Ecuador the Unknownvon Hagen
Treasure of the Tortoise Islandsvon Hagen & Hawkins
Finsen and the Baroness(various sources)

Who Was Walter Finsen?

John Woram

Bibliography Texts

This page contains sections from texts in which the Icelandic settler Walter Finsen is described, as listed in the Table of Contents at upper right. The two columns are:

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Ecuador the Unknown Chapter excerpts

Chapter XII
Port of Call and Indefatigable Island

  •   •   •   •

[September, 1935: on von Hagen's arrival at Indefatigable Island (Isla Santa Cruz)]: Mr. Finsen, the Icelander, was especially helpful. He was a keen observer and, for a man of sixty-five, a most industrious one. He had built in the humid section of the island a delightful little log cabin. With him as guide and mentor, I often spent many days collecting and wandering in the higher reaches of the island. He had a farm up there, where he grew corn, tobacco, bananas, coffee, cucumbers, and water-melons;§ but lest I should inadvertently, like Mr. William Beebe, bring colonists to this spot, let me say as warning that there are less than one hundred and fifty acres on the whole island fit for cultivation.

§ There is no farm with Finsen's name on Gonzalo Villacis's Chacras en Santa Cruz survey. Since Finsen lived for a time with Mr. and Mrs. Ræder, perhaps he farmed on their chacra, which does appear on the Villacis survey.

With Finsen, I left to climb to the top of Indefatigable. He was a small man with a broken nose, a full grey beard, and white hair beginning half-way back on his head, disclosing a fine rounded dome. He looked like the Great God Pan. His speech had no Scandinavian accents, but sounded more like a Scotch brogue. He had been on the islands for six years, having come with Mr. Rader [sic, Ræder] from the oil-fields of Maracaibo. As we walked through the thick black mud, climbing to a small bare spot ahead, he said:

“A bit different than ye expected, eh? The Galápagos ‘Desert Islands!’ I should like to get that fellow Melville by the ears and bring him up here. What did he say again, ‘they know not autumn and they know not spring?’ Why, I have seen it rain for six days straight; just like it did this morning. Filled two big barrels in six hours.”

“What about below, Finsen. The garua doesn't seem to supply enough water.”

“Don't you believe it, that garua keeps the people alive down there. Take Rader's house; they'll collect enough water from that heavy mist in six hours to last them two days. Wait a moment, let's drop in for Sorenson; see if he will go with us. He's a geologist, ye know; lived here for eight years. Came with the party of Norwegians some time ago, left and brought back a bride, an actress, mind ye, to live at the Galápagos.§

§ Stein Hoff's Drømmen om Galápagos contains no record of a Norwegian colonist named Sorenson, and only Jacob Horneman is described as a mining (geology) engineer. He left Galápagos, then returned later with his second wife, the dancer Else Jørgensen. So the “evidence” suggests that it was Horneman who accompanied them, Finsen thought his bride was an actress, and von Hagen wrote Sorenson in error.

A few minutes later we three were making for the top of Indefatigable. The humid regions, which support such luxuriant vegetation, gave way to the hardier type we had found on the paramos in Ecuador. The garua increased as we climbed, and running beside the muddy path was a brook of flowing water. I could hardly believe my eyes.

“Nice, isn't it?” said Finsen. “But down it goes into the rocks, and comes out later by the sea. Now, if ye could tap it before it reaches the sea, ye could always have fresh water.”

Just as in Ecuador the vegetation disappears at a certain elevation, so it does at the Galápagos. Instead of being cut off at 12,000 feet as in Ecuador, on Indefatigable Island it disappeared at 1600 feet, only coarse ferns and small, delicately flowered bushes remained. Extinct craters were everywhere with trees growing in their depths. Wherever the heavy south wind struck, the plants were small, tough, and coarse. The temperature was fifty-nine degrees; I was chilled to the bone, and this was on island on the Equator in October at only 1600 feet.

“This path looks well used, Finsen,” I remarked, “what in the world can you find up here at this place?”

