Galápagos Islands

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Galápagos Islands
Lobo marino (Zalophus californianus wollebaeki), Punta Pitt, isla de San Cristobal, islas Galapagos, Ecuador, 2015-07-24, DD 11.JPG
Galapagos Islands topographic map-en.svg
Geography
Location Pacific Ocean
Coordinates 0°40′S90°33′W / 0.667°S 90.550°W / -0.667; -90.550 Coordinates: 0°40′S90°33′W / 0.667°S 90.550°W / -0.667; -90.550
Total islands21
Major islands18
Area7,880 km2 (3,040 sq mi)
Highest elevation1,707 m (5,600 ft)
Highest point Volcán Wolf
Administration
Province Galápagos
Capitalcity Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
Demographics
Population35,000 (2012)
Pop. density3 /km2 (8 /sq mi)
Additional information
Time zone
Official nameGalápagos Islands
TypeNatural
Criteriavii, viii, ix, x
Designated1978 (2nd session)
Reference no. 1
Region Latin America and the Caribbean
Extension2001 and 2003
Endangered2007–2010

The Galápagos Islands (official name: Archipiélago de Colón, other Spanish name: Las Islas Galápagos, Spanish pronunciation:  [las ˈislas ɣaˈlapaɣos] , local pronunciation:  [laz ˈihlah ɣaˈlapaɣoh] ), part of the Republic of Ecuador, are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed on either side of the equator in the Pacific Ocean surrounding the centre of the Western Hemisphere, 906 km (563 mi) west of continental Ecuador. The islands are known for their large number of endemic species and were studied by Charles Darwin during the second voyage of HMS Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by means of natural selection.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Ecuador Republic in South America

Ecuador, officially the Republic of Ecuador, is a country in northwestern South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and the Pacific Ocean on the west. Ecuador also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) west of the mainland. The capital city is Quito, which is also the largest city.

Contents

The Galápagos Islands and their surrounding waters form the Galápagos Province of Ecuador, the Galápagos National Park, and the Galápagos Marine Reserve. The principal language on the islands is Spanish. The islands have a population of slightly over 25,000. [1]

Galápagos Province Province in Ecuador

Galápagos is a province of Ecuador in the country's Insular region, located approximately 1,000 km (620 mi) off the western coast of the mainland. The capital is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

Galápagos National Park national park

Galápagos National Park, established in 1959 and beginning operations in 1968, is Ecuador's first national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Galápagos Marine Reserve protected area

The Galápagos Marine Reserve (GMR) lies a thousand kilometres from the Ecuadorian mainland and covers an area of around 133,000 km2 (51,000 sq mi). The Galápagos Islands and the surrounding waters represent one of the world’s most unusual ecosystems and are rich areas of biodiversity. Recently granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status, the Galápagos Marine Reserve is the largest marine reserve in a developing country and the second largest reserve in the world.

The first recorded visit to the islands happened by chance in 1535, when Fray Tomás de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panamá, was surprised with this undiscovered land during a voyage to Peru to arbitrate in a dispute between Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro. [2] De Berlanga eventually returned to the Spanish Empire and described the conditions of the islands and the animals that inhabited them. The group of islands was shown and named in Abraham Ortelius's atlas published in 1570. The first crude map of the islands was made in 1684 by the buccaneer Ambrose Cowley, who named the individual islands after some of his fellow pirates or after British royalty and noblemen. These names were used in the authoritative navigation charts of the islands prepared during the Beagle survey under captain Robert FitzRoy, and in Darwin's popular book The Voyage of the Beagle . The new Republic of Ecuador took the islands from Spanish ownership in 1832, and subsequently gave them official Spanish names. [3] The older names remained in use in English-language publications, including Herman Melville's The Encantadas of 1854.

Fray Tomás de Berlanga Prelate, bishop of Panama

Fray Tomás de Berlanga was the fourth Bishop of Panamá.

Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Panamá archdiocese

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Panamá is a Metropolitan Archdiocese, and its suffragan dioceses include Chitré, Colón-Kuna Yala, David, Penonomé and Santiago de Veraguas, as well as the Territorial Prelature of Bocas del Toro. The Diocese of Santa María de La Antigua del Darién was originally located upriver from the mouth of the Atrato River on the Gulf of Urabá in the Castilla de Oro province. The see was moved to Panama City and renamed as the Diocese of Panamá on 7 December 1520 and elevated to an archdiocese on 29 November 1925. The current Metropolitan Archbishop of Panama is Archbishop Jose Domingo Ulloa Mendieta, O.S.A.

Peru republic in South America

Peru, officially the Republic of Peru, is a country in western South America. It is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peru is a megadiverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains of the Pacific coastal region in the west to the peaks of the Andes mountains vertically extending from the north to the southeast of the country to the tropical Amazon Basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon river.

Geology

Volcanism has been continuous on the Galápagos Islands for at least 20 myr, and perhaps even longer. The mantle plume beneath the east-ward moving Nazca Plate (51 km/myr) has given rise to a 3-kilometre-thick platform under the island chain and seamounts. Besides the Galápagos Archipelago, other key tectonic features in the region include the Northern Galápagos Volcanic Province between the archipelago and the Galápagos Spreading Center (GSC) 200 km to the north at the boundary of the Nazca Plate and the Cocos Plate. This spreading center truncates into the East Pacific Rise on the west and is bounded by the Cocos Ridge and Carnegie Ridge in the east. Furthermore, the Galápagos Hotspot is at the northern boundary of the Pacific Large Low Shear Velocity Province while the Easter Hotspot is on the southern boundary. [4] [5] [6]

Volcanism phenomena and processes associated with the action of volcanos, geysers and fumaroles

Volcanism is the phenomenon of eruption of molten rock (magma) onto the surface of the Earth or a solid-surface planet or moon, where lava, pyroclastics and volcanic gases erupt through a break in the surface called a vent. It includes all phenomena resulting from and causing magma within the crust or mantle of the body, to rise through the crust and form volcanic rocks on the surface.

