FLOREANA MYSTERY PROTAGONISTS (in order of appearance)
Dore Strauch (voiced by Cate Blanchett)
Dore Strauch was born in Berlin, Germany. She was 28-years-old when, in July 1929, she left Berlin (and her husband) behind in order to migrate permanently to the uninhabited Galapagos island of Floreana with her lover and physician, Dr. Friedrich Ritter. Ritter and Strauch called their Floreana homestead “Friedo”—a melding of their first names—and were dubbed “The Adam and Eve of the Galapagos” by the world’s press. In 1935, Dore published her book Satan Came to Eden in which she provided her version of the events on Floreana.
Friedrich Ritter was born in the little town of Wollbach near Germany’s Black Forrest. He was a respected physician in Berlin when, in July 1929 at the age of 43, he left his flourishing practice (and his wife) behind to follow a life-long dream of renouncing civilization for life on an uninhabited island. Ritter chose to settle in the Galapagos along with his lover and patient, Dore Strauch, after reading William Beebe’s popular book, Galapagos World’s End. A devout follower of Nietzsche, Ritter hoped to become a great, published philosopher in his own right while emulating the Nietzschean doctrine of the Superman on the island of Floreana. Ritter and Strauch called their Floreana homestead “Friedo”—a melding of their first names—and were dubbed “The Adam and Eve of the Galapagos” by the world’s press.
Biologist John Garth was only 21 years old when, in the winter of 1931, he boarded the research vessel Velero III for its first expedition to the then-largely uncharted Galapagos Islands. The Velero’s captain was Allan Hancock, Southern California oilman, banker, philanthropist and patron of pure scientist. Hancock was a gifted cellist who never sailed anywhere without his own personal chamber orchestra, and he tapped Garth because, although Garth was not yet established as a scientist, he was already an extremely accomplished pianist. Nicknamed “Bugs” because of his focus on entomology, Garth was a careful journal keeper. His writing (which covers the period of the Velero III annual expeditions between 1931 and 1935) provides an observational perspective on the Floreana people and events.
In the summer of 1931, 27-year-old Margret Wittmer left Cologne, Germany, with her husband Heinz and her 14-year-old stepson Harry. The Wittmer’s were middle-class Germans who sought a new life in the Galapagos both as a way out of the grim economic and political realities of 1930s Germany, and as a healthful place in which they hoped Harry would recover from what was probably rheumatic heart disease. They were inspired to migrate to the Islands by articles that were written by and about Friedrich Ritter in the German newspapers, and fancied themselves becoming “The Swiss Family Robinsons of the Galapagos.” The Wittmers chose Floreana in particular because Ritter was a physician and Margret, five months pregnant with her first child when they landed on the Island, hoped the doctor would help her through her impending labor. In 1959, Margret wrote her version of the Floreana story in her book Floreana: A Woman’s Pilgrimage to the Galapagos.
41-year-old Heinz Wittmer was working as personal secretary to the mayor of Cologne when, discouraged by the grim economic and political realities of 1930s Germany, and concerned about the fragile health of his 14-year-old son Harry, he read a series of newspaper articles written by Friedrich Ritter. These articles inspired him deeply and he soon convinced his new wife, Margret, to leave everything behind and move permanently to the Galapagos. The Wittmers landed on Floreana in August 1931 and from the beginning fancied themselves “The Swiss Family Robinsons of the Galapagos.”
Baroness Eloise von Wagner (voiced by Connie Nielsen)
The Austrian Baroness von Wagner landed on Floreana in October 1931 along with two much younger German lovers, Robert Philippson and Rudolf Lorenz. Having read reports of the wealthy yachtsmen who visited Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch, the Baroness came to the Galapagos determined to build a grand luxury hotel for these passing millionaires. The hotel was to have been called Hacienda Paradiso. Although it has never been proven, the Baroness claimed to be related to the composers Liszt and Wagner, and also to have spent time as a spy in Constantinople during World War I. She and Lorenz owned a boutique together in Paris, which they gave up in order to seek their fame and fortune on Floreana. It is believed that Lorenz provided the money for their trip and that Philippson had been a salesman in the Paris boutique.
