The Galápagos chapters, with the author's own illustrations. Text [in brackets] and footnotes (§) inserted by the editor of this page. People mentioned in these chapters but identified elsewhere are:
In which you read of Danish schnapps, an Ecuadorian Major,
two foundered horses, a 'cello—and a postman on the road to Paradise
These lonely islands lying nine hundred miles from the nearest land have no real history. Their origin is a matter of dispute among scientists, one camp declaring that they were thrown up by some volcanic outburst, while the other maintains that they are the western spurs of the Andes and that the connecting link with South America disappeared under the waves, similarly in some volcanic disturbance. At any rate volcanoes have played a preponderating rôle in the Galapagos' past, and although they are only still to be found in the main island, Isabella, all the other islands give abundant indication of the commotion of their birth. They are black and rough, with scant vegetation on their hard lava and basalt.
People have never been attracted either by their appearance or by the poverty of their dry and sterile soil. The islands are seldom visited except when chance sailors and whalers have sought refuge from storms there or landed in one of the many bays to get fresh stores and water. They have been discovered once or twice—and forgotten again, till the Republic of Ecuador occupied the cliffs and turned them into a place of deportation for her murderers and criminals. With the aid of these prisoners peaceful colonists tried to run haciendas and plantations, but the last and greatest of them, the tyrant Manuel Cobos, was murdered by his own workmen some twenty years ago, and after that colonization stopped of its own accord.
It was at these islands that Darwin stopped for some time during his voyage round the world in the frigate Beagle and scientists from all over the world have come from time to time to study the curious fauna of the Galapagos, which includes many rare species and among them giant turtles and iguanas that look like denizens of prehistoric swamps in miniature.
We, too, wished to see these rarities, but first there were formalities to be gone through and the local authorities had to be welcomed. They rowed out in a boat and consisted of the governor, the noble Major Aguilera, and his adjutant. A large section of this book must be devoted to the Ecuador garrison on Chatham Island, the capital of its civilization. I shall devote the greatest possible seriousness to this section and describe conditions exactly as they were, for I do not wish to be considered one of those authors of the baser sort who make South American Republics ridiculous and bring them down to the level of low-class musical comedy. You cannot do that sort of thing to a defenceless country.
Major Aguilera was quite small and slight, but so was Napoleon, before he grew fat. His uniform was impressive, even though the gold had turned black in places and the verdant green cloth was not quite free from grease spots. He had several weeks growth of beard and his nails were too long for every bit of them to be clean. His army consisted of thirteen men, half of whom guarded the town in the centre of the island, while the other half kept watch from the shore. Presumably the unlucky thirteenth ran with messages between town and shore in order to preserve the balance.
The military possessed thirteen rifles and twenty cartridges which were cleaned once a quarter till they shone as though twice that number. As regards uniforms, the equipment of the army left something to be desired. Some of the warriors had uniform trousers and woolen shirts, others wore tunics over a pair of bathing drawers. They all grinned benevolently.
In his spare time the governor sold dried cod and dried sea-lions' skins. They were stored in the hall of his shaky wooden palace and you had to get used to the odour before you could stand it. We stayed too short a time on Chatham to learn how.
Apart from preventing enemy warships from effecting a landing, the most important duty assigned to the shore detachment was that of tending the light—a storm-lantern on top of a green-painted pole. A former governor had discovered that the good paraffin brought in much more money when he sold it to the town's inhabitants. Every sailing guide in the world describes this light as being unreliable in the extreme, but as no ships ever come to Chatham, there has never been an accident. But all that belongs to the past and the dark days of the harbour's history. The light was not burning the evening we arrived either, but the Governor had it kept alight all the next night, just to show us that he was an honourable man and confined his activities to dried fish.
He apologized for the flag not being hoisted, excusing himself on the grounds that it was so tattered and torn that it could only be hoisted on perfectly calm days. When some days later we paid him a visit, he regaled us with home-made lemonade. It tasted good and so we overlooked the fact that the glass was filled in the hall and brought in on a tea tray to be taken out again and refilled and presented once more bearing the mark of the first guest's lips—a nice, clean half-moon on its dirty opaque rim.
However, to return to our story. When we received the Governor on the Monsoon's deck things got somewhat mixed.
We had on board two people who were of the opinion they they could speak and understand Spanish. One of them was the skipper. He had first turn and after a long talk with the Major on deck he told us that the man was a customs offical, very hungry and wished to spend the night on board.
Then Stubbe had a try. According to him Aguilera was a general and a bachelor and only wished to say good-bye before he rowed off again. And besides—thank you very much—but he had just had lunch.
Spanish as a language is easy to learn, but evidently it has too many different dialects.
The Major was given a glass of schnapps. We thought he was going to choke in the resulting paroxysm of coughing. However, when he finally got his breath back, he said: “Muy delicioso,” smacked his lips, and was immediately drunk. Such is the stuff heroes are made of!
Other guests came aboard. Manuel Cobos' son came with his dark-haired, shy but still Norwegian wife, Karin, and they brought another Norwegian, Trygve Nuggerud, with them.
Some years ago three expeditions left what was then Christiana to found a colony in this part of the world. All three were colossal fiascos. They lacked cohesion, understanding and capital, and Karin, her father and brother Nuggerud§, and his friend Stampa, together with Engineer Worm-Müller and his wife, were the only ones remaining in that abandoned Norwegian stronghold, where they wrought out an existence for themselves by fishing and farming in a small way.
§ Mielche is mistaken: Karin's brother was Frithjof and [Trygve] Nuggerud was an unrelated acquaintance.
Karin lived with her husband and her two charming children, the golden-haired Dagfinn and the raven-black Manuel, on Chatham, while the other three families had set up their tents on Santa Cruz, one of the other small islands.
Karin played on Jan's harmonica§ so that the planks of the deck sang and both the Major and his hard-bitten adjutant ctared with enchanted black eyes at the one and only white woman of the place—both hopelessly in love and betwitched by “The Milk-Maid's Sunday” which the noise-box wheezed out immediately after the Norwegian national anthem. It would not have taken much for us to have joined their company, for Karin Guldberg Cobos was really a beauty of the first water, and was all the more enchanting because even in this far corner of the earth she was as fresh and lively as a Venus risen from the waves.
§ Mielche's illustration shows her playing an accordion or concertina.
Those of us who could sit astride a horse were invited to visit the Cobos' hacienda. It was only six miles away, we were told, the horses as gentle as lambs, the road good and the food even better.
Three men volunteered. Mr. Möller said that he was an old hand, the mate had once led a horse by the bridle, and I had ridden races on Iceland ponies when I was nine and they twenty. We were a wonderful sight in our self-manufactured riding kit and the effect was that of a jig-saw puzzle wrongly put together.