“Why, we come up here during the drought; sometimes in the dry season, that is between April and August, the water gives out below and the men have to come up with donkeys and carry down the water from ’ere in barrels. Over the top of the mountains and down on the other side toward Conway Bay there is an old plantation. We go there to get bananas, yuca, and sugar-cane. Who put it there? No one knows. Been there so long that some people think that the pirates put it there. Not a sign of a house. Termites have eaten all the wood. Sugar-cane, yuca, and bananas need no hand to plant them; looks like they've been there, wild, for centuries.”

I asked the geologist, Sorenson, if there was a central crater on Indefatigable, as was displayed on the maps.

“No, there is no central cone; we are standing at the highest level, which is two thousand six hundred and ten feet by my aneroid. You can see there there are a series of deep craters, most of them covered over by the eroded soil.”

“How old, geologically, are the Galápagos Islands?”

“Who can say? The islands are purely volcanic; there is little about them to reveal age. You need other types of rocks for that. I have seen, on the east coast of Indefatigable, some rock, not precisely volcanic, which I have ascribed to the Pliocene. That, as you know, is the earliest period of the Tertiary Epoch, some sixty million years ago.”

“Sixty million years ago! I thought the Galápagos were very recent.”

“So they are, geologically speaking. I don't believe they were connected with the continent. I have William Beebe's book in my library. He shows the Galápagos neatly connected with the island of Cocos, which is two hundred miles off the coast of Costa Rica. He has a nice detail in a great plateau, and the Galápagos as the high mountains of this submerged continental arm.§ Stuff and nonsense! That water is two thousand fathoms deep, mind you, twelve thousand feet, and no expedition has systematically carried out soundings to prove there was such a plateau. Now, you take some recent geologists, I mean the men that have crawled about the rocks like I have. There is a man named Chubb, came here on the Saint George Expedition. He says the composition of the rocks of Galápagos shows great affinity to the rocks of Juan Fernández, far down south off the coast of Chile, and even to the Marquesas in the Pacific. Darwin believed, and I think he was right, that the Galápagos rose from the bottom of the sea, that, by successive outpourings of lava, they rose finally above the sea,§§ and in some cases, like Albemarle Island, the high volcanoes eventually coalesced to form one island.”

§ Horneman refers to John Tee-Van's “Diagrammatic Chart of the Pacific Bottom” in Beebe, William, Galápagos: World's End (p. 418)

§§ Darwin actually “hedged” a bit on this point:
Geological Diary: “Everything shows that … there has been upheaval extending over these different islands.”
but later;
Geological Observations …: “Proofs of the rising of the land are scanty and imperfect in Galapagos.”

“And you don't think there was any subsidence in the Galápagos?”

“No, I don't. On the contrary, the Galápagos show elevation, if anything. Oh, there might have been some local subsiding and breaking down of the craters, due to the action of the sea, but nothing general. Take Academy Bay there below; that is nothing but the mouth of a crater broken at one end from the action of the sea.”

“I think I agree with you, Sorenson. Land bridges are such convenient things to erect when you can't explain, or do not possess the facts to explain, the migration of animals. Now, the termites are my particular specialty. On the Galápagos there are only two genera, and these are the types that could only have been brought by the currents, drifting inside a piece of wood. They do not need moisture or contact with the earth; all the other species on the continent need such contact and cound not have survived the long days it took to get here. The same conclusion is true of the ants. Yet neither the theory of the former land connection nor the theory of their pelagic origin adequately explains the fauna here.”

Finsen cut in: “Well, you two can stand here and talk geology if you want to, but I'm soaked to the skin from this garua. Let's go down and have a cup of coffee. I've promised the doctor here that I'd take him to the tortoise place tomorrow.”

So down we went, wallowing through the mud and slush of the top of Indefatigable to the log cabin of Finsen, where the coffee-pot was simmering over the fire. A Scandinavian's pipe and his coffee-pot are his inveterate companions.

