Our travel program to Galapagos has been specifically designed to visit several islands, each with its unique community of plants and animals, scenic attractions, and cultural components.
Physical activities: The pace of our Galapagos Islands travel program is “moderate” and should not be excessively demanding for most. Provided you can walk for two or three hours on the trails in a state or city park you will be able to participate in the scheduled nature walks. Some excursions are more strenuous than others and require the ascent of steep slopes or over rough terrain, however most walks are conducted at a moderate pace with frequent stops during which your naturalist guide interprets what you are seeing. Getting into and out of the small boats (pangas) that ferry you ashore requires a degree of agility, fitness and sure footedness. If you don’t walk, jog, swim or exercise regularly, then you might consider doing some exercises in preparation for this expedition. Being in good physical condition, although not a requirement for this travel program, will certainly enhance your enjoyment of the activities. On most days there are options for morning and afternoon walks or outings to see wildlife. Swimming, snorkeling and sea kayaking are optional activities that add interest to the planned excursions. Naturalist /Guides:A nature walk on the Galapagos Islands with a well-trained naturalist guide is akin to experiencing a work of art. Even if you don't see a single animal there is drama; there is suspense; you laugh; you cry; you learn things. Yet if you ask most people before the trip what factors they take into consideration to determine what to do on vacation, guides would usually be pretty far down on the list. After the trip, I have asked hundreds of people, what was the single most important factor that determined the quality of their experience? Almost invariably they say, "our guide." Guides take the hassle out of travel. They provide education, insight into the host culture, and, most important, in many cases, friendship. Travelers who have decided to go it alone often end up wishing they had a guide. Each World Discovery Safari group travel program is accompanied by one or more professional naturalist guide(s). These men and women are graduates of an extensive and on-going training program that includes courses in natural history, tourism, culture & history. They are carefully selected for their interpretive skills, knowledge, temperament and ability to communicate. In addition they have had several years of “on the job” training and have advanced to their current position because they have successfully led numerous natural history related programs and demonstrated their ability as charismatic and resourceful leaders. Your naturalist / guide is often the single most important element of a successful trip. Environmental Sensitivity and Conservation Commitment: World Discovery Safaris recognizes the importance of environmentally sensitive travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. An important aspect of the long-range challenge facing this developing nation is to manage its wealth of wildlife reserves and scenic attractions in a sustainable manner, and to utilize its resources in a way that will create optimum and sustainable living conditions for all its inhabitants. Our participation in the Smart Voyager environmental certification program ensures that the companies we work with and the crew members of the vessels we use are committed to preserving the Galapagos National Park and respect this fragile ecosystem that, worldwide, is recognized as a "living laboratory of evolution."
The cell phone numbers can be used after normal business hours and on week-ends
World Discovery Safaris
2830 Acton Pl.
Birmingham, AL 35243
Phone: 866-0899-8733 (toll free)
e-mail - email@example.com U.S. Embassy (in Ecuador)
The U.S. Embassy in Quito is located at the corner of Avenida 12 de Octubre and Avenida Patria (across from the Casa de la Cultura); telephone (011-593-2) 256-2890, extension 4510, during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) or 256-1749 for after-hours emergencies; fax (011-593-2) 256-1524; Internet web site - http://usembassy.state.gov/guayaquil/. The Consulate General in Guayaquil is located at the corner of 9 de Octubre and Garcia Moreno (near the Hotel Oro Verde); telephone (011-593-4) 232-3570 during business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) or 232-1152 for after-hours emergencies; fax (011-593-4) 232-0904. Consular services for U.S. citizens in the Galapagos Islands are provided by the Consulate General in Guayaquil.
Entry & Exit Requirements: A valid U.S. passport is required to enter and depart Ecuador. Tourists must also provide evidence of return or onward travel. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less. Those planning a longer visit must obtain a visa in advance. U.S. citizens whose passports are lost or stolen in Ecuador must obtain a new passport at the U.S. Embassy in Quito or the U.S. Consulate General in Guayaquil and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to the main immigration offices in those cities to obtain permission to depart. An exit tax must be paid at the airport when departing Ecuador. For further information regarding entry, exit, and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Ecuadoran Embassy at 2535 15th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009; telephone (202) 234-7166; Internet http://www.ecuador.org; or the Ecuadorian consulate in Chicago (312) 329-0266, Houston (713) 622-1787, Jersey City (201) 985-1700, Los Angeles (323) 658-6020, Miami (305) 539-8214, New Orleans (504) 523-3229, New York (212) 808-0170, or San Francisco (415) 957-5921.
