A Norwegian student

Feminine presence in the islands

A Norwegian student



In 1926 the first Norwegian settlers arrived at Santa Cruz Island, aboard the Ulva captained by Olaf Eilertsen. The 45 people that made up the group (43 men and 2 women) landed near the Aguada de Chávez: the water well located near the small beach now known as Pelican Bay.

Near the cliffs of the western limit of the current Puerta Ayora, the newcomers built a bread oven, a fish cannery, and a dock (still in use) that they called Ulva; they installed 400 m. of steel tube to guarantee the provision of water and 40 m. of railway line from the dock to the cannery; they blew up with dynamite a channel that linked the sea with the Laguna de las Ninfas, and in that channel they installed a fish trap that also served as a barrier against sharks.

With the settlers came Borghild Kristine Rorud, one of two women on the expedition (the other was settler Marie Dahl). Borghild was a teacher-in-training at the University of Oslo, and had received a scholarship to spend time in the Galapagos Islands, commissioned to collect specimens for the famous university natural history museum, created in 1917.

The Norwegian stayed in Santa Cruz for about six months. The chronicles indicate that she did not live in the prefabricated houses that the settlers quickly built, but in her own tent, along with all the samples that she collected.

Born in June 1900, Borghild married Kristian Sørensen Rambek around 1941 ―which is why she is sometimes mentioned in literature as "Mrs. Rambech"― and died in February 2002. Her work in the Galapagos yielded 262 plants, adding 2 new species to the known flora of the islands. This is stated in an article by Erling Christophersen, who is the one who, unfortunately and perpetuating a trend of the time, offered the report of her findings.

The woman ended up becoming a teacher and continued her botanical work, with a good number of species collected and identified to her credit. In fact, and since she was the first to describe it, the Vachellia (Acacia) rorudiana was named in her honor: the "Galapagos acacia" native to the islands.

[The photograph that illustrates this text is included in the Nourmahal album, and was taken during the expedition of the same name, which reached Santa Cruz Island in 1930. It is labeled "Abandoned fish cannery. Indefatigable I.", i.e. the cannery built by the Norwegians in 1926 in Indefatigable, the old name of Santa Cruz].


  Christophersen, Erling (1931). A collection of plants from the Galapagos Islands. Nytt Magasin for Naturvidenskapene, 70, pp 67-95.
  Karlsson, Ingolfur Snorri (2013). How the Vikings conquered Galapagos. [S.d.]: [s.d.].
  Lundh, Jacob P. (1997). La colonia de Santa Cruz en 1926. Noticias de Galápagos, 56-57, pp. 61-62.
  Ramos Pasquet, Daniela (2021). A-Isladas: Desplazamientos y encuentros desde las islas Galápagos. [Tesis]. Sevilla: Universidad de Sevilla.


Text & picture: (edgardo.civallero@fcdarwin.org.ec)
Publication date: 1 October 2022
Last update: 1 October 2022