Darwin went on to write the classic "The
Origin of Species," which shook the foundations of not only the
scientific world but of the philosophical and religious communities.
A lasting contribution of the great British naturalist
on the islands is the Charles Darwin Research Station. The station
was founded in 1959 with the support of UNESCO (United Nations Education,
Scientific and Cultural Organization) and is now dedicated to preserving
the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of the archipelago. The theme
of the station is "Science and Education for Conservation."
Human History of the Islands
Several versions have been recounted about who was
the first to discover the enchanted islands and when. The official
story goes that the Galapagos Islands were discovered by accident
in 1535 by Tomas de Berlanga, the archbishop of Panama. Berlanga stumbled
upon the islands when his fleet shipwrecked while traveling from Panama
to Peru through the Pacific Ocean. Berlanga reported the discovery
to King Charles V of Spain, reporting that he had seen an enormous
Galapagos tortoise and this is where the name of the islands came
from. This was the first report in history about the islands.
In 1947, Thor Heyerdahl claimed to have found pieces
of pre-Colombian ceramics on the islands. These findings put into
question the belief that the islands were discovered by Tomas de Berlanga.
The Irishman Patrick Watkins was the first documented
inhabitant of the islands. It is said that after a dispute with his
captain, they left him to his luck on the Floreana Island. The Irishman
traded with boats, offering them water and providing them with provisions.
As a result of his unkempt image, nobody wanted to take him on board.
After 2 years he had to steal a boat to reach Guayaquil. Once on the
mainland, he realized that he needed to live in the Galapagos. It
is said that the last that was known of Watkins, he was arrested in
Peru for trying to steal a boat to return to the Galapagos.
The first legal maps were made at the end of the 17
th century and the scientific investigation and exploration did not
begin until the beginning of the 18 th century.
Ecuador officially claimed the right to the territory
of the Islands in 1832. In 1934, the Galapagos were declared animal
sanctuaries and in 1959 it was declared a National Park. This act
protected 95% of the archipelago, where organized tourism began to
proliferate. In the beginning, a thousand tourists visited the Galapagos.
Now more than 50 thousand tourists visit the islands every year.
The Archipelago was declared Natural Heritage of Humanity
in 1978 due to its extraordinary diversity of endemic species. In
2001, the Galapagos Marine Reserve was also declared Heritage of Humanity