Health, Medications and Immunizations: All of the vessels and hotels we use for our Galapagos Islands programs maintain very high standards of cleanliness and sanitation. Consequently your risk of contacting diseases from food or the purified drinking water provided by these accommodations is probably not significantly higher than what we encounter in our own country. However, some of the drinking water (including bottled water) available may have a higher or different concentration of minerals than what your system is used to. Drinking very much of this water may have a laxative effect or cause mild cases of constipation, diarrhea or upset stomachs in some people. Taking Pepto-Bismol tablets with meals during your trip may help to buffer your system and prevent some of these discomforts. Dehydration in this warm, tropical environment is also a concern and we encourage everyone to drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty. Visitors that have not had much recent exposure to the sun should travel prepared to protect themselves from sunburn.
Although, if coming directly from the U.S., no immunizations are required for entry into Ecuador, you may wish to consider getting a tetanus booster and immunizations for hepatitis. Please consult your physician, county health clinic or a traveler’s medical clinic regarding the required and recommended immunizations for entry into Ecuador. Dengue Fever, Hepatitis, Malaria, Typhoid, Rabies, Diphtheria and Cholera are all on this list, however the risk of contacting any of these while on our Galapagos program is very slight.
You may also contact the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta by calling their toll free number at 1-888-232-3299 or by visiting their web site at www.cdc.gov and selecting their travelers health section.
Travelers Safety Tips: While safe by comparison with most cities in the U.S., street crime does occur in Ecuador. This is most prevalent in the larger towns and cities and most frequently is theft of one sort or another. We strongly suggest that during your travel program you adhere to the following practices.
Do not open the door of your room without first verifying who is there. We suggest you do not invite strangers
into your room.
When returning to your hotel, especially at night, use the main entrance.
Close the doors and windows whenever you are in your room and use all the locking devices provided.
Before leaving your room check to make sure all your money and other valuables have been put away, out of sight, in a locked suitcase or duffel and that the windows are locked from the inside. Close and lock your door upon departure.
Do not carelessly leave your room keys on restaurant tables, next to your chair, by the swimming pool or elsewhere where they may easily be stolen.
Do not draw attention to yourself by displaying large amounts of cash or expensive jewelry.
When walking or shopping in the downtown area, stay together. Do not carry a purse or camera and do not wear jewelry or watches. Ladies have had earrings pulled from their ears and necklaces snatched from around their necks. Carry your money and other valuables in an inside pocket where it is relatively safe from pickpockets.
While on the streets you may be approached by people collecting money for various “charities”. Since we have no way of verifying which of these may be legitimate we suggest you simply say “no” to solicitors and keep on walking.
Deposit your passport, airlines tickets, credit cards, traveler’s checks and extra cash in the hotel safety deposit box. Do not leave valuables in your room while you are out.
Be alert for pickpockets and con artists and report any suspicious activity to the hotel or lodge management.
When moving from one location to another make sure your luggage has been brought from the room and loaded into the vehicle, onto the aircraft or into the boat before departure. Although our guides are very good at counting the number of pieces of luggage and seeing that it gets packed into the vehicles, your luggage is not their responsibility.
Clothing, Equipment and Packing
The following is a list of the items we suggest you consider packing for your expedition to the Galapagos Islands. Since some airlines have a weight limit of 20 kg. or 44 lbs. per person of checked luggage, it is important to not bring many extra items. A single water-repellent duffel bag or similar soft-sided piece of luggage is easy to stack in the vehicles. Make sure you can lock your luggage and have luggage locks for all compartments. World Discovery Safaris travel programs do not require dress up at any time and casual clothing is the rule. Cotton shirts, pants and shorts are the most practical. Women may wish to consider packing a single dress or skirt for dinner while in town. The rainy seasons are May through September but it can rain at any time of the year. A lightweight rain jacket with a hood is the most appropriate rain gear. This can also double as a windbreak. Early mornings can be quite cool during the dry season of November thru March. Wear a comfortable, lightweight pair of hiking boots and bring along a pair of running (tennis) shoes and a pair of shower shoes or “flip flops”. We strongly advise you to bring along a wide brimmed hat and a long sleeved shirt for protection from the sun.
