Field Trip: Death in Floreana (To Write and Have Written)

For today’s field trip, we travel to Isla Floreana to explore the murders which may or may not have taken place. Another real life story to inspire you!

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Transcript:

Field Trip! Come explore Isla Floreana and MURDER. (maybe.) – powered by Happy Scribe

Everybody, I am Laura VanArendonk Baugh,and this is To Write And Have Written,

and tonight is a field trip,so let me get organized here.

I had

a glorious, huge — like if you were here

for my marathon livestream and you kepthearing me say I needed an intern because

I was trying to managetwo or three screens.

And so for Christmas,I got a really nice

big monitor, it’s amazing, it’s huge,and I’m so excited about it,

except it turns out it’s an HDMI 2,and my machine only supports HDMI 1.

So my husband’s using it

and I don’t know if I’m going to get itback, but it’s a really nice monitor.

So that’s my goal, isto get it eventually get that

back.But yeah, that’s anyway.

So I have to like start the streamand then go rearrange all my things

for tonight so that we cango ahead and do it.

Hey ShyRedFox, thank youso much for resubbing.

I appreciate that.

Oh that’s very nice.Nice to see you again too.

Yeah.You’re so close to having a great monitor.

Yeah.It’s it’s so nice.

I’m so excited.

I’ll share photos,whenever it comes around again.

So.Yeah.

Anyway that’s that’s on my listof things that will eventually happen.

So OK,

let’s talk about tonight.OK.

Yeah.Tonight’s field trip

and we were dangerously close to nothaving a fun field trip tonight,

it’s beena very busy week for me.

I launched a novel Crown& Creed came out yesterday.

It was very much a surprise launch,not a long buildup like I would normally

do, you know, letting everybodyknow that it was coming.

But if you’ve been around on the stream,

you know that I was going to have Kin &Kind coming out as book three. That got

split into two books,Crown & Creed, then Kin & Kind.

And I just tried really, really,

really hard to get the first of the twoout by the end of 2020 just because

we needed somethingnice and still happening in 2020.

And people had been so patient waitingfor book three.

So now that book was book three and four.

I did go ahead and get bookthree out so that that happened.

That was rushed, I’ve beenreally hard on that.

And I got an audio book out, Shard &Shield came out in audio book this week.

I sent a short story offfor traditional sales.

We had Christmas.That was a thing that happened. Anyway.

So there was a lot that wasgoing on this week.

And, you know, it takes a while to puttogether a nice educational slide show.

And I wasn’t sure I was going to beable to pull something off this week.

Hold on a second.

I got way too many messagescoming in and I need to kill this

so it stops notifying me.

OK, so anyway, so we needto thank my sister Alena

for prompting me to do this topic here

today because she said, “Oh, no,this is really interesting.

People will like it.”

And I’m like, oh yeah,I can totally talk about that.

So that’ll be fine.So

yeah, Seeker is in the chattalking about the monitor.

“It’s beautiful,”he says. I know.

I want that back.Right.

Awesome.All right, so, yeah.

All right, sobut we are taking a field trip

and we are taking a field trip to, let’ssee if I can put, Isla Floreana.

So

this is, Floreana is an island.

It’s the southernmost islandof the Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos being, of course,

a really amazingecological location right on the equator

owned by Ecuador and famousfor being just an amazing ecosystem,

very famous, obviously, for Darwin

visiting and writing some stuff about,you know, finches and whatever.

But

it just actually also just likea really fascinating history.

So we are not going to talk about all theamazing stuff that’s in the Galapagos.

That was, Seeker and I for our20th wedding anniversary,

gave ourselves a really awesome, like,you know, lifetime kind of trip.

So we went to Ecuador,

hiked for a week backpackingin the Andes and then went to Galapagos

to see wildlife and all that.

And that was a great trip.

There’s tons that wecould talk about there.

But this we’re just going to focus juston Floreana and in particular some of the

really interesting dramathat happened there.

So,

yeah, let me get my pictures back.

So all of the photos that arein color are photos that I took.

The photos that were takenin the 1930s were not taken by me.

That’ll be the easy distinction as we go.

So but I believe they are OK to use.

SoI can use them in this context.

It’s fine.So we’ll just say that.

So Floreana, as I said, southernmost

island in the Galapagos,

and this is where the post office orthe mailbox is, if you’ve heard of that.

So this is a tradition that dates backto the times of the whaling ships.

They had a barrel set up.

That was their mailbox.

And so sailors would write letters,leave them addressed in this barrel.

And because so many whalingships stopped here to take on

in particular food.

