Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz / Professor of Anthropology
Department of Anthropology
California State University, Chico
Chico, California 95929-0400
530-898-6220 [Office]; 530-898-6192 [Dept.] FAX: 530-898-6824
e-mail: / home page:

4 March 2001 [1]

[This page printed from]

© [All Rights Reserved.] Presented March 4, 2001, at the monthly lecture series entitled "World Explorations" sponsored by The Museum of Anthropology, California State University, Chico.


In July of 2000 Charlie Urbanowicz (faculty member at Anthropology at CSU, Chico since 1973) and his wife Sadie took a "trip of a lifetime" to South America. Charlie has been interested in "Charles Darwin" for many years and the opportunity arose to visit not only Darwin's inspirational islands but also the cultural phenomena of Machu Picchu. Travelling is fun, and inspirational, and as Darwin wrote:

"The voyage of the Beagle has been by far the most important event of my life and has determined my whole career; yet it depended on so small a circumstance as my uncle offering to drive me 30 miles to Shrewsbury, which few uncles would have done, and on such as trifle as the shape of my nose. I have always felt that I owe to the voyage the first real training or education of my mind. I was led to attend closely to several branches of natural history, and thus my powers of observation were improved, though they were already fairly developed." Charles Darwin, 1887, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882, With original omissions restored Edited with Appendix and Notes by his grand-daughter Nora Barlow, 1958 (NY: W.W. Norton 1969 edition), pages 76-77.

I have been interested in Darwin for a great deal of time and my wife and I were unable to sign up for the Chico Museum trip to Ecuador and The Galápagos Islands in January of 1983; we are, however, going to the March 21->24, 2001, Los Angeles' Great Museums trip!

"Whatever the controversies that surround him, Charles Darwin was certainly the most important natural scientist of the past century; he may become the most important social scientist of the next. His great insight--that humans are animals and that their behavior, like that of all animals, is shaped by evolution--is now making its way into social theory. In economics, linguistics, anthropology and psychology, scholars are attempting to see how our evolved nature, interacting with particular environments, generates the ways we trade and speak, live with others and with ourselves [stress added]." The Wall Street Journal, May 27, 1999, page A24.

The Galápagos Islands are one of the 21 provinces of the Republic of Ecuador. Spaniards first discovered the islands in 1535 but their fame really came about because of a three-week visit that the British scientist Charles Darwin made in 1835 while going around the world on the HMS Beagle. The Galápagos Islands are home to some of the most unique species of animals in the world, including the giant tortoise that it is named after, as well as flightless cormorants, penguins, and a variety of finches known as "Darwin's finches." In 1959, one hundred years after the publication of Darwin's monumental On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, approximately 97 per cent of the archipelago was designated by Ecuador as a National Park and the islands are officially the Archipiélago de Colon, named after Columbus (who never sailed the Pacific Ocean). Located on the Equator, 600 miles west of South America, the 141 islands range in size from miniscule to massive. Isabela Island, also known as Albemarle, is 1,771 square miles, or some 58 percent of the archipelago's estimated 3,043 square miles. For comparison purposes, Butte County is 1,640 square miles.

On January 16, 2001, the tanker Jessica (arrving from the Ecuadorian port of Guayaquil) ran aground while approaching San Cristobal Island, Galápagos Islands. It was carrying some 240,000 gallons of fuel and it began leaking. Fortunately the capital of the islands, Puerto Bacquerizo Moreno, is located on San Cristobal (also known as Chatham Island) and the proximity to a population center, prevailing currents, and quick responses from around the world, helped limit the environmental disaster. For my own short article concerning the oil spill, please see the Chico Enterprise-Record of February 25, 2001, and "The Galápagos Islands: Every Little Bit Helps" (pages E1 and E2), or see:

"Last month's [January 2001] offshore oil spill prompted lots of nervous calls to travel agents, as well as some cancellations of trips to Ecuador's pristine nature sanctuary. But scientists say the islands have dodged a bullet--the majority of the 200,000 gallons of diesel and bunker fuel spilled is drifting west of San Cristobal Island." Jane Costello and Rafer Guzman, The Wall Street Journal, February 2, 2001, page W13C.

"It's more or less business as usual in the Galapagos Islands despite the continued presence of an oil tanker than ran aground Jan. 16 [2001], leaking most of its cargo into the waters of Ecuador's fragile archipelago 600 miles off the Pacific Coast. ... About 100 small tourist boats serve as floating hotels for 60,000 travellers each year who visit the archipelago...." Anon., February 11, 2001, The San Francisco Chronicle, Page T3.