-Checklist of Clothing:
-Shirts - two or three short sleeved cotton shirts, two or three T-shirts, one or two long sleeved shirts.
-Jacket or Sweatshirt - one lightweight jacket and /or a hooded sweatshirt
-Pants - two or three pairs of medium weight cotton, long pants, one or two pairs of shorts.
-Dress or skirt – Optional for women.
-Belt - one should do it.
-Underwear - enough for about seven days.
-Socks - six or seven pairs of light weight cotton socks.
-Hat - One or two comfortable, wide-brimmed hats (with a chin strap to prevent them blowing away)
-Bandana or scarf
-Raingear - one lightweight poncho or rain jacket with hood. One small collapsible umbrella
-Pajamas - optional
-Shoes - One pair of lightweight hiking boots, one pair of running shoes (tennis shoes) one pair of sandals or shower shoes.
Check-list for Equipment:
-Personal first aid kit - (aspirin, Advil, Band-Aids, comb, hairbrush, Pepto-Bismol, personal medications, motion sickness medication, insect repellent, antihistamine, antibiotic, cortisone cream, vitamins, sunscreen etc.)
-Toiletries - (small bar of soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, dental floss, shampoo, razor, razor blades, hand lotion, personal toilet articles)
-Beach Towel – optional. The boat supplies towels.
-Disposable towelettes (Wash n’Dry) and small packets of Kleenex
-Flashlight - a small one with extra batteries and bulb. (I like the Mini Maglite that fits into a belt holster and uses two AA batteries)
-Pocket knife and / or Leatherman. This must be packed into your checked luggage. (I like the mid-sized Swiss Army knife with a finger nail file and scissors)
-Binoculars - a good quality pair of 7x 35’s or 8x 40’s. (don’t try to get by with a pair of “opera glasses”)
-Travel alarm clock - optional.
-Watch - Water resistant and fairly inexpensive. (You can get an Indiglo Atlantis 100 from K-Mart for under $30.00)
-Reading material/ notebook and pen or automatic pencil (Get a good “brain dead” novel for on the airplane. Bring your bird and Galapagos Islands field guides and a nice notebook in which to record all your experiences)
-Sunglasses with a strap or croakies and an extra pair of prescription glasses or contact lens as needed.
-Plastic bags - two or three sizes of Zip Lock bags, two or three medium sized garbage bags for dirty laundry.
-Daypack - for taking things with you on walks and in the boats.
- Waterproof bag – for you camera and binoculars.
-Plastic water bottle - one pint to one-quart size.
-Laundry detergent, clothespins and a cloths line
-Snack food - Optional, but a few granola bars, some dried fruit or hard candy if you like to nibble between meals.
Camera, film and flash: Bring plenty of film! The average person takes about 200 pictures during a 10-day excursion. Film speeds of 200 or 400 ASA are probably the best choice. Pack your film in a lead-lined photo bag and put this in the center of your carry-on luggage. If using a 35-mm camera with changeable lenses, you will want a telephoto lens of 200 mm or more. If using a video camera bring at least one extra battery, an adapter plug (for 110/ 220 AC current) and your battery charger. If using a digital camera bring extra batteries.
Passport, Airlines tickets, Visa, Credit Cards, Money, Prescription Medication and Travel Documents: Pack these on your person or in your carry-on luggage. Make sure you keep these with you or check them into a safe place at all times. Carry a good photo copy of your passport and air ticket with you and pack this somewhere other than with the original documents.
Luggage: One strong, water resistant, medium-sized piece of soft-sided luggage and one carry-on should be adequate. Make sure your name, address and phone number is on your luggage tags and make sure that your luggage is locked up whenever you are not physically with it.
