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Floreana Island probably has the most colorful and talked about history of all the Galapagos Islands. No one truly knows what went on among it’s first inhabitants except they themselves. And even then, mysteries remain.


The Characters

Among the first people to settle Floreana there are tales of:

  • A Doctor (Dr. Friederich Ritter) who along with his companion (Dore Strauch) lived as nudists, were vegetarians and shared a pair of metal false teeth (for chewing) between them.
  • A Family (Heinz, Harry and Margret Wittmer) seeking a simple life in a pristine environment for the health of their ailing son.
  • A Baroness (Eloise Bouquet – Wagner) who along with her three lovers wanted to rule the island and turn it into an exclusive resort.

Unique People In a Unique Setting

There have been books written about how the lives of these unique people came together and played out. They tell of domination, betrayal, disappearance, death, and of a pioneering spirit that could not be broken.

While we were visiting Floreana Island these stories were told to us under a starlit sky. We were all gathered around near the beach sipping cool drinks, and our imaginations were running wild. At the time, thinking about that group of eccentric people breaking new ground on such a tiny isolated island was absurd and comical. But later when we were hiking around the island I realized that those people would have needed real fortitude, self reliance and endurance.

Mysteries Remain on Floreana Island

No one really knows what happened to the baroness, except maybe those that were present during her mysterious disappearance. Her disappearance was investigated but never solved. And the people that may have witnessed what happened have since died.

The doctor died of food poisoning. There is some speculation as to weather or not it may have been a convenient accident. When things happen on an isolated island many questions can go unanswered.

Descendants of the first family to stake ground and withstand the bizarre happenings around them can still be found on the island. As the story goes, they are the only “normal” characters among those first settlers of Floreana.


Would My Name Be In Floreana Islands History Books?

It was definitely a first for me to spend time on such an isolated Island. Even though we were there with the Red Mangrove staff and other Galapagos explores, the feeling of isolation was noticeable. That helped us to think about what it would have been like to be among those first few settlers.

The fear of “what if” would hold me back from moving  my family to an island that was practically uninhabited and had no modern conveniences at all. And the thought of remaining, holding my ground while mysterious death and disappearance were swirling around does not appeal to me.

I don’t think you would have found my name in the history books of Floreana Island during those early days, or at least my presence there would not have lasted very long.

History Adds Spice And Interest

Exploring Floreana Island was really fun.

Hearing about the history of the people of Floreana made our stay more interesting. Picturing Dr. Ritter, the baroness and the Wittmer family going about their daily lives while we were exploring the island made us think more deeply about the island itself. And knowing that the Wittmer family was still living on Floreana made being there even more special.

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5 Responses to The Mysterious History Of Floreana Island

  1. […] child Rolf Wittmer became the first documented birth on Floreana. According to the articles here and here, the doctor lived with his partner. They were nudists, and shared a set of metal teeth […]

  2. Drew Haines says:

    I want metal teeth too!! Can I have some mom? :D

  3. ann nicholas says:

    “The Galapagos Affair” is the definitive book on this (if you can find a copy); and I’m happy to say that it has finally been made into a movie:

    • b says:

      My recollection of Dr. Ritter was that he was a dentist {I have been to the islands and have read several books about the history]. However, the current film/documentary paints him as a physician.

  4. […] of metal false teeth with. Everyone and everything was rather mysterious. Read more about them here. And in terms of career opportunities on the island, piracy was a biggie. Due to their isolation, […]

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