We’ll talk about that in just a second.

And so they would shuffle through

the letters and like, oh, well,we’re heading to Nantucket.

We’ll take these.We’re heading to…

So we’ll take these.And and so the letters would eventually

get to a port and theneventually get delivered.

This is a traditionthat still goes on today.

So you write your letters,your postcards, you leave them there.

Now it’s all just tourists, of course.

And the tradition is that you sort

through, you find something that’snear enough for you to deliver it.

And so when we were there,I left some letters,

I found some that were actually, you know,ultimately destined for my zip code.

And I took them and I hand delivered them.

So that is that is how you do it.

It’s all the honor system, of course.

But, you know, it’s a lotof fun to just maintain that.

So that is where we are.

This island has been receivingships for hundreds of years.

Poor Floreana, just going to say,like had a bit of a rough go.

I don’t need to go into, like, how badthe whaling ships were for this place.

But one of the things that they would

that the whalers would dowould stop and collect the tortoises.

Tortoises were very popular for foodstuffsbecause they could keep them alive

on a ship for a long time without givingthem food or water or anything to do that.

And then you could kill themand eat them at leisure.

So they would just pull up and justcollect a lot of tortoises and move on and

do some really devastatingthings to the population.

Meanwhile, also dropping off goats

and goats run over the island becausethat’s not, it’s a very invasive species.

Like, “oh, no, the goatsare destroying everything.

Let’s put some dogs on theisland to eat the goats.

Oh, that didn’t work out either.”

So basically take the history

of Australia and New Zealand with invasivespecies, put them over in the Galapagos.

We get the same kind of thing going on.

We’re still recovering from that today.

But the very famous disaster that Florianahad was in 1820, the whaling ship Essex

pulled up to take on tortoises and waterand as they left.

“Because” (that’s about as gooda reason as anybody can offer)

they set fire to the island,

the whole island burns,they wipe out that population

of tortoises,wipe out a lot of everything else, too.

But have no fear,

guys, the the spirit of nature

did a karma slap upside the head,because later in the voyage,

the Essex got rammed by a sperm whaleand sank and all of the crew went into

lifeboats where they ateeach other to survive.

And ultimately, only eight of themmade back to tell the tale.

And this was a very famous incidentwhich ended up inspiring Moby Dick.

So there’s your chunk of thing.

If you want to read afascinating story,

It’s a nonfictionaccount based on two firsthand accounts

from survivors, In the Heartof the Sea is a book that came out

around 2000 ish, I guess

I quite enjoyed it,not probably everybody’s cup of tea,

but it’s a really amazingaccount of what went down there.

So that is where we are.

Floreana.

And in 1832, Ecuador,

who now owns the islands,decides to put a penal colony there.

It’s a terrible place.It’s terrible idea.

Things are really harsh.Conditions are awful.

Lots of prisoners died and theydecided not to do that.

Fast forward, we’re nowin the 20th century.

This is where we’re going to startspending a little more detailed time.

Excuse me, so

sorry, I’m catching upon the on the chat slowly.

Yes, the mailbox is really cool.It’s so much fun.

It’s amazing how many different placesyou’ll see represented as you’re shuffling

through the mailbox and how manyof them will be close to you.

It’s pretty cool.

So, OK, so in the 1920s, Ecuador decides,OK, we’ve got these islands,

we should probably figure outsomething to do with them.

They are not yet appreciatedfor the ecological gem that they are.

They’re not yet appreciatedin the tourism sense that they are today.

So Ecuador is just, basically Ecuador gotthese because they were some

rocks in the middle of the ocean that wereon fire and nobody else wanted them.

Now we look at them.

We’re like, oh, wow, this is like a lotof really important fishing rights.

There’s like a lot of really important

ecological things to studyand to develop and all of that.

But

at this time, that was notnone of that was happening.

So Ecuador is like, we gotto do something with this.

How about free land?

You homestead the island,we’ll give you free land.

You can have hunting rights,

you can go fishing rights,and you don’t pay any taxes for 10 years.

Just show up and tellus that you want some.

And so

meanwhile, over in Europe,if you know European history,

we are between World War One and

World War two, which meanspost First World War Germany,

having a rough go of things.

Economically, politically,not a great situation, so Dr.

Fredric Ritter in 1929 and his former

patient, current lover, Dore Strauch, orand let me just preface this by saying

a number of these people will be usingdifferent names at different points.

And when you read reports of this,

you’ll see different namesused for the same people.

I’m going to try to keep it very simple.

