Island on 23-24 September and 16 October, but discovered no signs of tortoise. Sr. Gonzolo Garcia of Wreck Bay reports tortoises still occurring on Hood, although they are very rare.


The following are the main published records of the removal of tortoises from Indefatigable Island. All records are from Townsend (1925), unless otherwise indicated.

1812tortoises in abundance (Townsend, 1930184545
1825187 (Van Denburgh, 1914:219)184836
1833441824-49“There are before me records of certain whaleships that took 753 tortoises from Indefatigable Island between 1824 and 1849.”
1834140, 121875“numbers so greatly reduced they were no longer hunted.” (Slevin, 1935:11)
18362 to many190110-11 (Van Denburgh, 1914:237

Heller (1903:51) states that “The form on Indefatigable has only recently become extinct”, whereas Van Denburgh (1914:243), reporting on the California Academy of Sciences 1905-06 expedition, which obtained 46 tortoises on Indefatigable, considers it “not rare.” In 1952-53 the writer encountered a small tortoise in the highlands northeast of Academy Bay.

Status of Indefatigable Tortoise in 1957. This island has been visited less frequently by sailors than most of the other large islands, which may help to account for the presence of a fairly large population of tortoises to this day. From 20-23 July 1957, our group visited the “Tortoise Country” approximately 7 miles northwest of Academy Bay, and approximately 15 hours by trail, elevation 500 feet. In this region of mid-transition zone forest there are numerous small and large ponds and open grassy areas where we encountered 3 large tortoises, one of which was estimated to weigh over 500 pounds by a veteran tortoise hunter, Sr. Cecil Moncayo. Sr. Moncayo also mentioned that this was not the largest specimen he has seen on Indefatigable Island. We found the skeletal remains of tortoises strewn about the forest in this area, attesting to the intensity of the slaughter of this animal for food and oil in recent years.

Mr. Freund and I discovered the skeletal remains of two tortoises in a lava tunnel about one and a half miles north of Academy Bay. On 29 September 1957, a small tortoise was discovered by dogs on the Kastdalen farm, approximately five miles north of Academy Bay, elevation 750 ft. This was the first tortoise ever found by the Kastdalen family on their property during the 22 years of continuous residence here. Sr. Sotamayor collected several skeletons from an area several miles west of Tortuga Bay called “La Fe.” One of the carapaces measured almost four feet long (linear length). In the coastal situation it is not difficult to find live tortoises, and Sr. Sotamayor captured 5, all about one foot in length, one of which was brought alive to Berkeley, California for study. Eibl found a shell of a small tortoise (about 10 inches long) which had been broken open presumably by a pig. Sr. Sotamayor stated that pigs frequently attack tortoises in this manner.

In view of the large extent of suitable tortoise habitat on the south and southwest slopes of the island, it may be assumed with confidence that the tortoises are still fairly numerous, although inroads by oil hunters on the population are a constant threat to the species. Next to Albemarle Island, Indefatigable Island probably has one of the largest remaining populations of tortoise on Galápagos.


The following are the main published records of the removal of tortoises from James Island, all records are from Townsend (1925, 1928), unless otherwise indicated.

1812Capt. Porter's crew loaded one of his ships with tortoises that “would weigh about fourteen tons” (Townsend, 1930:141)183812-
1813“Land tortoises are found here in great abundance” (Slevin, 1935:11)1841179, 93
183423+184558, 20
1835124, 68, 351875“numbers so greatly reduced that they are no longer hunted” (Slevin, 1935:11)
183613-, 1181905-065 (Van Denburgh, 1914: 321-322)
 Van Denburgh (1914:243) designated the James Island tortoise as “rare”.

Status of James Tortoise in 1957. Local tortoise hunters now consider the James tortoise to be extinct, even though there are vast areas in the highlands, very inaccessible because of intervening lava beds, where tortoises eight still exist. Slevin (in Van Denburgh, 1914:321-322) writes as follows about the James Island terrain: “We went in after tortoises about five miles northwest of Sulivan Bay. The country is extremely rough—the worst we have encountered since we arrived in the Islands. It was very difficult to get out the ones we did. No wonder people don't find tortoises on James I”—our group explored only the coastal area about James Bay and a small inlet (called “Crab Point” by local fishermen) a few miles south of James Bay, but we found no signs of tortoises here. They are probably very rare or extinct on James Island.


The first and only published report of tortoise on Jervis Island is that of Van Denburgh (1914:351-353) who described the one specimen captured by the California Academy expedition in 1905-06. None has been reported since.

Status of Jervis Tortoise in 1957. Our group spent two days on Jervis Island covering such of the northeast coastal region, almost to the top of the island, without discovering any signs of tortoise. Presumably the species is now very rare or extinct on Jervis Island.


Only once [sic, one] specimen of tortoise has been taken from Narborough Island by scientists, and this was obtained by Rollo Beck in 1906 while leader of the California Academy of Sciences Galápagos expedition. It has been suggested by Townsend (1925:66) that tortoises probably were largely destroyed on this island from time to time by lava flows and by intense heat. However, I am of the opinion that due to the formidable expanse of lava which surrounds the green highlands, especially in locations adjacent to anchorages, few people have been willing to run the risk presented by the extended trek inland to search for tortoise. The only other collectors known to have penetrated the interior of Narborough Island previous to Beck were Heller and Snodgrass (1903:40) who climbed to the summit of the crater's north rim. They observed no tortoises. Our group in 1957 climbed the crater in essentially the same location as Heller and Snodgrass, and we did not find any tortoises or signs of them, even inside the main crater. Presumably the southern slopes would be more productive since they are considerably moister, but we were unable to extend our survey into this area. It was on the southeast slope about 1000 feet from the rim of the crater where Beck found his only specimen. Because no one has surveyed the most likely areas on Narborough Island where tortoises may occur, it is impossible to formulate a status for this species on this island. Because the green zone is quite extensive on the south-facing slope, we might predict that a fairly large population exists there, unknown to science.

Summary of Tortoise Occurrences in 1957

Tortoises are still fairly plentiful on Albemarle and Indefatigable Islands, but quite rare on Duncan, Hood, Abingdon, and possibly Chatham Islands, with the status on Narborough Island undetermined.


The following are but a few of the observations on birds made during 1957.

(1) Penguin and flightless cormorant. At Pt. Espinosa, northeast corner of Narborough Island, numerous penguins and cormorants were encountered. The penguin was suspected of nesting in the lava crevices because of their distinctive calls emitted in the region of the shore. Also, the writer observed copulation while the birds were in the water, in late September. Mr. Rudolf Freund had the good fortune to discover a nest of the penguin containing two downy young at Iguana Cove, Albemarle Island, on 17 September. This marks the second nesting report of this species. The first was made by Couffer (1957) at Point Espinosa in August, 1954. The writer observed nearly full-grown young penguins, still covered with grey down feathers, at a small island in Elizabeth Bay,§ west of Albemarle Island, on 16 September.

§ Probably, one of the Marielas.

The flightless cormorant was found nesting at Pt. Espinosa in September. Several nests with downy young were scattered about the barren lava. Copulation was observed once, and this took place on land.

(2) Galápagos pintail. In September, while our group was camped on the shore of the crater lake, Narborough Island, we saw numerous ducks feeding on the floating mats of green algae. Here the writer observed copulation, and other members of the group discovered some nests in the rushes containing eggs, and downy young were seen on the water.

(3) Bird colonies Point Cevallos, southeast corner Hood Island. The writer visited the bird colonies in September and October. #8220;Courting” groups of Albatross were noted along the coast and one mile inland near the now defunct radar station. On both occasions half-grown downy young were seen walking about. No active nests were observed. The largest colony of masked boobies (Sula dactylatra) encountered on Galápagos were found perched on the ocean-facing cliff at Pt. Cevallos. No nests were found and the birds intermingled with the frigate-birds (Fregata minor) whose nests contained half-grown young and were situated on the shrubby vegetation close to the cliff. Nests and eggs of the fork-tailed gull (Creagrus furcatus) and red-billed tropic bird (Phaethon aethereus) were found along the cliff in October. The latter nested in small wind eroded pockets in the sedimentary tuff. Pigeons (Nesopelia) were exceedingly common and tame on Hood Island. The longest billed form of mockingbird (Nesomimus) found on Hood Island was seen to puncture the eggs of the fork-tailed gull when the adult bird was frightened from the nest.

(4) Bird colonies at Darwin Bay, Tower Island. When our group visited this bird “sanctuary” in August, we found large numbers of frigate-birds (Frigata minor) and boobies nesting. Three species of booby were present: the commonest was the red-footed (Sula piscator), the blue-footed (Sula nebouxii), masked (Sula dactylatra) species in much fewer numbers; all three species were nesting (i.e. with eggs or young). No nests of the frigate-bird were found containing eggs, but many had young of various ages from about one week old to nearly fully-fledged birds. None of the adult males were seen to inflate the gular pouch, although members of the yacht Utopia reported seeing inflated pouches at this same locality in the preceding month. According to Beebe (1924:319) an inflated pouch is correlated with an empty nest whereas a deflated pouch is correlated with an egg in the nest. As on Hood Island, the pigeons were exceedingly tame and abundant on Tower Island.

(5) Finches. Of special interest to the writer were the finches, which group he had studied in considerable detail in 1952-53, chiefly at Academy Bay. The present reconnaissance permitted him to become acquainted with all the species, and the following were encountered for the first time in 1957: Geospiza conirostris, Geospiza difficilis, Camarhynchus pauper, and Cactospiza heliobates.

Geospiza conirostriswas found to be very common on Hood Island, and less abundant on Tower Island. Among the finches of Tower Island, Geospiza difficilis is second in abundance to Certhidea olivacea.

David Lack in 1938-39, and the writer in 1952-53 did not encounter Geospiza difficilis on Indefatigable Island, from Academy Bay inland to Fortuna, in which region they were observed as late as 1935 by Harry Swarth of the California Academy of Sciences. Extensive searching and collecting in all sections of Indefatigable Island failed to turn up this species, which is now presumably extinct. The existence of a large population of Geospiza difficilis (race undetermined as yet) on Narborough Island was established in September 1957. Previously this species was recorded with some uncertainty from this island (see Swarth, 1931:181, and Lack, 1947:20).

