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Galápagos Islands
Named for Lt. David Bartholomew of the British Navy, this small island is located just east of Santiago. Desolate Bartolome is one of the most visited and photographed islands in the Galápagos.
7 Wonders of the Underwater World
European discovery of the Galápagos Islands occurred when Dominican Fray Tomás de Berlanga, the fourth bishop of Panama, sailed to Peru to settle a dispute between Francisco Pizarro and his lieutenants. De Berlanga's vessel drifted off course when the winds diminished, and his party reached the islands on March 10, 1535.

 
Bartolome Island [1]

 

The Galápagos Islands (Spanish names: Islas de Colónumio or Islas Galápagos, from galápago, "saddle"- after the shells of saddlebacked Galápagos tortoises) are an archipelago made up of 13 main volcanic islands, six smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. The oldest island is thought to have formed between five and ten million years ago, a result of tectonic activity. The youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, are still being formed, with the most recent volcanic eruption in 2005.

The Galápagos archipelago is part of Ecuador, a country in northwestern South America that claimed it in 1832.

The islands are distributed around the equator, about 600 miles (965 km) west of Ecuador. They were recently found to have three volcanoes in the center island, all of them active. The archipelago is famed for its great number of endemic species, especially of birds (28), reptiles (19), and fish, and for the studies by Charles Darwin that led to his theory of evolution by natural selection.

Main islands
The archipelago has been known by many different names, including the "Enchanted Islands" because of the way in which strong, swift currents made navigation difficult. The first crude navigation chart of the islands was done by the buccaneer Ambrose Cowley in 1684, and in those charts he named the islands after some of his fellow pirates or after the English noblemen who helped the pirates' cause. The term "Galápagos" refers to the Spanish name given to the giant land tortoises known to inhabit the islands.

Satellite photo of the Galápagos islands overlaid with the Spanish names of the visible main islands.The main islands of the archipelago (with their English names) shown alphabetically:


Baltra (South Seymour)
During World War II Baltra was established as a U.S. Air Force base. Crews stationed at Baltra patrolled the Pacific for enemy submarines as well as providing protection for the Panama Canal. After the war the facilities were given to the government of Ecuador. Today the island continues as an official Ecuadorian military base.

Until 1986, Baltra had the only airport serving the Galápagos. Now there are two airports, the other located on San Cristobal Island; most flights operating in and out of Galápagos still fly into Baltra.

During the 1930s scientists decided to move 70 of Baltra's Land Iguanas to the neighboring island of North Seymour as part of an experiment. This move had unexpected results, for during the WWII military occupation of Baltra, the native iguanas became extinct on the island. During the 1980s iguanas from North Seymour were brought to the Darwin Station as part of a breeding and repopulation project and in the 1990s land iguanas were reintroduced to Baltra.


Bartolomé
Named for Lt. David Bartholomew of the British Navy, this small island is located just east of Santiago. Desolate Bartolome is one of the most visited and photographed islands in the Galápagos.

Bartolomé is an extinct volcano and has a variety of variably colored volcanic formations, including a tuff cone known as Pinnacle Rock. This large black, partially eroded cone was created when lava reached the sea. Contact with seawater resulted in a phreatic explosion. The exploded molten fragments fused together, forming a welded tuff.

Bartolomé is inhabited by Galápagos Penguins, sea lions, nesting marine turtles, white-tipped reef sharks, and a variety of birds.


Darwin (Culpepper)
This island is named after Charles Darwin. It has an area of 1.1 square kilometers (0.4 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 168 metres (551 ft). Fur seals, frigates, marine iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, sea lions, whales, marine turtles, dolphins, red-footed and Nazca boobies can be seen.


Española (Hood)
Waved Albatross on EspañolaThis island's name was given in honor of Spain. It is also known as Hood after an English nobleman. It has an area of 60 square kilometers (23 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 206 meters (676 ft).

Española is the oldest island (at around 3.5 million years) and the southernmost in the chain. The island's remote location provides for a large number of endemic fauna. Secluded from the other islands, wildlife on Española adapted to the island's environment and natural resources. Marine iguanas on Española are the only ones that change color during breeding season.

The Waved Albatross is found on the island. The island's steep cliffs serve as the perfect runways for these large birds, which take off for their ocean feeding grounds near the mainland of Ecuador and Peru.

Española has two visitor sites. Gardner Bay is a swimming and snorkeling site as well as offering a beach. Punta Suarez has migrant, resident, and endemic wildlife including brightly colored Marine iguanas, Española Lava Lizards, Hood Mockingbirds, Swallow-tailed Gulls, Blue Footed Boobies and Nazca Boobies, Galápagos Hawks, a selection of Finch, and the Waved Albatross.