She uses, I think, at least three names,

depending on the periodand who’s reporting.

But I’m going to try to make it tryto make it as simple as possible.

So, Dr.

Frederick Ritter.

Former patient/currentlover Dore Strauch or

cravenness, maybe a name she also used,

I don’t remember, I didn’twrite them down anyway.

They each of them say, hey, spouses,you guys take care of each other.

We’re leaving togetherand heading off to Ecuador.

And they moved to Floreana.

Again, part of us is moving awayfrom the political situation.

The economic situation is not great,and it’s partly in their case to go

someplace where they can indulgein their slightly less orthodox beliefs.

Very big into Nietsche, Frederic Ritter’s

writing a book,theosophist work, philosophy.

Lots of stuff.

They’re maybe into nudism before they go,

they’re definitely into nudismwhen they get there.

We’ll talk about that a little bit.

Vegetarianism.

And specifically,the practice of hyper mastication,

which is excessively chewing your food,that was a thing for a while

to the point that Dr.

Ritter actually damaged his teethjust by over chewing things.

So much so he had all of his teeth removedbefore he went over there thinking

that once he got out into nature with thenatural diet, his gums would toughen up.

And he did take some steel dentures thathe had developed for himself as well.

I have not found any indication that they

were involved in the Germannaturist movement,

but it kind of seems like something

that they might be into,especially with the nudism with that.

So I don’t know.

Definitely was a thingin that time and place.

I don’t know if that was a thingthat they were personally into,

but once they got to the island,it was really hot.

They decided that, yes,nudism was the way to go now.

Speaking as a

very pale northern European person who

really does not fare well under

equatorial sun,that is not a thing that I would ever do

because I would be deadof sunburn in like two hours.

But apparently that was somethingthat they practiced there.

So they were writing lots of

letters and accounts of theirvery much pioneer life out there.

And they’re sending them back to Europe.

They’re actually picked upand published in the newspapers.

And so they became kind of famous.

People were talking about, oh,

they’ve got this Eden, living thisAdam and Eve existence in Eden.

And so they would be sent gifts.

And, you know,they were famous, people would stop

by the islands just to seethem and that kind of thing.

Now, life is not all that great.

I mean, it’s a reallydifficult place to live.

There is not a ton of water on the island.I mean, it’s sort of.

It’s a volcanic island.

So you’ve got a few freshwater springs,but mostly you’re catching rainfall

when that happens.

Dore’s teeth begin to rot.

So they use garden implements to remove

them and then the two of themshare the pair of dentures.

It’s just very like a lot of collections…We’ll get into, like there’s a lot of

wacky characterizationsthat are going to come here.

But there’s a yacht that you’llhear about a lot called the Valero.

But Waldo Schmidt,who is one of the scientists on the

Valero, he’s a Smithsonian scientistand he wrote

“[Ritter’s book] is of Theosophical Leanings,but is the type of Theosophical writing

that no one cares to readafter seeing the first page.”

So it’s

you know, he’s out therejust doing this very serious,

You know, we are new types

of people in this new territory,you know, kind of thing.

Schmidt also noted that they weren’treally nudists because they went without

clothes for practical reasons, because itwas hot, not for philosophical reasons.

So they said they weren’t nudists,they were just naked, whatever.

Anyway, it is

often repeated that when if you stoppedat the island, there was a little sign

and a bell to ring so that you could letthem know that you had arrived

and that they would puton clothes and come to meet you.

So that’s 1929.

They move in.

They start developing their homesteadon Floreana. 1931, the Wittmers move in.

Now the Wittmers

are Heinz and Margaret.

They come because again,the situation in Germany is not good.

He had been in World War Onein the trenches,

did not do well with that, came out,

had no job, lost what savingshe’s had because of inflation,

and was reading about, you know,their adventures in homesteading

on Floreana and said,let’s go there and do that.

They arrive with their13 year old son Harry,

that they’re hoping is this is goingto be a better climate for him

(he’s not super well) and she’s pregnant.

So they’re going to havetheir baby on Floreana.

There’s not a lot of housing additionson the island, so they live in a pirate

cave until they get their housebuilt, to build a house of stone.

It’s actually supposed to be one of thenicest places that’s built on the island.

And, you know, they’rea fairly traditional family.

They didn’t come here so they couldrun around naked and quote Nietzsche.

They came because theywanted to make a new life.

And they

do a very traditional new life.

You know, they’re havingthree meals a day.

And I mean, they’rereally working hard to just create

a better life that theycouldn’t have in Germany.

So others did come.And you know what?