More recently, however, late in February 2001, the Darwin Foundation reported the following:

"On Thursday February 15, personnel from the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS) in San Cristobal reported that more fuel had started leaking from the Jessica in the morning. The fuel was actually washing up onto the shore. Fortunately it was only a small amount 2,000 or 3,000 gallons, but it was an ominous reminder of what may have happened if the currents had been flowing in the other direction when the first spill occurred. As soon as the latest spill occurred, local fishermen, and personnel from the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) and CDRS personnel started cleanup operations, placing barriers and absorbent paper around the spill. The situation continues to be monitored by the GNPS. The GNPS and CDRS fauna rescue team, which consists of 12 members trained by international experts in fauna rescue and management techniques, are on standby." []

For more information, please see the referenced web sites above, as well as the sites referenced at the end of this paper. The January 2001 oil spill came after problems of December 2000:

"Here where exotic natural diversity led Charles Darwin to the theory of evolution and the notion of survival of the fittest, a new struggle is raging: fishermen unwilling to accept limits on their catch are openly and violently defying the Ecuadorean government's efforts to preserve a delicate and threatened ecosystem. In recent weeks, fishermen have attacked conservation installations, blockaded ports and harassed tourist groups. On the island of Isabela, they even set the office of the Galápagos National Park ablaze, sacked the house of a park official and seized a group of rare giant tortoises from a breeding center there. The fishermen and their allies, who include powerful commercial interests in mainland Ecuador, have been protesting a 1998 law that granted the residents of the Galápagos Islands greater autonomy. But the measure also established a marine reserve out to 40 miles offshore, prohibited fishing in that protected area to all but local residents using "artisanal" means and required them to abide by a quota system for lobster and sea cucumber. 'They are trying to destroy our livelihood with all of their rules and regulations,' complained Leonardo Rosero Atocha, president of the fishermen's cooperative on Isabela, the poorest and most remote of the four inhabited Galápagos islands. 'But we won't let them. This is our home. We know best what has to be done to preserve the environment and nobody has the right to come in here from the continent and run us out of business [stress added].'" Larry Rohter, 2000, Where Darwin Mused, Strife Over Ecosystem. The New York Times, December 27, 2000.

Unfortunately, the environment of the Galápagos Islands has been changing since 1535, and human beings have been a major cause of those changes. Consider please, if you will Table #1 below, and the volume of tourists that now visit the islands. Change is inevitable and we must all do our small part to protect this fragile planet that we call home. As written elsewhere, every little bit helps.

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Table #1: Approximations Pertaining to The Galápagos Islands:
roughly twenty-five years of tourist arrivals.
[Sources: data based on July 2000 research.]


Table #2: Various locations: Area & Population: 

State of California
155,973 square miles
Butte County
1,640 square miles
Republic of Perú
496,200 square miles
Republic of Ecuador
109,500 square miles
Province of Galápagos Islands
3,043 square miles

Table #3: Perúvian Specifics: 

Sea level
Cuzco (or Qosqo)
11,521 feet
Machu Picchu
7,650 feet
n/a (But ~1,000 Tourists / day?)

SPECIFIC QUOTES (Pertaining to Machu Picchu and The Galápagos Islands):

#1} "The Inca culture made a more extensive and profound impact on the region than did any other pre-Hispanic society. With meager beginnings as a small tribe centered around Cusco (or Qosqo in the Inca tongue of the Quechua) in southern Peru, the Inca Empire expanded rapidly in the mid-15th century; within a century, it controlled nearly one-third of South America and more than ten million people." Rolán Solís Hernández [Editor], 1998, Let's Go Perú & Ecuador (NY: St. Martin's Press), page 44.

#2} "The pucará [fortress] of Sascahuamán is not only one of the greatest single structures ever built in preliterate America, but it is also unlike its counterparts in that we know the identity of its architects, who gave their names to the three gateways to the fortress. …'The first and principal one was Huallpu Rimanchi Inca, who designed the general plan…. [citing Garcilasco de la Vega, born in Cuzco in 1535]. … The fortress was built into a limestone outcrop 1,800 feet long, and formed of three tiers of walls rising to fifty feet high. … The precise Inca records, as revealed in their quipus, state that '20,000 labourers, in continuous relays', worked for sixty-eight years to build Sascahuamán [stress added]." Victor Wolfgang von Hagen, 1976, The Royal Road of the Inca (London: Gordon Cremonesi Ltd), page 93.

#3} "The jagged contours of the mountain summit, together with the very dense vegetation that surrounded it, combined to isolate Machu Picchu from the outside world. The site was secluded not only from the Cuzco region but also from the lowlands--cut off by the gorge of the Pongo Moenike, which is impassable in any season. Hence the remarkable nature of this urban settlement." Carmen Bernard, 1988 [1994 English translation], The Incas: People of the Sun (NY: Harry N. Abrams), page 119.

