The official name of the Galapagos Islands—and title of this book —is an unhappy result of the few occasions when politicians become “historical” minded. For not only did the great discoverer fail to reach the Pacific Ocean, but its very existence even was opposed to his fundamental geographic conceptions.
As a result of his vast bibliographical knowledge, Larrea was highly qualified for the writing of this book. In fact, the 116 pages of bibliography are its most positive contribution, especially the listing of the reports of scientific expeditions to the islands. But the historical usefulness of the work is marred by a number of strange errors, as if the author trusted his memory excessively. For instance, he confuses Drake’s circumnavigation with his last voyage to the Caribbean (pp. 70-71) ; he attributes to Sharp the sack of Guayaquil by Grogniet (p. 73) ; and Edward Cooke is substituted by James Cook (p. 105).
On the other hand, though Larrea coincides with all other writers in that Bishop Berlanga was the first European discoverer of the Galapagos in 1535, the Historia of Antonio de Herrera (Década Tercera, Libro Nono, Cap. V.) seems to suggest that the first discoverer may have been, after all, Captain Santiago de Guevara, in 1526.
But the principal criticism of this reviewer refers to chapter I, on prehistoric discoveries. Larrea maintains (as does Thor Heyerdahl) that Tupac Yupanqui reached the Galapagos with a great Inca fleet. This story is based on the sole testimony of Sarmiento de Gamboa, who took it from one single Indian witness in Cuzco, about a hundred years after the supposed event should have taken place. (There cannot be the least doubt that Cabello Balboa takes his version directly from Sarmiento; only that the Quito edition of his works must be consulted, and not the Spanish translation of a fragmented French translation, published in Lima). Besides, there were no horses, gold, or Negroes on the Galapagos, articles which the Inca is supposed to have brought with him from the mythical islands he discovered. Finally, the Inca’s subjects—with the exception of the Tumbecinos—were no seafaring peoples, for the simple reason that no wood was to be found on the desert coast of Peru. For geobotanical reasons balsa navigation was limited to the equatorial tribes. And archaeological evidence corroborates a critical study of historical sources, to the effect that the Inca conquest on the coast never reached beyond Túmbez.
The omission of a modern map of the Archipelago is to be regretted.