How Did the Galapagos Islands Get Their Name?

Feb 25, 2021Blog

Just about everyone has heard about the Galapagos Islands at some point in their life. And most of them, we would hazard to guess, have been wanting to travel to the Galapagos ever since they did. Some dream of a vacation in the Galapagos Islands spent viewing the incredible wildlife. Others dream of traveling to the Galapagos for a marlin fishing trip

Out of all those people, very few we have met have ever asked about how the islands got their name. Maybe everyone is too excited about the prospect of actually going there.

The Meaning of a Name

If you are guessing that the Galapagos are named after some intrepid explorer, you would be wrong. If your next guess is that an intrepid explorer named the islands when he discovered them, you would also be wrong.

As the Galapagos Conservation Trust tells us, “In 1570, 35 years after their discovery, the Islands were officially named by Flemish cartographer Abraham Oretlius, who referred to them as ‘Insulae de los Galopegos’ or ‘Islands of the Tortoise’.”

So, how did a mapmaker in Belgium even know that there were tortoises on the islands? Well, for that little nugget of information, we can thank the Bishop of Panama, Fray Tomás de Berlanga.

“Blown off course by strong winds and currents for several days, the Bishop of Panama, Fray Tomás de Berlanga, sighted an island. Running low on provisions, he and the rest of his crew disembarked to search for fruits and water, but disappointment was soon upon them. In a letter to His Majesty describing the voyage, Fray Berlanga reported of seeing “nothing but seals, turtles and such big tortoises that each could carry a man on top of himself,” the experts at the Galapagos Conservation Trust report. 

If you would like to travel to the Galapagos Islands and see the giant tortoises that gave the archipelago its name – and enjoy a marlin fishing charter while you’re at it – give us a call at  754-704-1409.

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