The secret history of the Galapagos

Think Galapagos and what springs to mind? The bountiful birdlife, the playful sea lions, Charles Darwin, born on this day in 1809, and the dulcet tones of David Attenborough, who's undoubtedly brought this wondrous archipelago into your living rooms? At least one of those things, probably. 

But theres another side to Galapagos you might not know about; a secret, sometimes sinister side thats just as fascinating as the wildlife.  

The islands furtive history was revealed to me last year during an encounter with the veteran tour guide, Klaus Fielsch, an engaging, floppy-haired raconteur who has dedicated much of his life to studying the archipelago.

The setting was perfect: dusk at the Finch Bay Hotel, at the bar, overlooking the beach

The setting was perfect: dusk at the Finch Bay Hotel on Santa Cruz island, next to the poolside bar, overlooking the beach. Birds tweeted from the mangroves, herons stalked the shore and beers slipped down in step with the sun. Rarely had I felt more content.

The human story of Galapagos, explained Klaus, did not begin with Charles Darwin, though his visit in 1835 certainly helped put the islands on the map.

The human story of the Galapagos did not begin with Charles Darwin Credit: Spencer Arnold

No. By the time Darwin arrived Galapagos was already a hunting ground for US whalers, who, as well as plucking creatures from the water, were also responsible for decimating land-based wil....

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