We rowed ashore and waited for the lambs that had been promised to us. They were rather late, but that was a relief, for they couldn't then be absolute racehorses.
Before they came the Major tugged at Mr. Möller's sleeve and whispered that he would be only too glad to do anything he could for us during our stay among the islands—only we must not say anything about it to the Adjutant. He could not quite be relied on. The same was promised by the Adjutant, if I didn't say anything to the Major.
Then the horses came. A cloud of dust appeared in the distance and shot towards us like a falling star. When the dust had settled, we discovered five wild mustangs standing there stamping impatiently with their fore-feet while foam flecked their—isn't it “flank”?—and the sand. A cowboy grinned satanically from the back of the least nervous of the horses and held his lasso ready.
I don't know how I got on my horse. I chose the one that was nearest the ground, shut my eyes and jumped. I shall never be able to tell how the others fared, for before I had my feet in the stirrups I, or more properly the horse, took the lead and assured itself of the inside position.
I never needed to touch the self-starter. The brute set off with better acceleration than the composer of any car advertisement has ever dreamed of. My kidneys thumped against my shoulder blades and my camera jumped up and hammered the nape of my neck. My left hand was frenziedly clamped round a knob that was luckily in the right place, and I never discovered what the other hand did. I think I should be right in saying that the horse ran away with me.
At first the road was good, then it grew bad and finally became only a narrow path where rocks, cliffs and narrow bridges took care of one's entertainment. We took jumps of several yards and threw ourselves sideways over the ditches which now and again were ten feet deep, and my camera made such desperate efforts to beat me to death that the strap broke and it fell helpless on to a rock.
People are always so curious to know what other people think when they are drowning, burning or starving to death or dying of rage. I thought of the six miles, and how many miles an hour the brute could do. Then I tried to calculate how long the ride would last if I kept hold of my knob, but I never worked it out, for the figures sprang here and there and would not stay still. I lost one stirrup and got my foot back in again, but even to this day I do not know how.
Then I heard a curiously breathless voice behind me ceaselessly crying “Stop! Stop!” It was the mate. He, too, had been run away with. I had the idea that he was advising me to stop with such urgency purely because he wanted most frightfully to know how one brought off such a trick. We said: “Prrr” and “Stop” and all sorts of words that weren't evidence of a good upbringing. We spoke English, French and something that we considered to be Spanish to the horses, but they just laid their ears back and pretended not to understand.
Their wind gave out as we were going up a steep rise. They fell into a trot and ended in a quiet walk. We tried to look as though we had been enjoying ourselves. We began to experiment with the reins, and the mate, to show his superior technical knowledge, started telling me that the brutes had curbs. When, later, the other members of the expedtion, Mr. Möller, the Governor and the cowboy, caught us up at a fast gallop, we had happily got so far with the brutes that we could move them forwards, sideways and backwards, and we impressed the others by asking them in amazement where on earth they had been.
They thought that we had been run away with and had lost control of our horses! We made the nags do a pass to the left and convinced them that they were mistaken. The mate whistled the “Finnish Cavalry March,” and there was deep admiration in the eyes of the Governor and even the cowboy looked stupid. We told him that we rode in the Danish style, which was slightly different from the English, but thought that our style made better use of the horse's inborn energy. Mr. Möller silently handed me my camera, which the cowboy had picked up.
We discovered later that “Prrr” in Spanish equestrian terminology meant the same as “Gee up” and that loose reins had a similar significance. It also appeared that the bagatelle of touching the horse's starboard or port side with one's spur also had a meaning. Mr. Möller made one or two low, disloyal remarks, luckily in Danish, but when some minutes later his horse plunged to larboard when he had signaled hard to port§, even he grew dumb and hit his nose against a mango so that it bled.
§ It's unclear what the author meant by this, for larboard is port. (ie, left).
Once in the town our ways parted. I was in front and went down one street while the Major and the others turned without my knowledge into another, and shortly afterwards despite all my calls and manipulation of the reins, my horse steered its way to a stable where everything pointed to it being at home. The inhabitants of the village gathered expectantly round me to await further developments. Something had to happen.
I took the reins in one hand and, placing the other on my hip, as I have often seen Tom Mix do, asked if someone could not ride in front of me and show me the way to el Senor Cobos' hacienda. The owner of the horse and stable thereupon obliged. He clambered on top of a colleague of my mustang's, and the dear brute followed at its friend's heels till we reached the gate of the hacienda. I kept one hand on my hip the whole way, while the reins lay in the other.
During our really excellent meal none of us felt the urge to expatiate on our ride on the gentle lambs, and we enjoyed a couple of delightful hours with our charming hostess before it was time to go. Curiously enough an invitation to view the estate's extensive coffee plantations on horseback, did not arouse much enthusiasm. Even Mr. Möller, who is most interested in farming, produced a most illuminating excuse.
The ride back went off quite peacefully, although we made feeble attempts to ride in the English style, not because it looks better, but because by doing so you are not always coming into contact with the hard saddle.
All next day we preferred to stand, and the mate talked incessantly of Beefsteak à la Tartare.
Then we sailed away. The weather was calm, so that the Governor was able to hoist and dip the flag for us. Nuggerud came with us as pilot, and his wife became seasick. The small cigar box in which he usually earned his daily bread was towed astern, steered by his entire crew, an Ecuadorian fisherman by name Trevino §, who sat in the trailer and bared his teeth in a huge grin of pleasure at the speed which the old Dynamit was going.
§ Read Comments about Sr. Trevino's identity on the Notes (J - Z) page.
In the cabin we had some sea-lions' skins, a gift from the Governor, and some of the famous giant turtles trotted about on deck and got between the sailors' legs just when they were in a particular hurry.
Shortly before midnight we reached our next port of call, the island of Floreana, and anchored in Post Office Bay, which takes its name from the world's most primitive pillar box, a barrel in which in olden days the whalers used to put their letters to be forwarded by any ship that called at the island. The barrel still stood there and was used by passing steamers, schooners, and the three families on the island. Near us on the other side of the bay we saw a silhouette that looked something like that of a destroyer. In the light of the morning sun it turned out to be an elegant, white pleasure yacht, Velero III, that belonged to the American multimillionaire and Railway King, G. Allan Hancock. He it was that financed Kingsford-Smith's famous long-distance flight across the Pacific to Australia. Like several other rich Americans he was interested in science, and every year he placed the Velero at the disposal of a dozen or so scientists and himself went with them on a two or three months' cruise in the part of the world they were investigating.
