Between late 1941 and 1946, Baltra Island (also known as South Seymour) hosted a US military base. It was a part of a number of geostrategic moves aimed at protecting the Panama Canal during World War II, and followed the signing of the Treaty of Occupation of South Seymour between Ecuador and the USA in January 24, 1942.
The Americans brought several changes to the Galapagos Islands. They built an aqueduct from El Junco to El Progreso, in San Cristóbal Island, to supply drinking water to arid Baltra. They set up radar stations at Point Albemarle and Webb Cove, on Isabela Island, and on the south side of Española Island, and they placed several machine gun nests on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island.
Their presence was well recorded in numerous documents currently preserved in US military archives, and in the memories, stories and photos of the soldiers who were stationed at The Rock, as that isolated place was nicknamed.
A series of these photos, belonging to Dr. Alfred Croneis and taken around October 1943, were donated by his widow, Catherine, to the CDF Library, Archive & Museum. The one selected as the relevant piece shows a group of soldiers together with an old settler ―the Icelander Walter Finsen― in an area covered in palosantos in Santa Cruz.
These types of images are significant insofar as they show the social interactions of the troops, and their exploration and knowledge of the environment, far beyond the narrow limits imposed by military life and Baltra's geography.
Idrovo, Hugo (2013). Baltra: Base Beta. Quito: Fondo Editorial.
Croneis, Alfred. [American soldiers from Baltra in Santa Cruz]. [Slide]. Baltra : Alfred Croneis, 1943. [N.d.] : col. ill. : 3 x 5 cm. DDC 986. Well preserved.
Text & picture: Edgardo Civallero (email@example.com).
Publication date: 1 October 2022
Last update: 1 October 2022