Plundering Paradise: The Hand of Man on the Galapagos Islands [NOOK Book]

Overview

Mention the Galápagos Islands to almost anyone, and the first things that spring to mind are iguanas, tortoises, volcanic beaches, and, of course, Charles Darwin. But there are people living there, too -- nearly 20,000 of them. A wild stew of nomads and grifters, dreamers and hermits, wealthy tour operators and desperately poor South American refugees, these inhabitants have brought crime, crowding, poaching, and pollution to the once-idyllic islands. In Plundering Paradise, Michael D'Orso explores the conflicts ...

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Plundering Paradise: The Hand of Man on the Galapagos Islands

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Overview

Mention the Galápagos Islands to almost anyone, and the first things that spring to mind are iguanas, tortoises, volcanic beaches, and, of course, Charles Darwin. But there are people living there, too -- nearly 20,000 of them. A wild stew of nomads and grifters, dreamers and hermits, wealthy tour operators and desperately poor South American refugees, these inhabitants have brought crime, crowding, poaching, and pollution to the once-idyllic islands. In Plundering Paradise, Michael D'Orso explores the conflicts on land and at sea that now threaten to destroy this fabled "Eden of Evolution."

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When Charles Darwin first set foot on the Gal pagos Islands in 1831, he was captivated by an Eden untouched by man. But when D'Orso (Like Judgment Day) arrived on the scene in 1999, it was a different species all together that had brought him and that he found worthy of Darwin-like study-man. D'Orso explains that 3% of the Gal pagos Islands are occupied by an exponentially growing population of people whose migration to the islands began in the early 20th century with a few eccentric Norwegian settlers. The islands have more than 20,000 inhabitants, a motley crew of nationalities ranging from German to Ecuadorean, who call the Gal pagos both a refuge and a home. Predictably, these inhabitants bring inevitable dangers to the idyllic nature of the region-poaching, pollution, overfishing, crowding, ecotourism and the political warfare that will define the islands' future. With rich, witty prose as colorful as the characters he describes, D'Orso reveals the human side of the Gal pagos, including the owner of the Gal pagos Hotel, Jack Nelson, an American who has lived there since 1967; Christy Gallardo, an American who visited the island as a tourist and fell in love with and married an Ecuadorean man; and Mary Rodriguez, the wife of a Gal pagan farmer who in 1992 opened the first and only "gentlemen's club" called Quatro y Media. This is a stellar study of the alchemy of man and nature. (Dec.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Say "Gal pagos," and most people picture an enchanted, primeval group of islands populated only by giant tortoises, lazy iguanas, and strange birds lacking any fear of humans-in other words, one of the few remaining Edens. Journalist D'Orso (Like Judgment Day: The Ruin and Redemption of a Town Called Rosewood) traveled to the Gal pagos four times between 1999 and 2001. In addition to the magical fauna, he found a permanent human population of almost 20,000, many of whom are impoverished, a bustling tourist industry bringing in over 80,000 foreigners a year, and severe government instability and corruption, all of which threaten this fragile and not-so-long-ago pristine environment. D'Orso supplies a thorough history of human habitation on the islands and chronicles the political and social goings-on between 1999 and 2001 as seen through the eyes of some of the islands' more interesting characters. Part travelog, part history, and part sociological study, this well-written book is recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Lynn C. Badger, Univ. of Florida Lib., Gainesville Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A journalist repudiates the usual Discovery Channel views of the remarkable islands and examines the lives of the many who call the Galápagos home. When he began this project, D'Orso (Like Judgment Day: The Ruin and Redemption of a Town Called Rosewood, not reviewed, etc.) held the common belief that the Galápagos is largely an unpopulated natural laboratory where unique animal and plant species exist undisturbed, seen only by the curious eyes of scientists and eco-tourists. Not so, discovered D'Orso, who made four trips to the islands in the course of writing this stunning and depressing account of human beings once again despoiling a paradise. In was not until 1959 that the islands were declared an Ecuadorian national park, and the terms of that legislation allowed current residents to remain. That handful of people has grown into thousands, many of them impoverished, making their livings by illegal fishing, hunting, and harvesting-by the thousands-sea cucumbers, whose putative aphrodisiac qualities make them valuable in Asia but whose absence from the food chain threatens other species. D'Orso employs several characters throughout, most notably Jack Nelson, who, in Puerto Ayora, operates a no-frills hotel that serves as a membrane through which information passes to D'Orso. But he doesn't just sit in island bars listening to stories. He visits settlements, interviews hookers, eco-warriors, government officials, artists, and professional goat-hunters (hundreds of thousands of feral goats, donkeys, and pigs threaten the native wildlife and vegetation). Add to this already rather nasty stew a flavoring of government corruption, incompetence, and venality. Perpetually unstable, thegovernment of Ecuador (600 miles away) was enduring a variety of economic and political shocks during D'Orso's research, and he constantly reminds us not just of the vulnerability of the islands but also of the human institutions that ought to be protecting them. The rotting underside of a lovely, fragile leaf. Disturbing. (16 b&w photographs; 14 maps, not seen)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061749568
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/13/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 719,980
  • File size: 785 KB

Meet the Author

Michael D’Orso is the author of the New York Times bestseller Like Judgment Day: The Ruin and Redemption of a Town Called Rosewood and has collaborated on many notable titles, including Walking with the Wind, with Senator John Lewis. He lives in Norfolk, Virginia.