The ship was a perfect miracle with its soft-carpeted salons, Steinway piano and luxurious single cabins with real beds and bathrooms. Modern laboratories, huge aquariums and every conceivable up-to-date accessory were at the disposal of those investigating nature, and in the evenings after the day's work they gathered for a quiet hour in the music salon where famous American virtuosi plied fiddle, flute and piano, while Hancock himself played on a 'cello that had cost a fortune with a bow worth twelve hundred dollars. Hancock was passionately fond of music and the clink of his many dollars was lost in the music he conjured forth.
Our own scientists went alternately green and yellow when they saw the working conditions which reigned on the Velero. The rest of us congratulated ourselves that we did not need to change for dinner and did not in the least feel like poor sparrows in comparison to this rich bird with its thirty-two knots.
When you ship before the mast, you do not want that sort of thing, and as far as music was concerned, Mr. Möller was not al all bad on his mouth-organ, which cost ninepence, and Stubbe and I were close rivals on a banjo.
Next day found a newcomer anchored btween Monsoon and Velero. She was the Stella Polaris, the big Norwegian pleasure yacht, which under the name Hohenzollern used to belong to Kaiser Wilhelm, and we began to feel that we were keeping too fine company. However, the Stella Polaris sailed away again the same day.
Her boats were lowered even before she had dropped anchor. Some American tourists were set ashore, where they said “Cute” seventeen times, and “O.K.” nine times, photographed each other, put into the barrel a couple of hundred post cards with: “If only you were here, Kind regards,” and had themselves put back on board again firmly convinced that they had seen the Galapagos. Two hours after her arrival the Stella Polaris put out to sea again, tearing breathlessly to her next port of call, the Marquesas. It was with a feeling of relief that I waved good-bye to her.
All the same, these luxury hotels have their advantages. The Velero had a dark-room§ and a ship's photographer, a decent young Norwegian, who developed a good part of my films, which otherwise would have been ruined by the heat and the long time that would pass before we reached the next Kodak depot. He left them at the Post Office in Hiva-Oa, and it is his fault that this book contains photographs taken between Panama and the Galapagos. Shortly after the Stella Polaris had disappeared behind the point, the Velero also weighed anchor and set course for South America. Our scientists took envious leave of their colleagues, who in turn envied them their unrestricted life about the Monsoon. We were invited to a small farewell party, at which the “Hancock Syncopators” played Carl Nielson and Grieg, while Hancock's first mate, first photographer and best friend, the red-haired Real-Estate-King Charley Smith [sic, Swett] showed us films taken by the Velero's film expert, the Swedish-American Emory Johnson. Twice during the concert the wireless operator brought in radiograms from his Los Angeles Office and Hancock wrote the answers during a piano solo—buying, perhaps, a railway during a Beethoven sonata and deciding under the influence of a Chopin prelude to sell an oil territory.
§ Mielche may have meant the Norwegian Stella Polaris, for the Velero III did not subsequently visit Hiva-Oa, nor was there a Norwegian photographer aboard.
Then the Velero, too, disappeared from our view, with its mahogany doors and its two humming diesel engines. When its wake had settled, the Monsoon was left cock of the dunghill, a feeling that made it at once a little broader and a little longer.
Mr. Möller and Nuggerud went up the cliffs and caught crabs and starfish, while Jan and Stubbe plundered the bushes in their search for unknown insects, and one or two trawls of the sea's bottom brought fantastic sea animals to light.
We paid a visit to a shallow saltwater lagoon where flocks of flamingoes stood on one leg enjoying their exotic reflexions in the calm water, till one of them fell to Jack's gun and ended its existence under Stubbe's skilful hands with arsenic under its skin, cotton-wool in its eyes and the Easter edition of the Berlingske Tidende for a coffin.
One day I suddenly came across a bundle of letters which the Governor of Chatham had handed over to me for delivery on Floreana. They were all for three different addresses: Baroness Wagner-Bousquet, Dr. Ritter and pure and simple Mr. Wittmer. I asked Nuggerud where these people were to be found, turned Jans' haversack into a postmans's satchel, put on a sun-helmet and set off.
I trotted quietly along the dry, dusty, narrow path never dreaming that my new profession of country postman in the Galapagos would lead me into Paradise and a situation that was to prove the most grotesque and fantastic of the whole voyage.
On the shore stood a board on which was fastened a pencilled notice which in itself was full of significance, but the events of the day completely out-trumped it. This was the notice—
whoever you are—friends!
Two hours from here is the hacienda “Paradise.” It is a spot where the tired traveller has the happiness to find peace, refreshment and quiet on his way through life.
Life—this small portion of eternity which is bound to a clock, is so short—so let us then be happy—let us be good!
With you we will share the salt of the sea, the vegetables of our garden and the fruit of our trees, the cold water which runs down our cliffs and the good things friends brought us when they passed this way.
We will spend one or two moments of life with you and give you the happiness and peace that God planted in our hearts and souls when we left the restless metropolis and journeyed away to the quiet of the ages, which has spread its cloak over the Galapagos!
(Signed) Baronesse Wagner-Bousquet.
In which you will convict the author of mendacity
I knew that the road to Paradise was long and difficult, yet my teachers had omitted to inform me that it was paved with red-hot stones and wound between thorn bushes, prickly lemon-trees and infernal cactus.
My desire for Paradise lent wings to my feet and they bore me through the prickly thorns up the hot path to the waiting vegetables, the salt of the sea, and the ancient but still protective cloak. One of the sons of the metropolis was on his way to a better place.
It turned out that in the two hours mentioned in the notice one was supposed to cover exactly ten miles and the maquis gave no shadow. It was on a large plateau scorched by the sun that I found the first signs of the presence of man. The skeletons of a couple of wild cows lay there. At first glance I thought that it was the work of roving wild dogs, but a closer investigation revealed that both thighs and ribs were missing from the assembly of bones, and that in the middle of the forehead there was a hole—the result of a dum-dum bullet.
The path from the plateau was marked all along its length by perforated skulls, from which one might conclude that the Baroness and her archangel lived on something other than cold water and the fruits of the trees. The road wound on across plateaux, through passes and over rocks, and seemed as if it would never come to an end. From the position of the sun the business had lasted too long for me already, but, finally, I did reach my journey's end, with my tongue hanging out and a sucked lemon between my lips—if the reader can imagine such a combination.
At the end of the path stood an unhappy and curiously out-of-place Japanese gate with “Welcome” painted on it in vulgarly large red letters which bored into my eyes that were already smarting from the sun. A donkey hee-hawed somewhere behind the gate; and there came a spirit lightly tripping over the stones—the Baroness von and zu Wagner-Bousquet and Floreana.
I fought heroically with my sense of humour and sent it flying into the bushes with a well-aimed upper-cut before I dared look at her again. She stood beside me, apparently not at all surprised at my coming. She tendered me a white little hand, and we glided into Paradise, past the local St. Peter who hee-hawed his blessing behind us.
