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Galapagos Islands
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Darwin and the Theory of Evolution
In 1835, Charles Darwin, an English naturalist, arrived on the islands aboard the HMS Beagle. Studying the local finch population for five years, Darwin gathered evidence to support his theory of Evolution. Evolution rests on the premise that populations vary, that biological variations are inheritable and that, through the process of Natural Selection, only the most fit variations survive ("survival of the fittest"). Progressive adaptations lead to speciation or the formation of new species.

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 by UNESCO.


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