I’ve got photos that I’m not showing you.

I’m so sorry with those pictures.

So this is at the mailbox.

As I said, here we have Dore and then Dr.

Frederick Ritter.

And again, you sometimes you’ll see them

called the Ritters,but they weren’t married.

So that’s not strictly accurate.

But anyway, so this is the two of themand then this is the family.

So that was the

baby there who said,oh, gosh, what’s his name?

Roth.Roth.

First person born on Floreana that we’re

aware of and was born in a Pirate Cave,which is pretty cool and I believe still

alive today, he’s going to be one ofthe ones who makes it out of our story.

So spoilers.

So the fact

that the island is a tough place, as I said.

So this is a photo that Itook while we were there.

And you can just see that thethorns on the on the plants.

One of the reasons I don’t think

that going nude was the mostpractical decision, but sure.

And it’s a volcanic island.

Volcanic rock is really hard.

I mean, you get lots of nutrients for your

crops if you can get them in,but you have to get them in.

So they’re having to carry their soil in for their garden.

Yes.Bridger, they had a German shepherd.

They brought a German Shepherdpuppy with them.

And I just think that’s awesome.

I’ve not been able to findout the dog’s name.

It may well be in Margaret’s memoir.

She did write a memoir,

which I have not read,and so the dog’s name may be in there,

but that’s why the dog doesn’tget named in my recounting.

Sorry.

So some other people did come to tryEcuador’s, you know, homesteading

offer, but nobody else really stayedbecause that’s a very difficult place.

And this is hot.

You’re on the equator,lots of sun, lots of heat.

On a volcanic island.There’s thorns.

There’s not a lot of water.

There are you know, the whalersand the pirates have left hogs.

They’ve left goats, they’ve leftdonkeys, they’ve left dogs.

So you have a lot of things coming

in and trying to eat whateveryou put in the ground.

You know, it’s just a difficult situation.

And most of the people leave.

So then this group comes in, and they

they just walk in and colonize, like,

they just claim thisland in the name of her.

So this is and I apologize, myGerman names are not that great.

This is Eloise Wehrborn de Wagner-Bosquet, OK?

She is self-styled a baroness.

We…

don’t think she’s really a baroness.

The best guesswe have for her actual origin

is that she was an Austrian secretaryin Constantinople during World War One.

She’s stranded there withouta job when the war ends.

Thanks.Bridger, that was my best German attempt.

So she starts working in a cabaret.She finds,

she attracts a Frenchmerchant named Bosquet.

I don’t know really.Bosquet, sorry.

French is not one of thelanguages I do either.

They marry, they move to Paris.

They live with his mother.

His mother apparently not superkeen on this particular match.

She starts introducing Eloise to other men

with predictable results.

And then her son files for divorce,

leaving Eloise at liberty to do whatshe wants, which is, spoiler, everything.

So two of the eligible bachelors that she

picked up in Pariswere Rudolf Lorenz and Robert Philippson.

And those are the two that youwill see in this photo.

So she brings them to Ecuador for exactlythe purpose you are thinking of.

And

she is, one of the things she did while shewas married in Paris, was she bankrolled

a ladies’ clothing shop for Lorenz,who is the guy in the middle back.

And then they were like, oh,I’d like to go to Ecuador now.

We need money for the trip.

Let’s just ditch the shopand not pay anybody.

So they sold out the shop.

They left their creditors high and dry.

They did have a bunch of leftover French

silk lingerie, which she brought becausethat’s very appropriate beachwear.

This is completely within her,

I’m going to say her brand.

Yeah, because she did a fantastic jobof branding and marketing herself.

She arrives on Floreana.

Remember, we havethe Ritters and the Wittmers who are,

the household with Ritter and Dore,

who are

not like good friends,

but at least civil neighbors,like they talk to each other occasionally,

but they’re not really cooperativeand, you know, they’re not.

They’re not.

They came to get away from thingsand that includes each other.

Right.

So then she rolls in and she’s like,yes, I am the queen of Floreana.

I am the empress of the Galapagos.

I am going to builda five star resort hotel.

I’m going to develop the entireisland to bring in everything.

I’m going to invite multimillionairesto stop by on their yachts.

And she absolutely does.

Again, branding, marketing,

somebody to look at how she developsthis hyper sexualized persona.

She will meet boatsas they come in to the beach

wearing very little,

carrying a pistol,cracking a whip.

I mean, she is absolutely,

she works hard to develop her reputation

and people are stopping by. Like anybodytraveling in the South Pacific makes

a detour to get to Floreana so they cansay that they met this person, because she

is becoming famousin newspapers and whatnot.