Rolf Blomberg was a 22-year-old Swedish journalist and photographer who visited Floreana, along with Norwegian fisherman Trygve Nuggerud, in the summer of 1934. Blomberg had come to the Island intent on meeting the Baroness and was the first outsider to learn of her disappearance. He then became the reporter who broke the story to the international press. After World War II, Blomberg settled permanently in Ecuador and, with that as his base, produced more than 30 documentaries for Swedish television. Some of his footage appears in THE GALAPAGOS AFFAIR.
Historian Octavio Latorre lives in Quito, Ecuador and has written extensively on the human history of the Galapagos Islands. His first and most well-known book is The Curse of the Giant Tortoise: Tragedies, Mysteries and Crimes in The Galapagos Islands.
Fritz Hieber is the grandnephew of Friedrich Ritter. He grew up in Brombach, Germany—not far from Wollbach, the childhood home of Friedrich. Throughout his youth Fritz was told countless stories about Ritter, Dore Strauch and other Floreana inhabitants, and he eloquently relates some of these stories in the film. Hieber now lives near Frankfurt, and like his granduncle, is a physician.
Steve’s father, Bud Divine, was a rough and tumble rancher from Arizona who, along with his wife Doris, migrated permanently to the Galapagos in 1949. Steve was born on Santa Cruz in 1952 and still lives there today.
Born in the Galapagos, Teppy Angermeyer is the son of Gus Angermeyer—the eldest of the four Angermeyer brothers who immigrated permanently to Santa Cruz Island from Hamburg, Germany, in 1935. Gus and his brothers—Karl, Hans and Fritz—all fled due to the rise of Hitler.
Belgian expatriate Jacqueline De Roy immigrated to Santa Cruz Island in 1955 along with her late husband Andre and their two-year-old daughter Tui. Her son Gil was born on Santa Cruz in 1958. Both of them still live on the Island.
In 1934, Carmen Angermeyer was six years old when she emigrated from Spain to Santa Cruz Island with her parents Carlos and Marga Kubler. Carmen refers to herself as “a housewife in Galapagos” and married Fritz, the youngest of the Angermeyer brothers. Shortly after Carmen married Fritz, her mother Marga divorced Carlos Kubler in order to marry Fritz’s brother Karl Angermeyer.
In 1932, when he was eight years old, Jacob Lundh moved to Santa Cruz Island from Oslo, Norway, with his mother and father. His father, Captain Herman Lundh, ran a cargo boat around the Galapagos Islands and knew all of the protagonists of the Floreana mystery. He even spent a weekend at Hacienda Paradiso with the Baroness and her lovers. We filmed Lundh at his home in Oslo.
Born on Santa Cruz Island in 1970, Daniel is the third-generation of Angermeyers to live in Galapagos. His mother Mary was the daughter of Hans Angermeyer, who along with his brothers Gus, Karl and Fritz, emigrated from Hamburg, Germany, in 1935.
The son of Margret and Heinz Wittmer, Rolf Wittmer was born on January 1, 1933, only four months after his parents landed on Floreana. Rolf’s delivery took place in one of the Island’s old pirate caves, which is where the Wittmers lived at the time. Jorge Antonio Mahauad is Rolf’s oldest grandson. He was born in Ecuador, but now lives on Santa Cruz Island.
The daughter of Margret and Heinz Wittmer, Floreanita was born on Floreana in 1937. By the time of her birth, the Wittmers lived in a house and the old pirate caves were used only for storage. Floreanita still lives on Floreana and runs the family’s hotel there.
The daughter of a Norwegian father and a German mother, Friedel Horneman was born in the Santa Cruz highlands in 1940. Friedel describes her childhood in idyllic terms, but as she grew into young womanhood, she dreamt of leaving the Galapagos and began looking for a way out—especially when her parents tried to marry her off to Alf Kastdalen, the son of neighboring Norwegian immigrants. Friedel now makes her home with her second husband in Kirkenes, Norway.