The Baroness was small, but one could not say that she was beautiful. In front of her swollen lids she wore strong spectacles and her mouth, though too large, was yet unable to cover her long, yellow, rabbit teeth. She reminded one of a very vicious caricature of Mistinguette. Her hanks of hair were kept in place by means of a pink shoulder strap around her head, and she wore a kind of baby's rompers, like the trunks the ladies of the chorus wear when rehearsing. She moved in that hopping manner which jockeys call a “canter.”
I cantered beside her as well as I could, till, by way of a change and to show a little personal character and independence, I tried one or two chassť steps, but unfortunately stumbled over a large lump of lava.
Such was our entry into the hacienda “Paradise,” a wooden hut set in the middle of a vegetable garden, where a powerfully-built, blond youth gave me a paw and was introduced by the Baroness as “My Baby”.
Baby looked as though he had been a gigolo in a very cheap restaurant somewhere in Berlin, W. His eyes were a watery blue, his hair was curly and his smile much too sweet. In private life he was Herr Rudolf Philipson [sic, Robert Philippson] of Berlin, aged 28. A German cook, tubercular and with one foot in the grave, smiled in a sickly way from the background and brought tea.
The interior of the hacienda “Paradise” hardly lived up to the promise of the notice on the shore. The furniture consisted of two broad double divans with revoltingly bright cross-stitch work on large cushions lying on covers which lost nothing by being hidden. The walls were decorated with photos of the Baroness as a South Sea Princess, “little Gardener” and society lady. In the last, taken by a Parisian photographer who had greatly flattered her, she seemed to represent a canary which had been treated with peroxide, given empty eyes and a Coty mouth.
Nestling with dreamy, half-closed eyes in a corner of one of the divans the Baroness—quite unasked—related her romantic story, the gospel of her life, as she called it, while Baby stroked her hands and arranged the cushion behind her. Here is the pith of her story, just as she herself told it.
She was born in Austria—I suppose at least forty years ago—the daughter of a high official, who was sent to the East to supervise the construction of the Baghdad railway and took his child with him. In Syria she met a daring young Frenchman, naturally in the Air Force, who married her and introduced her as Baroness Bousquet into the highest society in Paris.
Her beauty, she said, placed her immediately in the front rank, and the dresses she wore at Longchamps and Auteuil were described in greater detail than the last debate on the budget in the senate. She was overwhelmed with invitations and people competed to secure her wonderful voice for charity bazaars—so she said.
Then this fêted queen of the boulevards and salons happened to meet Rudolf Philipson. She ran into his arms at the Colonial Exhibition in the Bois de Vincennes, and they went arm in arm from one stand to another, looking at pictures of far and beautiful islands.
Shortly after the sky went up in flames, as the aviator was not modern enough to tolerate a lover in his household, and a divorce was put through. The two lovers went for walks in the Bois de Boulogne and amongst the birds, flowers and stinking motor-cars found their way to the beating heart of Father Jean-Jacques Rousseau. They were tired of city life, its alchohol, its evil people and its noise. They were finished with the metropolis. They decided to find their way back to the bosom of mother nature. They spun a globe on its pedestal, stopped it with a finger and lo! a little, red varnished nail pointed exactly to the island of Floreana in the Galapagos Group.
Shortly afterwards a steamer left Le Havre. On its deck stood the Baroness and Baby with their arms about each other, and close behind them Lorenz, the cook, sucking his bleached mustache. Their luggage consisted of a cheque book, a pile of gardening books, two or three dozen dresses and a swarm of bees. These later gave rise to an amusing little episode on board the steamer from Guayaquil to the Galapagos. The dear little animals escaped from their skep and so roused several of the passengers that they gave vent to unconsidered words in several languages. This hurt the Baroness, and when with Baby's help she had finally recaptured the swarm from an elderly gentleman's beard, she retired like a whipped dog to her cabin, disappointed and embittered against mankind in general.
Such was her farewell to the ugly, ugly world and she did not revive till she started to tell Baby and Lorenz how she would build the house on Floreana.
On the voyage the Baroness became religious. Her religion included most of the doctrines already known, plus one or two Wagner-Bousquetian dogma, which were largely concerned with love and more or less with strong drink.
The Galapagos suffer severely from lack of rain even during the wettest period of the year, and this lack of water makes itself felt in many parts. Yet the Baroness's faith was such that she believed she could even perform miracles. She remembered having read somewhere about striking a rock so that water flowed. For days on end Lorenz and Baby searched for a spot where the grass was green in the midst of the parched brown, for a cliff where the earth was muddy and damp. Finally they found such a place and called their mistress who at that moment happened to be unpacking silk stockings and rouge from a cabin trunk.
She came, saw and struck with her little hand against the hard wall of rock, and so great was her spiritual power and so strong her belief that water actually dripped out of a fault in the rock—after Lorenz and Baby had plied it with hammer and chisel for a time.
The Baroness fell silent a moment and looked at me with enchanting, earnest eyes. Then she said that a French journalist visited her once, and the whole time that she was speaking he never shifted his gaze from her lips. He was completely carried away.
I felt a prick of conscience, for during half of the conversation my glance had rested on a well-assorted collection of tinned foods lying on a shelf and the rest of the time on a number of empty bottles with really fine labels that were piled up in a corner of the yard. Then for the first time I looked at her lips; but lacking the Frenchman's ability to say in the most charming way possible the exact opposite of what he is thinking, I preferred to say nothing and that chilled the communion of our souls.
Baby was sharply ordered to clear the table, and I was given to understand that if I wanted to take some photographs of her, now was the time. I must indeed have stared a little too long at the good things which good friends had brought when they passed that way. With the sureness and the tired smile of the much-photographed film-star, who is pestered by her publicity agent, the Baroness took up her pose and my modest little camera blushed at having to take this marzipan figure, but there was no way out—the object was given and even the background settled beforehand. The audience was at an end.
The Baroness is a fat titbit for the press. A few years ago fantastic stories circulated in the newspapers of the world. A woman was supposed to have made herself ruler of the Galapagos, to have proclaimed herself Empress of the Pacific, waged war with Ecuador and with her hordes of indomitable freebooters made the waters of that sea unsafe. Even the old Times fell into the trap and a Copenhagen newspaper turned it into a front page item. Some young Greek idealists (a hundred lovers of beauty and freedom), formed a league, and offered to help her in her struggle. There wasn't a grain of truth in it all, but whoever the Baroness's publicity agent was, he at any rate knew his business.
The Americans were quite mad about her. She was the correspondent of several papers in the States, and when the millionaires' yachts brought the curious to see the lonely Queen of Floreana she received many nice presents. She was by no means so lonely either.
