Santiago Island

Santiago Island Travel Blog

 › entry 13 of 17 › view all entries

Our next port of call is Santiago, originally named James Island after England’s King James II, was the second of the Galapagos Islands visited by Charles Darwin.

The Beagle arrived there on October 5, 1835. There they found a party of Spaniards who had come from Charles Island to dry fish and salt tortoise meat.

About 6 mi inland they discovered two men living in a hovel, who were employed catching tortoises. Santiago had long been a source of water, wood, and tortoises for buccaneers and whalers, as well as Captain Porter of the USS Essex from 1812-1814.

The Spaniards showed Darwin and his group the salt mine, now a visitor site. Darwin’s record of land iguanas is the only one that indicates there was a thriving population, as today land iguanas are extinct on Santiago.

Of the uninhabited islands, Santiago’s history of introductions and exploitation of natural resources is similar to the inhabited islands. This is because of the companies mining salt there in the 1920s and the attempt at colonization in the 1930s.

It began long before that with the exploitation of giant tortoises and the introduction of goats, pigs, donkeys, rats, and mice. Introduced plants, some arriving with the colonization attempts, have also spread throughout the island. By the establishment of the Galapagos National Park in 1959, the giant tortoise population of Santiago had been reduced to some 500 animals mostly males.

Nesting was generally unsuccessful due to predation by pigs. The Santiago tortoises were soon included in the tortoise rearing and repatriation program; rock walls were also built around their natural nests to protect them from the pigs.

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Santiago Island
photo by: portia