The daughter of Jacqueline and the late Andre De Roy, Tui moved to Santa Cruz Island from Belgium when she was two-years-old. Tui is a world-renowned wildlife photographer and writer whose books include Galapagos: Islands Lost in Time; Galapagos: Islands Born of Fire; The Andes: As the Condor Flies; and New Zealand: A Natural History. She now makes her home in New Zealand.
A retired ship’s physician from Guayaquil, Ecuador, Dr. Jose Machuca moved to the island of Santa Cruz in 1993. Since then he has become known as an amateur historian and scholar of all things related to Galapagos human history.
The son of Eliezer and Emma Cruz, Claudio is one of twelve Cruz children born on Floreana Island. He grew up on the property that had formerly been known as Friedo and was owned previously by Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch. In fact, Dr. Ritter’s grave remains undisturbed on the Cruz property to this day.
Australian actress Cate Blanchett recently won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. Blanchett first came to international attention for her role as Elizabeth I in the 1998 film Elizabeth for which she won BAFTA and Golden Globe awards and earned her first Academy Award nomination. She appeared as the elf lady Galadriel in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy from 2001 to 2003. In 2004, Blanchett’s portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator brought her numerous awards, including an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Blanchett’s other films include Babel (2006), Notes on a Scandal (2006) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). Blanchett collaborated with director Peter Jackson again for The Hobbit (2012–2014) and recently starred in George Clooney’s The Monuments Men.
On stage, television, and the big screen, Sebastian Koch is undeniably one of Germany’s most multi-faceted and successful actors. He starred in the Academy Award-winning The Lives of Others (2006), for which he received the Globo d’Oro for Best European Actor from the Italian Foreign Press. Koch also starred in Paul Verhoeven’s Black Book (2006), which premiered in Venice and Toronto and was The Netherlands’ Oscar submission for the Best Foreign Language Film. Most recently he appeared in A Good Day to Die Hard (2013), and is starring in the upcoming Showtime production The Vatican, directed by Ridley Scott.
Kretschmann is a German actor best known for his performances in Academy Award-winning The Pianist (2002), Downfall (2004) and King Kong (2005). His prior voice work includes the voice of Professor Z in Cars 2 (2011). Kretschmann’s many other credits include major roles in Transsiberian (2008), Sea Wolf (2008) and Valkyrie (2008). Currently he is co-starring as Van Helsing in NBC’s Dracula and can be seen in Stalingrad, The Avengers and Captain America.
Kruger is a German actress best known for her role as Bridget von Hammersmark in the Academy Award-nominated Inglorious Basterds (2009) and her performances of Marie Antoinette in Farewell, My Queen (2012) and Helen in Troy (2004). She also starred in Joyeux Noel (2005), which received a Best Foreign Language Oscar nomination, and played leading roles in Unknown (2011), Mr. Nobody (2009) and National Treasure (2007). Currently Kruger is starring as Detective Sonya Cross in FX Channel’s The Bridge.
Danish actress Connie Nielsen is best known for her portrayal of Princess Lucilla, opposite Russell Crowe’s Maximus in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000). Nielsen’s many other leading roles include: The Hunted (2003), Brothers (2004), Return to Sender (2004), The Ice Harvest (2005), and Lost in Africa (2010). Recently she starred as Meredith Kane alongside Kelsey Grammer in Boss (STARZ/Lionsgate Television) and can currently be seen as Lily Gray in Fox’s The Following and on screen in Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac.
Radnor is an American actor who starred as Ted Mosby in CBS’s smash hit How I Met Your Mother (2005-2014). Radnor made his writing and directorial debut with the 2010 comedy-drama film Happythankyoumoreplease, in which he also starred and for which he won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award. His second film, Liberal Arts (2012), which he again wrote, directed and starred in, also premiered at Sundance.
Named one of European Film’s “Shooting Stars” in 2007, Skarsgård is a member of the renowned Swedish Skarsgård acting family, which includes his father Stellan, and his brothers Alexander and Bill. His most recent credits include leading roles in Kon-Tiki (2012), Happy End (2011) and Trust Me (2010). Skarsgård is currently co-starring in History Channel’s Vikings.