The next letters in my satchel were addressed to Dr. Ritter. He lived a couple of miles away from the Baroness and a notice at his gate said that one should call loudly once or twice before entering. I roared like a foghorn and there was a rustling in the bushes. Dr. and Mrs. Ritter were exponents of the nudist cult, but not exhibitionists. They received you in more suitable clothing and once you had seem them you were glad. Their Paradise was called “Eden” [sic, “Friedo”]. It was a log-house like the Baroness's, but the garden was larger and the trees higher.
The Ritters were the first to come to the island. They constituted the island's ancient aristocracy and were furious with the Baroness, the parvenu, for taking away half their fame as hermits and the greater proportion of the Americans.
Feminine charm will always triumph over the realities of science, however genial and vague, and for a democratic American a baroness is pure heaven—“How shocking! what a thrill.”
When the Baroness arrived on the island the Ritters refused to give her water, but instead gave her donkey a whole bucketful of the precious fluid, and what it left was poured on the grass at the feet of the Baroness—for the Ritters love animals and plants.
Ritter was a philosopher. He was fairly small, his legs had been screwed on wrong, so that his toes pointed inwards. His nose was long and pointed, he had watery, protruding eyes and the hair of a prophet. His disciple, Miss Dora, smiled a toothless welcome. The couple had at their disposal only one pair of false teeth and this was Ritter's day.
Miss Dora wore beach pyjamas and had large, naked, black feet. Her neck had not been washed for at least a month, and had been given a marbled effect by the passage of drops of sweat.
Nudism is above all a healthy movement, but the Galapagos are so short of water!
Before his exile, Dr. Ritter had been a dentist in Berlin. He had married an opera singer who had had no appreciation of subtle philosophies, and then little Miss Dora came across his path. She understood him. They moved together to the Galapagos, although Brunhilde would not consent to a divorce. So now he was expecting that she would arrive one fine day on Lohengrin's swan and demand him back. Her longing for him would drive her to it—or so he said.
In the meantime Ritter sat in a wooden chair and philosphized with Dora kneeling at his turned-in feet. Like the Baroness's faith, his philosophy was a comprehensive cocktail of the strangest ingredients, a curious mixture of foreign words, faded theories and well-chewed phrases. His ambition was one day to map the human brain but so far he had not finished measuring it. His web was involved enough to impose on coal kings and oil magnates, and a brand new typewriter and a private edition of his own works bound in oasis morocco told of admiration for his work in that, as yet, uncharted wilderness.
When I asked to be allowed to photograph him, he agreed readily and got up on his bed. He worked at a board which hung suspended over the bed, and above his head swung a storm lantern “made in Thuringia.” This he lit—it was midday and blazing sunshine—then he ran his hands through his hair, put a finger to his forehead and asked me straight out if I didn't think he looked like Faust.
On leaving the Ritter Elysium, I was rather afraid of carrying out my last mission. There was still Mr. Wittmer left. In my satchel lay a Vossische Zeitung and two or three letters for him—but was I capable of absorbing further impressions of this kind to-day, without taking harm and becoming mad myself? I slung the satchel over my shoulder and resumed my pilgrimage into the unknown.
My fears were unfounded. Wittmer was quite an ordinary person living in an uncommonly beautiful stone house set in a large, well-cultivated garden. He had a charming, natural wife, and two children quieter and better behaved than children usually are.
I was so tired that I sank into a chair and asked for a glass of water. I was given tea and home-made paw-paw marmalade, and after amusing ourselves a little with my account of the day's events I gradually wormed Wittmer's story out of him. It was tragically ordinary and gloriously unromantic.
He was a German. When war broke out, he was a lieutenant in the reserve and worked in an office. He was thrust into the trenches, where for four years he lived through barrages, gas and liquid fire. When he got back, his nerves had all gone to pieces. He had no job,§ but a little capital; this was eaten up by the inflation. He tried everything without success. Competition was too great. As he sat there in the little room he relived in memory those difficult post-war days. In spite of the great distance both in miles and years his hands still shook and his voice became uncertain. It was the same old banal struggle with hunger and unemployment.
§ Wittmer was in fact on the staff of Konrad Adenauer.
Then one day he broke out and travelled here with his young wife and child. Here he found peace and recovered his health. He was a happy man and devoted to his wife and children, the younger of which was born on the island and was a model of health and strength. No cases of presents were borne to Wittmer's house and perhaps that is just the reason why his glance is quiet and his wife happy.
He puffed at his pipe while the children played about with a young Alsatian puppy, and his quietness had a beneficial effect on the young postman who had spent the entire day among pirate queens and naked philosophical dentists with rat-like movements and dirty toes. Wittmer was the island's one and only stable point, unknown and thus happy, although he knew nothing of Kant, the cartography of the human brain or Jean-Jacques Rousseau. My thoughts returned to him with quiet pleasure on the long road back to Post Office Bay.
The day had been long and arduous. I had tumbled about among the winds and painted scenery of a fantastic stage and had finally found a real person of flesh and blood. When Ritter and the Baroness have turned to dust and “Paradise” and “Eden” have sunk into a smoking hell, Wittmer will still be sitting in his cosy little home smoking his pipe. The sun will rise and set, and he will forget to count the days.
The name of this man's house was not “Eldorado.”
Shortly after the appearance of the Danish edition of this book, I received a letter from which I learned that this prophecy had already been fulfilled.
The Baroness, Baby and Lorenz, Dr. Ritter and his disciple, Miss Dora, had disappeared from the history of the Galapagos and that in a manner which corresponded to the mysterious and tragic atmosphere that lay over the islands. The letter was from Captain Alan Hancock who has once again visited the Galapagos in the Velero. He had visited the colonists of “Paradise” and “Eden” and this time in tense excitement, for Dr. Ritter had sent him a letter asking him to come as quickly as possible, as things had happened and would happen, which were too terrible to be the subject of a letter.
Hancock came, but the evening before his ship anchored in Post Office Bay the philosopher died of poisoning. Miss Dora sat in their primitive hut, half out of her mind with fright and grief and the story she told was like the feverish fantasies of an overstrung mind.
One evening Lorenz had knocked at the door, been admitted and had begged to be allowed to stay.§ The night before this, the Wittmer family had been wakened by wild howls and shrieks coming from the Baroness's property, but had not paid much attention to it as quarrels and dramatic jealousies were nothing unusual in the Baroness's household. Every now and again the “Pirate Queen” would simply order her big Baby to hunt the tubercular cook, who was already marked down by [for?] death, over the rocks and stones till he finally fell down and unresistingly allowed himself to be beaten, while the Baroness looked on and encouraged her gladiator with wild shrieks. On this evening Lorenz came to the Ritters quaking all over and begged to be allowed to stay till he could get a ship to Ecuador.
§ According to Margret Wittmer's account, Lorenz stayed with them, not with the Ritters.