And you can actually go back and find like

amazingartists’ interpretations and whatnot of her

meeting people in the beach and, you know,stuff. There’s great things out there.

So.

This is the opposite of the idyllic,quiet, pioneer life that we just sit

around and quote Nietzsche or to bring upour kids in a safe place

kind of thing that her neighborswho were there first had envisioned.

There’s a little bit of materialaspect to this as well.

Floreana is a really hard place to live.

You can’t get things liketea from that environment.

They have to be broughtto you from the outside.

So if you would like to have tea or

fresh tools or anything to make yourlife easier while you’re there,

when and remember that Dr.

Ritter’s letters were being published

in the newspaper. That’s how they getthe things. So people knew they were there.

People would stop by as they were

going through the Galapagos.

They would leave things for them.

So they actually were getting giftsfrom the outside world to help them

in their homesteading.

And now that there’s thisblazing star drawing all kinds

of attention and just sexing the place upand all of that, people are not bringing

them gifts because everybody’scaptivated by her.

And we’re going to getto that in just a moment.

But let me come back here.

We’ve got somebody else who usually getsleft out of the telling of the story.

But when I was looking things up,

I found more information on him.

And, darn it, he needsto be in this story, too.

So this is Captain Alan Hancock.

I put an orange arrow on there for him.

He’s captain of the Valero,which I’ve mentioned before.

And he’s kind of an interesting character.

He is an oil and a railroad magnate.He is a pilot.

He’s a ship builder and a captain.

He’s an agriculturist.

So he is rich and adventurous and

kind of trying to do somethingwith himself and his money.

And so I found a descriptionof him in the Smithsonian.

“He was one of thoseRenaissance man tycoons.

So typical of the early decades

of the 20th century.He financed the first nonstop flight

across the Pacific,donated the La Brea Tar Pits

to Los Angeles and toured cross-country asa cellist with his own string ensemble.”

So, yeah, so he’s in the Galapagoson the yacht, the Valero,

because he was doing, I think he actually

did multiple expeditions for theSmithsonian and the San Diego Zoo.

So he is financing and directing

and running this expedition to collectspecimens and to do research here.

So they are coming by Floreana,

several times, where he meetseveryone that we’ve encountered so far.

And some really interesting things.

So a lot of the photos and footage that wehave of these people

come from this expedition, but it nevergets cited in that particular way.

But

Eloise, the baroness,

is working her magic on everybody,

and so he’s gotphotographers and cameramen running film

cameras, you know,for this expedition as well.

And she talks them into and I’ve seen

this, you can find this film.

They madea movie starring her.

It’s a very short film.

And it’s the Empress of Floreana,I think is the title.

And it’s a thinly veiledadventure all about her.

Oh, so it’s no secret who that is.

But anyway, so that’s whatthey’re doing and they’ve got

video footage of, you know,they’re documenting their expedition

of meeting these people and introducing,”Yeah, we’ve stopped.

And this is Dr.Ritter.

This is Dora.”And so

we’ve got video of these people.

But these people,like collectively are messed up.

I want to say

that with a certain amount of judgment,we’re all messed up in one way.

But this is a collection of

this is not going to go well.All right.

So

remember, Eloise broughther two guys with her.

She also, I’m sorry,

there’s another guy who always gets leftout, and I almost left him out as well.

Let’s go back and grab his name,Manuel Valdivieso.

And he was anEcuadorian national.

And he was brought along

to do the heavy lifting andto do the work.

And nobody ever talks about him.

But I want to make sure that he’s,you know, mentioned as well.

So

we’ve got these collections of of people.

So Eloise brought Rudolf and Robert withher, but Rudolf’s definitely the low,

Lorenz is very definitelythe low guy in this arrangement.

And so she and Robert would team up and

pick on him, abuse him verbally,sometimes physically.

We don’t know all the details of that,but we know that occasionally he would

just escape to the Wittmers’ house,stay with them all day or several days,

whatever, until somebody would comeand take him back and then time would pass

and then he would eventually wouldshow up at their house again.

Eloise had lots of pets.

It is said that she would

first fawn on her pets and be really,you know, doting on them or whatever,

and then she would harm them in orderto be able to nurse them back to health.

Like, she shot a donkey so she coulddoctor it. Like, just not not healthy.

Dr Ritter, flashback, he’s our our firstteam of people who came in here,

had his own set of

beliefs that he wanted to comeover here to practice, and Dore

had, among other thin