Packing: We strongly recommend that you pack into your carry-on your camera, binoculars, medications, passport, airline tickets, travel documents, money and other valuables. If room permits we suggest you also pack into your carry-on a pair of socks, underwear, T-shirt etc. just in case it takes a day or two for your checked luggage to catch up with you.
Phone Code: To place a call to Ecuador dial 011-593 plus the city code and local number. To place a direct-dialed international call from Ecuador, dial 001 followed by the relevant country code, area code and number.
Time Zone: Eastern Standard on GMT-5 (same as New York, except during daylight savings months when Ecuador is one hour behind). The Galapagos Islands are one hour behind the mainland.
Business Hours: Banks are open on weekdays 9 AM–3 PM. Shops are open from 8 or 9 AM to 5 or 6 PM (closed for a lunch break), Monday–Saturday.
Holidays: Ecuador is over 90% Roman Catholic and most of the country's major holidays and celebrations follow the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. Boasting the year's most extravagant festivities, these holidays can often be appreciated best from highland indigenous villages where days of nonstop feasting, drinking, dancing, and performing ancient rituals give traditional Catholic holidays a distinctly Indian feel. Most of the remaining holidays are celebrated to commemorate important political or historical events and achievements
January 1 - New Year's Day
January 6 - Three Kings Day (a.k.a. Epiphany)
February 12 - Anniversary of the Discovery of the Amazon River. Province Day (Galápagos)
February 27 - National Community Spirit Day
March and/or April – Carnival, Easter and Holy Week (dates vary)
May 1 - Labor Day
July 24 - Simón Bolívar's Birthday
July 25 - Founder's Day, Guayaquil
September 23-24 - Our Lady of Mercy Festival
October 9 - Guayaquil Independence Day.
October 12 -Columbus Day
September 1-15 - Fiesta del Yamor (An annual festival in the highland town of Otavalo.)
November 1- All Saints' Day
November 2 - All Soul's Day (a.k.a. "Day of the Dead")
November 3 - Cuenca Independence Day
November 11- Latacunga Independence Day
December 6 - Founder's Day, Quito
December 24 -Christmas Eve
December 25 -Christmas Day
December 28-31 - Year's End Celebrations
Money: In March 2000, the Ecuador government ratified a law making the US dollar legal tender in Ecuador. The dollar replaced the sucre at a rate of US$1 = 25,000 sucres. 'Dollarization' has helped reduce Ecuador's chronic inflation and decreased the national debt but the experiment still has a way to go before it can be declared a success. Major credit cards are widely accepted in tourist areas and big hotels, though merchants will often add a surcharge of 6% to 8%. ATM machines are available at many banks but charge a high service fee.
Tipping: It is not customary to tip in restaurants (a service charge is included in the bill), nor is it customary to tip taxi drivers. Porters in the nicer hotels usually expect about $1.00 per bag. Tips for your naturalist guides and boat crew are optional and should be given only if you feel the service has been good. Many people ask us to recommend an appropriate tip amount and for this we suggest that about $20.00 per person, per day can be given to the boat captain for both your guides and the cabin crew. If you are a member of a group, one member of your party could collect the tips from everyone and, near the end of your expedition, hand them to the captain in the presence of the crew as a “thank you”.
Measurements: Although the metric system of measurement (millimeters, centimeters, kilometers, kilograms, liters, etc.) is used throughout the country, some old Spanish measurements still survive in vernacular usage. Street directions, for example, are often given as 100 varas (the Spanish "yard," equivalent to 83 centimeters/33 inches).
Electricity: Electric appliances operate on an alternating current, the same as the United States - 110 volts, 60 cycles (Hertz) AC. European travelers need to bring an adapter for laptops, cameras, hair dryers, etc.
Your accommodations and transportation while in the Galapagos will be on the Eric, Flamingo or the Letty. These are identical 20-passenger first class/ superior motor yachts. All have ten cabins located on 3 decks: Dolphin, Booby and Iguana.
Description of Cabins:
DOLPHIN DECK is the top deck with four double cabins with picture windows.
3 of the 4 cabins have two twin lower beds and 1 cabin has one double bed (D2).
BOOBY DECK is the middle deck with two double cabins with picture windows. Both cabins have one double-sized bed.