According to his story, on the morning after the Wittmers had heard the wild cries, the Baroness and Baby had disappeared completely. A yacht had put in at night, they had taken their belongings and left Lorenz to his fate.
Lorenz stayed quite a short time with the Ritters [sic, Wittmers], then one day Nuggerud, our pilot from Santa Cruz, ran into Post Office Bay in his little Dynamit and took him on board. They never reached Santa Cruz, but for the next three weeks their boat was sighted from several other islands sailing now here, now there, seemingly without aim or purpose, until it disappeared altogether.
Captain Hancock looked up the Wittmers, but they could not tell him anything he had not already learned from Miss Dora. He took her away with him to the mainland and then continued his scientific investigations among the other islands. On one small, deserted, volcanic island he found Nuggerud and Lorenz. They lay a short distance from the shore, their bodies dried up from the sun, but still not so unrecognisable that they could not be easily identified. Of Nuggerud's native sailor there was no trace, nor could the remains of the boat be found.
Captain Hancock had to return without clearing the matter up and the Floreana mystery is today presumably still open to conjecture. Hancock himself thinks he has built up the right solution.
In other parts of the group nothing had either been heard or seen of the mysterious yacht that was supposed to have taken off the Baroness and Baby. Nor had news been received of these two originals from other parts of the world, although a search was made for them after Hancock had got in touch with the nearest mainland. This brought the Captain to the conclusion that Lorenz had finally had enough of the thousand and one little tortures to which he was subjected, that his rage got the upper hand and he had murdered the pair in their sleep, burying the bodies and inventing the story of the yacht. §
§ According to Margret Wittmer's account, the story of the yacht was actually told to her by the Baroness. It may, however, have been the “invention” of Margret herself, if she was in on the disappearance of the Baroness and Philippson.
It is, however, possible that there was something more than jealousy and the desire for revenge at the back of the murder.
The Galapagos have always been a pirates' nest and the air is still thick with tales of buried treasure. Was it not possible that Lorenz overheard a conversation between the Baroness and Baby and thought that he had found out where such treasure lay buried? That he then killed his two competitors in cold blood and came to an agreement with Nuggerud to go treasure hunting among the islands?
That would account for the curious voyages of the Dynamit which were observed by the other settlers during those three weeks and would also explain why the three inhabitants of the boat landed on an island which otherwise had nothing of interest to offer.
Did Nuggerud and Lorenz then quarrel about the imagined treasure and kill each other, or were they wrecked and driven ashore on the island? If so, where is the boat and the native sailor? It is not impossible that he stole both boat and secret and abandoned his employer to die of thirst under the merciless sun! Then where is he now?
The whole affair is shrouded in a veil of impenetrable mystery. Ritter could perhaps have given us the key to the puzzle, but he died the day before he should have spoken and Miss Dora kept on repeating that she did not know what it was that Ritter wanted to tell Hancock, the news that was so revolting that he could not confide it to paper.
What position did Ritter take in the matter? How much did he know of the murder and the imagined treasure? and why must he die at such a suitable time for him or those who desired silence?
One question piles up on another, the threads grow confused, and the scattered, uncertain material that is at one's disposal only permits of guesses.
Certainty will surely never be had unless the Baroness and Baby turn up one fine day in some other part of the world and clear Lorenz of a suspicion which undeniably rests on him. But whatever he may have done, he has atoned for it on a block of lava under the terrible equatorial sun.
The worst hit was Mrs. Nuggerud, who is in Santa Cruz with a fatherless infant born just at the time when her husband sailed to Floreana and his fate.
Which tells two stories about mosquitoes and warships,
the mate feels a shark's tooth, a sea-animal is afraid of water,
and we meet one or two sensible people
After my return there began a regular pilgrimage to both “Paradise” and “Eden.” Everyone wanted to see the giraffes, and they came back with their tails between their legs. Their reception had been even more Spartan than mine, consisting of a cupful of tepid water, while none of the nice gifts which Hancock and the passengers of the Stella Polaris had had taken up by donkey were ever produced—and we had seen both Johnny Walker and Veuve Cliquot going ashore.
One evening a sea-lion swam up to the side of the ship, looked curiously at us and sauntered up and down several times, keeping one fin on the planks as though it wished to polish the ship. At the same time a large shark kept swimming round the keel and we expected a mighty battle. But the tiger of the sea appeared to be afraid of the sea-lion, for as often as their ways crossed, the shark made a wide detour while the sea-lion sawm on as though nothing had happened.
There is, by the way, no truth in the old belief that a shark has to turn on its back to bite. We saw countless sharks bite downwards, and it is only when the morsel is quite near the surface that the shark turns over. This turn is simply the result of the position of what is to be bitten and it is certain that this widely spread belief can only have been put about by shark fishers. The hook, cast and line prevent the brute from taking the bait from above, and so the white belly must be turned upwards while the sharp steel jaws close round the pork.
We visited an old crater that lay some little distance from the shore called the Devil's Crown, and clambered about the steep rim, while Mr. Möller photographed our mountaineering. Lava is bound to have some complicated chemical composition, but according to my hurried analysis it is composed of green soap, slag, and broken glass. At least that is how it feels when you stumble and slide down it with only a thin piece of khaki between Mother Volcano and the more sensitive parts of your body.
Our scientists collected whole cases of insects, and when they had finished with Floreana we set sail for Santa Cruz, where we cast anchor late one evening, greeted by a multi-voiced choir of mosquitoes. We spread our nets and crept inside. The mosquito nets had a heavenly smell of muslin and we dreamed of carnival and black pierrettes, of taxis arriving up to hotel swing doors and disgorging a crowd of clowns and shepherdesses into the pouring rain—for those were the days of carnival at home.
Do you know the story of the man who was hunted by mosquitoes? He was sleeping in a tent in the virgin forest and his mosquito net reached right down to the ground, but the little dears got down on their knees and crept underneath. Then he climbed up a tree to find peace but each mosquito took a firefly and looked for him by the light of its lantern. Finally, the man crept into an iron tank and closed the lid over him, but the mosquitoes smelt him and stuck their noses through the walls of the tank in their efforts to reach him. Then he took a hammer and tapped down their noses one after the other so that they were stuck there. In the end there were so many mosquitoes fastened to the tank that they were able to lift it into the air and fly away with the man.
That story will perhaps give you a slight idea of the lengths to which these tormentors will go and show you why in the tropics the mosquito is more feared than the lion or cobra.
The morning after our arrival Bobby was so nibbled that his already rather knobbly skin had the appearance of a lunar landscape. It is a curious thing about these animals, that the more they eat their victims the fatter these become.