Chapter XVI
Tortuga Bay—Indefatigable Island

Again out in the open sea we made our way back to Indefatigable; but not yet to Academy Bay, for Estampa§ wanted some sea turtles, and these, he explained, were best found at Tortuga Bay, fifteen miles below the settlement at Indefatigable.† After three hours' sailing we entered Tortuga Bay, a large circular, closed harbour, with a white sand bottom over which myriads of immense sea turtles moved in flashing grey-green shapes. The shallow bay is rock-bound or, better, lava-bound and with the typical cactus surrounding it.

§ Kristian Edvardsen Stampa was known locally as “Estampa.”

† Tortuga Bay, or Bahía Tortuga, is actually about 3½ miles by small boat from Academy Bay, or about 1½ miles along a foot path.

Estampa and Truviño [von Hagen's servant] took to their small dory, first landing Christine and me on the arm of the bay nearest the sea. Since Estampa would be occupied in getting sea tortoises for some hours, we took to our collecting. We separated, she following the line of least resistance over the sharp-pronged lava crevices in a vain search for a tree that possessed leaves; I, to wander along the shore looking for bits of drift wood which might contain insects that had been transported on the flotsam from the mainland.

I had wandered for an hour, passing along the beach and then into the thick-leafed succulents close to the shore. The great rib-bones of whales festooned the chalk-white beach. I had seen these so often they no longer excited my interest. To the left, on a small knoll fifty feet from the surf, there were other bones; a seal, I thought, and looked no more closely. Then my attention was drawn to the skeleton. I picked up a femur: why, it was the skeleton of a man! I searched the ground; I could find no skull. I shouted to the others, and, as they were only a few yards away, the three came as fast as they could scramble over the lava.

“Look!” I said excitedly, “the skeleton of a man.”

“Where's the skull?” said Christine.

“I don't know, I was looking for it, when I thought I would call you.”

It had been only seven months before that the press of the world was rocked by the romantic comico-tragedy of the Baroness v. Wagner and Dr. Ritter, of Charles Island. The finding of a new skeleton aroused great excitement in Estampa and Truviño. We searched the ground for some identification. The skeleton lay close to some bushes; Christine looked under them, and we were startled to hear her cry:

“Look, look, under the bushes!”

We ran forward and followed her pointing finger. There was the skull of our skeleton with the lower jaw lying close by, grinning with a full complement of teeth. I examined the skull: the teeth were intact, some of the molars had a few silver fillings, the cranium was large. The entire skeleton, indeed, seemed to be that of what had been a large man. We searched the ground anew and found nothing more, neither clothes nor shoes, not any means of identification.

“Who do you think it is, Estampa?” I asked. “Could it have been one of your former companions?”

“No,” he said, “I know everyone who has died here. I was thinking that it might be someone from the crew of the bark Alexandra. They were lost near here, in 1906. I think two men died. Finsen has the log-book of the captain of the bark that was published in Norway.”

“But,” I objected, “look, Estampa, the bones are well-preserved. The pelvis has cracked, of course, and all the bones are disjointed, but certainly a skeleton could not remain in such good condition for thirty years.”

“Well,” he observed, “look at the whale-bones on the islands; do you know how long ago it is since the whalers have hunted whales here? Fifty, sixty years. Those bones are washed by the sea, and, look, most of them are in good condition. This is an arid climate and the body is on sand. The skeleton might be ten or fifty years old.”

And so the mystery ‘thickened.’ We returned to Academy Bay and our discovery was soon reported over the whole settlement. Fortunately, Finsen was down from his ranch, and for once his interest was aroused so that he got out the captain's log at once. The log, printed in 1915,§ told the tale of the loss of the bark Alexandra in Galápagos waters. Finsen read the Norwegian text and translated it into English as he went along. It was a stirring story. We forgot about supper as Finsen read on and on by lantern light!   ‘ … The bark Alexandra was sailing from Newcastle [Australia] to Panama. …’