The abbreviation myr, "million years", is a unit of a quantity of 1,000,000 (i.e. 1×106) years, or 31.536 teraseconds.

Mantle plume An upwelling of abnormally hot rock within the Earths mantle

A mantle plume is a proposed mechanism of convection of abnormally hot rock within the Earth's mantle. Because the plume head partly melts on reaching shallow depths, a plume is often invoked as the cause of volcanic hotspots, such as Hawaii or Iceland, and large igneous provinces such as the Deccan and Siberian traps. Some such volcanic regions lie far from tectonic plate boundaries, while others represent unusually large-volume volcanism near plate boundaries or in large igneous provinces.

The Galápagos Archipelago is characterized by numerous contemporaneous volcanoes, some with plume magma sources, others from the asthenosphere, possibly due to the young and thin oceanic crust. The GSC caused structural weaknesses in this thin lithosphere leading to eruptions forming the Galápagos Platform. Fernandina and Isabela in particular are aligned along these weaknesses. Lacking a well-defined rift zone, the islands have a high rate of inflation prior to eruption. Sierra Negra on Isabela Island experienced a 240 cm uplift between 1992 and 1998, most recent eruption in 2005, while Fernandina on Fernandina Island indicated an uplift of 90 cm, most recent eruption in 2009. Alcedo on Isabela Island had an uplift of greater than 90 cm, most recent eruption in 1993. Additional characteristics of the Galápagos Archipelago are closer volcano spacing, smaller volcano sizes, and larger calderas. For instance, Isabela Island includes 6 major volcanoes, Ecuador, Wolf, Darwin, Alcedo, Sierra Negraa and Cerro Azul, with most recent eruptions ranging from 1813 to 2008. The neighboring islands of Santiago and Fernandina last erupted in 1906 and 2009, respectively. Overall, the 9 active volcanoes in the archipelago have erupted 24 times between 1961 and 2011. The shape of these volcanoes is that of an "overturned soup bowl" as opposed to the "overturned saucer plate" of the Hawaiian Islands. The Galápagos's shape is due to the pattern of radial and circumferential fissure, radial on the flanks, but circumferential near the caldera summits. It is the circumferential fissures which give rise to stacks of short lava flows. [7]

Asthenosphere The highly viscous, mechanically weak and ductile region of the Earths upper mantle

The asthenosphere is the highly viscous, mechanically weak and ductilely deforming region of the upper mantle of the Earth. It lies below the lithosphere, at depths between approximately 80 and 200 km below the surface. The Lithosphere–asthenosphere boundary is usually referred to as LAB. The asthenosphere is almost solid, although some of its regions could be molten. The lower boundary of the asthenosphere is not well defined. The thickness of the asthenosphere depends mainly on the temperature. However, the rheology of the asthenosphere also depends on the rate of deformation, which suggests that the asthenosphere could be also formed as a result of a high rate of deformation. In some regions the asthenosphere could extend as deep as 700 km (430 mi). It is considered the source region of mid-ocean ridge basalt (MORB).

Oceanic crust The uppermost layer of the oceanic portion of a tectonic plate

Oceanic crust is the uppermost layer of the oceanic portion of a tectonic plate. It is composed of the upper oceanic crust, with pillow lavas and a dike complex, and the lower oceanic crust, composed of troctolite, gabbro and ultramafic cumulates. The crust overlies the solidified and uppermost layer of the mantle. The crust and the solid mantle layer together constitute oceanic lithosphere.

Lithosphere The rigid, outermost shell of a terrestrial-type planet or natural satellite that is defined by its rigid mechanical properties

A lithosphere is the rigid, outermost shell of a terrestrial-type planet, or natural satellite, that is defined by its rigid mechanical properties. On Earth, it is composed of the crust and the portion of the upper mantle that behaves elastically on time scales of thousands of years or greater. The outermost shell of a rocky planet, the crust, is defined on the basis of its chemistry and mineralogy.

The volcanoes at the west end of the archipelago are in general, taller, younger, have well developed calderas, and are mostly composed of tholeiitic basalt, while those on the east are shorter, older, lack calderas, and have a more diverse composition. The ages of the islands, from west to east are 0.05 Ma for Fernandina, 0.65 Ma for Isabela, 1.10 Ma for Santiago, 1.7 Ma for Santa Cruz, 2.90 Ma for Santa Fe, and 3.2 Ma for San Cristobal. The calderas on Sierra Negra and Alcedo have active fault systems. The Sierra Negra fault is associated with a sill 2 km below the caldera. The caldera on Fernandina experienced the largest basaltic volcano collapse in history, with the 1968 phreatomagmatic eruption. Fernandina has also been the most active volcano since 1790, with recent eruptions in 1991, 1995, 2005, and 2009, and the entire surface has been covered in numerous flows since 4.3 Ka. The western volcanoes have numerous tuff cones. [7] [8] [9] [6]

In geology, a fault is a planar fracture or discontinuity in a volume of rock, across which there has been significant displacement as a result of rock-mass movement. Large faults within the Earth's crust result from the action of plate tectonic forces, with the largest forming the boundaries between the plates, such as subduction zones or transform faults. Energy release associated with rapid movement on active faults is the cause of most earthquakes.

Sill (geology) geology term for a type of rock formation

In geology, a sill is a tabular sheet intrusion that has intruded between older layers of sedimentary rock, beds of volcanic lava or tuff, or along the direction of foliation in metamorphic rock. A sill is a concordant intrusive sheet, meaning that a sill does not cut across preexisting rock beds. Stacking of sills builds a sill complex and a large magma chamber at high magma flux. In contrast, a dike is a discordant intrusive sheet, which does cut across older rocks. Sills are fed by dikes, except in unusual locations where they form in nearly vertical beds attached directly to a magma source. The rocks must be brittle and fracture to create the planes along which the magma intrudes the parent rock bodies, whether this occurs along preexisting planes between sedimentary or volcanic beds or weakened planes related to foliation in metamorphic rock. These planes or weakened areas allow the intrusion of a thin sheet-like body of magma paralleling the existing bedding planes, concordant fracture zone, or foliations.

