Jack R. Nelson
Copyright 2012 Jack R. Nelson
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The Galápagos Islands receive thousands of visitors each year on cruise yachts and at modern hotels. But it wasn’t like that forty years ago. We were about 300 colonists on Isla Santa Cruz. There was not a road to the highlands,no cars, no electric company, neither water system, nor communications. No radio, no TV, no telephone. No clinic or dentist, no repair shop, no cinema, no beauty parlor, no supermarket. Is civilization possible without paper towels?
The Ecuadorian Navy represented by a lieutenant was our government. The only airport was the WW II bomber strip on nearby Baltra Island, used occasionally by the Ecuadorian Air Force. The first charter flights to Baltra began in 1969, but over the next several years were cancelled months at a time according to the ebb and flow of tour operations. In a word, we were isolated.
Small cargo ships were usually our only transportation option. The venerable “Santa Cruz” was typical of the near-derelict shipping we relied on. Built of iron in the early 20th century, her classic styling was about the only good quality remaining. Even the main engine was missing a piston, but kept running anyhow in a peculiar back-beat as if the crankshaft got Bossa Nova. This is the way of life in these little republics; you wing it with the tools and materials at hand, whether cooking lunch or crossing an ocean.