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For people used to living in big cities, Puerto Ayora, with a population of some 10,000, is a pleasant, peaceful, fishing port. Big-billed pelicans dive for fish in Pelican Bay, while sea lions and marine iguanas sunbathe on the rocks by the shore and on the terraces of seaside cafes. Bicycles, pick-up trucks and motor scooters make up most of the traffic around the waterfront, and there are only two sets of traffic lights in town. Most visitors board boats here for island cruises, while others simply enjoy a few day’s break onshore, availing themselves of a choice of bars, restaurants, hotels, dive shops, souvenir shops, travel agents and banks.

Background.The first record of human habitation in what is now Puerto Ayora, was a group of shipwrecked sailors who had struggled here through cactus forests from the other side of the island, within just a few months of the Academy [sailing under the auspices of the California Academy of Sciences], mooring in the bay here in 1905 and lending its name to it. The castaways had kept themselves alive for six months drinking sea lion blood, chewing unpalatable cactus pads and supping on the brackish water that collected in rock pools by the shore before being rescued. Puerto Ayora itself wasn't founded until the 1920s by a small group of Norwegians, lured to the Galapagos by ruthless promoters trading on the popularity of William Beebe's 1924 book, Galapagos, World's End , an account of his trip there with the New York Zoological Society. They promised the Norwegians - who gave away all their savings to go - a secret Eden where the "soil is so rich that 100,000 people could easily find homes", noting that gold and diamonds were probably around too. Under an agreement with the Ecuadorian government, they landed on Floreana, but within a few months of back-breaking work, some had died and many more given up. In 1926, others went to Academy Bay and built frame houses, a fish cannery and a wharf, so founding the port, and for a time, things went uncharacteristically well until the cannery blew up, killing two and injuring several others. To rub salt into the wound, the government seized their boat and all their remaining equipment, claiming that they had not built the harbours, roads and schools laid out in their previous agreement. By 1929, only three Norwegians were left on Santa Cruz, but through sheer guts and hard work, they built the foundations for the largest and richest city in the Galapagos.

|Article contributed by Dominic Hamilton|||
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