Phreatomagmatic eruption Volcanic eruption involving both steam and magma

Phreatomagmatic eruptions are volcanic eruptions resulting from interaction between magma and water. They differ from exclusively magmatic eruptions and phreatic eruptions. Unlike phreatic eruptions, the products of phreatomagmatic eruptions contain juvenile (magmatic) clasts. It is common for a large explosive eruption to have magmatic and phreatomagmatic components.

Physical geography

The islands are located in the eastern Pacific Ocean, 973 km (605 mi) off the west coast of South America. The closest land mass is that of mainland Ecuador, the country to which they belong, 926 km (500 nmi) to the east.

Orthographic projection centred over the Galapagos. Orthographic projection centred over the Galapagos.png
Orthographic projection centred over the Galápagos.
School of scalloped hammerheads, Wolf Island, Galapagos Islands School of Hammerhead sharks.jpg
School of scalloped hammerheads, Wolf Island, Galápagos Islands
Grapsus grapsus on the rocks. Grapsus grapsus 2011.jpg
Grapsus grapsus on the rocks.
Satellite photo of the Galapagos islands overlaid with the names of the visible main islands. Galapagos-satellite-esislandnames.jpg
Satellite photo of the Galápagos islands overlaid with the names of the visible main islands.
Isabela seen from Spot Satellite. Galapagos SPOT 1178.jpg
Isabela seen from Spot Satellite.
Waved albatrosses on Espanola. Waved Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) -Espanola -Punta Suarez3.jpg
Waved albatrosses on Española.
Galapagos marine iguana. Galapagos iguana1.jpg
Galápagos marine iguana.
Main Street on San Cristobal Island. Galapagos2007--39--08-22-07.JPG
Main Street on San Cristóbal Island.
An animated tour of the Galápagos.
NASA oceanographer Gene Carl Feldman reflects on his unique perspective on this region.

The islands are found at the coordinates 1°40'N–1°36'S, 89°16'–92°01'W. Straddling the equator, islands in the chain are located in both the northern and southern hemispheres, with Volcán Wolf and Volcán Ecuador on Isla Isabela being directly on the equator. Española Island, the southernmost islet of the archipelago, and Darwin Island, the northernmost one, are spread out over a distance of 220 km (137 mi). The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) considers them wholly within the South Pacific Ocean, however. [10] The Galápagos Archipelago consists of 7,880 km2 (3,040 sq mi) of land spread over 45,000 km2 (17,000 sq mi) of ocean. The largest of the islands, Isabela, measures 2,250 square miles (5,800 km2) [11] and makes up close to three-quarters of the total land area of the Galápagos. Volcán Wolf on Isabela is the highest point, with an elevation of 1,707 m (5,600 ft) above sea level.

The group consists of 18 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. The islands are located at the Galapagos Triple Junction. The archipelago is located on the Nazca Plate (a tectonic plate), which is moving east/southeast, diving under the South American Plate at a rate of about 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) per year. [12] It is also atop the Galápagos hotspot, a place where the Earth's crust is being melted from below by a mantle plume, creating volcanoes. The first islands formed here at least 8 million and possibly up to 90 million years ago. [13]

While the older islands have disappeared below the sea as they moved away from the mantle plume, the youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, are still being formed. In April 2009, lava from the volcanic island Fernandina started flowing both towards the island's shoreline and into the center caldera.[ citation needed ]

In late June 2018, Sierra Negra, one of five volcanoes on Isabela and one of the most active in the Galapagos archipelago, began erupting for the first time since 2005. Lava flows made their way to the coastline, prompting the evacuation of about fifty nearby residents and restricting tourist access. [14]

Main islands

The 18 [15] main islands (each having a land area at least 1 km2) of the archipelago (with their English names) shown alphabetically:

North Seymour Island in the Galapagos; Daphne Island is in the distance. North Seymour Island in the Galapagos about to land on shore photo by Alvaro Sevilla Design.JPG
North Seymour Island in the Galápagos; Daphne Island is in the distance.
From an aircraft flying out of Baltra Island (on the right) and the Santa Cruz (on the left), the Itabaca Channel is the waterway between the islands. Alvaro Sevilla Design Isla Santa Cruz Galapagos foto tomada desde el avion.jpg
From an aircraft flying out of Baltra Island (on the right) and the Santa Cruz (on the left), the Itabaca Channel is the waterway between the islands.

Minor islands

Climate

These satellite maps show chlorophyll concentration (which corresponds with the abundance of phytoplankton) during El Nino (top) and La Nina (lower). Blue represents low concentrations, yellow, orange and red indicate high concentrations. Currents that normally fertilize the phytoplankton reverse during El Nino, resulting in barren oceans. These same currents are strengthened by La Nina, resulting in an explosion of ocean life. Chlorophyll concentration off the Galapagos archipelago during El Nino and La Nina.jpg
These satellite maps show chlorophyll concentration (which corresponds with the abundance of phytoplankton) during El Niño (top) and La Niña (lower). Blue represents low concentrations, yellow, orange and red indicate high concentrations. Currents that normally fertilize the phytoplankton reverse during El Niño, resulting in barren oceans. These same currents are strengthened by La Niña, resulting in an explosion of ocean life.
The bottom image shows sea surface temperature, cool upwelling waters are coloured purple. Thriving phytoplankton populations are indicated by high chlorophyll concentrations (top image), coloured green, and yellow. Images acquired on 2 March 2009. Sea surface temperature & chlorophyll concentrations off the Galapagos archipelago.jpg
The bottom image shows sea surface temperature, cool upwelling waters are coloured purple. Thriving phytoplankton populations are indicated by high chlorophyll concentrations (top image), coloured green, and yellow. Images acquired on 2 March 2009.

Although the islands are located on the equator, the Humboldt Current brings cold water to them, causing frequent drizzles during most of the year. The weather is periodically influenced by the El Niño events, which occur about every 3 to 7 years and are characterized by warm sea surface temperatures, a rise in sea level, greater wave action, and a depletion of nutrients in the water. [17]

During the season known as the garúa (June to November), the temperature by the sea is 22 °C (72 °F), a steady and cold wind blows from south and southeast, frequent drizzles (garúas) last most of the day, and dense fog conceals the islands. During the warm season (December to May), the average sea and air temperature rises to 25 °C (77 °F), there is no wind at all, there are sporadic, though strong, rains and the sun shines.