A mighty Danish standard and a huge Norwegian flag were waving on the shore in welcome to the Monsoon from the Scandinavian inhabitants of Santa Cruz who soon came rowing out towards her. They were of a different stamp from the hermits of Floreana. Worm-Müller was Norwegian and had spent more of his life abroad, in the U.S.A., South Africa and Ecuador. He had been broker, business man, coal miner, railway engineer and roadman, was a brother of the well-known Professor of Oslo University and filled with good spirits and optimism to the rims of his spectacles. He had come ashore with one of the wrecked Norwegian expeditions, and after the crash went to Guaqaquil, founded an agency business and became the Norwegian consul, but left everything and started afresh when the Norwegian Captain Brunn [sic, Bruun] founded his own colony and fishing station on Floreana. The colony flourished and expanded and there followed happy, busy days on the island till one day in July, 1931, Captain Brunn was drowned off the black cliffs of Isabela and everything went. A simple cross made from the wreckage of his own boat was planted on his sailor's grave among the cliffs and put finis to the story of his colony.
Worm-Müller stayed on for some time in the empty house at Post Office Bay. All their expensive equipment rotted, the dynamo grew rusty and he had only the wild animals of the island to keep him company. During those lonely hours spend in the empty house, he drew up the balance sheet of his restless life and decided to settle down. He wrote to his wife in Ecuador and together they moved into one of the abandoned houses on Santa Cruz, where one of the Norwegian expeditions had for a short time had a canning factory. The elderly couple have lived there ever since and like it immensely. Expensive machinery was falling to bits in the rooms under the house while a most unnecessary tractor looked out from a shed.
Time stood still. One could almost hear its quiet, regular breathing.
In the bay swam swarms of fish, good, fat fish that should have been riding up the rusty rails from the quay to the factory to be cut up or dried whole on the cliffs, packed in tins and cases and sold for high prices during Lent.
A little apart from the Norwegian colony lived the Dane, Raeder. His way also had led from the world to the Galapagos. In the service of the American navy he had built bridges and harbours and been the consulting engineer in charge of the erection of 150 petroleum tanks in Venezuela. He had seen Chile, Peru, Argentina and Ecuador and lived for sixteen years in Mexico City where he had scored a decided success as an amateur bull fighter. There he had met his present wife, a charming woman from Kalundborg and a gifted water-colour painter.
They finally landed in Chile where he was to carry out the work in connexion with large harbour works, but a day or two later came one of those revolutions which are as common as thunderstorms in South America, and opinion turned against all foreigners and their contracts were annulled. The Chileans had once again grown desirous of showing that they could not get on by themselves. At this point Raeder was fifty-eight. He had saved a modest competence and had grown tired of the quarrels and strife of this bewildered world. A few weeks later he had bought tickets for Santa Cruz.
This island is rich in pigs, tortoises, horses and wild goats, while in the gardens grow otoy, oranges, pineapples, bananas, maize, melons, lemons and a quantity of other good things to eat, and once a month the boat from Chatham comes and brings the few things they have to import from the mainland. One cannot starve to death on Santa Cruz.
The Raeders live in a charming wooden bungalow with lovely furniture and beautiful water-colours on the walls. In the evenings the couple sit on the veranda and enjoy their home-grown coffee, while the evening breeze brings coolness and helps to turn the leaves of some exciting book.
Mr. Möller and Sonny tried to shoot sea-lions, on a small island called Jensen Island, and Jack nearly became involved in a fight with a large, angry sea-lion and the breakers behind, but the discussion ended most amicably with the sea-lion as a tame, soft rug under Mr. Möller's desk.
The mate and I became furiously angry with a fifteen-foot shark which kept on circling round a particularly tempting bait without daring to take it, and this finally irritated Sören so much that he clambered down into our motor-boat, which was bumping agains the stern, and stuck hook and bait into the sharks' mouth. It was rather a primitive method of fishing, but successful.
The shark wagged its tail a bit, but, after being given five sleeping tablets from my little Browning, let itself be pulled on board without further protest and its tail fin was nailed to the bow as an awful warning to all its brothers, in accordance with the time-hounoured custom.
Our scientists worked from morning till night and brought curious animals back with them; so curious, indeed, that we had to abandon our homely everyday life on board and engross ourselves for a moment in the study of the fauna of the Galapagos—five minutes' interval to take a look at the pens!
The animal life of the Galapagos is unique. Not because of the number of the species, but because of their kind. There are animals there the history of whose development seems to go back to dark prehistoric depths which no one has yet been able to plumb. In the mountains giant tortoises trample broad paths through the cactus bushes. Their shells are mightily rounded, their feet can be as large as horses' hooves, and specimens have been found measuring five feet in length and three feet in height. One of these giants was brought on board and christened “Columbus.” It was capable of carrying three grown men on its back and waddled over ropes, chests and other obstacles like an armoured tank. It became Bobby's tormentor, always choosing his sleeping place as its base of operations and planting its feet without warning on the tip of his tail.
The number of these giant tortoises is rapidly declining. They have been carried off by expeditions, and tourist steamers and the whalers have decimated their numbers for many years. The reason is that the flesh of these giant tortoises is a delicacy and the larder can run about the deck for months without being fed, filled to the rim with lovely fresh meat which is the best medicine for scurvy and other plagues of the long sea voyage.
Now, it is true, the government has forbidden any hunting of rare animals, but Major Aguilera sits in Chatham, his men clean their cartridges, and the Ecuador navy lies in the harbour of Guayaquil. Its engines were taken to pieces by inquisitive engineers and now nobody knows how to put the pieces together again. The last voyage undertaken by the ship was to the Galapagos, but the admiral was not sufficiently conversant with his compass and, turning back home, told the representatives of a wondering world's press that the islands had completely disappeared as the reult of a mighty volcanic upheaval.
One of the ubiquitous Norwegians was granted permission to accompany a relief expedition as pilot, and thanks to his help the Galapagos rose once more safe and sound from the bottom of the sea together with their Norwegians, Danes and giant tortoises.
On another occasion the proud vessel was to take a new governor to Chatham. They steamed for days and they steamed for nights, and finally they sighted land. They ran for the harbur and put the governor ahore where he was immediately arrested. The ship had somehow got to Peru, and as at this period an unusually violent war was in progress between that country and Ecuador, the fleet had to put up with being taken as a prize until peace broke out again—one of the few, short intervals they allow themselves when it beceomes too hot for fighting.
But to return to the animals! Sea-iguanas crawl about in the sea at the foot of the cliffs, and up above live their country cousins, the land-iguanas. In size and appearance that are very much the same, it is only the colour that is different. The land-iguana is a dusty-grey or yellowish tinge, while the sea-iguana varies between reddish-brown and grey-green; the latter is the more amusing and more peaceable. It grows over three feet in length and is an exact copy of its primeval ancestor down to the smallest detail.
