The Galapagos are a small cluster of volcanic islands that straddle the equator, some 600 miles from Ecuador, by whom they are owned. Their discovery was associated with events following the conquest of the Incas by Pizzarro and his band of conquistadores. Pizzarro met the Incas in feigned peace, kidnapped and later brutally murdered their ruler, Atahualpa. The spaniards then fought among themselve, so the Spanish king asked Fray Thomas Berlanga, bishop of Panama, to travel to Peru to make an inspection. Berlanga traveled down the west coast of South America, but when the winds failed, the prevailing currents carried his ship to the Galapagos. After barely escaping starvation and thirst, the bishop returned, and sent a report to the king describing these barren islands and their peculiar animals and plants. Ignored for centuries, the Galapagos became an icon for the study of evolution following Darwin's visit in the Beagle in 1835. Today the islands are an ecotourism mecca visited by thousands of people each year.