Weather changes as altitude increases in the large islands. Temperature decreases gradually with altitude, while precipitation increases due to the condensation of moisture in clouds on the slopes. There is a large range in precipitation from one place to another, not only with altitude, but also depending on the location of the islands, and also with the seasons.

The following table corresponding to the wet 1969 shows the variation of precipitation in different places of Santa Cruz Island:

LocationCharles Darwin
Station
Devine FarmMedia Luna
Altitude6 m320 m620 m
January23.0 mm78.0 mm172.6 mm
February16.8 mm155.2 mm117.0 mm
March249.0 mm920.8 mm666.7 mm
April68.5 mm79.5 mm166.4 mm
May31.4 mm214.6 mm309.8 mm
June16.8 mm147.3 mm271.8 mm
July12.0 mm42.2 mm135.6 mm
August3.8 mm13.7 mm89.5 mm
September18.5 mm90.9 mm282.6 mm
October3.2 mm22.6 mm96.5 mm
November11.0 mm52.8 mm172.7 mm
December15.7 mm84.1 mm175.3 mm
TOTALS469.7 mm1901.7 mm2656.4 mm

The precipitation also depends on the geographical location. During March 1969, the precipitation over Charles Darwin Station, on the southern coast of Santa Cruz was 249.0 mm (9.80 in), while on Baltra Island, the precipitation during the same month was only 137.6 mm (5.42 in). This is because Baltra is located behind Santa Cruz with respect to the prevailing southerly winds, so most of the moisture gets precipitated in the Santa Cruz highlands.

There are significant changes in precipitation from one year to another, too. At Charles Darwin Station, the precipitation during March 1969 was 249.0 mm (9.80 in), but during March 1970, it was only 1.2 mm (0.047 in).

On the larger islands, the pattern of generally wet highlands and drier lowlands impacts the flora. The vegetation in the highlands tends to be green and lush, with tropical woodland in places. The lowland areas tend to have arid and semi-arid vegetation, with many thorny shrubs and cacti, and almost bare volcanic rock elsewhere.

History

Pre-Columbian era

According to a 1952 study by Thor Heyerdahl and Arne Skjølsvold, potsherds and other artifacts from several sites on the islands suggest visitation by South American peoples in pre-Columbian era. [18] The group located an Inca flute and shards from more than 130 pieces of ceramics, which were later identified as pre-Incan. However, no remains of graves, ceremonial vessels and constructions have ever been found, suggesting no permanent settlement occurred before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. [19] It is not clear who the first visitors to the islands were, but they were probably sailors blown off course or people on hapless fishing boats blown out to sea. Most of them were likely unimpressed by the lack of fresh water on the islands. Whether the Incas ever made it here is disputed; in 1572, Spanish chronicler Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa claimed that Topa Inca Yupanqui, the second Sapa Inca of the Inca Empire had visited the archipelago, but there is little evidence for this, and many experts consider it a far-fetched legend, especially since the Incas were not seafaring people. [20]

The Galapagos tortoise or Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is the largest living species of tortoise; this one is from the Island of Santa Cruz. The Galapagos tortoise or Galapagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) - Santa Cruz Island.jpeg
The Galápagos tortoise or Galápagos giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is the largest living species of tortoise; this one is from the Island of Santa Cruz.

European voyages

European discovery of the Galápagos Islands occurred when Spaniard 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 10 March 1535.

Adult Galapagos sea lion resting on a park bench in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno Sea lion sleeping on bench in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno 2013.JPG
Adult Galápagos sea lion resting on a park bench in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

The Galápagos Islands first appeared on the maps of Gerardus Mercator and Abraham Ortelius, in about 1570. [21] The islands were named "Insulae de los Galopegos" (Islands of the Tortoises) in reference to the giant tortoises found there. [22]

The first English captain to visit the Galápagos Islands was Richard Hawkins, in 1593. Until the early 19th century, the archipelago was often used as a hideout by mostly English pirates who attacked a Spanish treasure fleet carrying gold and silver from South America to Spain. [23]

As described in 1684. Gallapagos Islands 1684.jpg
As described in 1684.

In 1793, James Colnett described the flora and fauna of Galápagos, and suggested the islands could be used as base for the whalers operating in the Pacific Ocean. He drew the first accurate navigation charts of the islands. Whalers and maritime fur traders killed and captured thousands of the Galápagos tortoises to extract their fat. The tortoises could be kept on board ship as a means of providing of fresh protein, as these animals could survive for several months on board without any food or water. The hunting of the tortoises was responsible for greatly diminishing, and in some cases eliminating, certain species. Along with whalers came the fur-seal hunters, who brought the population of this animal close to extinction.

The first known permanent human resident on Galápagos was Patrick Watkins, an Irish sailor who was marooned on the Island Floreana from 1807 to 1809. According to later accounts, [24] [25] Watkins managed to survive by hunting, growing vegetables and trading with visiting whalers, before finally stealing an open boat and navigating to Guayaquil.

In 1818 the Nantucket whaleship Globe, under Captain George Washington Gardner, discovered a "mother lode" of sperm whales some thousand miles west of the South American coast approximately at the equator. He returned to Nantucket in 1820 with more than 2000 barrels of sperm whale oil and the news of his discovery. This led to an influx of whaleships to exploit the new whaling ground and the Galápagos Islands became a frequent stop for the whalers both before and after visiting what came to be known as the Offshore Grounds. This led to the establishment in the Galápagos Islands of a kind of unofficial "post office" where whaleships stopped to pick up and drop off letters as well as for provisioning and repairing. [26]

In October 1820, the whaleship Essex, out of Nantucket, stopped at the Galápagos for these purposes on its way to the Offshore Grounds. On what was then known as Charles Island, while most of the crew were hunting tortoises one crewmember, English boatsteerer Thomas Chappel, for reasons still unclear, lit a fire which quickly burned out of control. Some of the tortoise hunters had a narrow escape and had to run a gauntlet of fire to get back to the ship. Soon almost the entire island was in flames. Crewmembers reported that after a day of sailing away they could still see the flames against the horizon. One crewmember who returned to the Galápagos several years afterward described the entire island as still a blackened wasteland. [27]

Ecuadorian Galápagos

Ecuador annexed the Galápagos Islands on 12 February 1832, naming them the Archipelago of Ecuador. This new name added to several names that had been, and are still, used to refer to the archipelago. The first governor of Galápagos, General José de Villamil, brought a group of convicts to populate the island of Floreana, and in October 1832, some artisans and farmers joined them.