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Table of Contents

Prologue xiii
1 The Village 1
2 El Loco 25
3 Ano Viejo 45
4 Fire and Ice 61
5 San Cristobal 75
6 Four and a Half 97
7 The Station 125
8 Cobblestones 149
9 Tranquilo 175
10 Paradise 193
11 The Other Side 223
12 Cigars and Wine 247
13 Cerrado 277
14 Grandeur 303
Epilogue 319
Notes, Acknowledgments, and Sources 327
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First Chapter

Plundering Paradise
The Hand of Man on the Galapagos Islands

Chapter One

The Village

January 18, 1999

The midwinter sun has just begun to climb above the flat, blue Pacific, and already the cobbled pavers that form the streets of Puerto Ayora are warm to the touch. Marine iguanas, as common here as house cats, have crawled up from the sea to begin their daylong naps on the black lava crags that rim this island of stone.

They are outside Jack Nelson's front door as well, dozing on his concrete stoop as Jack steps into the white morning light. He shuts the door softly behind him, careful not to wake his partner Romy and their young daughter, Audrey. The mottled black reptiles lie undisturbed as Jack loosens the bleached red bandanna knotted around his neck, slips a sweat-stained Panama hat on his head, adjusts his knapsack, and checks his watch.

The march is set to begin at nine, but Jack's in no hurry to get there. Nothing begins on time on these islands. If there's one thing Jack Nelson has learned in his thirty-odd years in this place, it's that nothing in the Galápagos happens when it's supposed to. This was one of the first lessons his father taught him when Jack arrived here in the summer of '67. Patience, flexibility, the capacity to adapt -- these are the qualities the old man said a human must have to survive on these islands. They are the attributes that allowed Forrest Nelson to settle this point of land nearly forty years ago, carving a couple of cement-block shelters out of magmatic debris and sun-scorched brush and calling them a hotel. The guests back then were mostly field scientists in search of a cot and some shade, or the occasional yachtsman and his crew bound west to Tahiti, or the hustlers and con men who, to this day, arrive on these islands seeking a place where neither the law nor the truth will follow.

Tourists, per se, did not yet exist here in 1961, when the Hotel Galápagos first opened for business. Six years after that, when Jack Nelson showed up, weeks still might pass between one guest and the next. Jack never dreamed he'd stay in this godforsaken place for more than a year or two. There were fewer than one thousand people on this entire island when he first set foot here. The Norwegians on their small cattle farms up the vine-tangled slopes of that extinct volcano had been around the longest, nearly half a century. Then there were the Germans and Belgians in their little hamlet across the harbor; most of them had come just before and after World War II. And here on this side, in what was no more than a scattered settlement, were the Ecuadorians, their fishing dinghies anchored in the turquoise shallows of Ninfas Lagoon.

Of course there were the scientists, always the scientists, coming and going from their base camp at the southeastern tip of the island, just beyond Jack's father's hotel. Forrest Nelson had helped build that camp for the scientists in the summer of 1960, kicking up clouds of dust as he gunned his small three-wheeled tractor up and down the dirt trail to the site. The scientists stayed at his hotel while the gravel road was put in and the first Charles Darwin Research Station dormitories were put up.

There were no paved roads back then. No electricity. The only fresh water to be found was that which fell straight from the sky, collected in downspouts and barrels and stored beneath layers of scum and dead insects. The closest mainland was six hundred miles east, where the beaches of Ecuador baked in the equatorial sun. A ham radio might be able to pick up a station now and then from Guayaquil or maybe Quito, the deejays chattering in Spanish over the buzz of the static. To hear an American voice, Forrest Nelson had to fiddle with the knobs of his shortwave, typically late at night, when the skies were clear and he just might connect with a farmer in Nebraska, or a college kid in New Orleans, or once in a blue moon, with someone closer to home, up in Southern California, the place he had left when he sailed here in the '50s. People still talk about the time old man Nelson hooked up with a guy in a garage in Long Beach, where Nelson's ex-wife and kids had continued to live after he'd left them a decade before. He asked the man for a telephone patch, gave him the number, then told the man who he was calling.

"Jack and Christy Nelson?" repeated the voice in Nelson's headset.

"That's right," said Forrest.

"Just a minute," said the voice. Next thing Nelson knew, he could hear the guy shouting at the other end of the line.

"Jack! Christy!" And in a minute or two, Nelson's son and daughter were on the wire. Turned out this man lived next door to Christy and Jack and Nelson's ex-wife Bawn.

Who could believe it? Who could believe any of this life the old man had cobbled together, here in this place where tortoises the size of refrigerators and the age of sequoias roamed through moss-festooned mountain forests, where schools of hammerhead sharks darkened the crystalline sea like squadrons of B-52s, where the shadows of Darwin himself lurked among the lava-bouldered beaches and cactus-stabbed seaside slopes.

It was a universe away from Haight-Ashbury, where Jack Nelson had been shacked up with a girlfriend that summer of '67, the Summer of Love, dropping acid and working the streets, making ends meet by selling a lid or two of grass when circumstances demanded. This was before the vampires arrived in the Bay Area -- the straight press with their hunger to label and devour, and the posers, the losers, the wanna-bes ...

Plundering Paradise
The Hand of Man on the Galapagos Islands
. Copyright &#copy; by Michael D'Orso. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 3 of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2012

    Jason

    Morphs into a polar bear and goes to SL ( scarlet letter)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2012

    Jonathan

    Sp.....is this place gonna become a camp as welor jist an island?. He pulled out a picture of him annd his sisters tigether and put it by his head.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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