IGUANA DECK is the lower deck with four cabins with portholes. Two cabins have two twin lower beds and two cabins have two twin lower beds and one upper berth so these two can be sold as triples.
Measurements of Cabins on Ecoventure Yachts:
M/Y ERIC, FLAMINGO and LETTY
D-1 7 1/2 X 9 6’4 X 2 1/2 2 X 2 3 X 5 2 1/2 X 2 3/4
D-2 7 1/2 X 8 1/2 6 X 4 2 1/2 X 1 1/2 3 X 5 2 1/2 X 2 3/4
D-3 7 1/2 X 8 6’4 X 2 1/2 1 1/2 X 1 1/2 3 X 4 1/2 2 1/2 X 2 3/4
D-4 7 1/2 X 8 6’4 X 2 1/2 1 1/2 X 1 1/2 3 X 4 1/2 2 1/2 X 2 3/4
B-5 8 X 8 6 X 4 1 1/2 X 2 1/2 3 X 5 2 1/2 X 2 3/4
B-6 8 X 8 6 X 4 1 1/2 X 2 1/2 3 X 5 2 1/2 X 2 3/4
I-7 8 X 10 6’4 X 2 1/2 1 1/2 X 2 3 X 6 2 1/2 X 3 1/2
I-8 8 X 10 6’4 X 2 1/2 1 1/2 X 2 3 X 6 2 1/2 X 3 1/2
I-9 8 X 9 1/2 6’4 X 2 1/2 2 1/2 X 2 2 1/2 X 5 2 1/2 X 3 1/2
I-10 8 X 9 1/2 6’4 X 2 1/2 2 1/X X 2 2 1/2 X 5 2 1/2 X 3 ½
The Galapagos Islands were historically discovered in 1535 by Fray Tomás de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama. This was the time of Spanish exploration and discovery and followed Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe by just a dozen years and Balboa's discovery of the Pacific by only two dozen. Berlanga, however, was no explorer. He had set sail for Peru, recently conquered by Pizzaro, when his ship became becalmed and was carried west by ocean currents. His discovery of the archipelago was entirely accidental and Berlanga saw little of value in the islands. He wrote that the land, inhabited only by birds, seals and reptiles, was "dross and worthless because it has not the power of raising a little grass, but only some thistles." By the time de Berlanga sighted the first island, his ship had only a two day’s supply of water and they found no fresh water on the first island they visited. They sailed on to a second (one with high peaks, possibly Santa Cruz) but ran out of water before 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 located. Berlanga reported sighting two other large islands, possibly Santiago and Isabela, and he 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 giant tortoises de Berlanga and subsequent early visitors reported seeing.
It is possible that the islands were discovered some 60 years earlier by the Inca king Tupac Yupanqui, as Incan oral history tells of his voyage to the west and the discovery of two "Islands of Fire". If there is truth to this, and there are some inconsistencies in the story, it is perhaps just as likely he discovered Easter Island as the Galapagos.
The fabulous wealth of the growing Spanish Empire caught the attention of Spain's European rivals, who wanted to limit Spanish power and grab some of the wealth for themselves. England, in particular, gave its blessing to pirates and buccaneers who attacked Spanish galleons returning to Spain from the New World laden with treasure. The Galapagos are not far from the route between the conquered Inca Empire of the Andes and Panama and New Spain (Mexico), the center of Spanish activity in the New World. Beginning in the late 16th century, the Galapagos became a base of operations for many English pirates. In 1684, one of these buccaneers, Ambrose Cowley, made the first crude map of the islands and named each of them, mainly after English kings and noblemen (these names have largely been supplanted by Spanish ones; a small islet east of Isabela, however, still bears Cowley's name). Though fresh water is scarce in the Galapagos, it can be found in a few localities. One particularly favored spot was Buccaneer Cove on the northwest end of Santiago. Fresh meat, in the form of the giant tortoises, was another valuable commodity to be had in the Galapagos. The giant tortoises were highly prized by mariners because they could be kept alive in the holds of ships for many months without food or water.