§ As the concluding sentence in the paragraph above, and the text of the next chapter shows, the style of the account is clearly not that of a ship's log. Furthermore, there is no known record of a published log of the Alexandra. In fact, it is doubtful such a log exists. According to the “Shipwreck of the Bark Alexandra” chapter in Stein Hoff's Drømmen om Galápagos, the ship was abandoned near Galápagos and Captain Emil Petersen and part of his crew spent some six months on Isla Santa Cruz before being rescued. Even if Petersen had taken the log from the ship, it's doubtful it would have survived the ordeal, and made it back to Norway to be published. As Captain FitzRoy of HMS Beagle wrote of the general environment, “… salt cannot be kept dry, books and paper become mouldy, and iron rusts very quickly.”
Coincidentally, the book Mandskapet fra Bark Alexandra (The Crew of the Bark Alexandra) by Alf Harbitz was published in Norway in 1915. Possibly, von Hagen read this book, then indulged in a bit of “creative writing” to set a scene in which Finsen read the “log-book of the captain” aloud.
And that brings us back to Finsen himself. We know he spoke Spanish and English, as well as his native Icelandic and presumably Danish. But given that he left home at an early age and wandered about North and South America before settling in Galápagos, there is little or no reason to suspect he also understood Norwegian well enough to do a “real time” translation into English for the benefit of his audience.

Chapter XVII
The Tragedy of the Bark Alexandra

Text claimed by von Hagen to have been read aloud by Finsen is shown on a light grey background.

The Norwegian bark, Alexandra, in November, 1906, was making for Panama carrying coal, not to, but from Newcastle. Commanded by Captain Emil Petersen, there was a motley crew of twenty aboard, including two American seamen.

They sighted Galera Point, near Guayaquil; two days later, although the sails were partly filled, Galera Point was not in sight. Then it grew calm, not a breath of air stirred the Pacific; the Alexandra had struck the equatorial doldrums. Caught in the strong Humboldt Current the vessel began to drift westward. Day after day it was calm. … With the equatorial sun glaring overhead, the men's thirst became maddening; the ship was helplessly drifting and a new and greater peril faced them: the water was getting low. They began to use the condenser; after fourteen days it sprank a leak and a day later the bottom fell out. Now there was only the water remaining in the tanks. Lessening food, lessening water, drifting ever outward, the whole still Pacific before them.

The crew threatened mutiny; they wanted to take to the whale-boats; the captain insisted they could not and would not desert ship:

“Damn fools that you are, you couldn't make five miles a day rowing in this current. Why, this current is moving thirty-five miles a day. This calm can't keep on forever; it's logical that this current will carry us over the Equator. There's islands there called the Turtle or Galápagos Islands. We can stay there to wait for a change of weather.”

The crew listened in silence. One seaman, an American named Dick, asked: “Well, captain, how long do you want us to wait? Two weeks? Is that all right, boys?” he said, turning to the crew behind him. “All right, captain, we wait two weeks. If at that time the calm continues, we take to the boats.”

Every man on board began to count the days; leaving the helpless ship seemed to them to be their only hope of safety. Then, one day something wonderful happened: a weak breeze rippled the oily, flat sea; the ripple approached, wavered, and at last reached the ship. The crew hung over the gunnels drinking in the breeze and bathing their eyes in the spindrift thrown up by the wind. The ship manœuvred about to catch the full benefit of every puff and the bark Alexandra responded and sailed with the breeze, tacking to use the force to its full advantage. The bark sailed again like a living thing; the wind filled the sails, the sea was alive with leaping waves.

The water supply dwindled and the men were put on ration. If they didn't reach the Galápagos soon and replenish their water their doom would be sealed.

Then land was sighted and the captain made out the broad length of Albemarle at 91 degrees west longitude. Succour was near! Land! And the hope of the crew thrilled at seeing land again. But the doldrums set in once more. The ship drifted helplessly as before with the current. In the morning Almemarle was out of sight.

The crew again mutinied and demanded the boats, the captain and his two mates held them off by the points of guns.

“We do not abandon ship until I say so.”

The eighth of May came. The captain stood on the half-deck. Not a breath of air stirred; not a cloud. The sea rolled in quiet billows and the ship rocked on the swells so that the sails slapped emptily. The heat began to melt the pitch in the caulking on deck. Again the crew came forward and demanded to take to the whale-boats. The captain asked: “Who will stay aboard and take the chance with me?” No one answered.