The voyage of the Beagle brought the survey ship HMS Beagle, under captain Robert FitzRoy, to the Galápagos on 15 September 1835 to survey approaches to harbours. The captain and others on board, including his companion, the young naturalist Charles Darwin, made observations on the geology and biology on Chatham, Charles, Albemarle and James islands before they left on 20 October to continue on their round-the-world expedition. Primarily a geologist at the time, Darwin was impressed by the quantity of volcanic craters they saw, later referring to the archipelago as "that land of craters". His study of several volcanic formations over the five weeks he stayed in the islands led to several important geological discoveries, including the first, correct explanation for how volcanic tuff is formed. [28] Darwin noticed the mockingbirds differed between islands, though he thought the birds now known as Darwin's finches were unrelated to each other, and did not bother labelling them by island. [29] Nicholas Lawson, acting Governor of Galápagos for the Republic of Equator, met them on Charles Island, and as they walked to the prison colony, Lawson told Darwin the tortoises differed from island to island. [30] Towards the end of the voyage, Darwin speculated that the distribution of the mockingbirds and the tortoises might "undermine the stability of Species". [31] When specimens of birds were analyzed on his return to England, it was found that many apparently different kinds of birds were species of finches, which were unique to islands. These facts were crucial in Darwin's development of his theory of natural selection explaining evolution, which was presented in On the Origin of Species . [29]

In April 1888 USS Albatross, a Navy-manned research vessel assigned to the United States Fish Commission, briefly touched eight islands in the Galapagos group for specimens; [32] this included Wreck Bay on Chatham Island (now San Cristóbal Island) on 4 April and Charles Island (now Floreana Island) on 8 April.

José Valdizán and Manuel Julián Cobos tried a new colonization, beginning the exploitation of a type of lichen found in the islands (Roccella portentosa) used as a coloring agent. After the assassination of Valdizán by some of his workers, Cobos brought from the continent to San Cristóbal Island a group of more than a hundred workers, and tried his luck at planting sugar cane. He ruled his plantation with an iron hand, which led to his assassination in 1904. In 1897, Antonio Gil began another plantation on Isabela Island.

Over the course of a whole year, from September 1904, an expedition of the Academy of Sciences of California, led by Rollo Beck, stayed in the Galápagos collecting scientific material on geology, entomology, ornithology, botany, zoology, and herpetology. Another expedition from that Academy was done in 1932 (Templeton Crocker Expedition) to collect insects, fish, shells, fossils, birds, and plants.

For a long time during the early 1900s and at least through 1929, a cash-strapped Ecuador had reached out for potential buyers of the islands to alleviate financial troubles at home. The US had repeatedly expressed its interest in buying the islands for military use as they were positioned strategically guarding the Panama Canal. [33] Besides the United States, Japan, Germany and Chile also expressed interest in establishing bases in the islands at the turn of the century. [34] [35] Chile had previously acquired the Straits of Magellan [36] and Easter Island for strategic reasons and lieutenant Gregorio Santa Cruz argued in 1903 that possessing an island in equatorial waters, like the Galápagos, would be of great benefit since the geopolitical situation of Chile was expected to drastically change when the Panama Canal opened. Another benefit would be to widen the security radius of Chile. [37]

In the 1920s and 1930s, a small wave of European settlers arrived in the islands. There occurred a series of unsolved disappearances on the island of Floreana in the 1930s among the largely European expatriate residents at the time. The Galápagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden is a 2013 feature-length documentary film about the same. Ecuadorian laws provided all colonists with the possibility of receiving twenty hectares each of free land, the right to maintain their citizenship, freedom from taxation for the first ten years in Galápagos, and the right to hunt and fish freely on all uninhabited islands where they might settle. [38] The first European colonists to arrive were Norwegians who settled briefly on Floreana, before moving on to San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. A few years later, other colonists from Europe, America and Ecuador started arriving on the islands, seeking a simpler life. [39] Descendants of the Norwegian Kastdalen family and the German Angermeyer still live on the islands.

During World War II, Ecuador authorized the United States to establish a naval base in Baltra Island, and radar stations in other strategic locations. Baltra was established as a United States Army Air Force base. Baltra was given the name of "Beta Base" along with "Alpha Base" in Nicaragua and "Gamma Base" in Salinas (continental Ecuador). The Crews stationed at Baltra and the aforementioned locations established a geographic triangle of protection in charge of patrolling the Pacific for enemy submarines, and also provided 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. The foundations and other remains of the US base can still be seen as one crosses the island. In 1946, a penal colony was established in Isabela Island, but it was suspended in 1959.

The marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) Galapagos Islands Santa Cruz - swimming in Puerto Ayora The marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) Galapagos Islands Santa Cruz.JPG
The marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) Galápagos Islands Santa Cruz – swimming in Puerto Ayora

The Galápagos became a national park in 1959, [40] and tourism started in the 1960s, imposing several restrictions upon the human population already living on the island. However, opportunities in the tourism, fishing, and farming industries attracted a mass of poor fishermen and farmers from mainland Ecuador. In the 1990s and 2000s, violent confrontations between parts of the local population and the Galápagos National Park Service occurred, including capturing and killing giant tortoises and holding staff of the Galápagos National Park Service hostage to obtain higher annual sea cucumber quotas. [41]

Politics

Flag of the Galapagos Province Bandera Provincia Galapagos.svg
Flag of the Galápagos Province
Water taxi on Puerto Ayora, Galapagos Water taxi in Puerto Ayora on the Island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos photo by Alvaro Sevilla Design.JPG
Water taxi on Puerto Ayora, Galápagos

The islands are administered by a provincial government. It was made a province by presidential decree by President Guillermo Rodríguez Lara on 18 February 1973. The province is divided into cantons, each covering certain islands. The capital is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

Demographics

The largest ethnic group is composed of Ecuadorian Mestizos, the mixed descendants of Spanish colonists and indigenous Native Americans, who arrived mainly in the last century from the continental part of Ecuador. Some descendants of the early European and American colonists on the islands also still remain on the islands.