On a four-hour-long walk into the highlands of Charles Island from Black Beach, during a rainstorm, the writer collected several examples of Camarhynchus pauper, which species occurred sympatrically with C. psittacula and C. parvulus in the dense forest tangle of introduced guava and lemon trees. While returning to the beach the writer spotted a large-billed Geospiza, which he shot at very close range. This specimen is, without a doubt, assignable to Geospiza magnirostris. Furthermore, some of its bill dimensions overlap with those collected by Charles Darwin in 1835. There has been such uncertainty about the exact locality from which Darwin obtained his exceedingly large-billed specimens, i.e. Charles, Chatham, or James island (see Swarth, 1931:146-150). Swarth thinks it unlikely that Darwin's specimens could have come from Charles Island since no large-billed finches have since been found upon this island. With this “re-discovery” of G. magnirostris on Charles Island, and especially an individual that is so large in bill dimensions, there is good reason to think, contrary to the views of Swarth (loc. cit.), that Darwin probably did collect his specimens on Charles Island, as he implies in his Journal.

(6) Rails. On the basis of information related to me by Mr. Alf Kastdalen and specimens obtained in 1953 and 1957, it is now firmly established that two species of rail are resident on Indefatigable Island.

In the grasslands atop the island the black rail (Lateralluss pilonotus) was seen and a specimen in formalin obtained for me by Alf Kastdalen. In 1953 I collected two individuals of a somewhat larger red-legged rail, clearly referable to the species Neocrex erythrops, hitherto unreported on Galápagos.

(7) Flamingos. Fourteen birds were observed by the group in 1957, as follows:

James Island, James Bay

Crater Lake, 1 August, 2 birds.
Lagoon, 1 August, 5 birds.

Indefatigable Island

Conway Bay, Lagoon, 4 August, 2 birds.
Tortuga Bay, Lagoon, 12 October, 5 birds.

Mr. Freund reported seeing a captive bird at Villamil, Albemarle Island in September.

(8) Larus fuliginosus. To the disappointment of the Writer we did not obtain any evidence to indicate the whereabouts of the breeding grounds of the lava gull, whose eggs and nest are still unknown to science.

Bobolink. One immature bird was given to the writer by Mr. Alf Kastdalen who found it dead on their farm located approximately 5 miles north of Academy Day, elevation 750 feet. Mr. Kastdalen has observed adult birds on the farm during August and September of 1957. Swarth (1931:136) lists the three previous records of this species for Galápagos. This is the first report of this species on Indefatigable island.


(1) Native rodents. The following species of rodents have been reported from the Galápagos Islands (Orr, 1938:303-304):

BarringtonOryzomys bauri
ChathamOryzomys galapagoensis
IndefatigableNesoryzomys darwini
JamesNesoryzomys swarthi
Indefatigable and South SeymourNesoryzomys indefessus
NarboroughNesoryzomys narboroughi

Oryzomys bauri was found to be exceedingly common on Barrington Island in September and October when both snap and live traps were set along a dry wash leading from the northeast corner of the island.

Nesoryzomys narboroughi was trapped at Pt. Espinosa on lava beside clumps of Cereus nesioticus on which the animals fed. It was also common on the rim of the crater (4150 ft.) beneath Scalesia trees, and along the edge of the crater lake (2325 ft.) in the rushes.

(2) Introduced Rodents. The following species of introduced rodents have been recorded on Galápagos (see Heller, 1903:235-238):

Albemarle, Chatham, DuncanRattus rattus rattus
Albemarle, Charles, Jamesalexandrinus
ChathamMus musculus

Through field observations and trappings I have recorded R. r. rattus on Duncan Island in July,R. r. alexandrinus at Academy Bay and inland from July to October, and Mus musculus on Indefatigable Island (July), Charles Island (September), South Seymour Island (July).

Heller (1904:236) states that “In no locality in the archipelago do any species of Mus (Rattus and Mus) [sic, ?] occur with the indigenous species of Oryzomys and Nesoryzomys. This is probably due to the extermination of these latter species by hardier introduced forms of Mus, and by cats.”

On Charles Island, approximately three miles east of Black Beach, 1300 ft., on 20 September, I observed numerous house mice running around the forest floor in the middle of the day (sky overcast, rain falling) quite undisturbed by my presence.

Along the main trail to the highlands from Academy Bay I frequently saw Rattus running between the crevices in the lava, and frequently one would find a sickly or dying animal on the trail. The population of Rattus and Mus was so high that all traps in a line often would catch one, and sometimes two animals, for two nights in succession! About three years ago the residents began setting out poisoned bait (“ten-eighty” poison on bananas) in an effort to reduce the rodent population. This action, seemingly, has had little effect on the rodent population but has brought about a remarkable decrease in the feral house cats as well as the local pet dogs and cats. This in turn may help to account for the increase in the wild snake population around Academy Bay.

Mr. Freund and I picked up many skulls of a small rodent, possibly Nesoryzomys darwini from a lava tunnel about 1½ miles north of Academy Bay, Indefatigable Island. However, no native rodents were trapped on this island in 1957.

(3) Feral animals. So far as the writer is aware there is no published report in which an organized account of the distribution of escaped domestic animals is given. On the basis of our observations and information obtained from local residents, we learned that at present (1957) donkeys, goats, cattle, pigs, and cats are running wild on the islands of Indefatigable, Chatham, Charles, and Albemarle. James Island has the same complement except that it lacks cattle and possibly also cats. Albemarle possesses wild dogs, and these may also be present on Chatham and Charles. They are now apparently extinct on Indefatigable Island (last reported in 1935). Hood and Barrington islands support large populations of goats. South Seymour Island once had many goats but these seem to have been killed off completely with the building of the military base in 1942.§ Duncan, Jervis, Abingdon, Bindloe, Tower, South Seymour, and Narborough islands are presently free of feral animals.

§ The goats were not killed off while the American troops occupied South Seymour Island (now, as then, Isla Baltra). According to a Time Magazine report, Galápagos goats idled nearby when the base was turned over to Ecuador at the end of WWII.

(4) Fur seal (Arctocephalus australis). Townsend (1934:47) has published a compilation of some of the seal catches on Galápagos, and the following is a summary of his data:

184314 (Narborough)1897-1899224
1880261 (Albemarle, Culpepper, Narborough, Tower, Wenman)1932-19338

The history of the reduction of the Galápagos fur seal, of which the foregoing records are but a partial indication, has been similar to that of the Guadalupe Island seal, namely, the unrestricted slaughter of male and female, old and young alike, whenever and wherever found. The history furnishes further proof of the fact that the fur seals cling to their ancestral and accustomed breeding grounds, that the re-establishment of the species would undoubtedly result from a complete protection of these places and the result would be the building up of a valuable seal fishery for the future (see Townsend, 1899:272-273).

Heller (1904:247) states that the fur seal is so reduced in numbers and so scattered that no well-defined rookies [sic, rookeries] exist.

In 1932-33, Capt. G. Allan Hancock of Los Angeles discovered a small group of fur seals on Tower Island and brought several back to the United States. Since 1906 it was feared that the fur seal was doomed to imminent extermination (Townsend, 1934:43)

In 1957 our group first encountered fur seals on 3 August on the west side of James Island between Point Baquerizo and the south end of James Bay on the outer rocky coast. Here we observed and photographed males and females of a herd as they sunned on the lava. Potholes on the lava connected by underwater tunnels to the open ocean, were the favourite protected haunts of the fur seal. They were extremely tame and they could be approached to within 1-2 feet. Most of the herd was loafing in the water and we estimated that there were about 100 animals in all at this location.

On the west side of Abingdon Island on l4 August, Eibl and I observed 2 fur seals at the end of a sandy beach, somewhat removed from a small herd of sea lions. They too were very tame.

(5) Sea Lion (Zalophus wollebaeki). Sea lions are still very common on Galápagos and our group encountered herds and individuals on nearly all the islands visited, namely, Indefatigable, Plaza, Chatham, Barrington, Hood, Gardner-near-Hood, Duncan, Jervis, James, Albemarle, and Narborough.

At Barrington and Plaza we found numerous carcasses of seals whose fate was easily discerned by examination of the head region. A large number of animals are slaughtered by some of the local fishermen mostly for their pelts, but some killings would appear to be acts of sadism.

Tuna fishermen kill bulls in areas where bait is to be netted, but this is done for reasons of self-protection.

In spite of the constant drain on the sea lion population by these two causes, the species appears to be “holding its own” and is in no real danger.

(6) Other Mammals. Large numbers of porpoises were observed on several occasions while travelling between islands. No whales were seen. The red bat (Lasiurus brachyotis) was noted by the writer only at Academy Bay in 1952-53 and again in 1957. The largest flock contained 7 individuals.


On the basis of our observations during 1957 (July to November) the following animals are in greatest need of protection from further decimation of their numbers by hunters:

  1. Tortoise—especially on Hood, Duncan, Abingdon, and possibly also on Chatham Islands; the populations on Indefatigable and Albemarle Islands although higher than on the proceeding islands, are decreasing at an alarming rate due to hunting.
  2. Land Iguana—especially on Indefatigable Island where but a very small colony is known to survive.
  3. Fur Seal—wherever found.

Although the native vegetation should be maintained in its natural condition wherever possible, there is an urgent need to set aside certain areas on the south-facing slope of Indefatigable Island, where a unique ecological condition exists, in order that total destruction is not affected by the rapidly expanding agriculture

The following accomplishments by the 1957 reconnaissance group are worthy of special note:

  1. Procurement of the second-known sample of Scalesia Helleri on Indefatigable Island.
  2. Penetration of the northeastern interior of Narborough Island descent to the edge of the crater lake, and exploration of the island volcano in the crater lake.
  3. Discovery of a species of freshwater fish (Labrisomus) from the crater lake of Narborough Island.
  4. Discovery of two species of fish (Philypnus maculatus and electric pictus) from freshwater ponds near Academy Bay, first reports of these species from the Galápagos Islands.
  5. Rediscovery of a population of land iguanas on Indefatigable Island where the species was considered extinct.
  6. Rediscovery of Darwin's Geospiza magnirostris on Charles Island from where it has not been reported since Darwin's visit in 1835.
  7. Discovery of a large population of Geospiza difficilis on Narborough Island (race not yet determined).
  8. Discovery of snakes (Dromicus) on Chatham and Bartholomew islands.
  9. Discovery of the nest of the Galápagos penguin at Iguana Cove.
  10. Obtained the second-known observation of a sea-snake in Galápagos waters.
  11. Discovery of a fairly large herd of fur seal on James Island.

