Galapagos´ History

The Bishop of Panama, Fray Tomas de Berlanga, accidentally discovered the Galápagos archipelago on March 10, 1535 when his vessel drifted off course on its way from Panama to Peru.

His report to King Charles V of Spain included descriptions of iguanas, sea lions, ‘silly birds’ (probably blue-footed boobies) and the giant tortoise come from the Spanish word for “saddle,” perhaps referring to the shape of the shell of the “saddleback” tortoise.

Some historians believe that Indian inhabitants of South America possibly knew of the islands' existence before 1535, and Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl discovered what he thought were pre-Columbian pottery shards on the islands in 1953, lending credence to this theory, but there are no definite records and the evidence remains inconclusive.

For more than three hundred years after the discovery of the archipelago, a succession of pirates, adventurers and whalers used the Galápagos as a base.

The islands provided sheltered anchorage, firewood, water and an abundance of fresh food thanks to the giant tortoises.

Adventurers made the first rough charts of the archipelago by the late 1600's, and scientific exploration began in the late 18th century.

Charles Darwin, possibly the Galápagos' most famous visitor, dropped anchor from his ship, the Beagle, in 1835.

Based on the notes and wildlife collections made during his five-week stay, he developed his theory of evolution and his explanation of the origin of the species.

His works spawned the creation–evolution controversy, a recurring history of the universe and of life on this planet.

Ecuador officially claimed the Galápagos Archipelago in 1832.

The remaining 3% consists of inhabited towns and farm lands.

Twenty years later, in 1979, UNESCO declared the Galápagos a World Heritage Site, and in 1986 the Galápagos Marine Resources Reserve was established to include protection of the waters around the archipelago.

The islands were also declared a Whale Sanctuary in 1990.