In 1959, approximately 1,000 to 2,000 people called the islands their home. In 1972 a census in the archipelago recorded a population of 3,488. By the 1980s, this number had risen to more than 15,000 people, and in 2010 there were 25,124 people in the Galápagos.

Five of the islands are inhabited: Baltra, Floreana, Isabela, San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz.

Travel

Options for flying into the Galápagos are limited to two islands: San Cristobal (San Cristóbal Airport) and Baltra (Seymour Airport). Private aircraft must use Baltra as it is the airport equipped with overnight plane accommodations. Seymour Airport on Baltra was recently renovated (2012–2013) to accommodate larger planes.

Until 1969 the only way to visit was on a private or chartered vessel. There was no regular air service until Forrest Nelson's Hotel Galápagos began the first organized tours in April 1969. Soon other travel companies brought in tour ships and yachts, and local fishermen began converting their wooden boats for rudimentary cruising with guests. These vessels were the main source of overnight accommodations in the Galápagos. Today there are about 85 yachts and ships equipped for overnight guests. In 2006 the Baltra military governed island, was opened up to limited overnight camping. Baltra also requires permits by the military government for overnight stays on the beach. Other inhabited islands also allow camping on the beaches designated as "recreational" use to the locals. All of these camping permits are limited to number of people and nights, with most nights not to exceed three.

Land based hotels are opening on the inhabited islands of San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Floreana and Isabela. By 2012, more than half the visitors to Galápagos made their tours using day boats and these small hotels. Restaurants, easy access and economy make this an attractive travel option. The cruise tours are still the best way to see all the complex environment and wildlife of the islands.

There are only 116 visitor sites in the Galápagos: 54 land sites and 62 scuba-diving or snorkeling sites. Small groups are allowed to visit in 2- to 4-hour shifts only, to limit impact on the area. All groups are accompanied by licensed guides.

Environmental protection policy

Pelecanus occidentalis, Tortuga Bay (Pelecanus occidentalis) Tortuga Bay on the Island of Santa Cruz, Galapagos.JPG
Pelecanus occidentalis, Tortuga Bay
Marine iguana Iguanamarina.jpg
Marine iguana
Blue-footed booby SulaNebouxi.jpg
Blue-footed booby
Galapagos tortoise on Santa Cruz Island (Galapagos) Gigantic Turtle on the Island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos.JPG
Galápagos tortoise on Santa Cruz Island (Galápagos)
Grapsus grapsus in the Galapagos Zayapa (Grapsus grapsus), Las Bachas, isla Santa Cruz, islas Galapagos, Ecuador, 2015-07-23, DD 30.jpg
Grapsus grapsus in the Galápagos
Juvenile Galapagos penguin before banding Spheniscus mendiculus juvenile.jpg
Juvenile Galápagos penguin before banding
Bottlenose dolphins jumping off the islands Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) - Galapagos (2225816313).jpg
Bottlenose dolphins jumping off the islands

Though the first protective legislation for the Galápagos was enacted in 1930 and supplemented in 1936, it was not until the late 1950s that positive action was taken to control what was happening to the native flora and fauna. In 1955, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature organized a fact-finding mission to the Galápagos. Two years later, in 1957, UNESCO, in cooperation with the government of Ecuador, sent another expedition to study the conservation situation and choose a site for a research station.

In 1959, the centenary year of Charles Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species , the Ecuadorian government declared 97.5% of the archipelago's land area a national park, excepting areas already colonised. The Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) was founded the same year. The core responsibility of CDF, an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) constituted in Belgium, is to conduct research and provide the research findings to the government for effective management of Galápagos. CDF's research efforts began with the establishment of the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island in 1964. During the early years, conservation programs, such as eradication of introduced species and protection of native species, were carried out by research station personnel. Now much of that work is accomplished by the Galápagos National Park Service using the research findings and methodologies developed by CDF.

In 1986, the 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 sq mi) of ocean surrounding the islands was declared a marine reserve, second in size only to Australia's Great Barrier Reef. In 1990, the archipelago became a whale sanctuary. UNESCO recognised the islands in 1978 as a World Heritage Site [42] and in 1985, as a biosphere reserve. This was later extended in December 2001 to include the marine reserve. In July 2010, the World Heritage Committee agreed to remove the Galápagos Islands from its list of precious sites endangered by environmental threats or overuse. [43]

Noteworthy species include:

Environmental threats

Introduced plants and animals, such as feral goats, cats, and cattle, brought accidentally or willingly to the islands by humans, represent the main threat to Galápagos. Quick to reproduce and with no natural predators, these alien species decimated the habitats of native species. The native animals, lacking natural predators on the islands, are defenseless to introduced predators.

There are over 700 introduced plant species today. There are only 500 native and endemic species. This difference is creating a major problem for the islands and the natural species that inhabit them. These plants have invaded large areas and eliminated endemic species in the humid zones of San Cristobal, Floreana, Isabela and Santa Cruz. Some of the most harmful introduced plants are the guayaba or guava (Psidium guajava), avocado (Persea americana), cascarilla (Cinchona pubescens), balsa (Ochroma pyramidale), hill raspberry (Rubus niveus), various citrus (orange, grapefruit, lemon), floripondio, higuerilla ( Ricinus communis ) trees and the elephant grass, Pennisetum purpureum .