By 1790 pirates were being replaced by whalers. Captain James Colnett was commissioned by His Majesty's government to investigate the possibilities of sperm-whale fisheries in the region and visited the islands in 1793 and 1794. Colnett made the first reasonably accurate map of the archipelago and set up a "Post Office Barrel" on Floreana. Whalers, who were often at sea for years, would leave letters in the barrel and ships heading back to England would pick up the letters and deliver them to port. The Post Office Barrel may still be seen today on the shore of Post Office Bay.
Soon whalers from New Bedford as well as England were coming to the Galapagos in large numbers. Like the pirates before them, whalers would hunt tortoises, turtles, birds, and occasionally land iguanas for food. The whalers, though, were more numerous than the pirates had been and some races of tortoises quickly became extinct. As many as 200,000 tortoises may have been taken over the course of the 19th century. Also taken in great numbers were fur seals, whose thick, luxurious fur was highly prized. By the early 20th century they were nearly extinct but, under protection in recent years, their numbers have increased. In 1813, when the U.S., Britain, and France were at war with one another, the American Captain David Porter, commanding the U.S.S. Essex, nearly destroyed the British whaling fleet in the Galapagos. At the same time, Porter charted the islands and made careful observations in his log. He also witnessed and made notes of a volcanic eruption on Floreana in July 1813, the only known historic eruption of this volcano. Porter was also the first to remark about the differences in the tortoises, particularly in the shape of their shells, from the various islands. When anchored in James Bay, Porter released several goats to graze near the shore. However, after several days the goats disappeared into the interior. Porter had not intended to release the goats, but in subsequent years many were deliberately released to provide a continuing source of meat to ships in the area. These goats multiplied, devastated the native flora of Santiago and several other islands and threatened the native herbivores, such as the giant tortoise, with starvation. Introduced species remain the single greatest threat to the Galapagos biota.
Among the whalers who stopped here was Herman Melville, the great American novelist and author of Moby Dick. Although Melville was unimpressed by what he saw, "five and twenty heaps of cinder dumped here and there in an outside city lot", he ,nevertheless, wrote a short story, Los Encantadas published in 1854, that took place in the islands,. The title is the name whalers and pirates often used for the islands, the Enchanted Isles.
Up to 1832, the islands were nominally owned by Spain, which, however, had taken little interest in them and had done almost nothing to enforce its claim. In 1832, they were claimed by the two-year old Republic of Ecuador (which lies 1000 km to the east), and named the "Archipelago del Ecuador". In 1892 they were renamed "Archipelago de Colon" in honor of Columbus and the 400th anniversary of his discovery of America. This remains the official name of the islands, but the original name, Galapagos, is more widely used. In 1833, the Ecuadorian government granted a concession to Jose Villamil, a Frenchman who had left Louisiana when it was sold to the United States, to establish the first settlement in the Galapagos, on Floreana. Villamil raised fruits, vegetables, cattle, pigs, and goats and did a brisk business trading with whalers.
By the time of Darwin's visit in 1935, tortoises were already disappearing from Floreana. He found two to three hundred people living on the island and that "the staple article of animal food is supplied by the tortoises. Their numbers have of course been greatly reduced in this island, but the people yet count on two days' hunting giving them food for the rest of the week. It is said that formerly single vessels have taken away as many as seven hundred, and that the ship's company of a frigate some years since brought down in one day two hundred tortoises to the beach." By 1846, well after Villamil's colony had been abandoned, Berthold Seeman, a naturalist aboard the H.M.S. Pandora, reported there were no tortoises to be found on Floreana, but there were 2000 head of cattle. Wild dogs roamed the island, and were later reported to attack visitors. The Santa Fe and Rabida tortoise races also became extinct in the nineteenth century.
The Whaling interest in the Galapagos waned in the 1860's as sperm whales became scare and petroleum products began to replace the need for whale oil. Though ships continued to occasionally stop there to take fur seals and provision, the great era of pirates and whalers was over.