The sea-iguanas are distinctly marine animals and find their food among the plants at the bottom of the sea, where they swim like fish, moving their curled-up tail from side to side with a winding motion and letting their legs hang idle by their sides. The amusing thing about these excellent swimmers is that they are afraid of water. They live in colonies in the immediate neighbourhood of the sea, dwell in hiding places among the cliffs and stare inquisitively at the disturber of their peace when he comes along the shore. It is only at the last minute that they decide to escape and waddle with astonishing speed a dozen yards farther off, where they turn round and look back with their coal-black eyes!
If you hunt them in real earnest they take flight inland and not into the sea. This fact has given rise to many speculations. Many people are of the opinion that the sea-iguana was formerly a land animal—a land-iguana which turned sailor. Its complete lack of web between its toes seems to point to this, as does its instinctive reliance on terra firma as its safest hiding place.
We chased a large iguana so enthusiastically that in the end its every means of escape to a nearby mango grove was cut off; not till then did it dive head first into the water and, swimming a dozen yards or so along the shore, quickly climbed out again and disappeared with dizzy speed into some bushes.
The animal life of the Galapagos is altogether most amusing in and near the sea. The islands' insect life is also supposed to be very interesting, but what difference does the laymann find betwwen an English fly, an Arabian or one from the Galapagos Archipelago?
There is enough life along the shore that does not need to be studied under the microscope. Trusting, clear-eyed sea-lions play with their youngsters in the pools among the lave rocks, and they are so ignorant of man's real character that they will let him play with them if he likes. We caught the young sea-lions and played with them while their parents looked on without too much disquiet, and we photographed them at such close range that the water in which they were playing splashed our cameras.
The albatross and penguins regard the Galapagos as the northern boundary of their domain and the wingless [sic, flightless] cormorant lives on Isabela. The history of the development of the cormorant is most interesting.
The cormorant, that sout flier which skims the water beside the shores of so many seas and lakes, has practically no wings here on Isabela. Many think that the slight development of the wings comes from little use. The fish swim in mighty shoals past the cormorant's very nesting place and it only needs to dive from its rock to have a beakful of food. It does not require it to fly, and limbs which are not used disappear in the course of generations.
The kindly but grotesque pelican fills his pouch with fish and the flamingo mirrors itself in the waters of the lagoons. All the birds of the tropics and the Southern Antarctic meet at the Galapgos and help to make these puzzling island more curious still.
Tunny fish, bonitos, dolphins, sword-fish, and rays turn somersaults on the sea's surface. Here is still undiscovered land of Cocaigne for the knignts of rod and line and the little birds in the bushes fly inquisitively round the visitor's ears and perch naïvely on twigs a few feet away from him. It really looks as though the Galapagos possessed something of the peace of Paradise—apart from the places where man has pitched his tent and which he has called “Paradise.” Man is not good for the Galapagos.
The Monsoon began to grow impatient. She did not like these long periods of inactivity n quiet, sheltered bays, and wanted to be on her way again.
Then our scientists made their last expedition into the hills, accompanied by Mr. Möller who wanted to take a look at Raeder's experimental farm, and the next morning we weighed anchor, the Danish and Norwegian flags on the shore dipped farewell, and we set course for Barrington Island, the last of the Galapagos group that we wished to visit.
Once off Barrington the skipper steered up into a bay that swarmed with turtles. We caught one huge fellow and enjoyed its famous beef-chicken-fish-flesh for dinner.
Beneath a wooden cross on the shore rests the last of the pirates of these waters. He died and was buried in the year 1920.§
§ The grave was probably that of a local fisherman.
Our scientists scraped the bottom of the sea clear of snails and sea-urchines while the rest of us continued our games with the wild, yet tame sea-lions and made excursions into the islands. Mr. Möller shot a full-grown sea-lion and a fine young one which he presented to Stubbe, who, however, had not the means of preserving such large animals. Their skins were as soft as silk and their eyes large and brown. On a zoological expedition one cannot be sentimental. Science and such like come before everything; but all the same we were sorry from them. All of us.
The ship was surrounded with swarms of sharks. They ate the bait from the hooks and finally took up permanent residence beside the ship and waited for galley refuse or whatever else was thrown overboard in the coarse of the day. They became a bit too much for us, so we threw a sea-lion's corpse into the sea and in an instant the whole scene was turned into a splashing confusion of black fins and greedy teeth. Guns and revolvers were fired into the foaming clump and when the cannonade ceased, fourteen lifeless sharks were lying there.
It will be a long time before we forget that bloody scene and how the greedy jaws fastened on the red flesh, tearing it apart, while the sea became dyed with their blood. The sea-lion was a big as a man and a certain association of ideas was unavoidable. It was that, perhaps, which so excited our lust to kill. There were so many outstanding accounts to be settled.
That was our farewell to the Galapagos and the next day we left—after we held a ship's conference. The skipper and Mr. Möller had discovered that we had too little drinking water in the tanks and we decided to ration it till we could replenish the tanks at the Marquesas. A day or two later we discovered that there had been an error in our calculations to the extent of over a hundred gallons in our favour, whereupon we went with relieved feelings on deck and took an extra shower bath—in fresh water!
We sailed southwards to reach the south-east trades and the weather was the best imaginable. We had a 3000-mile stretch before us, farther then that across the Atlantic and the longest of the whole voyage. Time passed slowly.
Mr. Möller carpentered in the cabin, and all the steel engagement rings that were to have been used for barter and to raise the morals of the South Sea Islands were employed to turn grey horse blankets into elegant curtains for the provision room.
Bobby's jealousy of Columbus blazed up one day when we fed the turtle with cactus leaves. He hurled himself on the unsuspecting animal and with an angry snarl snatched its breakfast out of its mouth. He never did it again. All the rest of the day he sulked and was busily occupied in removing the cactus prickles from his nose with his long-fingered paws.
The long evenings were spent in earnest debates below deck, failing which we did crossword puzzles or played patience.
The food became more zoological than we were accustomed to. The weevils organized races in the rice and the maggots paddled about with their tails in the sugar and grew large and fat from lack of exercise. We put the best face on it we could and were glad of this unexpected addition of fresh meat.
The wind came and went; it thundered, lightninged, rained and was fine. The engine puffed now and again when the wind could not be bothered filling the sails, and after sailing for a month we saw a dark cloud rise up above the horizon. The cloud remained in the same place, took off its coat and became an island, rugged, steep and wild and with such a cloak of melancholy and inaccessibility as we had not come across since the little Salvage Islands. It was Hiva-Oa, the largest island in the Marquesas Group. We anchored in Taahuku Bay and rolled the name round our tongues. Ta-ahu-ku. It sounded like a whole chapter from Stevenson. Had we really reached the South Seas at last?