Many species were introduced to the Galápagos by pirates. Thor Heyerdahl quoted documents that mention the Viceroy of Peru, knowing that British pirates ate the goats that they themselves had released in the islands, ordered dogs to be freed there to eliminate the goats. [18] Also, when colonization of Floreana by José de Villamil failed, he ordered the goats, donkeys, cattle and other animals from the farms in Floreana be transferred to other islands for the purpose of later colonization.

Non-native goats, pigs, dogs, rats, cats, mice, sheep, horses, donkeys, cows, poultry, ants, cockroaches, and some parasites inhabit the islands today. Dogs and cats attack the tame birds and destroy the nests of birds, land tortoises, and marine turtles. They sometimes kill small Galápagos tortoises and iguanas. [44] Pigs are even more harmful, covering larger areas and destroying the nests of tortoises, turtles and iguanas, as well as eating the animals' native food. Pigs also knock down vegetation in their search for roots and insects. This problem abounds in Cerro Azul volcano and Isabela, and in Santiago, pigs may be the cause of the disappearance of the land iguanas that were so abundant when Darwin visited. The black rat (Rattus rattus) attacks small Galápagos tortoises when they leave the nest, so in Pinzón they stopped the reproduction for a period of more than 50 years; only adults were found on that island. [45] Also, where the black rat is found, the endemic rat has disappeared. Cattle and donkeys eat all the available vegetation and compete with native species for the scarce water. In 1959, fishermen introduced one male and two female goats to Pinta island; by 1973, the National Park service estimated the population of goats to be over 30,000 individuals. Goats were also introduced to Marchena in 1967 and to Rabida in 1971. A goat eradication program, however, cleared the goats from Pinta and Santiago and most of the goat population from Isabela. [46] In fact, by 2006 all feral pigs, donkeys and non-sterile goats had been eliminated from Santiago and Isabela, the largest islands with the worst problems due to non-native mammals. [47] [48]

Six species of small non-native vertebrates have established self-sufficient populations in Galápagos and may become invasive: Fowler’s snouted tree frog Scinax quinquefasciatus , common house gecko Hemidactylus frenatus , mourning gecko Lepidodactylus lugubris , dwarf gecko Gonatodes caudiscutatus, Peters' leaf-toed gecko Phyllodactylus reissii, and smooth-billed ani Crotophaga ani . Domestic fowl Gallus gallus holds feral populations, which may have self-sufficient populations, but evidence is unclear [49] [50] .

The fast-growing poultry industry on the inhabited islands has been cause for concern from local conservationists, who fear domestic birds could introduce disease into the endemic wild bird populations.

The Galápagos marine sanctuary is under threat from a host of illegal fishing activities, in addition to other problems of development. [51] The most pressing threat to the Marine Reserve comes from local, mainland and foreign fishing targeting marine life illegally within the Reserve, such as sharks (hammerheads and other species) for their fins, [51] and the harvest of sea cucumbers out of season. Development threatens both land and sea species. The growth of both the tourism industry and local populations fuelled by high birth rates and illegal immigration threaten the wildlife of the Archipelago. The grounding of the oil tanker Jessica in 2001 and the subsequent oil spill brought this threat to world attention.

In 2007, UNESCO put the Galápagos Islands on their List of World Heritage in Danger because of threats posed by invasive species, unbridled tourism and overfishing. [52] On 29 July 2010, the World Heritage Committee decided to remove the Galápagos Islands from the list because the Committee found significant progress had been made by Ecuador in addressing these problems. [53]

On 28 January 2008, Galápagos National Park official Victor Carrion announced 53 sea lions (13 pups, 25 youngsters, 9 males and 6 females) were killed at the Galápagos Islands nature reserve on Pinta, with their heads caved in. In 2001, poachers killed 35 male sea lions. [54]

The Galápagos Islands were short-listed as a candidate to be one of the New7Wonders of Nature by the New7Wonders of Nature Foundation. As of February 2009, the archipelago was ranked first in Group B, the category for islands. [55]

The islands' biodiversity is under threat from several sources. The human population is growing at an unsustainable rate of 8% per year (1995). Introduced species have caused damage, and in 1996 a US$5 million, five-year eradication plan commenced in an attempt to rid the islands of introduced species such as goats, rats, deer, and donkeys. Except for the rats, the project was essentially completed in 2006. [47] [48] Rats have only been eliminated from the smaller Galápagos Islands of Rábida and Pinzón. [56]

El Niño has adversely affected the marine ecosystem. In January 2001, an oil slick from a stranded tanker threatened the islands, but winds and shifting ocean currents helped disperse the oil before much damage was done. The devastating El Nino of 1982-83 saw almost six times as much rain as normal in the Galapagos and created a wildlife catastrophe. [57] The 1997–98 El Niño adversely affected wildlife in the waters surrounding the islands, as the waters were 5 °C (9 °F) warmer than normal. Corals and barnacles suffered, hammerhead sharks were driven away, and most of the island's seabirds failed to breed in 1997–98. The mortality rate of marine iguanas rose as the green algae they feed on was replaced by inedible red algae. During the 1982–83 El Niño, 70% of the marine iguanas starved to death because of this. [58]

See also

Related Research Articles

Charles Darwin Foundation other organization in Puerto Ayora, Ecuador

The Charles Darwin Foundation was founded in 1959, under the auspices of UNESCO and the World Conservation Union. The Charles Darwin Research Station serves as headquarters for The Foundation, and is used to conduct scientific research and promote environmental education.

Marine iguana species of reptile

The marine iguana, also known as the sea iguana, saltwater iguana, or Galápagos marine iguana, is a species of iguana found only on the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador) that has the ability, unique among modern lizards, to forage in the sea, making it a marine reptile. This iguana feeds almost exclusively on algae and large males dive to find this food source, while females and smaller males feed during low tide in the intertidal zone. They mainly live in colonies on rocky shores where they warm after visiting the relatively cold water or intertidal zone, but can also be seen in marshes, mangrove and beaches. Large males defend territories for a short period, but smaller males have other breeding strategies. After mating, the female digs a nest hole in the soil where she lays her eggs, leaving them to hatch on their own a few months later.

