Customised search for historical information

12 February 2011

On this day in history: Ecuador annexed the Galápagos Islands, 1832

The first European to set foot on the Galápagos Islands was the fourth Bishop of Panama, the Dominican Fray Tomás de Berlanga. In order to settle a territorial dispute between the conquistadors Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro, Berlanga sailed to Peru but strong winds blew his ship off course. He arrived at the islands on 10th March 10 1535 before continuing his journey.

For over two centuries from Richard Hawkin's visit to the islands in 1593, the English pirates and privateers that preyed on Spanish bullion ships and settlements often used the archipelago to evade attack. One such privateer, Woodes Rogers, stopped at the islands to make repairs after having rescued the castaway Alexander Selkirk, who inspired Daniel Defoe's character Robinson Crusoe. The islands attracted a wide range of naturalists including the Italian nobleman Alessandro Malaspina, James Colnett and famously Charles Darwin.

On 12th February 1832, the newly independent Ecuador annexed the islands calling them the Archipelago of Ecuador. The islands initially served as a penal colony governed by General José de Villamil, who sent an exploratory commission there in the previous October. He then set up the Colonising society of the Archipelago of the Galápagos to exploit the lichens that grew there, which served as a dye. Artisans and farmers soon joined the convicts to colonise the islands.

Related posts
Venezuelan Declaration of Independence: 5th July 1811
HMS Beagle launched: 11th May 1820