The Islands of Galapagos.
Galapagos is a group of islands, 972 kilometres west of Ecuador. There are four larger islands with settlements: Isabella, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Floreana. The fourteen smaller islands; Fernandina, Santiago, Marchena, Espanola, Pinta, Santa Fe, Genovesa, Pinzon, Darwin, Rabida, Wolf, Seymour Norte, Bartolome and Baltra are 100% national parks along with the 107 even smaller islets and rocks. In total more than 125 islands with a landmass of 7,880 km2.
The islands are located at the Galapagos Triple Junction. It is also on top of the Galapagos hotspot, a place where the Earth's crust is being melted from below by a mantle plume, creating volcanoes. The oldest island is thought to have formed between 5 and 10 million years ago. The youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, are still being formed. Even older islands have been driven out to the east and been warn down and engrossed by the sea. Some indigenous species might have evolved on these islands. The whole group of islands are moving around two centimetres a year toward the east on this giant conveyor belt.
Most islands have several names. The first given by buccaneers, generally after other buccaneers and British noblemen. Then there are the Spanish names. I try to use the Spanish names, although I write in English. Some of the synonyms on the larger islands:
Unfortunately, I have no chance to visit all islands, and to get an impression of which might be the most interesting, I done some research. Then I figured the most interesting might be out of my reach. Anyway, here are some facts, and those marked with a star* are those I actually visit:
Seymour is currently not within the boundaries of the
Galapagos National Park, because it is an official
Ecuadorian military base. Baltra is a small flat island
covering 1,9 km2, located near the centre of the Galápagos. The island is very
arid and vegetation consists of salt bushes, prickly pear
cactus and Palo Santo trees.
Bartolom is a volcanic islet just off the east coast of
Santiago Island. It is one of the "younger"
islands in the
Galápagos archipelago. This island, and Sulivan Bay on
Santiago island, are named after naturalist and life-long
friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, who
was a Lieutenant aboard HMS Beagle.
is named in honour of Charles Darwin. It is among the
smallest in the Galapagos
Archipelago with an area of just
one square kilometre. Darwin is the remains of an extinct
volcano that reaches 165 meters above sea level. With no dry
landing sites, Darwin Island's main attractions are found in
the Pacific Ocean, which is teeming with a spectacular
variety of marine life.
Hood is located in the extreme southeast of the archipelago
and is considered, along with Santa Fe, one of the oldest,
at approximately four million years. It is 60 km² with a
height of 205 meters. A popular tourist stop, Española is the most southerly island in
the Galápagos Archipelago. It is about a ten to twelve hour boat
trip from Isla Santa Cruz. Tourists come to see the
albatrosses and the mating dances of blue-footed boobies..
Narbrough is the third largest, and youngest, island of the
Galápagos. The island
is an active shield volcano
that has been erupting since April 11, 2009. It has an area
of 642 km² and a height of 1,476 meters, with a summit
caldera about 6.5 kilometres wide. The caldera underwent a
collapse in 1968, when parts of the caldera floor dropped
350 meters. A small lake has intermittently occupied the
northern caldera floor, most recently in 1988.
Charles was named after Juan José Flores, the first
president of Ecuador. It is also called Santa Maria after
one of the caravels of Columbus. The island has an area of
173 km² and a maximum height of 640 metres. It is one of
the islands with the most interesting human history and one
of the earliest to be inhabited.
Tower or Bird occupies about 14 km2, and
its maximum elevation is 64 meters. The horse-shoe shaped
island has a volcanic caldera whose wall has collapsed,
forming the Great Darwin Bay, surrounded by cliffs. Lake Arcturus, filled with salt water, lies in the centre, and
sediment within this crater lake is less than 6,000 years
old. Although no historical eruptions are known from
Genovesa, there are very young lava flows on the flanks of
Albemarle is the largest island of the Galápagos
with an area of 4,640 square kilometres, and length of 100
kilometres nearly four times larger than Santa Cruz, the
second largest of the islands. It have an altitude of 1,707
meters. This island was named in honour
of Queen Isabella of Spain, who sponsored the voyage of
The island is primarily noted for its geology, providing excellent examples of a geologic occurrence that created the Galapagos Islands including uplifts at Urvina Bay and the Bolivar Channel, tuff cones at Tagus Cove, and Pulmace on Alcedo and Sierra Negra, one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
Isabela is also interesting for its flora and fauna. The young island does
not follow the vegetation zones of the other islands. The
relatively new lava fields and surrounding soils have not
developed the sufficient nutrients required to support the
varied life zones found on other islands. Another obvious
difference occurs on Volcan Wolf and Cerro Azul, these
volcanoes loft above the cloud cover and are arid on top.
