A description of the author's visit to Floreana in the Galapagos.

kerrymichaelwood By kerrymichaelwood, 22nd Oct 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/18_dv3we/
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>South America>Ecuador>The Galápagos Islands

This is a description of our cruise in the Galapagos, the guide's story of the island's history, and a late night awakening by a nude woman.


Near the midpoint of our ten-day cruise of the Galapagos, our small ship paid a call to the island of Floreana. We snorkeled at the romantically named Devil’s Crown, sharing sea space with reef sharks, golden rays, and myriads of fish.

Back aboard our yacht, a guide/naturalist regaled us with stories of the island’s earliest settlers. The first was an Irishman, stranded in 1807, who raised potatoes and vegetables and bartered them with passing buccaneers and whalers in exchange for supplies consisting mostly of liquor. In the 1830s came a German dentist and his woman. The dentist pulled all of his own and his partner’s teeth--to prevent tooth decay. A supply ship provided him with a set of metal teeth, which he and his partner shared.

Then came a pistol-packing, whip-wielding woman who called herself a baroness. With her were two paramours and a young Ecuadorian factotum she had enlisted in Guayaquil. They patched together a dwelling from sheet metal left behind by a Norwegian group, who ten years earlier had failed in an attempt to establish a fish cannery on the island. The baroness envisioned construction of a luxury hotel that would cater to millionaire yachtsmen.

These four lived a life of drunken orgies and violence, described in print by their neighbor, Margret Wittmer, whose offspring still live on the island. Rolf Wittmer, owner of the boat on which our group was touring, was born to Margret in a cave of Floreana. The dentist assisted at the birth

Relations among the island’s settlers were strained. The baroness stole supplies from her neighbors, demanded as entertainment physical combat among members of her two competing lovers, proclaimed herself Empress (or sometimes Queen) of the Galapagos, went nude, and bathed in the island’s only fresh water supply. One of her entourage confided that the woman was no aristocrat but a dancer and actress.

In 1934 the baroness disappeared after supposedly embarking with her currently favorite lover on a visiting yacht bound for Tahiti. No one else had information of such a yacht. Her body and that of her lover were never found. Suspicion of murder fell on both the Wittmer family and the bogus baroness’s rejected lover--the one who was physically smaller and came out second-best in the combats. He soon left Floreana by boat .The man was found dead on the nearby island of Marchena, apparently the victim of thirst and starvation.

The German dentist, a self-proclaimed vegetarian, died of food poisoning brought on by eating chicken that, according to one source, the Wittmers gave him in return for assisting at the birth of Rolf Wittmer. The doctor had convinced his mate that the chicken would be free of harmful toxins if cooked sufficiently.
The stories became increasingly bizarre, spiced with mysterious deaths and disappearances. Today, tales abound concerning the ghosts of Floreana.

Weary after a day of underwater, shipboard, and dry-land sightseeing, my wife and I retired early. Rather than a single stateroom, we were quartered in two smaller cabins in the ship’s bow, each with its own toilet and shower, and separated by a narrow companion way. I fell asleep, my imagination churning with the gothic tales of Floreana’s beginnings.

I awoke at 4 a.m. when I heard noise at my stateroom door. It opened and I was able to see--backlighted--the figure of a slender woman. She wore no stitch of clothing. Thinking of the ghost of the baroness, I checked the apparition’s hands for pistol or riding crop. There were none. After pausing in my room, the figure retreated, closed the door. and paid the same visit to my wife’s stateroom across the gangway. Moments later it reentered my room and began feeling the wall for a light switch. “I think you have the wrong room,” I said firmly. “I can’t find the bathroom,” came an answering murmur with a slight English accent. The figure then exited and retreated.

The nude intruder--sleepwalking or merely disoriented--was the woman lodged with her husband in the stateroom adjoining mine. Comfortable equatorial temperatures and economy of suitcase packing presumably accounted for her lack of night clothing as they did for my wife’s and mine. Before returning to sleep, I toyed with the thought that the cruise boat’s management had staged the late-night visitation to lend dash and brio to the legend of Floreana’s ghosts. If so, I would have some suggestions for the casting director. The ghostly visitor to our staterooms was a petite and slender woman--one we had chatted with at mealtimes. She was seventy-five years old.


Cruise, Galapagos, History Of Floreana, Late Night Intruder, Snorkeling

Meet the author

author avatar kerrymichaelwood

I am a graduate of Yale University with a Master's degree in English.
I can be reached at kerrywood007@comcast.net Additional info at www.kerrymichaelwood.com

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
23rd Oct 2010 (#)

I shared this on facebook. I have always wanted to visit the Galapagos.. maybe without the late night visitor...

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author avatar kerrymichaelwood
23rd Oct 2010 (#)

Thanks, Mark. Bear with me while I find my way on Wikinut.
I've got a ton of stuff to share. Finding my way to photos and so on is currently a problem. I guess you don't have Burdens, my tale of climbing Mt. Kenya and carrying a body down. Are you interested in exegeses of famous poetry? Have bundles of that.

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author avatar Melissa Dawn
23rd Oct 2010 (#)

Kerry! omg! That is hilarious! You have the same luck as myself I fear. Thanks for starting my day with a chuckle. And pleaseshare the poetry!

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author avatar Barbara Halvorson
2nd Jan 2012 (#)

We four grad students were lost in a tree cactus forest on Santa Cruz Island for 24 hours April 1970 and would not have been missed because we weren't with a tour

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author avatar Rose*
16th Dec 2013 (#)

I laughed out loud at the encounter with the unclothed woman. I wonder if she remembered it in the morning?

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