Galápagos

Puerto Velasco Ibarra

Floreana

The Galápagos Islands


We went to Puerto Velasco Ibarra, the hamlet on Isla Floreana (population c.100 and rising) on a very dull day. This building, on the aptly named Black Beach, is generally known as "The Wittmer place" still owned and run by descendants of one of the Floreana pioneers, Margaret Wittmer.

The Wittmer Place, Floreana - 27Kb

The first resident of the island was one Patrick Watkins, an Irishman who was marooned here in 1807 and stayed until 1809. A penal colony was established on Floreana in the 1830s.
In 1929, a German couple, Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch arrived on Floreana, having persuaded their respective spouses to live together following their departure. Before leaving Germany, they had all their teeth removed, and had one pair of stainless steel dentures made to share in their new home!
In 1932, Heinz and Margaret Wittmer and their son Harry arrived, and later the same year, 'Baroness' von Wagner Bosquet arrived on the island with her three lovers. Following which, "a series of strange events culminating in several mysterious deaths and disappearances" left Margaret Wittmer the sole survivor of the original settlers. A book written (in German) about these events is called The Devil Came to Paradise.
Margaret Wittmer lived in Floreana until her recent death at a ripe old age, and her descendants still run the recently renovated and expanded hotel, which had some guests when we visited, presumably hoping for the ultimate chill: there certainly isn't much to the hamlet!

Our main aim in visiting Puerto Velasco Ibarra was to take a trip to the highlands to see the island endemic, the Medium Tree Finch. We had intended to go as a group on a cattle truck, but it had broken down, and we went in shifts on a jeep.

jeep - 21Kb

Here are Dick, Dave and Martha on the first shift. I decided to walk around the village, which certainly didn't take long!
The photo shows the new church they are building: a smaller and older church is in the street behind, bringing to mind the old joke.

However, presumably Floreana is the up-and-coming place to be: there were plenty of buildings going up, and the island school now has two teachers!
This photo shows Peter, Roger, Dave and half of Dick.

jeep - 20Kb

The Medium Tree Finch Camarhynchus pauper is found only in the humid zone on Floreana.
How ironic it is that this super-indigenous, near-threatened, species is so very keen on an introduced species, but they were certainly enjoying the ripe oranges in this abandoned grove.

Medium Tree Finch - 20Kb

The Islands

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Text and images © Liz Leyden, 2008
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