History of Galápagos
The history of the Galapagos is fascinating and very rich, with important cultural, historical and scientific influences. Here is an overview of the Archipelago's history:
The archipelago was originally uninhabited, although evidence suggests that indigenous people from mainland Ecuador may have occasionally sailed to the Galapagos islands thousands of years ago. Permanent settlement of the archipelago began in the 16th century with the arrival of pirates and whale hunters. The archipelago was influenced by whalers. They were attracted by the Galapagos waters which offer a large quantity of whales and giant tortoises. They also introduced invasive species, such as rats and goats, which had devastating effects on the island ecosystem.
In the 19th century, the Galapagos Islands were used as a base for whalers, pirates and fishermen. Later, Ecuador established there a penal colony to send dangerous prisoners. The prisoners were forced to work on coffee and cotton plantations, as well as in agriculture and fishing. However, the harsh conditions on the archipelago led to a revolt of prisoners in 1878, which was repressed by the Ecuadorian army.
Scientific explorations have had a very important role in the history of Galapagos. The Galapagos archipelago gained international fame thanks to the observations of Charles Darwin in 1835 during his voyage on board the HMS Beagle. Darwin's observations and discoveries influenced his theory of evolution by natural selection.
The Galapagos Islands were declared a national park in 1959, and later included on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Conservation efforts have protected the archipelago's unique flora and fauna.