20th Century Club hears report on Galapagos Islands


The recent meeting of the 20th Century Club was held at the home of Peggie Howard with Linda Eifling serving as co-hostess.

The meeting was called to order by the president, Beverly Warren, with the reading of the collect. Roll was called by secretary, Linda Minyard. Minutes of the May meeting were read by Minyard and approved by motion. She also gave the 2012-2013 annual report. Peggy Koen gave the treasurer’s report.

There was no old business. Under new business a motion was made by Barbara Russell and seconded by Peggy Howard to send potential membership letters to six women.

The program subject for 2013-2014 is Islands of the World. Minyard requested that presenters give her notes to be used for the newspaper article. Notes will be returned to the presenter. Jeanne Cheek presented a world map that she will mark each month to show the location of the island reported on that month.

Koen then presented a very informative report on the Galapagos Islands, which are located 600 miles off the coastline of Ecuador. In total they consist of 61 islands, with 13 main islands. The 13 main islands are Baltra, Espanola, Fernandina, Floreana, Genovesa, Isbela, Marchena, Pinta, Pinzon, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe and Santiago. The total land area of the islands is 4,897 square miles. The largest island is Isabela at 1,771 square miles. Its largest volcano is Volcan Wolf.

The Galapagos Islands are a place born of fire. This is noted by a harsh and dynamic volcanic landscape, and tempered by saltwater. Fray Tomas de Berlanga, the bishop of Panama, documented the official first visit to the islands in 1535. After not finding fresh water on the island, word was sent to King Carlos V of Spain telling of the strange and foolishly tame wildlife and the numerous galapagos (giant tortoises) and the name stuck. The islands appeared on the map late in the 16th Century as the “Insulae de los Galopegos”

Many visitors used the islands for way stations and port of call. Pirates were known to use the uninhabited island as base and refuge after raids.

Upon discovering that the giant tortoises could be stacked upside down and live for up to a year without food, many passing ships went ashore to gather the fearless animals for meat during voyages. In 1807, Galapagos received its first resident, Irishman Patrick Watkins, who was marooned on the island of Floreana for two years. He lived from growing vegetables, sometimes trading them with passing whaling ships for run. Eventually he stole a ship’s longboat, with a few of the sailors, and escaped.

Another famous visitor was Herman Melville, author of “Moby Dick”. The first governor of the island was Jose Villamil. Most of the projects he introduced on the island failed, but the port of Isabela bears his name. One settlement on the island in 1930, which was almost as intriguing as the wildlife, was headed by a German doctor, Friedrich Ritter, who practiced what would today be called holistic medicine.

With the construction of the Panama canal, the United States was allowed to construct an airstrip and small naval base on the Island of Baltra, with the advancement of the Japanese Empire into the Pacific. The base was returned to the Ecuadorian government after the war. In 1959, precisely 100years after the publication of Darwin’s Origin of the species, Ecuador declared the island its first national park. Five years later the Charles Darwin Research Station was opened outside Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. In 1978, UNESCO designated Galapagos as the first World Heritage site.

After the report, the meeting was adjourned for a time of fellowship and cake.