Located 600 miles from the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands were discovered in 1535 by Fray Tomás de Berlanga, bishop of Panama, whose ship was becalmed and swept westward along the Humboldt Current. The bishop was impressed by the giant tortoises, which he thought resembled a type of women’s saddle, known in Spanish as a galápago. In September 1835, Charles Darwin arrived aboard the survey ship HMS Beagle. Over the centuries, the islands were visited by mariners, pirates and whalers, who ate the tortoises, shot the fur seals and introduced alien species such as goats. Not until the establishment of a national park in 1959 could a process of environmental reconstruction begin.

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