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Mar 29, 2012


he Galapagos were discovered in 1535 by Fray Tom�s de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama. This was the time of Spanish exploration and discovery, and followed Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe by a just a dozen years and Balboa's discovery of the Pacific by two dozen. de Berlanga, however, was no explorer. He had been sailing to Peru, recently conquered by Pizzaro, when his ship became becalmed and was carried west by currents; his discovery was entirely accidental. de Berlanga saw little value in the islands. He wrote that the land there, inhabited only by birds, seals and reptiles, was "dross, worthless, because it has not the power of raising a little grass, but only some thistles." By the time de Berlanga sighted the first of islands, his ship had only a two day supply of water. They found no fresh water on the first island they landed on. They sailed on to a second (one with high peaks, possibly Santa Cruz) but ran out of water by the time they reached it. After several days they succeeded in finding water "in a ravine among rocks" (later visitors learned to find water by following tortoise paths into the highlands). In the meantime, de Berlanga's men were reduced to squeezing water from prickly pear cactus pads. Two men and ten horses died of thirst before water was found. de Berlanga reported sighting two more large islands, possibly Santiago and Isabela, and landed on the smaller of the two. In his report to the King of Spain, de Berlanga did not refer to the islands by name, but they appear on Ortelius's 1570 world map as "Insulae de los Galopegos", named for the saddleback giant tortoises de Berlanga and subsequent early visitors reported seeing.

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