#4} "Discovered" by Hiram Bingham [1875-1956], July 1911} "The ruins straddle a narrow ridge or saddle below the peak of Machu Picchu. On three sides the city is protected by the rapids of the Urubamba, roaring through the canyon 2000 feet below. On the fourth side the massif is approachable only along another razor-like spur of mountain. The eastern side of the ridge is impassable, and on the western side there is a footpath which runs along a narrow horizontal cleft in the precipice. A handful of men could defend it against an army. On the eastern and western side of the ridge are 1500 foot precipices, down which rocks could be rolled on to intruders [stress added]." Leonard Cottrell, 1957, Lost Cities (London: Pan Books), pages 202-203.

#5} "Nothing epitomizes Machu Picchu precarious situation better than the long-running debate over a proposed cable car system to carry most of the sites visitors from Aguas Calientes, the ramshackle town built around the site's train stop, up to the ruins. Since the mid-1990's, developers and the Peruvian government have said that the project, designed to replace a 30-minute bus ride, would improve access and encourage more people to visit the site. But many environmentalists and preservationists contend the cable car would further degrade the unique relationship between the ruins and their natural setting. ... [today] the cable car plan [is] on the back burner for now." Ted Rose, 2001, Good Morning In Peru's 'Lost City.' The New York Times, Sunday, January 7, 2001, pages 10 and 20, page 10.

#6} "….on 12 February 1832 Ecuador officially claimed the [Galápagos] archipelago, beating out halfhearted efforts by the U.S. and England." Julian Smith, 1998, Ecuador Handbook: Including the Galápagos Islands (Chico: Moon Publishing), page 350.

#7} "The natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention. … Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact--that mystery of mysteries--the first appearance of new beings on this earth [stress added]." Charles Darwin, 1845, The Voyage of the Beagle [Edited by Leonard Engel, 1962, NY: Doubleday], pages 378-379.

#8} "Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small, intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species have been taken and modified for different ends [stress added]." Charles Darwin, 1845, The Voyage of the Beagle [Edited by Leonard Engel, 1962, NY: Doubleday], page 381.

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For more information, please see the following:

Charles F. Urbanowicz, February 25, 2001, The Galápagos Islands: Every Little Bit Helps. The Chico Enterprise-Record, (page E1 and E2) or see: [Oil Spill in The Galapagos Islands] [Charles Darwin Foundation, Inc.]

At you will find my most recent and complete Darwin item and a list of all of my Darwin web pages to that date, including: [2000a South American words} Presented by my wife Sadie and me at the AAUW [American Association of University Women] Meeting in Chico, California, October 6, 2000. [2000b South American visuals]. [2000c Darwin visuals]

Selected publications include the following:

Peter Benchley, 1999, Galápagos: Paradise In Peril. National Geographic, Vol. 195, No. 4, April 1999, pages 2-31.
Ben Box, 1999, Footprint South American Handbook 2000 (Chicago: Passport Books).
Rolán Solís Hernández [Editor], 1998, Let's Go Perú & Ecuador (NY: St. Martin's Press).
David Horwell & Pete Oxford, 1999, Galápagos Wildlife: A Visitor's Guide (Connecticut: The Globe Pequot Press).
Michael A. Malpass, 1996, Daily Life in The Inca Empire (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press).
Donald P. Ryan, 1999, The Complete Idiot's Guide To Lost Civilizations (NY: Macmillan General Reference).
Julian Smith, 1998, Ecuador Handbook: Including the Galápagos Islands (Chico: Moon Publishing).
David Stanley, 1989, South Pacific Handbook (Chico: Moon Publishing)
Marylee Stephenson, 1989, The Galapagos Islands: The Essential Handbook for Exploring, Enjoying & Understanding Darwin's Enchanted Islands (Seattle: The Mountaineers).
Paul Theroux, 1979, The Old Patagonian Express (Boston: Houghton Miflin Co.).
Victor Wolfgang von Hagen, 1976, The Royal Road of the Inca (London: Gordon Cremonesi Ltd).
Jonathan Weiner, 1994, The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in our Time (New York: Vintage Books).
Alan White & Bruce Epler, 1982, Galapagos Guide, 4th Edition (Quito, Ecuador: Libri Mundi - Librería Internacional).

Some potentially other useful web sites: [US State Department - Services - Travel Warnings....] [Centers For Disease Control and Prevention] [Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores del Perú] [Links to Perú] [Machu Picchu] [The Machu Picchu Library] [ - online guide to Ecuador and the Galapagos] [Virtual Galápagos] [iExplore | Multimedia Presentations} The Galápagos Islands] [The Friends of Charles Darwin Home Page] [Darwin Day Home Page] [The Ilkley Pages: Darwin Gardens] [Official Darwin Awards]


[1] © [All Rights Reserved.] For the monthly lecture series entitled "World Explorations" sponsored by The Museum of Anthropology, California State University, Chico. For more information about the entire series, please call The Museum of Anthropology at (530) 898-5397. To return to the beginning of this page, please click here.

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Copyright © 2001 (all rights reserved).

26 February 2001 by CFU

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