Galápagos and Juan Fernández Islands


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Galápagos and Juan Fernández Islands is Number 140 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The book is comprised of separate studies, with separate title pages and tables of contents, of the Galápagos and of the Juan Fernández Islands, contained in a single volume. Each study contains sections on physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. The Galápagos Islands, also known as the Archipiélago de Colón, are located in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 kilometers to the west of Ecuador, of which they are a province. Best known for their unusual fauna, they were visited in 1835 by the English naturalist Charles Darwin, who based his theory of natural selection in part on his research in the Galápagos. The Juan Fernández Islands are a cluster of small islands located in the Pacific some 650 kilometers west of Chile, of which they are part. The islands were used by the Spanish Empire as a place of banishment for malefactors and political rebels, and again as a penal colony by the Republic of Chile from 1829 to 1854 and from 1909 to 1913. One of the islands, Isla Más a Tierra (Nearer Land Island, also called Isla Robinson Crusoe), is the place where Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish seaman who is said to have inspired Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe, lived alone from 1704 to 1709. The section on the Juan Fernández Islands includes an account of a naval battle that took place in the main anchorage of the islands, Bahía Cumberland (Cumberland Bay), early during World War I, and which resulted in the scuttling by its crew of the German cruiser Dresden on March 14, 1915 after it was fired on by the British Navy. The Dresden was the last remaining ship of a German squadron engaged by the Royal Navy off the Falkland Islands on December 8, 1914.

Last updated: February 18, 2015