The secret history of the Galapagos – featuring murder, cannibalism and nude Germans

But the Pyros got their compensation: after leaving the smoldering island, a sperm whale sank their ship, forcing the crew to abandon ship. For months, the sailors drifted helplessly in lifeboats, sunburned and starving, before turning to cannibalism to survive.

“They drew straws to see who becomes the others’ food,” Klaus explained from the edge of his own seat. “Then they drew straws to decide who would kill that person.”

Of the 20-man crew, only eight survived. They were found, said Klaus, off the coast of South America, insane and gnawing human bones. Her story inspired Herman Melville’s legendary novel Moby-Dick.

In 1832 Galapagos was annexed by Ecuador, turning Floreana into a penal colony. Conditions are brutal, Klaus said, and so are the guards; Many prisoners died before the prison was finally closed.

Something curious happened in the following century: German emigrants gradually arrived on Floreana. It started with an eccentric professor, Dr. Friedrich Ritter, and his lover, Dore Strauch, who fled to the Galapagos when Hitler came to power. The idea was that they could hardly have been further away from Germany.

The couple lived according to the strict, Nietzschean principles that Ritter had imposed on them. “He had a precise idea of ​​how they should live,” said Klaus and took another sip of beer. “He believed in nudism, vegetarianism and chewing.”

Obsessive chewing — which means chewing food but sounds gross — was destroying Ritter’s crunches, so he had them pulled out and replaced with steel prostheses before leaving Germany. He would have had a smile like Bond villain Jaws, although by all appearances Ritter wasn’t one for smiling.

The two settled on Floreana and began documenting their strange life in letters they sent to a newspaper in Berlin. They put the letters in an old wooden barrel that the whalers had turned into a makeshift mailbox; When ships returned to the US, they stopped in Floreana, emptied the keg and took the letters home. The secret history of the Galapagos – featuring murder, cannibalism and nude Germans

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