For over two centuries from Richard Hawkin’s visit to the islands in 1593, the English pirates and privateers that preyed on Spanish bullion ships and settlements often used the archipelago to evade attack. One such privateer, Woodes Rogers, stopped at the islands to make repairs after having rescued the castaway Alexander Selkirk, who inspired Daniel Defoe’s character Robinson Crusoe. The islands attracted a wide range of naturalists including the Italian nobleman Alessandro Malaspina, James Colnett and famously Charles Darwin.
On 12th February 1832, the newly independent Ecuador annexed the islands calling them the Archipelago of Ecuador. The islands initially served as a penal colony governed by General José de Villamil, who sent an exploratory commission there in the previous October. He then set up the Colonising society of the Archipelago of the Galápagos to exploit the lichens that grew there, which served as a dye. Artisans and farmers soon joined the convicts to colonise the islands.