Friday, May 27, 2016

GALAPAGOS: Hijacked by escaping convicts!

     Back in the Pacific Ocean we sailed to Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands, where we traded six packages of instant powdered milk, one can of shortening and two bottles of hot pepper sauce for a Galapagos tortoise, 11x11 inches across the shell, naming him Jonathon Mushmouth.
my parents
Me holding cat; Ted; first mate Nick holding Jonathan Mushmouth

     (The exchange was legal. We had a permit, issued in Ecuador, to take "two of every kind" of animal from the islands.) Years later we gave Jonathan to the Hanshin Zoo in Osaka, Japan, the zoo's first Galapagos tortoise. They eventually obtained several more. We expected Jonathan to outlive us but in the 1980s he got sick and died.

Skipper and Nick at Galapagos Post Office
Santa Maria - From my parents' book, All in the Same Boat: "By suppertime we were anchored in 4-1/2 fathoms in Post Office Bay, renowned, obviously, for its post office--but one that is a bit different from most and with a special history. Since the days of the whaling ships, a barrel has been maintained here on the beach, where ships outbound for two or three years could deposit letters to be picked up by other ships on their way home.
     In recent years this tradition has been carried on by passing yachts, with the help of the sole white family on the island, the Witmers. Mrs. Witmer collects the letters that have been deposited, cancels them with an official rubber stamp marked 'Post Office Bay,' and leaves them to be picked up by the next yacht. We had heard that mainland postal services all over the world honor this cancellation." 
     For our outgoing mail, we opted instead to arrange for the captain of a visiting yacht, Valinda, to take them with him to California. We agreed to rendezvous at James Bay, on uninhabited James Island, on the morning of February 16, 1958. We were there on time but the Valinda never showed up. . . or so we thought.
From my journal: official Galapagos stamp
     "Throughout the day we kept an eye on the expanse of James Bay, expecting at any moment to see the big power yacht appear. We had a stack of letters ready to hand over and we felt more than a little put out when darkness fell and it became apparent that Valinda had not kept our date. By noon the next day we reluctantly put away our envelopes full of news, and started off for the next post office on our route--3,000 miles away.
     "Out of fairness to her owner, this might be the place to tell what happened to Valinda. Months later (while leafing idly through a back issue of Life magazine) we learned that Valinda had been there to meet us. She had reached James Bay the night before and anchored to wait for us. Just at dawn, while we were all asleep aboard the Phoenix, five miles away around the point, Valinda had been boarded by twenty-one escapees from the penal colony on the neighboring island, Isabela. They had mutinied the night before, raided the arsenal, stolen a couple of small boats, and by chance had come across Valinda in the course of their escape flight.
     "The convicts forced her to sail for Ecuador, a trip of sixty-three hours under power. At Puna they took the ship's boat and went ashore, leaving the yacht to sail north to the Canal Zone, where they gave the alarm."
The Historical Chronology of the Galapagos, 1535-2000, records in February 1958, "The 'Phoenix', with Earle Reynolds, his wife Barbara, their children, Jessica and Ted and a Japanese crewmember arrived at Wreck Bay. They went on to Academy Bay where they found the French yacht 'Cle Du Sol', and the American 'Valinda'. The convicts on Isabela were asked to prepare a celebration on February 12th. but on the 9th. they revolted and with stolen weapons took the policemen prisoners. 10th. Puerto Villamil was occupied. 12th. they boarded two fishing boats 'Teresita' and 'Ecuador'. At Punta Moreno they took possession of the 'Viking'. They continue with this and the 'Teresita', to Santiago Island where they captured the 'Valinda' belonging to William Rhodes Harvey Jr. They reached the continent on 17th. and abandoned ship at Esmeraldas but were eventually captured by the police."
     Meanwhile, unaware of our close call, we shrugged off the Valinda's failure to meet with us and proceeded on to the Marquesas and back to Hawaii.


Today on BONUS FEATURES: PHOTO: Unidentified birds, Galapagos

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