Galápagos: World's End

by William Beebe. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons. 1924. Large 8vo. Illustrated, xxii+443 pp. $9.00.
BEFORE Pizarro came to Peru, before Columbus had discovered a new world, an Inca King, Tupac Yupanqui, after making himself the master of an empire larger than those which Babylon, Nineveh, or Egypt ruled in their prime, dared the most adventurous voyage ever recorded. The two-year cruise of Hanno the Carthaginian around Africa; of Eric the Red to Vineland; of Vasco da Gama around the world; of Magellan through the straits which bear his name and of Columbus himself were all great achievements. Yet each one of these navigators had ships of some kind. King Tupac alone dared to sail away into the vast of an unknown ocean on rafts made of inflated seal skins. After voyaging a year he came back to the royal city of Cuzco with a great throne of copper, negro prisoners, and skins of animals like horses. He had visited the Island of Fire, afterward christened the Galápagos, the Isle of Tortoises, the Enchanted Isles, a group of volcanoes, remnant of a forgotten continent and of another age when reptiles and not mammals ruled the earth. From there he voyaged to the Island of Beyond which no man has ever identified since.
Thereafter the Galápagos became the peculiar possession of the Incas who buried a part of their treasure there at the time of the Spanish invasion. Later Alexander Selkirk, the Robinson Crusoe of Defoe, stopped there. So did a Bishop of Panama who only kept himself from dying of thirst by chewing cactus. Then came the Buccaneers, and in 1835 Charles Darwin.
Last of all, in the spring of 1923, that veteran naturalist and nature-writer, William Beebe, spent a hundred hours on the islands and has written four hundred pages of jeweled prose about what he saw there, most ably assisted by Isabel Cooper as artist, John Tee-Van photographer, and Ruth Rose historian.
Of all the treasure-hunters who have visited this World’s End he alone seems to have found the treasure which he sought. Tortoises, the oldest living creatures on earth, who were living when Columbus discovered a new world, giant lizards, — the one on the jacket looks like a dragon, — fish all blue and gold and crimson, too brilliant to be painted by any pigment known to man, moonfish of molten silver, tame sea-lions, crimson crabs; fierce viper-fish; boobies; tame mockingbirds, frigate birds and vermilion flycatchers all these are but a part of the many-colored loot which may be found in the pages of Mr. Beebe’s gorgeous book.
Even in that Eden where almost everything was tame except the dragon-flies, greed and cruelty have crept in. Wild dogs and mongrel men have killed off for food and a few cents’ worth of oil nearly all the vast tortoises, found nowhere else on earth, who had lived harmless lives there for half a thousand years.
There too was that spice of danger which Mr. Beebe secretly enjoys, as when a moray eel sprang at his face as he leaned over a pool and a great tiger-shark snapped up a sea-lion cub from the surf at his side. Altogether this chronicle of the World’s End, of the last and loneliest islands in the high seas, ranks as one of Mr. Beebe’s most fascinating books.