Fernandina Island Island in the Galapagos

Fernandina Island is the third largest, and youngest, island of the Galápagos Islands, as well as the furthest west. Like the others, the island was formed by the Galápagos hotspot. The island is an active shield volcano that has most recently been erupting since April 11, 2009.

Puerto Ayora Town in Galápagos, Ecuador

Puerto Ayora is a town in central Galápagos, Ecuador. Located on the southern shore of Santa Cruz Island, it is the seat of Santa Cruz Canton. The town is named in honor of Isidro Ayora, an Ecuadorian president. The town is sometimes mistakenly referred to as Santa Cruz. Puerto Ayora is the most populous town in the Galápagos Islands, with more than 12,000 inhabitants.

San Cristóbal Island island in the Galápagos archipelago

San Cristóbal (Chatham) is the easternmost island in the Galápagos archipelago, as well as one of the oldest geologically. It is administratively part of San Cristóbal Canton, Ecuador.

Sierra Negra (Galápagos) volcano on the Galapagos island Isabela

Sierra Negra is a large shield volcano at the southeastern end of Isabela Island in the Galapagos that rises to an altitude of 1124m. It coalesces with the volcanoes Cerro Azul to the west and Alcedo to the north. It is one of the most active of the Galapagos volcanoes with the most recent historic eruption beginning in June 2018 and continuing through the summer.

Isabela Island (Galápagos) island

Isabela Island is the largest island of the Galápagos with an area of 4,640 square kilometres (1,790 sq mi) and length of 100 kilometres (62 mi), almost four times larger than Santa Cruz, the second largest of the archipelago. It was named after Queen Isabella of Spain. It was originally named Albemarle after the Duke of Albemarle. The island straddles the equator.

Santa Cruz Island (Galápagos) island of the Galápagos Islands

Santa Cruz Island is one of the Galápagos Islands with an area of 986 km2 (381 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 864 metres (2,835 ft). Situated in the center of the archipelago, Santa Cruz is the second largest island after Isabela. Its capital is Puerto Ayora, the most populated urban centre in the islands. On Santa Cruz there are some small villages, whose inhabitants work in agriculture and cattle raising. This island is a large dormant volcano. It is estimated that the last eruptions occurred around a million and a half years ago. There is a gigantic lava tunnel that is over 2000 meters long on the island that many tourists visit and walk through. As a testimony to its volcanic history there are two big holes formed by the collapse of a magma chamber: Los Gemelos, or "The Twins". Named after the Holy Cross, its English name (Indefatigable) was given after a British vessel HMS Indefatigable. Santa Cruz hosts the largest human population in the archipelago at the town of Puerto Ayora, with a total of 12,000 residents on the island.

Floreana Island island in Ecuador

Floreana Island is an island of the Galápagos Islands. It was named after Juan José Flores, the first president of Ecuador, during whose administration the government of Ecuador took possession of the archipelago. It was previously called Charles Island, and Santa Maria after one of the caravels of Columbus.

San Cristóbal Canton Canton in Galápagos Province, Ecuador

San Cristóbal Canton is a canton of Ecuador in the Galápagos Islands archipelago and one of the oldest in this insular geological formation. It consists of Española, Floreana, Genovesa, San Cristóbal, and Santa Fe Islands.

The Galápagos Islands are located off the west coast of South America straddling the equator. The Galápagos are located at the confluence of several currents including the cold Humboldt Current traveling north from South America and the Panama Current traveling south from Central America make the islands cooler and provide the perfect environment for the unique mix of wildlife that inhabits the islands.

Isabela Canton Canton in Galápagos Province, Ecuador

Isabela Canton is a canton of Galápagos Province, Ecuador, consisting of the islands of Isabela Island, Darwin, Fernandina, Wolf, and some minor islets. Isabela is the largest island in the Galápagos, and well known for its beaches, bays and coastal lagoons with a wide variety of plants and birds. The capital of the canton is Puerto Villamil.

Pinta Island island in Ecuador

Pinta Island, also known as Abingdon Island, after the Earl of Abingdon, is an island located in the Galápagos Islands group, Ecuador. It has an area of 60 km2 (23 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 777 metres (2,549 ft).

Volcán Wolf

Wolf Volcano, also known as Mount Whiton, is the highest peak in the Galapagos Islands. It is situated on Isabela Island and reaches 1,707 m (5,600 ft). It is a shield volcano with a characteristic upturned soup bowl shape.

Galapagos land iguana species of reptile

The Galapagos land iguana is a species of lizard in the family Iguanidae. It is one of three species of the genus Conolophus. It is endemic to the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador), in the dry lowlands of Fernandina, Isabela, Santa Cruz, North Seymour, Baltra, and South Plaza Islands.

Alcedo Volcano

Alcedo Volcano is one of the six coalescing shield volcanoes that make up Isabela Island in the Galapagos. The remote location of the volcano has meant that even the most recent eruption in 1993 was not recorded until two years later. It is also the only volcano in the Galapagos to have erupted rhyolite and basaltic lava.

<i>Utetheisa connerorum</i> species of insect

Utetheisa connerorum is a moth of the family Erebidae. It is endemic to the Galapagos archipelago, where it is the most widespread of all Utetheisa species. It has been found on Baltra, Fernandina, Floreana, Genovesa, Isabela, Marchena, Pinta, San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz, Santa Fé, and Santiago.

MV <i>Jessica</i>

MV Jessica was an oil tanker that was involved in an oil spill in the Galápagos Islands, a chain of islands 972 km (525 nmi) west of continental Ecuador, of which they are a part. The ship was registered in Ecuador and owned by Acotramar. On the evening of 16 January 2001, Jessica ran aground at Wreck Bay, at the entrance to the port of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galápagos Province, located on the southwestern coast of San Cristóbal Island. The ship was carrying 600 tons of diesel oil and 300 tons of intermediate fuel oil. The diesel was destined for the fuel dispatch station on Baltra Island, while the fuel oil was destined for the tourist vessel Galapagos Explorer.

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Further reading