Bindloe has an area of 130 km² and a maximum altitude of
343 meters. There aren't any visitor's sites on this island,
although it is possible to dive in the waters around
Marchena on organised tours.
Most visitors only see it if
they sail around the northern part of Isabela on the way to
Tower Island, its nearest neighbour about 70 kilometres due
Norte, North Seymour is a small island just north of
Baltra. The whole island is
covered with low, bushy vegetation. The island is named
after an English nobleman, Lord Hugh Seymour. It has an area
of 1.9 km² and a maximum altitude of 28 metres.
Duncan has no visitor sites and a permit is
required to visit. It has an area of 18 km² and a maximum
altitude of 458 meters.
Abingdon has an area of 60 km² and a maximum altitude of 777
Pinta is the original home to Lonesome George, perhaps the most famous tortoise in the Galapagos Islands. It is also home to Swallow-tailed Gulls, Marine Iguanas, hawks, fur seals and a number of other birds and mammals. The most northern island in the Galapagos, at one time Isla Pinta had a thriving tortoise population.
Jervis Island named in honour of the 18th-century British
admiral John Jervis. The island has a total area of 4,9 km²
and a height of 367 metres. The island has red sand beaches and a
saltwater lagoon are inhabited by flamingos and a bachelor sea
lion colony. The landscape is studded with small volcanic
craters along sharp slopes and cliffs. In addition to
flamingos and the bachelor sea lion colony, pelicans,
White-cheeked Pintails, boobies, and nine species of finch
have been reported. The rich wildlife attracts a number of
tourists cruises, but not me.
Cruz, Indefatigable is one of the Galápagos Islands
with an area of 986 km² and a maximum height
of 864 metres. 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 (City
map). Situated in
the centre of the archipelago, Santa Cruz is the second
largest island after Isabela. Here are some small villages
too, 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.
Fe, Barrington is a small island of 24 km² and
a height of 259 metres, which
lies in the centre of the Galapagos archipelago, to the
south east of Santa Cruz Island. Geologically it is one of
the oldest, since volcanic rocks of about four million years
old have been found. The vegetation of the island is
characterized by the presence of a dense forest of the
largest species of the giant Opuntia cactus.
Salvador, James consists of two overlapping
volcanoes, has an area of 585 km² and a maximum height of
907 meters, on the north-western shield volcano.
Wenman is a small island named after the German geologist
Theodor Wolf. It is situated north west of the main
Galapagos Island group, and has an area of 1.3 km² and
a maximum altitude of 253 meters.
Wolf Island is the remains of an extinct volcano that
reaches a maximum 253 meters above sea level. The island is remote from
the main island group. The Galapagos National Park does not
allow landing on the island, however it is a popular diving
Major is a volcanic island just north of Santa Cruz
Island and just west of the Baltra. It consists of a tuff
crater, devoid of trees, whose rim rises 110 metres above
the sea, covering an area of 0,32 km².
Sur is a small island off the east coast of Santa
Cruz. It has an area of 0.13 km, and a maximum altitude of
23 meters. Despite its small size it is home to a large
number of species and it is famous for its extraordinary
flora. That is why this island is very popular with
visitors. On the steep banks it is possible to see a great
number of birds such as nesting Red-billed Tropicbirds and
Swallow-tailed Gulls, but most of all, enjoying the
beautiful view from atop the steep banks or strolling along
the base of the cliff is an extremely pleasurable
experience. Very attractive are the beautiful prickly pear
cactus trees and of course the large colony of Galapagos
Land Iguanas. Depending on the season, the Sesuvium
ground vegetation changes its colour from intense green in
the rainy season to orange and purple in the dry season.