Chapter 4: Special Problems of Wildlife Management in Galápagos

Tuna Fishery

Economically, the Galápagos region is an extremely important territory for the Ecuadorian Government because of the sizable tuna fishery, developed largely by California fishermen; There has been little or no regulation of the tuna catch by the Ecuadorians based on evidence obtained by modern scientific methods. Tuna fishermen report that large schools of fish are now uncommon and fishing effort has increased considerably in recent years. No doubt this is largely due to past over-utilization of this resource. Tuna boats from California are now extending their search into Peruvian waters to the southeast.

Ecuador has claimed that the waters for a 200 mile radius around the Galápagos Islands come under their territorial jurisdiction, which decision has not been recognized by many tuna boats. As a result there have been numerous “incidents” between the Ecuadorian patrol boats and the tuna boats. It was reported to us that an undetermined number of California tuna boats failed to procure Ecuadorian permits for fishing in Ecuadorian waters. Understandably, this action has antagonized the Ecuadorian Government, which now patrols Galápagos waters with speedy boats. The latter action has not been entirely effective because of the fact that many of the tuna boats carry their own amphibious airplane on board ship, which is used to spot schools of tuna as well as the government patrol boat.

It may be hoped that with the establishment of a research station on Galápagos, better cooperation between the tuna fishermen and the Ecuadorian Government will be possible and that a scientific tuna fishery investigation might be initiated.


Illegal hunting by the local people of tortoises, land iguanas, flamingos, fur seals, and sea lions for food and pelts is so serious in some cases to warrant immediate action by the Ecuadorian authorities to put a halt to this.

A. Tortoises: Reduction of the remaining herds of tortoises on Indefatigable Island is proceeding at an alarming rate. Local hunters make frequent visits to the tortoise habitat, slaughtering the animals for food (oil and liver), sometimes bringing back live individuals for pets or for sale to tourists. The shells or the skinned-out feet of tortoises are often sold to yachtsmen as souvenirs.

As long as cooking fat remains in short supply, tortoises are going to be hunted. The green sea turtle is now intensively hunted for its fat. Unfortunately, the wild pigs are rarely fat, and domestic hog production is far behind the local demands for pork fat.

B. Fur seals and sea lions: These marine mammals are killed for their pelts which can be sold on the Ecuadorian mainland. In the case of the fur seal whose numbers are presently very low, complete protection of the existing herds from hunting is essential to the survival of the species. In the case of the sea lion, the habit of killing all individuals in a colony is to be discouraged. A limited harvest of sea lions, and possibly in the future, of the fur seal, may be feasible, provided it is done on the advice of competent biologists with governmental approval.

C. Land Iguanas: These lizards axe still slaughtered for food and hides. It is probably true that a controlled harvest of some of the large land iguana herds, such as are found on Barrington Island, might be feasible. However, there is at present no way by which such a scheme could be effectively administered, and therefore it should be completely discouraged. Furthermore, it is the opinion of this writer that every effort should be made to prevent economic encroachment on Galápagos species, and to maintain as much of the Galápagos biota as possible in an undisturbed state, as part of a National Park system.

D. Flamingos: The Galápagos population of flamingos is by no means large but no accurate estimate of the total population is available. Due to the aesthetic attractiveness at this species, individuals are occasionally maintained in captivity. For some undetermined reason, some local people have taken a liking to flamingo flesh and hunt the bird for food.

Poaching of Galápagos vertebrates is so easily carried out because:

  1. There is no effective means of enforcing the law,
  2. There is little appreciation of wildlife by local residents, and
  3. The wild animals are so extremely tame.

Introduction of foreign species

Of all the feral domestic stock at large on the various Galápagos islands, the house cat, the dog, and the pig are the most destructive of the native animals. Dogs and pigs are said to be most destructive of tortoises (Heller, 1903:52), which species dig up the eggs and eat the young. Eibl found the shell of a small tortoise from which the carapace had been partially eaten away, presumably by a pig. It is doubtful that the native predators such as the land iguana, which Darwin reported dig up the eggs of the tortoise and devour them, or the Buteo hawk, which Heller (1903:53) states eats the young when just issuing from the eggs, are any real menace to the tortoise population with which they have lived successfully for untold centuries.

The wild dogs have been accused of destroying both eggs and adults of the land iguana (Heller, 1903:85) and may be responsible for the near extinction of this species on James and Indefatigable Islands.

The cats may be responsible for the extermination of the native rats on certain islands, but it is likely that the introduced species of Rattus and Mus have played an equally, if not more important role (see Heller, 1904:236). With the decline in the cat population on Indefatigable Island in recent years due to poisoning, the native snake has reappeared in considerable numbers. Many wild cats are still present on Charles Island, and Van Denburgh (1913:164) believes that their predatory habits are responsible for the scarcity of the lava lizards and perhaps also the marine iguanas.

The introduced rats and mice are causing very serious agricultural problems in the highlands. It has not been possible to grow such fruits as pineapple, and untold quantities of bananas, citrus, fruit, corn, potatoes, etc. have been destroyed by these ubiquitous rodents. Large-scale poisoning on Indefatigable Island has been unsuccessful in reducing the rodent population, although it seems to have effectively controlled the population of feral cats, which, ironically, are effective predators of rats and mice! Uninhabited regions are so extensive and their rodent productivity so great, that in all probability there will be little success from very local poisoning campaigns.

Wild goats are most plentiful in the coastal regions where they feed on the cactus pulp, leaves of trees and shrubs, and herbs. Dr. Charles Rick, student of Galápagos tomatoes would account in part for the scarcity of these plants in the coastal regions of many islands because of browsing by goats. At present on Indefatigable Island tomato plants can be found almost only on cliffs inaccessible to goats. These versatile animals are not infrequently seen climbing in trees (mangroves) or shrubs (Cordia) in their search for palatable food.

Where available the wild donkeys and cattle prefer the moister regions of the interior highlands. Their grazing has had devastating effects on such plants as tree ferns.

The wild goats, cattle, pigs, and, to a limited extent, donkeys and chickens, serve as a ready source of fresh meat, and the importance of these animals to the local people for this purpose should not be underestimated.

Many wild cattle are shipped alive from Galápagos (principally Albemarle Island) to the Ecuadorian mainland for food. The take of wild cattle for civilian use on the islands is regulated by the marines. They appoint an official hunter who must give half the meat from each animal to the marines, and the remainder he is permitted to sell to the civilian population.

In relation to the size of the wild population of goats, pigs, and donkeys, more animals should be killed by the colonists, even if not used as food, since their large numbers are making deep inroads on the native vegetation. If suitable refrigeration equipment could be installed on the inhabited islands, it would be possible to avoid the high percentage of waste of fresh meat and would assure a constant supply throughout the year.

It would be highly profitable for a biologist to study the natural history and productivity of the feral animals in order to determine to what extent they could be harvested for commercial purposes, and whether it would be feasible to effect total extinction of certain species on islands where they are no longer desirable.

Certain introduced species of plants, if not carefully controlled, may overrun the native vegetation. This has happened already in dramatic fashion on Charles Island where the guava and lemon trees have, in certain areas, almost completely obliterated the native Scalesia and Psidium trees.

On Indefatigable Island an introduced species of leguminous vine is used to clear the dense Scalesia forest preparatory to planting with agricultural species. Once the vine has choked off the native species, the cattle are turned into the area to feed on the vine. The remaining stumps and skeletons of trees are then cleared away, mostly by burning. Seeds of this vine have been accidentally scattered in areas unsuitable for agriculture, and the once local devastating effects are now spreading rapidly beyond the farming communities.

Expanding Agriculture

As more colonists arrive on the habitable islands of Chatham, Charles, Indefatigable, and Albemarle (James is not presently inhabited but is suitable), new problems of protection of the native wildlife will be experienced. Many Ecuadorian peasants realise a much better living on Galápagos than on the mainland. On Indefatigable Island, for example, productivity of potatoes and coffee is outstanding. Three crops of potatoes can be obtained in a year.

Coffee bushes three years old produce twice as much fruit on Galápagos as compared to the best mainland production. Potatoes and coffee are the main export products of the farmers. Dried grouper is the chief fishery export.

Reports of successful farming in the moist highlands of the larger islands have stimulated much interest on the Ecuadorian mainland so that emigration to Galápagos is steadily increasing year by year. New colonization projects, under the encouragement of the federal government have placed under cultivation, hundreds of hectares of land to the west of the present farming community of Fortuna on Indefatigable Island, and encroach on the last remaining ideal tortoise habitat.

The need for firewood has forced the colonists to cull from the forests the only native hardwoods, guayavillo (Psidium galapageium) and matazarno (Piscidia Piscipula), which species are now very scarce in some areas. Inasmuch as none of the local trees are too suitable for building, efforts are now being directed to cultivating exotic species such as Eucalyptus and mahogany and balsa, which do remarkably well in the moist highlands on Indefatigable Island.


Recent efforts on the part of Ecuadorian businessmen to develop Galápagos as a tourist attraction (See Chapter 5, above) are meeting with some success. Certain interests are apparently anxious to develop a hotel site on Indefatigable Island, and Tortuga Bay appears to be a likely choice. It is reported that the government is offering to help these interests by constructing a road between Academy Bay on the south side of the island, and the north side of the island opposite South Seymour Island, where the large airstrip is located. If and when such a road is completed, Indefatigable Island will be most accessible to tourists with the inevitable concomitant transformations in the local scenery and biota.

It may be truthfully said that the tourist who does not have a naturalist's heart or who is unwilling to hike over uneven terrain will find little of interest in the Galápagos Islands, aside from distant views of lava fields, forbidding cliffs, wild anchorages in half submerged craters, and other volcanic phenomena. Galápagos is chiefly of interest to the nature enthusiast.

Scientific collecting

Galápagos animals are in great demand by research museums and zoological gardens throughout the world. It is within the realm of possibility that overzealous collecting by museums and zoos could actually threaten with extinction such animals as flamingos, penguins, flightless cormorants, albatross, etc, whose numbers are not very great and whose breeding and roosting stations are quite restricted. Therefore, it is desirable that in the near future all permits authorising the collecting of Galápagos animals be reviewed by a central agency, such as a research station on Galápagos. So as to avoid needless duplication of specimens in research museums it would be advisable to prepare a complete index to existing Galápagos collections, thus clearly indicating areas and species in need of further sampling. Such an index would be fairly easy to compile since the bulk of Galápagos specimens are housed in a few large museums.