“All right, I will not set myself against you. If you can hold out we might make the islands. We have little water, each man must do his utmost. You know what it is to drift in the open sea in a small boat. These islands are not well known; the map doesn't mention fresh water anywhere. I shall have to use hard discipline. I will shoot the first man that disobeys. Understand? All right. Get ready to abondon ship.”

The captain went to the mast and put up a sign, stating that they had abandoned the ship and taken to the boats at the Galápagos; whosoever found the ship was to put into the Galápagos in search of the crew. Then they left the bark Alexandra.

The captain steered one of the boats, the first mate the other. In each there were ten men; each had a small iron tank containing about twenty gallons of water—all they had left; compass, sextant, clothes, and some food. The captain sat and looked back at his ship as the men rowed from it. There it glided over the sea with all sails hanging limply in the dead air, rocking like some gigantic toy boat which some little boy had set adrift. Some day a wind would spring up; helpless it would be cast on some island, torn to pieces—his beautiful ship—his life-work would be flotsam and jetsam on some coral island. He watched until the masts were mere pin-points on the horizon.

The current was strong, progress painfully slow. Two boats' lengths forward—one backward. The second day ended and land was nowhere. The men had lost all spirit. The captain kept them rowing without halting, shifting every hour. The captain knew how it would end; the water supply would give out; without new hope or spirit the men would take to drinking sea-water, become crazed and plunge overboard, one after another.

The third day the top peak of Albemarle was sighted and that gave the men new life. It was about twenty-five miles away. The other boat was signalled to come close and stay alongside. The men increased their stroke, but at ten in the morning, under the glare of the sun, they wilted and for them there came the miracle of an off-shore breeze. Sails were made fast and then the men, as one, sank to the bottom of the boat. When they entered into rough water the swells lashed into the boat, but the men bailed happily from them the water that they hated. They talked of wild life, sleep, food, and water. Soon all their sufferings would be over.

The breakers were high, the rugged lava-bound cliffs buttressed the whole shore, they cautiously made for an entrance—a small beach; the men pulled the boat on shore and leaped out joyfully. Now for water.

Then they looked about them. Not a leafed bush. Burnt rocks, clinkers, lava, burned-out craters, fumaroles, vents, extinct volcanoes, not a bit of soil. The men rushed up to the lava-beds, falling, tripping over the sharp lava. The tops of the hills were veiled in mist. Then the new horror came to them: they were on volcanic islands, there was no water at all. “And now, captain?” said one of the crew.

“We must rest and then sail to Charles Island, which should be, according to the map, about fifty miles south-west of here.§ I know that whalers in the old days went there for turtle and they said one could get some water there. Here, surrounded by volcanoes, there is not a drop. Better get some rest, men.”

§ About 50 miles East Southeast.

Not a word was spoken. Darkness settled. The hulk of Albemarle sank into the shadows of the night which blanked out the sea—

Finsen stopped reading from the log-book. The mosquitoes were swarming about us. Night had blackened out Barrington Island which always caught the last rays of the sun.

“Perhaps,” said Finsen, “we better put this thing off until tomorrow. It's a small book, only ninety pages,§ but I can't read by this light.”

§ Another clue that von Hagen “borrowed” from Harbitz' book: his Mandskapet fra Bark Alexandra is 96 pages.

We were too interested to have him stop and so we transferred ourselves to Mr. Rader's house. With him as added audience Finsen began reading the log-book again.

Once more the whale-boats took to the high seas, fashioning their course west by south west.§

§ See earlier footnote.

“They must have been on the extreme tip of southern Albemarle,” said Finsen, “judging from the captain's position.§”

§ And a clue that making Finsen the narrator is von Hagen's invention. Finsen himself would have known the above course was wrong.

