The Galapagos Affair

I’m doing some research on Galapagos related to a text I’m writing. My text is about deserted places & solitude. But what I discovered today was quite the opposite. It is all very entertaining. Here are some bits and pieces cut and pasted from the web. If you find this stuff interesting, you can find more in John Treherne: The Galapogos Affair, which these days are being filmed for release in 2012.

The Galapagos Islands were discovered by accident in 1535 and then promptly ignored until the seventeenth century, when they became a regular stopping point for whaling ships looking to take on provisions. The government of Ecuador claimed them in 1832 and no one really disputed it.

They are perhaps best known for the Galapagos finches, which Charles Darwin used to inspire his Theory of Evolution.

In the 1920-30′ the rough island of Floreana became invaded by a group of Germans:

  • In 1929, German doctor Friedrich Ritter abandoned his practice and moved to the Islands, feeling he needed a new start in a faraway place. He brought with him one of his patients, Dore Strauch: both of them left spouses (and teeth(!)) behind.
  • Heinz Wittmer arrived in 1931 with his teenage son and pregnant wife Margret. The two German families apparently had little contact with one another, which seems to be how they liked it. Like Dr. Ritter and Ms. Strauch, the Wittmers were rugged, independent and enjoyed occasional visitors but mostly kept to themselves.
  • The next arrival would change everything. Not long after the Wittmers came, a party of four arrived on Floreana, led by “Baroness” Eloise Wehrborn de Wagner-Bosquet, an attractive young Austrian. She was accompanied by her two German lovers, Robert Philippson and Rudolf Lorenz, as well as an Ecuadorian, Manuel Valdivieso, presumably hired to do all the work. The flamboyant Baroness set up a small homestead, named it “Hacienda Paradise” and announced her plans to build a grand hotel.

The Baroness went about wearing a pistol and a whip, she seduced the Governor of Galapagos and anointed herself “Queen” of Floreana. 

But she did not get along well with the Wittmers and Dr. Ritter – and suddenly people start to disappear … in the course of just a couple months 3 of them would die and two of them would disappear forever. 

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