Chapter 5: Suggestions for Protection of Galápagos Biota and Scenic Areas

As a first step in the preservation of the Galápagos biota, it will be necessary to set aside special areas, here designated as “wildlife reserves,” in which the willful destruction, disturbance, or removal of any of the naturally occurring objects is prohibited by law, except as allowed for scientific and educational purposes. Equally important is the complete exclusion of human habitations from such areas. This latter requirement should not conflict with the limited opportunities for colonization inasmuch as the suggested reserves are, in the main, apart from existing human habitations. Thus, for example, no reserves are recommended for Chatham, Charles, or the southern portion of Albemarle islands, where, at present, settlements occur. In the case of Indefatigable Island, the western half is as yet undeveloped for agriculture, and since it is the home of the last remaining population of tortoises on this island, and one of the largest remaining in the entire archipelago, it should be set aside as a reserve. There is still much arable land to be developed by colonists in the eastern part of the island.

So that important elements of the Galápagos biota will not be destroyed in areas not specifically set aside as reserves, it is also necessary to prohibit generally the wanton destruction of the native animals. It is realized that this stipulation will be difficult to apply, but some attempt should be made to bring the principle of wildlife protection close to the local people in order that they will not get the mistaken impression that nothing of value remains in these non-reserve areas.

Special Areas for Birds

The following areas have been selected primarily because they support an unusual bird fauna.

  1. Hood Island. The only nesting site of the Galápagos Albatross is located on the southeast corner of Hood Island in the region of Pt. Cevallos, and inland to the remains of the radar installation. Large concentrations of masked boobies, frigate-birds, fork-tailed gulls, and red-billed tropic birds, also occur here. A small population of tortoise is reported to occur on this island. Some of the longest-billed forms of the mockingbird are to be found here, and Geospiza conirostris is plentiful here, as is the Galápagos snake. One of the longest coral sand beaches on Galápagos is situated on the north shore of the island opposite Gardner-near-Hood Island.
  2. Tower Island. Large numbers of blue-footed and red-footed boobies nest on this island, as do frigate-birds and fork-tailed gulls. One of the largest-billed populations of Geospiza conirostris is found on Tower Island. The mangrove-bordered crater lake in the centre of the island and Darwin Bay on the south shore are very picturesque.
  3. Narborough Island. The bulk of the penguin and flightless cormorant population nests on this island, which also supports an exceedingly large population of land and marine iguanas as well as the native rat (Nesoryzomys narboroughi). The spectacular scenery from the rim of the 5000 ft. high central crater is almost unsurpassed in Galápagos. The presence of hot sulphur springs and vast barren lava fields, makes this island geologically very interesting. Tortoises are probably still extant on the south-facing slope of the island, and a freshwater fish is now known to occur in the crater lake.* There are no introduced species of rodents or domestic animals and plants on Narborough Island which is, therefore, as close to its virgin state as any island in the whole archipelago.
  4. Culpepper Island. Although this “rock ” is not an inviting spot for humans, it is nevertheless a favourite nesting and roosting site for hundreds of seabirds, including boobies, noddies, sooty torn, shearwaters, and petrels. It is also the most northerly outpost of the Galápagos Islands.

* Since this writing word has been received that the crater lake has disappeared. In place of the lake there is a dry crater bottom with sulphurous fumes rising everywhere. An attempt was made by one group to cross the crater bottom in 1959 but the lava was too hot and the attempt had to be abandoned. There are near constant rumblings.

Special Areas for Tortoises

  1. Indefatigable Island. Every effort should be made to bring about an end to the slaughter of tortoises for any purpose whatsoever an all islands where they still occur, but especially in the western half of Indefatigable Island where the last remaining herds still occur. It is suggested that all land lying west of a line running from Tortuga Bay on the south, to the north shore of the island opposite Daphne Island, should be set aside as a tortoise reserve, with the understanding that none of it will be opened to agriculture. This still leaves vast tracts of arable land on Indefatigable Island available for colonists. Such a reserve would also assure the preservation of a continuous vegetational transect of the island from sea level to elevations over 2500 ft., including all the known vegetation zones to be found on this island. By locating the research station on Indefatigable Island and preferably at Tortuga Bay (See Chapter 7) it would be practical to attempt complete protection of the tortoises in this reserve.
  2. Duncan Island. Tortoises are still present on this island and could regain their former abundance under complete protection.
  3. Abingdon Island. Presumably, a few tortoises still survive on this island, therefore it should be set aside as a tortoise reserve.
  4. Albemarle Island. Next to Indefatigable Island, Albemarle probably supports more tortoises than any other island today. All of this island from Perry Isthmus northward should be set aside as a tortoise reserve, and efforts made to stop tortoise hunters still active in the southern part of the island.

Special Areas for Land Iguanas

  1. Barrington Island. This island is a stronghold for land iguanas and goats. The former, a morphologically distinct population, is still common in spite of reported mass killings by local hunters. (See Chapter 3).
  2. Islas Plaza. These two small islands on the east side of Indefatigable Island are the home of a small population of pinkish-coloured land iguanas. Sea lions, petrels, fork-tailed gulls, are also common here. The island presents some interesting geological formations.
  3. Narborough Island. This island, already recommended as a bird reserve, probably supports more land iguanas than any other island in the archipelago and therefore should be included among those intended as iguana reserve.

Special Areas for Habitat Diversity

One area stands out above all others in the Galápagos Archipelago in its offering of diverse habitat types; namely, Tortuga Bay, Indefatigable Island. The following habitats are to be found in the immediate vicinity of the bay: exposed rocky coast, protected rocky coast, exposed sand beach (about ¾ mile long), protected sand beach, mud flats, mangroves, lagoon, brackish pools, giant cacti forests, sand dunes, barren lava rock, etc.

If the proposed research station is to be established at Tortuga Bay (as is suggested in a later chapter), then it would be desirable to create a “buffer” strip of land between it and the settlement at Academy Bay, which is located about one and a half miles to the east. It is suggested that this strip should start at the westernmost cliffs of Academy Bay, and extend for about one mile inland from the outer coast, running westward until it meets with the eastern boundary of the proposed tortoise reserve on this island (See above).

Special Areas of Geological Interest and Scenic Beauty

  1. James Island. James Bay represents a unique mixture of young lava flows, sand beach, wind and water eroded volcanic tuff, mangrove bordered lagoons, crater lake, veldt, etc. The eastern side of the island, especially in the area opposite Bartholomew Island is one of the best examples of “moon-like ” landscapes in the whole archipelago. It is also possible that tortoises may still occur in the moister regions of James Island which includes several peaks over 2000 ft. high.
  2. Bartholomew Island. One of the most scenic bays (Tower Bay) is found on the east side of this small island. From its highest peak, one has a magnificent panorama of pastel-coloured extinct volcanoes and sapphire blue waters.
  3. Daphne Island (Major). This near perfect crater island serves as a nursery for large numbers of blue-footed boobies which are hatched on the floor of the crater.
  4. Point Moreno, Albemarle Island. On the south shore of Elizabeth Bay near Pt. Moreno, and north of Iguana Cove, there is a region of rugged coast which has some outstanding examples of volcanic craters. In the immediate vicinity of the old radar installation, approximately two square miles in extent, the writer counted from a boat no less than three hundred craters.

At various points in the Galápagos Archipelago volcanic eruptions or disturbances have been reported in recent years. The following is an incomplete listing of these:

1825In Morrell’s graphic account of an eruption of the Narborough volcano, he records the temperature of the air where his ship lay becalmed and in great danger, at 147 degrees and of the sea water, 150 degrees Fahrenheit (Townsend, 1925:66).
1846The log of the bark Equator reported Narborough Island volcano in eruption. “Being up in Weather Bay, well over on Narborough side, the volcano is in awful operation at present. There is one large cone which is like a large boiling pot which is boiling over. The red lava covers a field of 5 or 6 miles, which is a great illumination in the night.”
1888The Narborough volcano as seen by the member of the U.S.S. Albatross was emitting smoke but not otherwise in activity. (Townsend, 1925:66)
1906“Beck went to the summit of the island (Bindloe) and found a few small steam holes in action.” (Slevin, 1931:147)
1927“Along the shore (of Narborough Island) members of the expedition found thousands of fish killed by the heat, steam, sulphurous sedimentation or sub-sea disturbance.” (Meredith, 1939:184)
1953Eruption on South Albemarle. (Richards, 1954)
1954Elevation of the shoreline in the region of Elizabeth Bay, Albemarle Island, reported by the Walt Disney Photographic expedition.
1957Eruption on north end of Albemarle Island during October, 1957 (El Telégrafo, Guayaquil, 31 October 1957).

Defacement of Landscape

Eagerness on the part of many yachtsmen to immortalize their ship [sic, trip] to Galápagos, has brought about a rash of painting on cliffs adjacent to anchorages. In this manner, several beautiful bays, such as Darwin Bay (Tower Island) and Tagus Cove (Albemarle Island), and others, have been marred. Inasmuch as people who indulge in such defacement leave such a conspicuous trail behind them, it would be a relatively simple matter to catch up with them and serve a fine sufficient to discourage future activity of this sort In Galápagos. The money thus obtained would be used to remove the eyesore.

The crater floor on Bartholomew Island has been cluttered up with the names of yachts “spelled out” in large lava boulders.

Notification of intention to prosecute any person who defaces the Galápagos landscape could be posted in conspicuous places along the shores of the principal anchorages.

Patrol Activities

Since Ecuador already maintains a patrol boat In Galápagos mainly for the chief purpose of intercepting tuna boats, it might be possible to utilize this same boat to check on the activities of local fishermen and yachtsmen.

Scientific Collecting

Wildlife reserves afford an exceptionally fine field laboratory for scientific investigations. Under the control of a centralized agency, permits should be issued authorizing the limited collecting of plants, animals, rocks, etc. for scientific and educational purposes. It is one of the purposes of a research station on Galápagos to encourage scientific investigations in this most interesting area, and also to preserve as much of the biota as possible in its natural state for future generations to enjoy.

Release of Exotic Species on Galápagos

Every effort must be made to prohibit the introduction of foreign species of plants and animals into areas designated as wildlife reserves, even in areas where feral species already occur. It should be determined if it is feasible, by means of chemical or biological control, to exterminate those exotic forms which can be demonstrated to endanger the existence of indigenous forms. Until such time as specialists are able to study the problem, the transplantation of native species from one island to another should be prohibited, in order that the already confused ecological picture be not further disrupted.

Chapter 6: Factors Determining Feasibility of a Research Station


(1) Boats. Up to the present time one of the main obstacles in the way of scientists wishing to study on Galápagos has been the lack of adequate transportation facilities. By this I mean regular scheduled sailings of passenger ships equipped to provide accommodation equivalent to tourist class in America and Europe, as well as tested life-saving equipment.

