The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. SATURDAY, MARCH 30, 1889. ALONE ON THE GALAPAGOS.
Every now and then occur instances of a repetition of the story of Alexander Selkirk, which has been immortalised by Defoe m his truth-fonnded fiction of Robinson Crusoe. For there have been several-— perhaps many— such castaways who for years and years, if not for all their lives, have been left solitary waifs upon remote islands with none " their right to dispute," and sometimes with none to record their lonely histories. Now and then, however, we read of the discovery and rescue of such involuntary exiles, such for example as be of the Galapagos Islands, whose story has just been told by the " London Daily Telegraph." The exact place is Charles Island, one of the fifteen islands or islets which form the group above named, and of which the following attractive and glowing description is given :-— " Veritable little earthly paradises are these exquisite spots thrown up from the Tasty deep by some earth-and sea shaking volcanio disruption m bygone cycles of time, and m due course circled with a protecting coral reef and filled with rare flora and all varieties of pleasant, peaceful, and picturesque fauna. Kich beyond description are the slopes of these islands, where the air is ever soft and gentle, where topical vegetation luxuri ates, where the cooling brctzes are fragrant with the perfume of countless flowers, and the sun shines almost all the year round. The birds and animals are quite as harmless as the inhabitants of the modern Noah's Ark, and vastly pleasanter to look at ; rich streams fertilise the land, which has no need of plough or spade or harrow ; for, with the natives of such seclusions agriculture is a lost art." The above description is applied, it is true, not to the Galapagos only but to the Pacific Islands, generally, but the group named is indicated as one , of these sub-equatorial paradises. "These i delightful localities were discovered (we are told) by the wandering Spaniards t early m the 16th century, and christened on account of the numerous "galapagos," or giant tortoises, they found there. The islets had never been inhabited by man or interfered with by aborigines, and it is only iv the present century that deported criminals have disturbed to a very limited extent the indigenous life. Professor Darwin took a great interest m the Galapagos, aud thought that the study of their fauna and flora would have an important bearing on the question of the genesis of species. Deep channels, scoured by rapid currents, sweep between the islands, and their direction and that of the winds does not tend to favor intermigration ; consequently we find that certain remarkable animal and vegetable forms are entirely confined to one islet of the group, and are represented on neighboring islands by similar and allied but really different species j As for the flora, it differs by upwards of one-half of its species from that of the rest of the globe ; and, though it possesses an affinity to that of South America, yet natural selection and new conditions have varied and altered it, and no man can tell how first the winged seeds came to these originally barren 1 spiracles and huge cauldrons of volcanic i matter, or how the beasts got there, for the giant tortoises and the birds are, of course, explicable. So for many a long century they were simply beautiful mysteries. In J829 the Ecuador Government turned tho group into a penal settlement for political offenders, who were sent to meditate on r ? ins ift a co ' :fc o of golden prison? The/ corn, the sweet potauT * h * h * w * f , S0 readily m the black, fertile loam m lower parts, where moist air lies for the higher grounds are entirely parched and rocky— and the wild herds of cattle, swine, and goats. Charles Island was at onetime the principal settlement, with a population of 200 or 300 inhabitants. However, when the United States Bteamer Hassler visited the "spot m 1871, it was found to contain little more than a dozen souls. But the dozen were a daring dozen, and one fine day they revolted, killed the Governor, and escaped, leaving the flocks and ( herds behind them. Charles Island was then supposed to be entirely deserted, , and no one set foot on tho lonely place until Professor Lee curiously invaded it the other day." fco much for the description and hidtory of tho home of tho newly discovered Crusoe of Professor i Lee —now for Crusoe himself. In the course of Mb exploration of Charles Island, Professor Lee "came across a man, nearly naked, with long flowing hair and patriarchal beard, who was engaged m the homely occupation of bringing home his dinner m the shape of a pig on his back. He bad lost all sense of time, not having the acuteness of Defoo'R more or less mythical hero who cut notches with his knife on his wooden almanac. JUe was at first m mortal dread of his visitors, but thawed by degrees, and was finally induced to talk, whereupon he , told his carious story. There is a valuable species of moss on this island which is still sought for by parties from I Guayaquil — the purple dye producing ,■ orcbilla, and this Robinson Bedivivus went nut, w h n his comrades tp porape
the color-bearing cryptogam off the trees | and rocks. It seems that he took a| fancy to Charles Island, its climate, its pigs, goats, and cattle, and indigenous giant tortoises, and accordingly deserted his companions. As they sailed away into the swift tropical sunset, he sat on a moss-clad rock and softly murmured "lam monarch of all I survey," before setting about the Robinson Crusoe busi ness m earnest The bananas and potatoes were plentiful. There were fruits and herbs, and there was a pleasing excitement m capturing wild cattle by setting traps for them — and it muat at first have been excellent sport to slay the horned beasts with a spear made out of a pocketknife tied on a stick, and to construct a hut, all for one's very own self, out of their hides. .... .Nevertheless, the old truth crept m, that "it is not good for man to he alone/ None of the big tortoises were up to the mark of Crusoe's parrot, the marine liaards never chuckled " Poor Robin Crusoe ! " and the local turtles were not of the sort that coo ; so it was that his voluntary hermit grew uneasy m his isolation. He probably told himself all the stories he could remember, and repeated all tho scraps of poetry he knew; but he must have longed for a ' Man Friday.' There Crusoe had the advantage of him ;he had dome one to teach, some one to talk to, Borne one to play . with, and every day he could hear the sweetest music m all nature, the sound of a human voice. The solitary Galapagoan, however, enjoyed none of these charms, and so he grew a beard, killed pigs, left off clothes, and was frightened when he saw a man. Then the swift reaotion ; the desire for re-entering the human community, if only as a convict, came strong upon him, and we read and understand the s'Siple hut profoundly true words. 'He was glad to see men again.' He asked to be taken back to Chatham Island, now the principal settlement, and of course his request was granted. Better 50 years of Chatham Island, with people to talk to, than a cycle of loneliness and lizards. The moral of it all is that ambitious Crusoes would^do well to provide themselves with faithful ' Fridays,' or to take care that they select an islet which lies m i the path of seagoing professors. 1 hose ! who dwell among multitudes can make solitudes for themselves at will ; but he who lives perforce alone, be he never bo wise and philosphical, must at last come to the moment when he is ' glad to see a man,' "