It was then late May, when the islands are at their very worst. The heavy garua obscures the sun; no rain falls, only a light mist, not enough to collect in small canvases. The mist obscured their observations; they could not get a sight on Charles Island. Then the captain's boat lost sight of the first mate's. They wondered if their fellows had been lost and ‘cracked up’ on the rocky shore. It was hard to think that the other boat would purposely desert them, after all the trials they had undergone together. But that was of little moment beside their next misfortune.

It was in the grey of the dawn. The second mate came forward, shook the dozing pilot's shoulder: “Captain,” he said in a frightened whisper. “What is it?” “My God! the cork was loosened, our fresh water has leaked out.”

The dozing men only half-heard; when that intelligence had seeped through their dulled wits there was pandemonium. Each accused the other: “Who kicked the water?” Now they had only ten litres left.

Finally quieted, the men set to rowing again.

Calm—strong current—glowing heat—unheeded thirst—such was that day. The mists cleared for a little while. Toward dusk they saw the great hulk of Albemarle and Indefatigable for an instant, then came the fog again and obscured everything.

The 20th of May they had Indefatigable straight before them. They had done all that was in their power to do. The current was now too strong to row against. They had almost no water left; they were exhausted; they must land on Indefatigable. This would be their last struggle.

Now came the most terrible six months any ten men ever spent. Without water, on volcanic islands, with only a pair of shoes to each man and the most difficult terrain in the world to walk on, sharp jagged basalt that cut through leather as if it were paper. They took to their boat again, hoping to find a more suitable spot to land. The men slowly began to drift into a lethargy.

One of the seamen raised burning, insane eyes. He put his hand into the salt water to drink. “Stop it,” shouted the captain, “the first one who drinks sea water will get a slug of lead in his head.” The man gave him a hopeless look and sank back in the bottom of the boat in a stupor.

Again they landed. the captain was for continuing by the sea, the men were for travelling on the land. Then they were deprived of choice. A breaker caught the anchored boat, dashed it on the rocks, and made splinltering-holes in its side. The die was cast. They would now be confined to land.

Two giant seals were sleeping on the beach, utterly unafraid of the men. The men rushed up, clubbed them, cut their throats and sank down drinking the warm blood as it gushed out. That relieved their thirst somewhat. They gathered a light load, made a cache of the rest of the supplies of the boat, and began the trek along the shore. Some of the men chewed on the cactus pads to quench their thirst; the human line began to lengthen out as the strong proceeded, the weak dropped behind. The men were cut and bleeding from walking on the lava; they had sea-legs, they were not used to crawling over the lava rocks, which required a sure footing. The flat lava rocks broke off easily, giving a metallic sound as they dropped down into the small abyssses that break up the landscape. Some of the men ahead came to a little valley and sighted a tree bearing a yellow fruit, which looked like small apples. One tasted them, they were bitter, but they found them more nourishing than cactus leaves. Soon all were eating the fruit.

Christine interrupted the narrative: “Goodness, they were eating the poisoned manzanillo!”

Finsen read on, translating from the text without hesitation.

The captain came up and admonished them for eating a fruit they didn't know about, but as they showed no ill-effects he thought it all right. That night those who had eaten the fruit felt its effect. The men writhed with pain, rolling on the ground, broke out with a cold sweat, their throats and tongues swelled so that they could swallow nothing. But in the morning the pain lessened.

A few days later they found brackish water, and for a while they stayed by that pool which rose and subsided with the tide of the sea. They tried to make things more pleasant. Dick, one of the Americans who had lived in the south-west, knew more about looking for water in dry country that the others, and he learned to mount the lava stones without falling. Then the shoes gave out. Seals were killed and their skins made into crude boots. They lived on seal meat, iguana, and pelican, until they found the sea turtles at Tortuga Bay, and with this food they became somewhat stronger. It kept them from scurvy. Two, three, four months passed; no vessel was seen. Some of the men adapted themselves to the new life, even finding some release from their sufferings by making hunting expeditions into the interior, outwitting the animals, who by now were becoming very timid and scarce from the constant depradations to their numbers. Some of the other men were in a perpetual stupor, occasioned by the lassitude. One in particular would not lend a hand to any endeavor. He grew weaker and paler and fought often with the other men.