Ecuador operates a wooden-hulled naval vessel between Guayaquil and Galápagos at irregular intervals, usually every two to three months. This ship, called El Oro, stops at the five main island ports, namely, Wreck Bay (Chatham Island), Baltra Island, Academy Bay (Indefatigable Island), Villamil (Albemarle Island),and Black Beach (Charles Island). El Oro is not equipped to carry many passengers, but it seems to do so on most of its trips to the islands. In November, 1957, it carried 70 passengers to the mainland, most of whom were required to sleep on the open deck adjacent to domestic animals. Cleanliness is not one of the virtues of this ship and never has been (see Conway and Conway, 1947), § but since it is the only boat provided by the Government, colonists are obliged to tolerate its conditions. Servicing of the naval installations on the islands is the main purpose of its sailings, although the ship carries limited supplies for colonists, however not including such highly flammable fluids as white gasoline or airplane fuel. Privately operated ships occasionally visit the islands, bringing supplies for the colonists, and returning with cargoes of fish, coffee, and potatoes. Such boats have operated under government subsidy until August 1957. Food and accommodation on board these privately operated ships is conspicuously better than on the government boat.

§ In the cited work, the authors mention (p. 29) the generally-poor condition of the ship San Cristóbal, but the name El Oro appears nowhere in their book. Note that the Conway book was published in 1947, some ten years before Bowman's arrival.

(2) Airplanes. Four members of the Galápagos mission were privileged to fly to Galápagos via Government owned “Catalina.” This flying boat, of which Ecuador owns two, operates with a crew of five and is capable of carrying about 8 passengers with a small amount of baggage. Our flying time from Guayaquil to Galápagos was approximately five hours at a cruising speed of 110 miles per hour. Were this aircraft to land on the water operations would be greatly facilitated at the destination. The plane is landed on the airstrip on South Seymour (Baltra) Island where passengers transfer to a boat. By special arrangement the government ship El Oro awaited the arrival of our group at Baltra Island and carried us directly to Academy Bay in four hours. We were told that government Catalinas make very infrequent trips to Galápagos. The last of these was about one and a half years previously. This may be partly due to maintenance difficulties.

In 1957, a commercial airline company named “Ecuatoriana” was formed which was interested in initiating monthly airplane service (using a DC-3) between Guayaquil and Galápagos. It is doubtful if such service is economically feasible. At any rate one may safely predict that few residents of the islands could afford the minimum fare (estimated between 500 and 1000 sucres (approx. 30-60 U.S. dollars) for a one-way passage.

In conclusion, it is suggested that the Galápagos Islands could be made more attractive to scientists by maintaining a regularly scheduled boat and/or airplane service between them and the mainland. At present, delays of one to two months are of not infrequent occurrence and discourage even the most patient of scientists.


(1) Radio. The Ecuadorian Navy maintains wireless stations on Chatham, Baltra, Indefatigable, Albemarle, and Charles Islands. All radio communications with the mainland are channeled through naval headquarters at Wreck Bay, Chatham Island.

At Academy Bay the wireless station was frequently without fuel necessary to operate the electric plant. Under these circumstances, it was necessary to route out fuel from local residents if urgent messages were to be sent or received.

As civilian government encroaches on Galápagos, a civilian wireless service is being established. Such is the case on Chatham Island and is promised for other islands in the near future.

In conclusion, it is recommended that complete wireless radio equipment be installed at any future research station so as to assure speed, accuracy, privacy, and dependability of radio service with the mainland. This is especially important in cases of medical exigency.

(2) Mail. Delivery of mail to the islands is no more regular than the sailings of El Oro or a government-subsidized ship. Mail was brought to the islands on 14 July (El Oro), 26 August (Don Lucho), and 4 November (El Oro). Thus there were periods of 6 and 9 weeks, respectively, between mail deliveries during our stay on Galápagos, and local residents report that this is about average service.

In conclusion it is recommended that if a research station is established on Galápagos, the Ecuadorian government should guarantee regular mail delivery duty-free. It is also recommended that an arrangement be made with persons living in the Canal Zone to forward Galápagos bound mail via private yachts.

Medical and Dental Services

One of the greatest public needs on the Galápagos is an improved medico-dental service. Minor services are provided on the capitol island of Chatham where both civilian and military doctors are in residence. There are no facilities, however, for major surgery, which necessitates a trip to the mainland, when and if transportation is available. Colonists on islands other than Chatham who are in need of medical treatment must summon aid from Chatham Island or be taken to that island in a private boat. A nurse was in residence for part of the time that we were stationed at Academy Bay. For lack of equipment and sufficient drugs, she was of service mainly in childbirth. It is recommended, therefore, that scientists planning to visit Galápagos should undergo a thorough medical and dental checkup before departing from the mainland and carry an adequate supply of drugs.

If a research station materializes on Galápagos, consideration must be given to the possible need for rapid evacuation of a patient. The Ecuadorian government may be willing to place their Catalina flying boat at the disposal of the station personnel on special request. In the event that Ecuadorian planes are undergoing repairs (a frequent cause for delay), it would be wise to make additional arrangements with the U. S. Air Force stationed in the Canal Zone. And in order to accommodate all airplanes which might be available for the flight to Galápagos, a reserve supply of aviation fuel should be accumulated in the underground reservoirs on Baltra Island.

It is hoped that if Ecuador is willing to provide the emergency airplane for station personnel it would be likewise for civilian and military personnel. A research station could, in this and other ways, bring much social progress to the islands.


If scientists plan to spend any length of time on Galápagos, they probably will want to bring along their families. The lack of suitable schools may be a discouraging factor. Ecuador maintains Spanish-speaking grade schools on Chatham, Indefatigable, Albemarle, and Charles Islands, but these are not to be compared to facilities and instruction in schools of the same name in the United States. In other words, scientists planning to bring their children to Galápagos should assume that for all practical purposes public schooling is unavailable.

Living Accommodations

All four members at our mission lived in a newly constructed house at Academy Bay; two bedrooms, a washroom, and a sitting room were at our disposal, A flushing-type toilet (the only one on the island) adjoined the house. Two other houses suitable for scientists are available but with less privacy and space, and lacking modern toilet facilities. Board can be obtained from one or more European colonists or from almost any of the Ecuadorian colonists. Even if the research station were to be established at Academy Bay (which site is not totally without merit—See Chapter 7), it would be impractical for the personnel to live apart from the installation because the only available building site is a goodly distance from existing dwellings with rugged terrain intervening. Thus, in planning the buildings for a station, it is suggested that living units for all personnel be part of the general installation.

Local Labour

At Academy Bay more unskilled labourers are available than would be needed for construction and maintenance of a research installation. A few of the labourers are semi-skilled at such trades as masonry, carpentry, mechanics, boat maintenance, etc. A list of these people is to be found in the Appendix. It should be pointed out, however, that with few exceptions all construction work would need to be carefully supervised since most (but not all) helpers could not be called upon to follow precisely written or blueprint instructions.

Local Building Supplies

Lumber suitable for construction work is not locally produced. Although two native trees (guayavillo and matazarno) and a few introduced species (balsa, mahogany, etc.) are used to some extent for buildings, they are not in sufficient supply or of sufficient length and straightness, to be of use in erecting a permanent structure for a research station. The supply of used lumber (chiefly softwoods such as pine and fir) from the defunct military base on Baltra Island, is just about exhausted and much of what remains is of inferior quality or infested with termites.

Frame buildings are typical of Galápagos. Corrugated iron sheets are used as roofing from which water is collected for drinking purposes. Older houses are built of lava boulders, with walls sometimes several feet thick, A few of the newer residences and also the administration building at Wreck Bay are of mortar and lava boulders, forming a very attractive although heavy edifice, which blends well with the landscape. Unfortunately, on Indefatigable Island, the lava does not fracture along regular planes so that it is more useful for foundation work than for walls.

Because of the lack of skilled labourers and the paucity of suitable raw materials for building, it is suggested that a type of semi-prefabricated structure be considered for a permanent installation on Galápagos. Wood is not recommended as the main support for buildings because of the ever present danger of termites. Furthermore, suitable hardwoods would have to be imported from the mainland, and they are expensive. Although lava boulders are readily available in the lowlands, they are tedious to collect. A small building of lava makes for a very heavy, rather inflexible structure. Concrete structures might prove satisfactory and would be cool. However, the writer is more inclined toward a type of light-weight metal construction of simple design and easy to construct, portable and near indestructible by the weather. (See Appendix for specific recommendation.) One should consider the possibility that sub-stations may be needed in the higher elevations where boulders, sand, and wood are unavailable. A light-weight, pre-fabricated unit, made of aluminum alloys, would seem to be indicated.

Local Foods, Water, and Fuels

(1) Local Foods. In the highlands (700 ft, and above) on the islands of Chatham, Charles, Albemarle, and Indefatigable, there is sufficient agriculture to supply all the fresh food needs of a research station. Many of the farmers and fishermen on Indefatigable Island have had considerable experience in supplying the former U. S. military base on Baltra Island and would welcome an outlet for their present produce.

Locally-grown fruits and vegetables are as follows; potatoes, turnips, yuca, cabbage, otoya, breadfruit, tree tomatoes, avocados, peanuts, lettuce, leeks, parsley, bananas, grapefruit, oranges, papaya, pineapple, king fruit, plums, guava, coffee, sugarcane, etc. Many of these foods are available only at certain seasons of the year, with the lowest yield during the hot season (January to May).

Wild goats, cattle, and pigs provide a good source of fresh meat. Fish (chiefly mullet and grouper) are always available as needed. Lobster and shellfish are locally abundant. Wild and domesticated chickens are in good supply and the latter produce good quality eggs. Animal fats are always in short supply and it is because of this that there is a relentless hunting of the tortoise and the sea turtles for their fat.

The Kastdalen family, Norwegian colonists in the highlands of Indefatigable Island north of Academy Bay, have developed a herd of Holstein cattle. This herd is now yielding a limited supply of milk from which butter and cheese are being produced. The milk, is not pasteurized or kept under refrigeration and may, in future, be a public health hazard.

In summary, most of the staple foods necessary for a healthful diet are available on the islands. Flour, salt, sugar, yeast, tea, powdered milk, dried vegetables such as beans, peas, lentils, spices, cooking fats, and canned foods, must be imported from the mainland, although a few local stores may occasionally have some of these items for sale. Because of the irregularity of transportation to the islands, large supplies of such foods must be kept in storage.

