The first visitors to the Galápagos Islands were Native Americans from mainland South America. The islands bear no archaeological remains of dwellings or other structures, so it is quite unlikely that any native colonies were ever established there. Pirates and renegades first inhabited the islands during the early 1500s. They would hide and camp out on the islands after raiding Spanish colonial ports. Due to their inhospitable nature and lack of water, the Spanish paid the islands little attention, giving them the name ‘Las Encantadas’ or bewitched islands.
A new period began in 1832 when Ecuador proclaimed its sovereignty over the islands. There were only a handful of permanent settlers at that time but their number had increased to around 300 by 1835 when the HMS Beagle arrived with Charles Darwin on board. Darwin spent five weeks in the Galapagos collecting and preserving specimens from four separate islands. His field observations led him finally to conclusions published in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859. The first Galápagos colony was established on the island of Floreana. The archipelago experienced many attempted settlements from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century by individuals from Norway, the US, and the UK. During World War II, a United States Army Air Force base was established on Baltra Island. From Baltra, crews patrolled the eastern Pacific for enemy submarines and provided protection for the Panama Canal.