Thursday, November 24, 2011


On November 24, 1817 a Russian scientific expedition arrived on Guam.  The Rurik was commanded by Otto von Kotzbue.  Scientists and artists were on board to investigate and record what they found in the South Seas.  From them, we have much information about life on Guam almost 200 years ago.

By then, Humåtak was no longer the port of call for ships coming to Guam.  Ships now anchored in Apra Harbor, called back then by its full name, San Luis de Apra.  Orote also had a fuller name, San Carlos de Orote.  Cabras Island was still called Apapa, its Chamorro name (cabras means "she-goats" in Spanish).

Robert Wilson, an Englishman, was pilot of the port, which meant he was responsible for guiding ships into the harbor, which was so shallow in many areas as to be dangerous.  The Spaniards had already built a fort, Santa Cruz, on a shallow platform in the harbor.  Wilson's position in the Spanish administration shows that the whalers had already been established on Guam, some of them leaving the seas to settle and marry on Guam.  Wilson married a Chamorro woman; one of his daughters married into the Castro (Siket) family.  They carry his blood to this day.

The Rurik brought to Guam men like Chamisso and Choris whose writings and sketches provide us with a glimpse of Guam in the 1800s.  Chamisso also wrote down a fairly long list of authentic Chamorro words, including the pre-Spanish counting system.  His lexicon (word list) shows that the Chamorro language we speak today is very much the same as the Chamorro spoken almost 200 years ago, with some differences, of course.


  1. Father , Thank you for this enlightened view of the Island and Chamorro. I truly enjoy your blog. Robert Wilson is my ancestor and I would like to know if there is any more information available about him. Also, I was wondering if you might know anything about the American from Missouri Orbia O Peterson who married Robert Wilson's grand-daughter Rufina de Castro y Wilson. Also, could you elaborate some on the clan system and the nick names, I understand Siket was to indicate ancestors of Ezequiel De Castro . My great-great grandfather.

    1. Yes, Siket comes from Ezequiel. We cannot pronounce final L in Chamorro, so it becomes a T. These nicknames more quickly identified the person or his/her family, since last names tend to be shared among many people here. As families got larger, even newer nicknames were spontaneously invented to identify newer branches. I'll try and track down Peterson.