(2) Water. In the coastal zone, sweet water for drinking is in very short supply, except at Wreck Bay on Chatham Island where a pipeline connects the crater lake in the highlands with the beach. The water shortage along the coast could, for all practical purposes, be eliminated if larger storage tanks and collecting surfaces were constructed. Torrential downpours, often of very short duration, occur from January to April, at which time a good part of the year's supply of water could be collected and supplemented with smaller quantities which collected during the garúa season (May to December).

During drought years sufficient quantities to maintain a moderate-sized research station could be produced from several inexpensive solar stills, by conversion of seawater to fresh water. Along the coast there are very few days during the year that solar stills could not function.

Crevasses containing fresh and brackish water have been located a short distance from Academy Bay and Tortuga Bay, Indefatigable Island. These are in addition to the brackish water holes that occur around the base of the hydrophylous tree, manzanillo, from which the local residents obtain water for cooking and washing.

In conclusion, there are sufficient quantities of fresh water to be had on the larger islands if adequate storage tanks and large collecting surfaces are constructed and solar stills are utilised.

(3) Fuels. Most of the colonists on Galápagos burn wood for cooking, although a few use kerosene-burning stoves. The demand for firewood is making heavy inroads on the very limited supply of native hardwoods, especially in the vicinity of human settlements.

Because the operating cost of a diesel generator is so low it would be wise to completely equip the station with electrically-operated appliances. In any case, electricity would be needed for radio transmitting and the operation of certain laboratory equipment. Stoves and refrigerators burning diesel fuel could be kept for emergency use. Greatest efficiency and economy of operation could be achieved through the use of one kind of fuel for all motors (i.e. boats, generators, pumps).


There can be little doubt that a moderate-sized motor-powered boat will be required for transporting supplies and investigators from one island to another. Possibly a certain amount of patrol work will be required. Through experience our group learned to appreciate the advantages of a small fishing boat with shallow draft and a powerful diesel motor. A small-sized boat is not only more economical to purchase, operate, and repair, but also permits one to enter shallow water and make a landing in otherwise inaccessible places. A suitable type of wooden-hulled boat, 40-50 ft. long, with twin diesel motors, could, for example, be purchased directly from a Norwegian factory and shipped via freighter to the Canal Zone, all for considerably less money than it would cost to purchase a boat of similar design and quality in the United States. Cabin and work areas could be constructed by local labourers to specifications. One or two small skiffs equipped with outboard motors, would be needed for landings.

It might be suggested that locally-owned fishing boats could be used when needed. However, most of these are in very poor mechanical condition, lack two-way radio, and are costly to hire (approximately $20.00 U.S. per day). Often these boats are away from port for over a week.

Interest in a Research Station by Ecuadorian Officials

If we are to judge (1) from the interest shown by cabinet ministers, scientists, newspaper publishers and private citizens, in our mission; (2) from the free air and boat transportation provided by the Ecuadorian Air Force and Navy, and (3) the desire of the Minister of Education, Dr. Jose Baquerizo, to receive our recommendations for the better protection of the Galápagos biota, then we must conclude that there is reason to believe that Ecuador is sincerely interested in establishing a research station on Galápagos, and would endeavour to cooperate in whatever manner is recommended by an advisory committee.

How Ecuador Might Help

If a scientific station is to be established on Galápagos, there are things which the Government of Ecuador might do to assist. The following only a few suggestions that come to mind as a result of our experiences in the field during 1957.

  1. Provide regular scheduled boat service to and from Galápagos.
  2. Provide airplane service to and from Galápagos for medical emergencies.
  3. Transport cargo needed for building and maintaining a station on Galápagos, free of charge.
  4. Provide a reserve supply of aviation fuel at the Baltra Island airstrip.
  5. Provide free use of the government wireless station when needed.
  6. Provide free labour for construction and maintenance of station and for building trails.
  7. Invest in a special committee power to issue scientific collecting permits for Galápagos.
  8. Invest the power to arrest in certain station officials so as to aid in nature protection.
  9. Use the government-operated patrol boat for law enforcement work and trips to remote parts of the archipelago.
  10. Establish research scholarships to permit gifted Ecuadorian students to study at the station.
  11. Permit hunting of feral animals by station personnel for food and control as deemed necessary by the director of the station.
  12. Modify statutes relating to the management of the Galápagos biota as deemed necessary by an advisory committee.

Chapter 7: Location of a Research Station

In our search for a suitable station site the following considerations were kept in mind:

Location with Respect to Other Islands in the Archipelago

If much moving about is anticipated in connection with research activities or law enforcement, then the matter of a centralized location may be of paramount importance. However, if relatively fast boats such us the government patrol boats (speeds up to 15 knots), are to be made available to the station then a central location may be relatively unimportant.

Location with Respect to Sources of Supply

Four islands, namely; Chatham, Charles, Albemarle, and Indefatigable, support a mixed type of agriculture in the moist highlands. Ready access to these centres is obviously important to a station. Whereas local farmers would personally deliver their produce to the station if near an existing settlement, they might be reluctant to do so if distances are very great or if trails are inadequate.

The government supply boat and private cargo vessels make stops at only the four main centres; Wreck Bay, Academy Bay, Black Beach, and Villamil. A station should be established fairly close to one of these centres.

Local labour is readily available from existing communities but may be more difficult and costly to obtain if workers are required to live away from homes.

Location with Respect to Social Contacts

In order to avoid involvement in petty local disputes, of which there are many, and too frequent disturbances by curiosity seekers and residents in need of food, fuel, and minor medical assistance, and in order to minimise the ever-present threat of theft, there is real merit in locating a station somewhat removed from local settlements. Furthermore, communities such as Academy Bay are ever expanding and concomitantly, the pollution hazard is increasing with the destruction of local littoral environments. Through molesting and killing of terrestrial animals and clearing of land for construction, existing communities do not present what is conceived by this writer to be an ideal setting for a research station.

Location with Respect to Habitat Diversity

In order to facilitate biological studies in as many naturally occurring situations as possible, the station should be so located as to promote this end.

Location w1th Respect to Building and Expansion

The most suitable areas for a station will require some clearing of land and trail building. Lava tends to be excessively hot during the daytime, even if well-exposed to the ocean breezes, and usually supports a moderate growth of vegetation. Sandy areas on the other hand, while less common, present certain building problems (e.g. settling, drifting dunes), but are generally free of dense vegetation and are always cooler than lava.

Location with Respect to Harbour Facilities

A protected harbour with a minimum depth sufficient to accommodate a small motor-powered boat is desirable. Also, there should be a gradually sloping shore nearby where boats could be beached for overhaul. Docks are rather inadequate on Galápagos so that wherever a station is to be located, an appropriate landing installation will have to be built.

Possible Sites for a Station

The following three locations merit consideration as possible sites for a research station,



  1. Far removed from centres of human settlement (Villamil and Academy Bay are the closest ports), thus little disturbance from local residents.
  2. Excellent level building sites on tuff with unlimited possibilities for expansion.
  3. Good harbour capable of accommodating large ocean-going ships.
  4. Good variety of habitats close by; namely, protected sand beach, exposed rocky shore, protected rocky shore, recent lava flow, mangrove bordered lagoon, crater lake, veldt cactus scrub, etc.
  5. Fresh-water spring nearby; many feral goats nearby (food).
  6. From the standpoint of a marine biologist, Sulivan Bay (on the east side of James Island) has, perhaps, as much to offer as any one Galápagos locality [information from Dr. John Garth, Hancock Foundation, University of Southern California].
  7. Location of much historical interest. Darwin made many of his scientific observations here. Heyerdahl discovered pre-European campsites in this locality. Cowan's grave in environs.


  1. Far-removed from source of locally grown foods and local labour.
  2. Location somewhat less central to the main southern group of islands.
  3. The tortoise and land iguana may be extinct on this island.
  4. No trails exist into the highlands thus restricting penetration of the interior.
  5. Presently the government boat does not stop at James Bay (although it could find safe anchorage there).
  6. From the standpoint of a marine biologist, James Bay is poor of collecting beaches.



  1. Excellent anchorage for moderate-sized boats.
  2. Very close to supply of locally-grown foods and local labour.
  3. Main trail to highlands begins at Academy Bay and permits easy penetration of the interior of the island.
  4. Government boat makes regular stops at Academy Bay.
  5. Academy Bay is closest port to Wreck Bay, the principal anchorage and administrative capital of Galápagos.
  6. Vegetation structure between Academy Bay and the top of the island presents several unique features.
  7. One of archipelago's largest remaining tortoise herds is only about one day's hike away from Academy Bay.
  8. All of original biota except Geospizadifficilis is still intact, although certain elements (i.e. land iguana) are much reduced in numbers.
  9. Good central location for the main southern group of islands.
  10. Many feral animals such as pigs, cattle, and goats, which assure a plentiful supply of fresh meat.
  11. Good supply of brackish and some sweet water available.
  12. Available littoral habitats include exported rocky coasts, several small exposed and protected sand beaches, mangroves, and two lagoons.
  13. Ecuador in commencing the construction of a road from Baltra Island to Academy Bay, thus in future making a good connection between the airstrip and the local settlement.


  1. Expanding community, resulting in much local destruction of habitats due to clearing and pollution. Such animals as marine iguanas and lobsters now are comparatively scarce due to molesting and killing by children and adults.
  2. Close to local community so that there may be considerable disturbance for medical aid, use of wireless, loans of fuel, and basic food stuffs.
  3. Considerable danger of theft here.
  4. Available building sites are quite limited in extent necessitating considerable clearing of land.


NOTE: The Tortuga Bay referred to here is not the bay so labelled on U.S. Hydrographic Chart No. 1798, but rather the first horse-shoe-shaped inlet west of Academy Bay.)


  1. Items numbered 2 to 10 inclusive listed under Advantages of Academy Bay are also applicable to Tortuga Bay which is about 1½ miles to the west § of Academy Bay.
  2. Greatest diversity of littoral habitats that are available in one area. These include the followings exposed rocky coast, protected rocky coast, exposed sand beach (one of the largest in the archipelago, approx. ¾ mile long), protected sand beach, mudflats, lagoons, large mangrove thickets, giant cacti forests, and vast sand dunes also surround this area.
  3. Excellent protected harbour for boats of shallow draft only. (At present it is necessary that all cargo arriving by ship at Academy Bay be unloaded on small fishing boats for landing. Thus in practice it would make little difference whether cargo was transferred directly to shore at Academy Bay or, forty minutes later, at Tortuga Bay.)
  4. Far enough removed from Academy Bay (approximately 40 minutes by boat, 60 minutes on foot) that it discourages frequent visits by local residents in search of amusement, yet close enough to permit all the advantage of the Academy Bay region.
  5. Brackish water available. Possibly some fresh water wells nearby.
  6. Plenty of space (chiefly on sand dunes) for building, and requiring little disturbance of local habitat.

