The Galapagos were once known to the sailors and pirates who encountered them as Las Encantadas: the enchanted islands, home to marvellous creatures and dramatic volcanic scenery. This captivating history of the world’s most famous islands charts their evolution from deserted wilderness to profoundly important scientific resource and now global tourist destination.The Galapagos’ rich diversity of species made it the cradle of evolutionary theory. Its scientific treasures have always been explored in surprising ways: Darwin rode on the back of tortoises, flung iguanas into the sea and attacked hawks with hats in the process of his discovery. And its lessons are far from exhausted: recently, Darwin’s celebrated finches have helped biologists to film evolution in real time.
The islands are famous throughout the world – recognition that brings with it 170,000 tourists a year and widespread development, as well as bitter clashes between environmentalists and local inhabitants. More than ever, we must be alert to the significance of this unique location – because what happens here foreshadows the fate of threatened ecosystems everywhere on earth.
I thought I knew everything about the islands until I read Henry Nicholls’s The Galápagos, the best single-volume work I’ve found and the perfect guide for travelers. Every visitor to the islands should be given a copy of this marvelous natural history to read in order to fully appreciate the richness of one of the most important pieces of real estate on the planet. A captivating book.
Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of Why Darwin Matters
This is the perfect book to take with you if you are planning a trip to the Galapagos. Even if you are not, this is an enchanting and enlightening account of the most scientifically significant islands in the world.
Tim Birkhead, author of Bird Sense
If you read one book about the Galapagos, make sure it is this. Thoroughly researched, highly informative, lively and enjoyable, each page is a real pleasure to read. Whether a first time visitor or an old Galapagos ‘hand’ Henry Nicholls’ The Galapagos should accompany you on any physical or virtual trip to these Enchanted Islands.
Ian Dunn, Chief Executive Officer, Galapagos Conservation Trust
The Galápagos is an engaging, informative introduction to the natural history of the archipelago. Charles Darwin’s observations and insights on the Galápagos are effectively used to highlight key aspects of the archipelago’s terrestrial and marine environments, the unique plants and animals they support, and how our understanding of them has evolved since his historic visit. The book also gives an accurate account of the current challenges facing Galápagos, and how they are being addressed. A surprising amount of information is packed into this concise and entertaining overview. An inspiring pre-travel read for anyone considering a visit to ‘Darwin’s Islands’.
K. Thalia Grant and Gregory B. Estes Darwin in Galapagos
Henry Nicholls has turned his most observant eye on the remarkable, but less often described human history of Galápagos. The future of the islands and their distinctive biota will be in the hands of the national lawmakers and growing number of Galápagos residents as the isolation enjoyed by Galápagos becomes a distant memory. In his lively prose, Henry lauds the unsung scientists and conservation managers who work doggedly and successfully on persistent wildlife management challenges wrought by human accident or design. His persistent focus on stewardship-man’s absolute responsibility to nature-is refreshing and important in the world of natural history literature. A thoughtfully executed and excellent read.
Johannah Barry, president of the Galapagos Conservancy
Tourists should read this book before they visit the Galápagos. In a relaxed and conversational style, Henry Nicholls introduces many of the animals and plants that live there, explains why so many are strange and unusual, and shows how natural history has been first shaped by geological history and then influenced by human history. The book is an inspiring call to visit the islands, to experience the animals and plants in the sea and on land, and to join in conserving them.
Peter Grant, Professor Emeritus, Princeton University, and coauthor of 40 Years of Evolution: Darwin’s Finches on Daphne Major Island
From the fiery volcanoes that forged the islands to the invasive species that threaten them, this is a brilliantly clear and enthusiastic guide to all that matters about the Galapagos. Henry Nicholls manages to combine detail with passion as he takes the reader through everything from Charles Darwin’s inspiration for evolution to the sad demise of the last giant tortoise of his kind, Lonesome George. I only wish the book had been written in time for my visit to the islands five years ago.
David Shukman, BBC
In his new natural history, Henry Nicholls transforms the Galápagos archipelago from perennial example to subject. Chapters devoted to geology, plants, animals, and insects finally provide a landscape framework for some of biology’s most famous stories-from Darwin’s finches to the giant tortoises that give the islands their name. Nicholls also includes a welcome and thoughtful discussion of the archipelago’s most recent and transformative arrivals, its people.
Thor Hanson, author of Feathers and The Impenetrable Forest
The tale of the Galapagos’s solitary giant tortoise and conservation icon was told to great effect by Henry Nicholls in Lonesome George. Sadly, George died in 2012, but happily Nicholls is back with an account that shows why the archipelago that shaped Darwin’s ideas still matters to us.
Henry Nicholls has added an informative, fun and up-to-date read to the Galapagos literature. By sprinkling his discussion of the geology, biology and history of the islands with quotes from historical figures, including Darwin, the Bishop of Panama, Herman Melville, and many others, he takes the reader on a unique journey of discovery of the wonders of Galapagos. He merges historical information with up-to-date science and conservation, then brings the reader back to the sites and species they will see when visiting the islands. Most importantly he discusses why Galapagos matters and the challenge to all of us to ensure its long-term protection.
Linda J. Cayot, Science Advisor, Galapagos Conservancy
In an enticingly structured, thoroughly enjoyable, rolling narrative, [Nicholls] discusses the islands’ volcanic origins, native flora and fauna, and human explorers and residents. He also describes with firsthand excitement and surprising detail what it’s like to be in the presence of the islands’ remarkably tame wildlife, from the playful red-footed boobies to Pacific green turtles and the enormous tortoises for which the archipelago is named and which were slaughtered to the brink of extinction…. There is no question, as Nicholls eloquently reveals, that we all have a stake in protecting the Galápagos.
Henry Nicholls surfs from geology, oceanography and marine biology to resident land species … One for the scientific islomane with a sense of the bigger picture.
Barbara Kiser, Nature
Part travel guide, part spotting tool, it’s facty enough for hardcore spotters while still readable enough for any Darwin wannabe.
A fascinating overview of the natural and human history of this remarkable archipelago, from prehistoric times to the present.