Fernandina (Narborough)
The name was given in honor of King Ferdinand of Spain, who sponsored the voyage of Columbus. Fernandina has an area of 642 square kilometers (248 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 1,494 meters (4,902 ft). This is the youngest and westernmost island. In May 13, 2005, a new very eruptive process began on this island when an ash and water vapor cloud rose to a height of 7 kilometers (4.4 mi) and lava flows descended the slopes of the volcano on the way to the sea.

Punta Espinosa is a narrow stretch of land where hundreds of marine iguanas gather, largely on black lava rocks. The famous Flightless Cormorant inhabits this island and also Galápagos Penguins, Pelicans and sea lions are abundant. Different types of lava flows can be compared and the mangrove forests can be observed.


Floreana (Charles or Santa María)
Originally named Charles Island for the British king Charles II, it was changed to Floreana after Juan José Flores, the first president of Ecuador, during whose administration the government of Ecuador took possession of the archipelago. It is also called Santa Maria after one of the caravels of Columbus. It has an area of 173 square kilometers (66.8 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 640 meters (2,100 ft).

It is one of the islands with the most interesting human history and was one of the earliest to be inhabited. General José Villamil established a colony for political prisoners here in 1832. At Post Office Bay, since the eighteenth century whalers kept a wooden barrel that served as post office so that mail could be picked up and delivered to their destinations, mainly Europe and the United States, by ships on their way home.

At the “Devil's Crown,” an underwater volcanic cone, coral formations are found. Pink flamingos and green sea turtles nest (December to May) on this island. The "patapegada" or Galápagos petrel is found here, a sea bird that spends most of its life away from land.


Genovesa Island (Tower)
Red-footed booby.The name is derived from Genoa, Italy where it is said Columbus was born. It has an area of 14 square kilometers (5.4 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 76 meters (249 ft). This island is formed by the remaining edge of a large crater that is submerged. Its nickname of “the bird island” is clearly justified. At Darwin Bay, frigatebirds, swallow-tailed gulls, the only nocturnal ones of its species in the world, can be seen. Red-footed boobies, noddy terns, lava gulls, tropic birds, doves, storm petrels and Darwin finches are also in sight. Prince Philip's Steps is a bird-watching plateau, with Nazca and red-footed boobies. There is a large Palo Santo forest.


Isabela (Albemarle)
This island was named in honor of Queen Isabela. With an area of 4,640 square kilometers (1,792 mi²), it is the largest island of the Galápagos. Its highest point is Wolf Volcano with an altitude of 1,707 meters (5,600 ft). The third-largest human settlement of the archipelago, Puerto Villamil, is located at the southeastern tip of the island.

The island's seahorse shape is the product of the merging of six large volcanoes into a single landmass. On this island Galápagos penguins, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, boobies, pelicans, and Sally Lightfoot crabs abound. At the skirts and calderas of the volcanoes of Isabela, land iguanas and Galápagos tortoises can be observed, as well as Darwin finches, Galápagos hawks, Galápagos doves, and very interesting lowland vegetation.


Marchena (Bindloe)
Named after Fray Antonio Marchena, it has an area of 130 square kilometers (50 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 343 meters (1,125 ft). Galápagos hawks and sea lions inhabit this island, and it is home to the Marchena lava lizard, an endemic species.


North Seymour
Its name was given after an English nobleman called Lord Hugh Seymour. It has an area of 1.9 square kilometers (0.7 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 28 meters (92 ft). This island is home to a large population of blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls. It hosts one of the largest populations of frigate birds. It was formed from geological uplift.


Pinta (Abingdon)
Named for one of the caravels of Christopher Columbus, it has an area of 60 square kilometers (23 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 777 meters (2,549 ft). Swallow-tailed gulls, marine iguanas, sparrow hawks, and fur seals can be seen. It is also home to the world's rarest living creature, the Pinta giant tortoise. An aged male named Lonesome George is the only known survivor. Since there is little hope of finding another specimen, his species is doomed to extinction.


Pinzón (Duncan)
Named after the Pinzón brothers, ca)ptains of the Pinta and Niña caravels, it has an area of 18 square kilometers (7 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 458 meters (1,503 ft). Sea lions, Galápagos hawks, giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and dolphins can be seen here.