§ Actually, about 2+ miles WSW ¼ W of Academy Bay. See Google Earth 3D view below.


  1. Barge boats cannot enter Tortuga Bay. Frequently heavy breakers near the shallow main entrance channel make navigation somewhat dangerous. It might be possible to improve the channel by blasting.
  2. Tortuga Bay may already have been “promised” to other interests.
  3. A trail will need to be constructed from Academy Bay to Tortuga Bay.

Before a final selection is made for a station site it will be necessary for an advisory committee to decide upon the functions of a Galápagos station, its physical size as determined by funds to be made available, type of construction, etc.

It is my opinion that an ideal self-contained plant would include the following principal installations. (This information is based on three year's experience in planning and developing an island biological station for Queen's University, in Canada, and one year of field experience in Galápagos.)

  1. One large building for common-room, dining-room, and kitchen.
  2. Another large building for laboratory, collection storage, offices, library, darkroom, stockroom, etc.
  3. Four to eight small living units for housing staff, visiting scientists and their families, each containing two small sleeping compartments, and one small combination sitting room-kitchenette.
  4. A concrete dock with an adjoining building for housing the electric plant, pumps, machine shop, radio-room, and for storage.
  5. Two or three separate buildings for flushing toilets and wash basin.
  6. One shower building (which may be consolidated with one of buildings in item 5) with hot and cold fresh water, with adjoining clothes washroom.
  7. Three to five large concrete (or metal) reservoirs for storage of rain water collected from roofs and special collecting aprons.
  8. Two greenhouse-sized solar-stills.
  9. One diesel-motored 40-50 ft, fishing boat, and three wooden-hulled skiffs (covered with fiberglass) and equipped with outboard motors.


Because of its unique biological, scenic, and recreational features, and its semi-isolation from Academy Bay (the nearest settlement), it is the opinion of the writer that the Tortuga Bay region offers an ideal site for the building of a research station.

NOTE: Notwithstanding the author's recommendation in favor of the Tortuga Bay area, the Google Earth 3D view at right shows that the station (C. D. R. S.) was—and still is— placed just east of the Academy Bay settlement (now known as Puerto Ayora).

Chapter 8: Planning the Research Station

In order that construction of the Galápagos research station may proceed as quickly as possible, it will be necessary for a committee to formulate policy and draw up plans. The following items should be considered at an early stage in the planning:

1: Analysis of Types of Activities

It is the opinion of the writer that the activities of a research station should not be limited to “non-applied” biological research. The following fields should also be encouraged whenever possible: agriculture, public health, tropical medicine, oceanography, geology, pedology, climatology, geography, sociology, etc. In so doing, we might greatly expand the potential source of financial aid to the station and, indeed, at the same time permit the station to make a greater contribution to our overall knowledge of the Galápagos region.

Natural history projects of a strictly observational nature, lend themselves most readily to immediate study by the scientist new to the Galápagos area, for they require minimal laboratory facilities.

2: Determination of Site of a Station

Regardless of the kind of activities to be conducted at the station, a minimum number of facilities will be required. It is important to plan the initial installations with an eye to possible future expansion. Also, if a pre-fabricated type of structure, such as a geodesic dome (See Appendix), is to be used, which structure incorporates light-weight uniform elements that are easily transported, it would be most economical to order additional members to be reserved for future construction. For example, if a permanent station is established along the coast of Indefatigable Island, sooner or later a small building will be needed in the highlands where a base of operations would facilitate studies in this equally interesting region.

3: Extent of Equipment

This matter can only be discussed fully after the size and scope of the station are defined. Certainly, not all the laboratory equipment, for example, needs be installed at the very beginning. The nature of the research will in large measure dictate future equipment needs. However, certain basic equipment will probably be required at the start. Some of this, mainly for operation and maintenance of the station, is listed below.

  1. Kitchen Area: electric stove, electric refrigerator, electric freezer, electric water heater, sink, etc.
  2. Dining and Common-room Area: two large tables, 10-20 chairs, two couches, short-wave radio, record-player, table lamps, etc.
  3. Laboratory: electric water heater, kerosene refrigerator and freezer, sinks, steel shelving, metal tables, metal desk, metal filing cabinets, chairs, air pumps, air conditioning unit (electric), desk lamps, specimen jars, insect proof museum cases, compound and dissecting microscopes, etc.
  4. Living Units: 2 or 3 double bunks with springs, mattresses, and blankets; 4 to 6 chairs, 1 or 2 small tables, electric hot plate or diesel-fuel stove, sink, food locker.
  5. Service Building: diesel motored electric generators (2), water pumps, steel lathe, misc. tools (hand and electric), radio transmitter and receiver with spare parts; storage shelves, etc.
  6. Animal Shelter: plumbing for hot and cold water, sink, nylon screening.
  7. Washroom and Toilet Facilities: electric water heater, electric automatic washing machines (2), toilets (4), wash basins, etc.
  8. Water and Fuel Storage Tanks: preferably of metal, but cement might suffice (at least for water).
  9. Boats: one diesel motored fishing boat, 40-50 ft. long; 3 wooden-hulled skiffs covered with fiberglass with outboard motors.

4: Availability of Local Materials

Few building materials are available locally. Lava boulders and coral sand are available in unlimited quantities along the shore; volcanic ash (a possible substitute for gravel or sand) may be had from a crater in the highlands. Basic building tools and equipment are in short supply. Heavy machinery such as bulldozer and stone crusher might be available on loan from the government if their plans for road construction materialize on Indefatigable Island. Thus, essential all building materials and construction equipment would have to be brought in. This fact in itself suggests a pre-fabricated type of building for the station.

5: Local Labour

Unskilled Ecuadorian labourers can be hired for approximately $1.50 to $2.00 per day, not including room and board. European colonists, some semi-skilled, may be hired at somewhat higher rates, about $3.00 to $4.00 per day (possibly less). A list of local people available for construction work is given in the Appendix. Only a very few of these labourers, it must be emphasized, are semi-skilled. None are skilled.

6: Building Type

Inasmuch as the size of a station and the approximate amount of equipment needed can be determined now, and since we already know about the availability of local supplies and the cost of labour etc., therefore the type of building to be used can also be decided now without the necessity of sending another mission to Galápagos for this express purpose.

On the advice of a San Francisco designer, Mr. Raymond Weinstein, who has expressed a very sincere interest in the Galápagos project, it is recommended that the decision as to the type of building to be used (i.e. prefabricated, partially prefabricated, locally built) be made only by a good comprehensive designer (not an engineer, a group of scientists, or professional administrators). According to the type of building selected, additional information might, or might not, be needed prior to the actual constructions. Thus, it would be advisable to consult one or more professional designers to determine if it is necessary to send another mission to Galápagos on the basis of the information already available. The decision to utilize a particular building type will be no less difficult to make after a second biologist or an architect has surveyed the same areas reported on here. It is really a technical matter requiring very special advice, and I have reason to believe that this question of building type could be settled hers in the very near future.

In the Appendix I have listed the names of individuals and firms which, in the opinion of Mr. Weinstein, are best qualified to advise the planning committee.

After a complete building programme has been decided upon, some kind of architectural competition may be a way of arriving at the best solution.

Chapter 9: Organizations Interested in Galápagos

Funds for the establishment and operation of an international research station on Galápagos will have to be solicited from various private and public institutions, foundations, and individuals.

The following comments are intended primarily to call attention to some west-coast organizations which have been much interested in the Galápagos region. Possibly, when an organized drive for funds gets underway, they could be formally approached for their cooperation.

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

This scientific institution possesses one of the world’s largest collections of Galápagos plants and animals. Although the institution is not strong financially, nevertheless it might be able to help in ways other than by contributions of money. For example, it might be possible to arrange for the publication of the results of original research in Galápagos in their Proceedings or Occasional Papers series, or possibly they might be willing to establish a special series for the exclusive use of the Galápagos research station. Their popular monthly journal, Pacific Discovery, might be of much help in publicizing the Galápagos project. A “Galápagos Bureau” might be set up at the Academy to serve as a centre for coordinating research, shipping of supplies, etc.

Museum of Natural History, Stanford University, Stanford, California

This museum possesses a fairly large collection of Galápagos plants and animals made by Snodgrass and Heller in 1898-99. What contribution it might make to the station project is unknown.

San Diego Zoological Society, San Diego, California

This long-established institution which operates the famous San Diego Zoo, has for many years been active in the display of Galápagos vertebrates, and is presently noted for its exceptionally fine collection of giant tortoises. The Society might be willing to contribute annually to the Galápagos station in return for a limited number of live animals from Galápagos for use in displays at the zoo. Exchanges of this type with other zoos around the world would, of course, need to be administered with utmost care and along sound principles of wildlife management.

Allan Hancock Foundation, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

As early as the late twenties, Captain Allan Hancock was exploring the Galápagos Islands, and since that time, numerous expeditions have been sent and a very fine collection of invertebrates assembled at this institution. Velero [III], the-well equipped oceanographic vessel of the Foundation, might be available for cruises to Galápagos, say once or twice a year, providing transportation for scientists, supplies, and assisting in oceanographic studies. Possibly annual research grants might be made available. Although Captain Hancock is not a young man, he still maintains a youthful interest in Galápagos. A large “shallows” in Galápagos waters has been named “Hancock Bank.”

University of California

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, is part of the University of California, and in cooperation with the U.S. Navy has operated oceanographic vessels in Galápagos waters and may be interested in doing so in the future. Their ships might be used to bring scientists and supplies to and from Galápagos. Various museums of the University of California, such as the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, the Entomological Museum, the Herbarium, the Geological Museum, the Anthropology Museum (whose honorary Director, Prof. E. W. Gifford was ornithologist on the California Academy of Sciences 1905-06 Galápagos Expedition) might possibly make contributions to the Galápagos station in various ways. The University subsidizes an organization of faculty called “The Associates in Tropical Biogeography” which sponsors travel and research in tropical regions. The writer was sent to Galápagos under the auspices of this group in 1952-53. Furthermore, it might be possible to obtain gratis advice on technical matters of design and construction from members of the architecture and industrial design departments of the university.

