The volcanic Galapagos Islands are situated around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, about 1000 kilometres west of Ecuador, to which they belong. Until 1968 the only way of getting to them was by sea. Nowadays there are regular flights to Baltra and San Cristobal islands from mainland Ecuador. The first Spanish navigators to chart the Galapagos archipelago were convinced they could see the islands move. The strong currents and mists made it seem that the islands were on the move and not the ship. These lands, they thought, were bewitched. They called them Las Encantadas, the Enchanted Isles. Charles Darwin was 26 years old when, aboard the HMS Beagle, he first caught sight of the Galapagos on 15th September 1835. 24 years later he published his book, ‘The Origin of the Species’. It brought a completely new view of life on Earth. Species are not permanent, but are constantly changing, one form into another. What we see today is simply a snapshot of the ones that have struggled and survived. The Galapagos Islands were the origin of all Darwin’s views. In 1959, exactly 100 years after the famous publication, UNESCO created the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galapagos Islands in order to organise and maintain a scientific research centre there. The Ecuadorian government established the Galapagos National Park and the following year the first buildings of the Darwin Station appeared in Academy Bay on Santa Cruz.
‘The Enchanted Isles’ documentary follows a two week voyage on a small yacht only capable of taking 15 visitors. With an extremely knowledgeable and informed National Park ranger, the group was able to make numerous landings on most of the islands and gain sightings of many endemic wildlife creatures that roam the islands.
John Myers first visited the Galapagos in the early 1980s. He returned in 2012 to make this film. Although still a magical place to visit, changes have indeed taken place. There are more tourists, more Ecuadorian inhabitants, and increased economic development. Fragile and unique species are increasingly being exposed to real and undeniable menaces. The long term survival of the Galapagos will depend on conservation goals and programmes involving accepted levels of development, control of migration and the prevention of the introduction of unwanted plants, animals and diseases. Tourism must be limited and those that visit must be informed and be responsible for their actions. It is to be hoped that the Galapagos will long continue to be a place of wilderness where the animals live in their own world, within our world, never fearing man, and continue to be a constant source of enlightenment, mystery and wonder.
Running time is approximately 55 minutes.
Tags: Ecuador, Galapagos, South America