Rábida (Jervis)
Brown pelican on the red sand of Rabida IslandThis island bears the name of the convent of Rábida, where Columbus left his son during his voyage to the Americas. It has also been know as Jervis Island in honor of the eighteenth-century British admiral John Jervis.

It has an area of 4.9 square kilometers (1.9 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 367 meters (1,204 ft). The high amount of iron contained in the lava at Rábida give it a distinctive red color. White-Cheeked Pintail Ducks live in a salt-water lagoon close to the beach, where brown pelicans and boobies have built their nests. Until recently, flamingos were also found in the salt-water lagoon, but they have since moved on to other islands, likely due to a lack of food on Rábida. Nine species of finches have been reported.


San Cristóbal (Chatham)
It bears the name of the patron saint of seafarers, "St. Christopher." Its English name was given after William Pitt, first Earl of Chatham. It has an area of 558 square kilometers (215 mi²) and its highest point rises to 730 meters (2395 ft). This islands hosts frigate birds, sea lions, giant tortoises, blue and red footed boobies, tropicbirds, marine iguanas, dolphins, and swallow-tailed gulls.

Its vegetation includes Calandrinia galapagos, Lecocarpus darwinii, and trees such as Lignum vitae. The largest freshwater lake in the archipelago, Laguna El Junco, is located in the highlands of San Cristóbal. The capital of the province of Galápagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, lies at the southern tip of the island.


Santa Cruz (Indefatigable)

Given the name of the Holy Cross in Spanish, its English name derives from the British vessel HMS Indefatigable. It has an area of 986 square kilometers (381 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 864 meters (2834 ft). Santa Cruz is the island that hosts the largest human population in the archipelago, at the town of Puerto Ayora. The Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galápagos National Park Service are located here.

The GNPS and CDRS operate a tortoise breeding center here, where young tortoises are hatched, reared, and prepared to be reintroduced to their natural habitat. The highlands offer exuberant vegetation and are famous for lava tunnels. Large tortoise populations are found here. Black Turtle Cove is a site surrounded by mangrove which sea turtles, rays and small sharks sometimes use as a mating area. Cerro Dragón, known for its flamingo lagoon, is also located here, and along the trail one may see land iguanas foraging.


Santa Fe (Barrington)
Named after a city in Spain, it has an area of 24 square kilometers (9 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 259 meters (850 ft). Santa Fe hosts a forest of Opuntia cactus, which are the largest of the archipelago, and Palo Santo. Weathered cliffs provide a haven for swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropic birds, and shear-waters petrels. Santa Fe species of land iguanas are often seen, as well as lava lizards.


Santiago (San Salvador, James)
Its name is equivalent to Saint James in English; it is also known as San Salvador, after the first island discovered by Columbus in the Caribbean Sea. This island has an area of 585 square kilometers (226 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 907 meters (2976 ft). Marine iguanas, sea lions, fur seals, land and sea turtles, flamingos, dolphins, and sharks are found here.

Pigs and goats, which were introduced by humans to the islands and caused great harm to the endemic species, have been eradicated (pigs in 2002; goat eradication is nearing finalization). Darwin Finches and Galápagos Hawks are usually seen, as well as a colony of Fur Seals. At Sullivan Bay a recent (around 100 years ago) pahoehoe lava flow can be observed.


South Plaza
It is named in honor of a former president of Ecuador, General Leonidas Plaza. It has an area of 0.13 square kilometers (0.05 mi²) and a maximum altitude of 23 meters (75 ft). The flora of South Plaza includes Opuntia cactus and Sesuvium plants, which forms a reddish carpet on top of the lava formations. Iguanas (land and marine and some hybrids of both species) are abundant, and there are a large number of birds that can be observed from the cliffs at the southern part of the island, including tropic birds and swallow-tailed gulls.


Wolf (Wenman)
This island was named after the German geologist Theodor Wolf. It has an area of 1.3 square kilometers (0.5 mi²)and a maximum altitude of 253 meters (830 ft). Here fur seals, frigates, masked and red footed boobies, marine iguanas, sharks, whales, dolphins, and swallow-tailed gulls can be seen. The most famous resident is the vampire finch, which feeds on the blood of the boobies and is only found on this island.[2]

BBC footage of the Galapagos Islands. Original music composed and produced by Music Works.

 

quadrupedman
September 24, 2006

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References
 
 1. Flickr-Bartolome Island-Creative Commons Attribution License-retrieved 7/20/2009
 2. Galapagos Islands. (2008, April 9). New World Encyclopedia. Retrieved 02:29, July 22, 2009 from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Galapagos_Islands?oldid=690591.
 
 
 

 

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