American Tunaboat Association, San Diego, California

A large number of boats from San Diego and Los Angeles fish for tuna in Galápagos waters. This association of tuna fishermen maintains a full-time representative in Quito (Mr. Butler), who we met during our visit to that city in July 1957. Public relations between the tuna fishermen and the Ecuadorian government have not been too favourable in recent years. Possibly the standing of the Association could be improved through support of research at the Galápagos station. There is much need for money to be spent in obtaining the basic oceanographic information for a sound management of the Galápagos tuna fishery.

Seventh Day Adventist School of Tropical Medicine, Loma Linda, California

An ichthyologist formerly of this institution, Dr. Bruce Halstead, has been engaged in studying poisonous fishes of Galápagos waters. This study was conducted in cooperation with the Office of Naval Research. Because of this initial activity the institution might possibly be interested in tropical diseases research on Galápagos. Ecuador would strongly encourage such activity, not to mention the Galápagos residents. Studies in the field of tropical medicine would bring much respect for the Galápagos station.

Los Angeles County Museum, Los Angeles, California

This large scientific institution, under the directorship of M. Jean Delacour, has recently been active in Galápagos waters (1957). Various ways in which this museum could assist the Galápagos station should be explored with M. Delacour, who has a long-standing interest in Galápagos.

Pacific Oceanographic Fisheries Investigation (POFI), U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Honolulu, Hawaii

This organization is interested in obtaining basic oceanographic information in the Pacific Ocean which will help in locating and developing fishery resources. Their activities, at least on one occasion, have extended into the Eastern Pacific Ocean as far south and east of Galápagos. Establishment of a permanent research station on Galápagos might direct their interests more to this little-studied area.

There are, to be sure, many other American groups with interests in the Galápagos area (not to mention South American and European organizations). Dr. Harold J. Coolidge, Executive Director of the Pacific Science Board, is probably most in touch with other agencies whose participation in the Galápagos station could be solicited. By stressing the international character of the proposed Galápagos research station, possibly several of the Latin American countries other than Ecuador would be willing to assist. The Organization of American States should be contacted for possible aid through American war surplus depots in Panama.

Consideration should be given to the idea of soliciting donations of material end transportation from industry and shipping companies. For example, if a suitable boat and motor could be obtained at very reasonable cost in Norway, possibly Knudsen Lines could be approached to provide free transportation of the boat to the Canal Zone. If an aluminum geodesic dome is chosen for the Galápagos station, possibly Mr. Henry J. Kaiser, of Oakland, California, would be willing to provide the materials at much reduced cost or, at least, offer free technical advice (See Appendix).

Chapter 10: Conclusions

As a result of first-hand information obtained during the 1957 Galápagos reconnaissance, from previous experience in the Galápagos Islands in 1952-53, and from published reports, it is concluded that:

  1. The Government of Ecuador should, at its earliest opportunity, enact legislation that would establish wildlife reserves on the Galápagos Islands, in which areas all naturally occurring objects, including plants, animals and earth resources, are protected against willful destruction, disturbance, or removal, except as provided for educational and scientific purposes (See Chapter 5 for details).
  2. Within the boundaries of the reserves there should be no introduction of exotic plants and animals, no transplantation of native species from one area to another, and no human colonization.
  3. Inasmuch as the Galápagos tortoises are of such unusual biological interest and their numbers on many of the islands so greatly reduced by hunting, this species should be given complete protection under Ecuadorian law wherever it may occur, and that it would be a violation of the law to kill, capture, retain in captivity, or offer to sell or trade this animal or any part thereof, for any purpose whatsoever, except as provided for educational and scientific purposes.
  4. In areas not specifically set aside as wildlife reserves, all vertebrate animals, exclusive of fishes, should be afforded complete legal protection, and that killing, molesting, removal, or selling of such animals or any part thereof, would be considered a violation of the law.
  5. Legislation should be enacted to make it a criminal offense to deface the Galápagos landscape by any means such as painting, re-arrangement of naturally occurring objects, etc.
  6. Every effort should be made to enforce laws designed to preserve the fauna and flora and their natural arrangement in the landscape by designating the power-of-arrest in wardens or in any other way deemed in accord with the intentions of the law.
  7. The Government of Ecuador is interested and, indeed, is most anxious to cooperate with international organizations in the establishment of a permanent station on Galápagos, which would serve as a centre for the protection of the Galápagos biota and for scientific research.
  8. A research station on Galápagos is feasible and that Tortuga Bay on Indefatigable Island merits serious consideration as a potential site for such a station.
  9. A small international planning committee be formed as soon as possible to decide on the size, scope, type of building, exact location, and means of financing a research station on Galápagos, and that no further missions be sent to Galápagos until such decisions have been made by the planning committee.


1. The following is a list of names of residents of Academy Bay, Indefatigable Island, who might be of help in the building of a research station: (See Chapter 8).

General Assistance: Karl Angermeyer, Fritz Angermeyer, Gus Angermeyer, Erling Graffer, Carl Kübler, Miguel Castro, Aiders Rambeck, Gaston, Andre de Roy, Sanderson, Bud Devine, Antonio Sotamoyor, Enrique Fuentes, Gilberto Moncayo, Cesar Moncayo, etc.

Boat Maintenance: Fritz Angermeyer, Erling Graffer, Miguel Castro, Adolf Henie, Forrest Nelson.

Expedition work: Karl Angermeyer, Erling Graffer, Miguel Castro, Gilberto Moncayo, Enrique Fuentes.

Laboratory Assistant (These people could be trained to assist): Friedel Nelson, Carmen Angermeyer, Andre de Roy.

Preparation of Meals: Zouzou Castro, Solvig Rambeck, Friedel Horneman, Friedel Nelson. §

§ Actually, one person, ca. 1957: Friedel Nelson, née Horneman.

Suppliers of fresh food: Kastdalens, Horneman, Hendrickson, Sanderson, Moe.

2. The following is a brief description of the “Geodesic Dome.”

Since the establishment of a scientific research station on Galápagos under the guidance of UNESCO and other international agencies represents a milestone in the history of international cooperation in conservation, it is appropriate to consider a type of construction that is in some way symbolic of this achievement. What is suggested here is a type of structure that incorporates the most advanced structural design, which has no limitations as to size, which is economical to build and easy to erect. The “Geodesic Dome” fulfills these qualifications.

Basically, the geodesic dome involves the principle set forth by Mr. Richard Buckminster Fuller, noted pioneer “comprehensive designer.” What makes the Fuller geodesic dome important are the following features:

  1. It is structurally so simple that a few hours of plan study is all that is needed to assemble one. For example, at an American exhibition at the International Trade Fair in Kabul, Afganistan in 1956, a large geodesic dome pavilion was flown in and erected in 48 hours using a handful of unskilled workers led by one engineer. Furthermore, it can be dismantled readily and moved elsewhere if necessary.
  2. Its major components whether wood, metal, or plastic are always relatively light-weight, thus easier to handle. Parts are standardized and could be wrapped in packages. This feature is especially favourable to conditions on Galápagos where, at present, roads are lacking, and all materials must be brought in by boat and transported over land by donkey. Such a building, therefore, could be taken readily to some inaccessible location, if necessary.
  3. It is strong. One dome designed for the U.S. Air Force has withstood two years of icy, 180 mile-an-hour wind blasts on the top of Mt. Washington, New Hampshire. Another, used as a restaurant at Woods Hole, Mass., rode out hurricane Carol with no more damage than broken windows.
  4. There are no structural limitations to size or use.
  5. The geodesic dome is one of the least expensive buildings yet discovered.

The basic framework consists of a triangular network of struts made of aluminum, plastic, wood, or even paperboard. There are no ribs, no beams, no interior bracing is needed for added support. The framework may be covered completely with transparent plastic (as in the Woods Hole restaurant), nylon (as in the Afganistan pavillon), plywood (as in various experimental domes), precast aluminum diamond panels (as in the Kaiser Auditorium in Hawaii), or other material. Domes with diameters of 15 to 100 feet are recommended for use as greenhouses, vacation houses, tool storage, machine shops, animal shelters, club house, restaurant, etc. For example, on Galápagos, a large dome could serve as a lounge-dining-kitchen area, and a second large dome could serve as a laboratory area. A smaller dome could serve as a machine shop and storage area, with several small domes serving as private living quarters.

The geodesic dome can be beautiful both exteriorly and interiorly. A beautiful site such as is available at Tortuga Bay (where a wide variety of situations exists from black lava to white sands, from mangroves to giant cacti) may be enhanced by such contrasting man-made forms.

Mr. Fuller has written as follows about the Galápagos station:

“I certainly am interested in the Galápagos Islands project. However, it is not part of my strategy of philosophy to advertise or promote geodesic structures. If the biologists become interested in a dome for housing their station and come to me, I will do everything I can to help them.”

Finally, it is of interest to note the very close resemblance, even down to the details of the framework, between the shape of the geodesic dome and the carapace of a Galápagos tortoise.

3. The following is a list of individuals and firms who could advise on building types for the Galápagos station:

Completely Pre-fabricated Buildings

Primary source:

Mr. R. Buckminster Fuller, 6 Burns Street, Forest Hills 75, New York. Mr. Fuller is the inventor of the geodesic dome, one of the most efficient space enclosing structures known.

Mrs. Herbert Noyes, 132 Canner Street, New Haven, Conn. Mrs. Canner [sic, Noyes?] is a student of Mr. Fuller and is his representative in the New Haven district.

Secondary source:

Mr. Jeffrey Lindsay, Dept. of Industrial Design, College of Architecture, University of California, Los Angeles, California. Mr. Lindsay has been an associate of Mr. Fuller for several years. He has recently designed a geodesic dome to house the U.C.L.A. materials testing laboratory.

Mr. Don Rickter, 228 North La Salle Street, Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Rickter, also an associate of Mr. Fuller for several years, has recently designed an all-aluminum geodesic dome for the Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation.

Information about pre-fabricated buildings other than Mr. Fuller’s geodesic dome can be obtained from the Department of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Locally-Built or Partially Pre-fabricated Buildings

Eero Saarinen (east-coast address not available at time of this writing). Mr. Saarinen was architect for the General Motors Technical Centre in Detroit, Mich. He manages an extremely competent firm.

Victor Gruen Associates, 971 Sutter Street, San Francisco, California (local address). This group is the originator of the shopping centre but also does many small scale building projects.

Skidmore Owings and Merrill, 1 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, California (local address). A very competent firm.

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§ Whenever available, information omitted from original ms. is inserted above.