Then, one day, the first tragedy struck the camp. They lost a companion, Martin Schaeffer, the only German of the party. They were at the turtle lagoon, and Martin, who could not swim, disappeared during a tussle with the turtles. Silence reigned over the camp that night. What could they say? A companion, a man, one of them was gone. Now, they were nine.

Ther captain insisted, after five months had passed, they they must leave this lair of theirs and find a place, a harbour, a bay into which a boat could put. They must there keep a vigil for passing vessels, for certainly by now someone had found the drifting back Alexandra. Accordingly they pulled themselves together and began another long trek. On the way, at a small cove, they found evidence of recent occupation by human beings—a fire, a can, upturned rocks, footprints.

“That, Finsen,” I interrupted, “must have been the members of the California Academy of Science Espedition. They were on Indefatigable Island in October, 1906.”

“Well, anyway,” Finsen read on,

That sight cheered them on, they came up to Tortuga Bay and crossed around behind it. On the shore they found poor Martin Schaeffer, or what the sharks had left of him. They stopped to give him a burial in the sand and then continued.

A few days later, Charles, the man so long in a stupor, would not go on. “Are you mad?” shouted the captain. “If you stay here you'll starve!” “Go, and be damned.” Charles said, and laid himself down.§

§ In Stein Hoff's Drømmen om Galapagos, the American who died was Fred Jeff (not Charles).

The others stood about the fire and stared at one another. They could not purposely leave a man behind to starve. Throughout the night they stayed on and urged him to tro to go on. Charles was adamant. In the morning they began to get ready to go.

“Will anyone,” asked the captain, “remain behind with me and take care of him?” The men just shrugged their shoulders and answered, “No!”

They remained another day while each in turn tried to coax, cajole, bully Charles into going. Then they all left. After they had been gone about an hour, the captain went back to make another attempt to get him to join them. It was hopeless. Charles said: “Rescue will come here just as soon as any other place and I will make my way.”

Then the captain had to go. From the top of the first hill he looked back. Charles had thrown himself down in the sand outside the brush. A weak smoke arose from the fire. Charles lay with his bushy hair and whiskers and ragged clothes, staring into the air. “The poor lost man.” The golden beach, stretched out in a great half circle. The utter loneliness of the place—one so young—it was a picture that made one sick at heart.

The captain waved and shouted, but Charles did not look at him. So he turned and went to join the rest. Charles was left with loneliness and death before him.

Now they were eight.

Eventually they came to the place we now call Academy Bay. There they found the brackish water wells (which we used now), green grass, trees—it seemed a paradise alongside of the place they had quitted. Fresh hopes rose in the men. A flag was set up to warn any passing ships. They busied themselves to help the passage of time, then one day—§

A ship! a ship! a schooner! a schooner!

Men rushed down to the beach and then up the cliff to set on fire a great pile of brush. The smoke went up, the flames roared and the men frantically waved their ragged clothes at the ship. It was quite far out, but the whole of it could be seen. The ship circled the small island in front of Academy Bay and looked as if it was going by. Their hearts sank. Some still swung their rags into the air, then they slumped to the ground.

But the boat had seen them, it was turning to avoid a small reef and made for the bay. It was the sloop Isadora Jacinta, from Guayaquil, with a German captain. It had been sent from Guayaquil by Norwegians to search for the men. The bark Alexandra had been found; the other whale-boat had got to Chatham and they knew that on one of the islands, alive or dead, were the captain and his crew. At first the captain of the sloop had tried all the other islands, and it was only by the caprice of the current that he had tacked by the weather-side of Indefatigable. The currents that had almost destroyed the crew of the bark Alexandra had saved them.

An expedition was to have been organized in Guayaquil to hunt for Charles, who was left, or decided to be left, alone. The boat never sailed, and Charles was never seen again until I found him, bleached and parched on the sands of Indefatigable.

 “Oh, Brother Jack, as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I,
Just so game and just so gay,
But now, alack, they've stopped my pay.
No more I peep out of my blinkers,
Here I be—tucked in with clinkers.”§

§ Taken without attribution from Herman Melville's The Encantadas, Sketch Tenth.

