Before the coronavirus, life in the secluded Galápagos Islands was slow and easy. Now officials there are racing to equip hospitals and medical teams. They’re also trying to stop an economic crisis. Turns out, the islands’ celebrated isolation is worsening its hardships.
The Galápagos Islands lie 600 miles west of Ecuador. The volcanic islands straddle the equator in the Pacific Ocean. The archipelago (group of islands) gets its name from a species of giant tortoise that lives there. The islands are also home to rare swimming iguanas and exotic blue-footed birds.
The Galápagos Islands are most famous for an 1835 visit by scientist Charles Darwin. His observations there led him to some faulty conclusions about the origins of life. Darwin’s opinions ended up in a book—and became a theory that rejects God as Creator.
Instead of crediting God with designing great variety among His creatures, Darwin believed animals adapted themselves to their environments. He claimed they changed their features over time in order to survive.
Mercifully, God did design His creatures with some abilities to adapt. Human blood, for example, can adapt to varying temperatures; animals can grow thicker coats. Adaptability is a gift straight from the Creator’s hand. (Colossians 1:16)
Darwin’s notions went far beyond basic adaptability. He and his followers after him imagined that with lots of time, one species could adapt into an entirely different species: A bear, he said, could turn into a whale. Darwin’s studies became the flawed but widely embraced theory of evolution—in which scientists claim humans descended from apelike ancestors.
This archipelago with the strange animals and the historic visitor has attracted many nature- and isolation-loving tourists—over 275,000 last year alone.
Until recently, the islands were so remote that residents and visitors flew to the mainland for medical treatment—or flew doctors in. Locals joked that “in the Galápagos, it is prohibited to get sick.”
Then the novel coronavirus arrived.
The first cases probably came from Ecuador. Authorities scrambled to equip local hospitals, where there are only four ICU beds and one testing lab.
Tourism was also hit. For weeks, not a single visitor came. “The base of our economy has entirely collapsed,” says Norman Wray, governor of the islands.
Joseline Cardoso’s family-run hotel stands empty. Cardoso’s new reality feels like a nightmare. “To be with an empty hotel breaks your heart,” she says.
Residents made urgent changes. They are growing vegetables so they don’t go hungry while waiting for supplies in their remote locale.
When the Galápagos might reopen is unclear. The pandemic has left many islanders pondering their isolation—and their dependence on nature, tourism, and travel.
Cardoso hopes to learn from her island’s history. “Animals have adapted,” she says, “and we humans cannot be the exception.”