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  • In 1535, a bunch of lost Spanish sailors were becalmed in a thick fog, crazed from lack of water and being dragged along mercilessly by the sea devil’s hand now known as the Humboldt Current. Aboard the ship, Tomas de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama, exhorted God to save them. The story then goes that the fog parted only to reveal a desolate, waterless rock that was, "...dross, worthless, because it has not the power of raising a little grass...." The pious Bishop and his crew were reduced to squeezing water from cactus pads. What they had actually discovered was a group of islands in such a state of grace that their impact upon natural history is unrivaled. Although the fogs continued to beguile sailors, the discovery of giant Galapagos Tortoises (a food source) and reliably available water eventually drew a notorious succession of whalers, sealers and pirates to these oceanic outposts. In 1835, an unknown scientist, Charles Darwin, visited and observed the flora and fauna with a much more detailed, scientific and appreciative eye than the lost Bishop. The result was the theory of Natural Selection, which changed the way we look at ourselves. Eventually, someone peeked below the surface and from that moment the Galapagos have been exceeding divers’ most fantastic daydreams. Writers have been trying to capture the essence of these magical "...five and twenty heaps of cinder..." since de Berlanga first applied pen to his logbook. For the Galapagos, the images, whether above or below, have always defied the confinement of words. They still do. But in our conceit, we’ve accompanied the photographs with excerpts from the great American writer and whaler, Herman Melville’s, "Encantada," a short story he wrote after visiting the ineffable place whalers and pirates called the Enchanted Isles. –Ty Sawyer

    "We had been broad upon the waters for five long months, a period amply sufficient to make all things of the land wear a fabulous hue to the dreamy mind."
    "...such is the vividness of my memory, or the magic of my fancy, that I know not whether I am not the occasional victim of optical delusion concerning the galapagos."

    "What outlandish beings are these?"
    "Little but reptile life is here found: tortoises, lizards, immense spiders, snakes, and that strangest anomaly of outlandish nature, the iguana."
    Of the unnumbered Polynesian chains to the westward, not one partakes of the qualities of the encantadas, or galapagos..."
    --Herman Melville

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