Walter Finsen in Treasure of the Tortoise Islands

Victor Wolfgang von Hagen and Quail Hawkins were co-authors of the above title, a fictional work for young readers. One of the main characters is a “Finsen” on Indefatigable Island (the modern Isla Santa Cruz). A few comparisons make it clear that the character (whose first name is not given in either Treasure … or Ecuador the Unknown) is based on the Walter Finsen who von Hagen met in 1935, as described above.

Since the illustrations are the work of artist Antonio Sotomayor (1904-1985), perhaps he worked from photographs supplied by von Hagen.

At one point (Treasure …, p. 147), Finsen remarks that he has been “ … on these blasted islands for seven years.” Since he is known to have arrived in 1931 (Hoff, Table III) that means the authors set their story in 1938. Finsen speaks of a lunatic settler named Iversen (pp. 135-36) whose wife died and was buried on the island (Santa Cruz). The only record of anyone with that name was a Bjarne A. Iversen who arrived, unaccompanied by a wife, at Santa Cruz on the Ulva on August 7th, 1926, and departed within a year. Therefore, von Hagen's use of the Iversen name for a fictional character is presumed to be coincidental.

Finsen and the Baroness

There are three known accounts of a meeting with the Baroness on Isla Floreana, and of course they don't agree: In his Debunking the Baroness, Finsen reports that it was he who met her; in What Happened on Galápagos?, Margret Wittmer states that both Ræder and Finsen were there, and in Clinker Islands, Lillian Otterman mentions only Ræder. For comparison purposes, all are shown here:

Walter FinsenMargret WittmerLillian Otterman

[Referring to an encounter with Philippson and Lorenz, two of three companions of the Baroness]: I used to know quite a few bad men in the Mexican revolution so I thought I knew one when I saw him. … [The following morning]: I never thought of the Baroness, but there she was, big as life, sitting alongside of me, when I woke up, in broad daylight, next morning. She had a heavy revolver strapped outside her silk dress. She looked to me far more dangerous than her standing army of three.

The Baroness chose to play a new role or maybe she was just natural for once. She was friendly and she was very charming. She was not young nor was she good looking, but you soon forgot these minor defects in her company. … She had an unmistakable mark of class and a profound contempt for humanity. She said that nothing amused her more than fooling the people. She took me to “Hacienda Paradise” and showed me her fan letters and clippings from the European press. I think she came to Floreana with the intention of getting some millionaire to finance her in building a tourist hotel there, and given time, I think she would have done it.

The 22nd of February brings more visitors. It seems some newspaper has been fed some “sensational” news items; who sent them is not known but it may have been acquaintances. This time it is a Herr Rader [Rudolph Hother Ræder] and a Herr Vinzenz [sic, Walter Finsen] from Santa Cruz. Rader, a Dane, is the head of a stock company that has acquired land on Santa Cruz on the speculation that the Galápagos will soon belong to America.

Rader has actually come here to offer, in all seriousness, Madam his services as architect in the erection of the hotel. Madam falls for it to the extent of examining and discussing plans.

Intrigued by newspaper reports and by friend Estampa's experience, Mr. Rader of Academy Bay sailed to Floreana to participate in the interesting social events. Having tangled with Mexican bandits, Rader had no qualms about being ordered off the island. He was greeted by a charming aristocrate who quickly surmised that Rader was no fool. The Baroness showed him her fan mail and clippings, gloated over her ability to hoodwink people, and admitted her intention of snagging some infatuated millionaire to build a fancy hotel on what she called “The Island of Love.”

In context, it would appear that Finsen is reasonably accurate, although not above embellishing his account, and apparently “forgetting” to mention Ræder, whose presence is noted by Margret Wittmer, a generally-reliable reporter. Elsewhere in Clinker Islands, Ms. Otterman unfortunately gets many of her facts wrong, as in her report of Ræder's (not Finsen's) encounter with Mexican bandits.