Galapagos Islands Travel Adventures
Gail Howard's Adventures in the Galapagos Islands
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Mr. Horneman timidly knocked. From behind the heavy door, Kubler asked who it was.

“Horneman.” He repeated it several times. Kubler finally opened the door and let us in. Kubler and Mr. Horneman spoke for awhile in German. They hadn’t seen each other for some time. Kubler was a powerfully built man, in his late 60s.

He was proud of his house and guided us through it. Everything was cement. A 500-year-old petrified Galapagos turtle shell was mounted on a slab of cement. He said he had had another shell that was about 900 years old, which he donated to the Smithsonian Institution.

Behind his huge cement labyrinth was a garden of coconut trees. He brought in a coconut for us and whacked it in half with his machete. Later in the afternoon, Kubler called to us from his dock. We rowed over. In broken English, he told us he must see Horneman between 7 and 9 the next morning. We promised to deliver the message, and for that we were given another coconut.

Meanwhile, we had known of his situation because Horneman’s neighbor, Uncle (Sigurd) Graffer had informed Forrest at lunch that the police had been waiting for four weeks for Kubler to come out of his cement palace. Kubler was accused of stealing papayas from the adjacent farm, and the police were going to lock him up in San Cristobal. Poor Karl Kubler was on the verge of starvation, in spite of his garden, because nothing was in season but coconuts.


Eddy took us, along with Sigvart and Johnny Angermeyer, to Tortuga Bay for the day. Swarms of six-foot sharks circled our boat. In the dinghy, we passed several huge marine turtles bobbing up and down in the water. Before we reached shore we spotted black, brown and tan goats. The men went off goat hunting while Terry and I were alone to enjoy the most beautiful expanse of beach we had ever seen. Turtle Bay must be the world’s longest beach. The water is shallow for hundreds of meters of white sand, so fine and pure that each lap of the tide leaves a perfect-mirror reflection of clouds and sky.

Eddy and the boys shot seven wild goats. Naturally, we had goat stew for dinner that evening.


Tanta (Solveig) Rambech was the first woman we met when we came to Santa Cruz with Jake Lundh. She had known Jake since he was a baby. Tanta came to the Galapagos in 1927, the year after Anders Rombeck came with the Norwegian expedition. They were married after she joined him, but they had been engaged for several years when they lived in Norway.

Tanta Rombeck was tall and angular with red-brown hair and eyes to match. Smile wrinkles around her eyes made the deep cross marks appear as if she were only pretending to be stern. When her smile widened, it skipped a few teeth. A warm woman of old-country stock, she never had children of her own, but was like a mother to everyone, including us.

Tanta Rombeck thought Terry and I should meet some of the other islanders. The day she came to Nelson’s to invite us to tea, Friedel and I were sewing shorts. Forrest was lying on the sofa nursing a headache. Tanta’s first words of concern to him were, “S’a matter? Ya sick in da head?”

Friedel came with us to tea at the Rambech’s. Tanta Rambech brought out a big box of photos and keepsakes from the cupboard. As she was showing us old photos of early islanders, Anders Rambech, Edgar Potts and Louie arrived. They all worked for UNESCO, building the Darwin Station under Forrest’s supervision. Uncle Rambech was open and friendly with a touch of humility, the kind of person everyone likes.

Edgar Potts, Forrest’s foreman, was a stout replica of Ernest Hemingway. Both Louie and Potts were from the Belgian Congo. When Belgians had to leave the Congo, Louie left first and Potts followed. When we asked why they decided to come to the Galapagos, Potts replied, “The Congo is on the equator and the Galapagos is on the equator. We love living on the equator.”

The conversation turned to Galapagos gossip.

We were told that Dr. Ritter and his mistress, Dore Strauch, left their spouses in Germany and fled to the uninhabited island of Floreana in 1929. Ritter was not happy when he had to share Floreana with the Wittmers, who arrived three years later.

Shortly after, Baroness von Wagner sailed to Floreana with two lovers, loads of personal treasures, and plans to build a luxury hotel for millionaires. She shocked her neighbors, the Wittmers, by bathing in their only source of drinking water. She infuriated both Ritter and the Witmers by imposing her own rule of law on the island.

The Empress of Floreana soon tired of Lorenz as a lover, preferring her other boy-toy, Philipson. She treated Lorenz as her slave, making life unbearably miserable for him. Eighteen months after arriving on Floreana, the Baroness and Philipson disappeared without a trace, leaving all her treasures behind. Lorenz claimed the couple left on a yacht, which was seen by no one else but Lorenz.

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© Copyright 2006-. Gail Howard.

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