GALÁPAGOS

GEOGRAPHY

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

The Galápagos Archipelago consists of 7,880 km2 of land spread over 45,000 km2 of ocean. The largest of the islands, Isabela, measures 2,250 square miles and makes up close to three-quarters of the total land area of the Galápagos. Volcano Wolf on Isabela is the highest point, with an elevation of 1,707 m. above sea level.

More than 233 islands, islets and rocks, born from volcanoes, make up the Galápagos archipelago.

Main Islands:

  • Baltra (South Seymour) Island
  • Bartolomé (Bartholomew) Island
  • Española (Hood) Island
  • Fernandina (Narborough) Island
  • Floreana (Charles or Santa María) Island
  • Genovesa (Tower) Island
  • Isabela (Albemarle) Island
  • North Seymour Island
  • Pinzón (Duncan) Island
  • Rábida (Jervis) Island
  • San Cristóbal (Chatham) Island
  • Santa Cruz (Indefatigable) Island
  • Santa Fe (Barrington) Island
  • Santiago (San Salvador, James) Island

Minor Islands:

  • Daphne Major
  • South Plaza Island (Plaza Sur)
  • Nameless Island
  • Roca Redonda

HISTORY FACTS

  • 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.
  • The Galápagos Islands first appeared on the maps of Gerardus Mercator and Abraham Ortelius, in about 1570. The islands were named "Insulae de los Galopegos" (Islands of the Tortoises) in reference to the giant tortoises found there.
  • 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.
  • Ecuador annexed the Galápagos Islands on 12 February 1832, naming them the Archipelago of Ecuador. 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. Including his companion, the young naturalist Charles Darwin, made observations on the geology and biology on Chatham, Charles, Albemarle and James islands.
  • In 1859, after 20 years of gathering evidence to support his theories, Darwin published The Origin of Species by Natural Selection
  • After closing the Penal Colony in 1959, Ecuador declared the Galapagos Islands as a National Park. Tourism began to grow in the 1960s
  • The islands were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978 due to its great diversity of underwater wildlife, its geological interest, animal wealth and the great interest that the origin and evolution of its flora and fauna arouse.
  • In 1998, through the Special law for the conservation and sustainable development of Galapagos Province (LOREG), the marine protected area was enlarged and the Galapagos Marine Reserve was created
  • In 2001, the Unesco Heritage Committee recognized the enormous ecological, cultural and economic value of the RMG and included it as a Natural Patrimony of Humanity
  • In 2016 the zone between Wolf and Darwin was declared Marine Santuary by the Ecuadorian gobermment for the variety of species

WEATHER

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.

  • 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.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Population: 26,640 (2012)

Capital city: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

Official name: Galápagos Islands

97% of the land surface is National Park.