I have spent the last few months in between epic trips to New Zealand and elsewhere at U.C Berkley uncovering the history of Isla Guadalupe, Mexico.
For a small island off the coast of Mexico it has a rich story with ownership documents going back to the early 1800's, complete with title documents, letters, and even "stock certificates".
My journey began after a chance meeting with staff from an NGO in Mexico last year. We were in the process of helping put together a multi part natural history television series with Wildcoast about the island for Televisa.
That series went on to win a number of awards in Mexico last year.
There I met one of the staff members who, as it turns out, had family who actually lived on the island in the late 1800's.
She provided me with a "love letter" and hand drawn images from the period featuring the large building commonly called "the prison" at Point Norte.
Thus began my journey into the history of the island.
At U.C Berkley I uncovered original documents that showed by 1845 Isla Guadalupe was a privately held island owned by the Western Livestock Company out of Boston Massachusetts. To put this into perspective, by 1845 in the USA, many states had yet to join the union. Alaska was not purchased from Russia until 1867.
Suffice to say the discovery of $50.00 shares in stock certificates of "The Guadalupe Island Company" were nothing short of amazing as were small details like wages for staff, $35 in gold each year.
Isla Guadalupe was ceded from the Mexican Government to a Jose Castro and Florencio Ferrano,both Mexican citizens, on January 8th, 1839. They received not just Guadalupe island but all the smaller islands in the region as well. By 1845 Jose Castro had sold 50% of his stake in the islands for the princely sum of $500 in gold.
By 1870 the islands were finally sold to US interests and the formation of The Western Livestock Company in the State of Main lead almost immediately to The Guadalupe Island Company and the selling of stock certificates seeking a total capital of $500,000, the stocks were sold in San Francisco until 1889.
Isla Guadalupe did not return from private ownership to Mexico until almost the beginning of the 1900's and it was a historically interesting repatriation done with a letter from the then Governor of Baja, all but demanding the island back. The owners at that time, who had paid close to $2000 for the title to these islands decided not to fight. Perhaps due to the fact this was a difficult island to become commercially successful with or perhaps by that time they had exhausted the seal fishery and timber operations on the island.
In all the documents I uncovered I could find no historical mention of white sharks at this island.
Not all that surprising as The Guadalupe Island Companies mandate for the period was commercial sealing, timber, and cattle ranching.
Patric Douglas CEO