Sailing into Academy Bay we skirted a treacherous ledge, and anchored bow and stern off Angermeyer Point, parallel with the barranca. Facing shorewards to our right an unpainted house of pine sat on a low knoll fifty yards up from the ten-foot cliff. To our left was the skeleton of a house in construction set on the barranca overlooking the sea. Behind it squatted a tiny shack topped by a wind generator on a white scaffold, while directly shorewards of Mandalay a mangrove thicket flowered in a thirty-foot fault. A small sloop and skiff were tied among the trees.
A man, apparently in his late thirties, appeared with a bevy of children. He wore only denim shorts. His feet were bare, but on his head perched a curious creation. It was made of red felt and ran fore and aft across his head. The brim, curled up at the sides, made a slight visor both front and back. A feather was stuck in the brim at a rakish angle. The hat's Robin Hood air complemented the grandiose wave its owner gave us as he untied his dinghy, loading children aboard, and rowed out.
The children swarmed aboard the instant the boat touched our side. With warm smiles they politely shook our hands, and duty done they scampered along the deck with squeals of delight to explore the ship. The man wrung our hands, sweeping off his hat and giving us a theatrical bow.
'I'm Carl Angermeyer,' he said, 'and those villains who have boarded you are my rapscallion nieces and nephews. Welcome to Angermeyer Point.'
The Angermeyer family in the Galapagos
This is how James S. Rockefeller, Jr. in his book "Man on his Island". first encountered the Angermeyers in the Galapagos Islands in the late 1950s and heard their story. And what a story it is!
The Angermeyers arrived in the Galapagos in 1937 to escape the turbulence in Europe. Their parents were keen for their five sons Fritz, Gus, Hans, Heinrich and Karl, all between 17 and 24 years old, to flee Nazi-Germany, and sold their home in order to purchase them the yacht which they named after their mother, ‘Marie’. The parents, and two daughters, stayed behind until the five sons had successfully settled overseas. Eight years later they were all killed during the carpet-bombing of Hamburg.
The Angermeyers found an old two-masted ketch in Stralsund which needed extensive repairs. Once at sea, the 'Marie' was wrecked off the coast of England and sold for 4000 pounds. Months went by and they started to run out of money. In 1936 they found another yacht in Denmark, the "Marie 2", and started out again but bad weather forced them to return. In early 1937 the four brothers Fritz, Gus, Hans and Karl - Heinrich had already gone back to Hamburg - bought tickets for the steamer "Orbita" to cross the Atlantic . On board, Hans met the Dutch ballet dancer Lizzie and the two got married in the port city of Guayaquil in Ecuador. After weeks of waiting, they boarded the supply ship "Manuel Cobus" for their final destination Academy Bay in the Galapagos Islands.
Finally, on 27 June 1937, two years after their departure from Hamburg, they arrived on the island of Santa Cruz. And while Germany prepared for war, the thirteen large and six small islands of the Galapagos remained in a peaceful slumber. Just two dozen people, Norwegians, Brits, Spaniards, Ecuadorians and also a few Germans, shared Santa Cruz with an abundance of wild pigs, goats and iguanas and papayas, mangoes and oranges everywhere.
The Cave - Gus Angermeyer's first home
The four brothers worked hard to build a 'farm', a wooden hut, and later a small house. After all, they needed to prepare for the arrival of their parents and two sisters and Heinrich. There was no electricity on the island, no radio and no newspapers, and mail took months to reach them.
They built a small boat and started fishing, both for their own consumption and commercially. Then came the shocking news: war in Europe and the death of their family in Germany. For a while they worked on the mainland but got 'homesick' for Santa Cruz. Even though Lizzie returned to Holland, all had started a family and helped each other building houses in close proximity to each other. The government granted them ownership to the land and they all had their own ship in which to go fishing.
Gus outside his hut
And they had visitors: Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeld, Hans Hass, Jacques Cousteau and Heinz Sielmann; even Prinz Philip arrived on his yacht "Britannia". The Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl of KON-TIKI fame became good friend with Karl Angermeyer.
Karl died in 1988, Gus in 2004 and Fritz in 2007 but their story, which began more than 77 years ago in Hamburg, is being kept alive in the Galapagos not just by their children and grandchildren but also in the names of hotels, travel organisations, and places around the island named after them.
Hans Angermeyer's daughter Johanna returned to the Galapagos many years later in order to write a book about her parents' incredible lives. I couldn't resist ordering it.