Darwin and Evolution
In June 1831, the H.M.S. Beagle set sail from England under the command of Commander Robert Fitz Roy on a 4 year surveying mission. Fitz Roy had decided to take along someone who would "profit from the opportunity of visiting different countries yet little known." The person who secured this unpaid position was 22 year-old Charles Darwin. Darwin, repelled by the sight of surgery performed without anesthesia, eventually enrolled at Cambridge University with the objective of becoming a clergyman in the Church of England. However neither the medical or ministerial field excited him, and his father, a physician, considered him something of a disgrace. Darwin had become interested in geology and spent some time studying geology informally with the great Scottish geologist Charles Lyell. Darwin was also an avid beetle collector as. After three years of surveying the South American coast, the Beagle reached San Cristobal in September 1835 and spent 5 weeks in the Galapagos carefully charting the archipelago. Fitz Roy's chart was remarkably accurate and remained in use until the U.S.S. Bowditch recharted the area in 1942.
While in the Galapagos Darwin made careful observations regarding both the geology and biology of the islands. Darwin was particularly struck by the "differences between the inhabitants of the different islands":
"The distribution of tenants of this archipelago", he wrote, "would not be nearly so wonderful, if for instance, one island has a mocking-thrush and a second island some other quite distinct species... But it is the circumstance that several of the islands possess their own species of tortoise, mocking-thrush, finches, and numerous plants, these species having the same general habits, occupying analogous situations, and obviously filling the same place in the natural economy of this archipelago, that strikes me with wonder." Darwin landed on only four of the islands (San Cristobal, Floreana, Santiago, and Isabela); his wonder would have been all the greater had he visited other islands, for the same pattern is repeated throughout the archipelago.
Upon his return, Darwin continued to ponder his observations but he had other work to do. The voyage of the Beagle had been a unique scientific opportunity and he made the most of it. In 1845, he published a general account of his observations as The Voyage of the Beagle. He also published books on the Structure and Distribution of Coral Reefs and Volcanic Islands visited during the Voyage of the Beagle, the Geology of South America, the Zoology of the Voyage of the Beagle as well as a number of scientific papers. Darwin's most important work, however, on this business of species, their distribution, and their place in the "natural economy", was still to come. It took Darwin nearly 25 years to complete it, though he had most of it worked out in his own mind within four years. This germinating idea would revolutionize the way we think of the world.
Darwin is often credited with being the author of the theory of evolution, the idea that all the life on earth has evolved (developed gradually) over millions of years from a few common ancestors. However, other naturalists had already suggested this idea by the end of the eighteenth century and if any single person deserves credit for advancing the theory of evolution, it should be the Frenchman Jean Baptiste de Lamarck (1744-1829), who called his theory "transformation" rather than "evolution". Darwin had heard about the theory of transformation at Cambridge but remained a "creationist" in his own mind until after the Beagle’s return to England. As he pondered what he had witnessed in the Galapagos, he realized that many of his observations could be explained by this heretical transformation concept. What continued to puzzle Darwin and the other naturalists of the time was how transformation occurred. Lamarck had believed that characteristics acquired during the lifetime of individuals could be passed on to their offspring. He was, however, unable to support this theory with any convincing observations. Darwin's great contribution to science was that he solved the mystery of how and why evolution occurred. The answer, which he called natural selection, finally occurred to him in 1839. The essence of the idea is that those individuals born with characteristics that make them best suited for their environment are the ones most likely to survive and to successfully produce offspring that also have these characteristics. It took Darwin another 20 years to compile the evidence he felt he needed to support this idea. Darwin considered factors such as hybridism, instinct, the fossil record, geographical distribution, and embryology and neatly folded them all into his theory. However, because the theory of evolution was such a controversial concept and flew in the face of Church doctrine he held off publishing his theory and only relented after having received a letter from Alfred Wallace, a young naturalist who was then working in the islands of South-east Asia. After consulting with some of his closest confidants Darwin agreed that he and Wallace should publish simultaneous papers on the subject which they did in 1858. Although neither paper initially attracted much attention, Darwin's book, The Origin of Species, published the next year (1859), caused an immediate sensation. Darwin's concluding paragraph eloquently summarized his view of the evolution of life:
“Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”
By 1859, Darwin was recognized as an eminent scientist and his ideas regarding the how and why evolution occurred drew attention to the fundamental issue of creation versus evolution. His views were given a careful hearing, even when they were not always believed. As with any important new scientific theory, intense debate followed. Though there are those among the general public who still defend creationism today, Darwin had built such a powerful case that, among scientists at least, the issue was largely settled in favor of evolution and natural selection.