The Monday before last, I returned from an all morning meeting to an empty dining room table. Between 11:15 and 1pm, my laptop had disappeared. Though anything is possible, it is hard to believe the computer was unplugged from the socket, lifted off the table and pulled through one of the barred windows. There was no damage to the front door, so we assume the person who stole the computer entered with a key. At noon that day, the suspected keyprovider and my housemate exchanged glances at the airline reservations office. My housemate had just begun standing in a long ticket line as the person in question exited the reservations office. We can only guess who actually entered the house and helped themselves to my computer.
In the afternoon, a friend accompanied me to the police station to file a missing article report. Relatively few people in Galapagos own Mac computers, so the police said it would probably be difficult for the thief to sell the computer on the islands. The computer would most likely be sold on the continent. Nevertheless, the policeman who filed the report said he would notify his colleagues on the other more populated islands of Isabela and San Cristobal.
Word had it that the suspected keyprovider was leaving for the continent the next day. While at the police station I ran into an employee of TAME, the airline most commonly used by Galapaguenos. I explained my situation and that I was interested in going to the airport the next day to make sure all the baggage is carefully checked. The TAME employee suggested I speak with the head of DAC (Direccion de la Aviacion Civil), the organization in charge of airport security.
At 7:30am on Tuesday morning, my friend and I crossed the channel from Santa Cruz to Baltra and boarded the bus to the airport. While we waited for the bus to leave I looked out the window and noticed the suspect boarding the next bus. As soon as we arrived at the airport I spoke with the head of airport security and his team of inspectors. I described the computer, so they knew exactly what to look for as the carry-on luggage passed through the x-ray machine.
The Galapagos National Park, airline personnel and airport security (DAC) all work together in monitoring what enters and leaves the Galapagos. They use an x-ray machine to check all the suitcases boarding each flight. The security personnel were kind enough to allow my friend and I to watch the monitor as the luggage passed through the machine. The suspect’s suitcase was one of several suitcases that was pulled and checked in more detail. The suspected keyprovider was present while his baggage was checked. The security personnel also inspect each box sent by cargo. While they were at it, they also checked for my computer. At one point they called me over to take a look, but it was someone else’s computer that was being shipped.
After checking all the baggage and boxes leaving on the four flights that day, it was time to return to Puerto Ayora. It was not too suprising that my computer had not appeared in someone’s luggage. Any savvy thief would wait at least a few days before escaping with the stolen goods. Nevertheless, it was worth a try. I provided the people in charge with a photo and detailed description of the computer, a copy of the police report, and my name and telephone number. They assured me they would continue to be on alert. The cooperation of the security personnel, Park and airline staff was above and beyond what I expected. I was truly impressed and grateful for their help.
Several friends suggested that I pay a visit to the Puerto Ayora computer repair stores. Most people are not familiar with how to erase and reload computer information, so chances are they may go to one of these stores for help. Over the next few days, I put together packages of the same information I had provided for the airport security people and went to each computer repair place.
At one store I got into a more in depth conversation with the manager. We discussed the different ways a thief could escape. The San Cristobal airport is closed for maintenance, so Baltra is the only exit by air. Leaving by boat appeared to be more of a possibility than I expected. Each week cargo ships arrive carrying just about everything the Puerto Ayora population consumes. They return to the continent on Thursdays. It is fairly well-known that sometimes the cargo ship crews leave with things that do not belong to them. This seemed unlikely, since the probability of damaging the computer on this type of trip is quite high. The manager agreed. He then recommended that I check with the tour boat companies. Apparently, it isn’t uncommon for tour boat personnel to engage in this type of illicit activity. The time and effort it would take to approach each tour boat company was a daunting prospect. It was then that I knew the chances of recovering my computer were slim to none.
It is time to move on. Fortunately, I backed up most of my data a week before the computer was stolen. I did lose a number of email addresses, so for my friends that are reading this, please drop me a quick note, so I have your email address again.