The Galapagos Discovery

The Galapagos discovery took place 500 years ago. By that time the discoverers described these Islands as the "Enchanted Isles"

Tomas de Berlanga


galapagos discovery

500 hundred years ago the Dominican Bishop Tomas de Berlanga accidentally discovered the Galapagos Islands while en route from Panama to Peru.

The ship that was taking him to Lima (Capital city of Peru) drifted away at sea on the Pacific Ocean, taken by the ocean currents to The Galapagos Archipelago, arriving there on March 14, 1535.

The Galapagos discovery took the Spanish sailors by surprise and they described these unknown lands as the "enchanted isles" as they appeared and disappeared enshrouded in the mist, and the area's gentle winds gave the sensation that the Islands themselves were moving instead of their ships.

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Bishop Berlanga was known for his political influence in the Spanish Court, and was sent to settle political affairs, including the mediation between two conquistadors Almagro and Pizarro.

Tomas de Berlanga (Who's real name was: Tomás Martinez Gómez) was a humanist, religious and adventurer, belonged to a noble family from a province in Spain.

On February 23rd 1535, he embarked on a trip southward to Peru with very favorable winds, but on the eighth day a mysterious current pushed them away from the continent and the ship drifted without control to the high seas with no idea that he will be leading the Galapagos discovery.

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The lack of food and the shortage of water were an endless hardship and thirst, no clouds promised rain and the suffering was more intense every day.

Until March 14, when, after days of anguish, they sighted high lands in the horizon and headed in that direction to arrive to a new and strange land.

For two days, they walked and climbed cliffs, craters and rocky outcrops. They tried sucking the fleshy part of cacti to calm their thirst.

Everything would strike fear in the lost sailors who thought they had arrived to a bewitching and terrifying land.

Tomas de Berlanga upon the Galapagos discovery wrote to the King of Spain the following:

"The abrupt landscape is desolate and mysterious, with no signs of human presence; the rocks are sterile, and there is nothing but seals, and turtles and such big tortoises that each could carry a man on their back, and many iguanas that are like serpents.

Great masses of volcanic rocks cover the beaches, as if God had rained stones all over!

On Passion Sunday, I had them bring on land the things necessary for saying Mass, and after it was said, I again sent the people in two's and three's, over different parts.

The Lord deigned that they should find in a ravine among the rocks as much as a hogshead of water, and after they had drawn that, they found more and more.

In all, eight hogsheads were filled, and the barrels and the jugs that were brought from the ship".

Some historians believe that the Islands visited by Berlanga could have been Isabela and Floreana after his accounts of "high sierras". Most of the Islands in the Galapagos are low and dry.

In 1537, Tomas de Berlanga retired from the Diocese, and returned to Spain to found a Dominican convent in his birth town. He gave donations to orphan young girls and funded several chapels.

He died on August 8, 1551 and was buried in the main Chapel of the Collegiate in Berlanga, Spain.

In the Galapagos Islands, streets and schools bear the name of Berlanga, to evoke the figure of the Friar who first set foot on the Islands and his contribution as a precursor to unite the Atlantic and the Pacific, thanks to its Galapagos discovery.

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The Galapagos Archipelago is a World Heritage Site, and it is a province of Ecuador as well as a National Park and a Marine Reserve. (The second largest in the world)

The terrestrial and marine environments in the Galapagos Islands create stunning and unique landscapes that have captivated thousands of tourists and scientists. This Archipelago is considered as a world class scuba diving and snorkeling site.

This incredible group of Islands is located 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador North-West of South America right in the Equator Line.

The Galapagos Island are the only place on earth where animals like: birds and reptiles, show total lack of fear to humans. These animals are indeed very friendly and consider you as part of their environment.

Recommended Reading

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides)

Ecuador & Galapagos (Insight Guides)
With 250 photos and tons of great information, this is an essential addition to your pre-Ecuador and -Galapagos reading! There are better guides if you are only interested in the islands, but for a combination trip taking in Ecuador as well, it's hard to beat.

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands

Birds, Mammals, and Reptiles of the Galapagos Islands
Small enough to fit into your pocket, yet containing comprehensive information and pictures of all the species you will encounter in the islands, this book is a must-have for nature lovers. Let's face it, Galapagos is largely about the wildlife. This book will NOT disappoint, and you'll have a great memento of your time with the seals, penguins and tortoises!

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World

Galapagos: The Islands That Changed the World
Definitely NOT a tourist's guide, but if you're like me, and find the history and geography of the islands irresistible, then this is a title you ought to invest in. Stunningly illustrated, and painstakingly researched, those of you who have been there will be enchanted again -- and those of you who have not will begin planning your trip!

Moon Spotlight Galapagos Islands

Moon Spotlight Galapagos Islands
If you're a seasoned Galapagos regular, then you will probably prefer something weightier. But for first-timers looking for simple, down-to-earth advice on where to go, what to see and the best shopping and eating on the islands, this is the book for you. Small, well-priced, and reliable!

Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire

Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire
The 10th anniversary edition of this photographer's tour of the Galapagos Islands is a stunning book, worthy of anybody's coffee table. This is a perfect post-trip talking point -- a great way to remember what you've seen, and spread the word amongst your envious friends!

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