Q.: WHAT ISLANDS ARE INHABITED IN GALAPAGOS?
A.: There are four islands with inhabitants on them (not tourists), and these are Santa Cruz, Isabela, San Cristobal and Floreana.
GEOGRAPHY / GEOLOGY
The Galapagos Archipelago comprises 13 large islands, 6 small islands, 42 islets and a number of small rocks and pinnacles, which make up a total land surface of 8,000km2.
More than 60 volcanic eruptions have been documented over the last two hundred years in the Galapagos region. The most active volcanoes are the ones located in the western Islands on Isabela and Fernandina. The latest eruptions in the islands were in June 3rd 2008 when Cerro Azul on Isabela Island sent up a 60mts high lava fountain and as recently as April 2009 on Fernandina Island. There has been around 13 volcanic eruptions in the Galapagos Islands in the last 100 years.
The Galapagos Archipelago is a chain of islands. This is not the result of movement of the hot spot, rather, the hot spot remains stationary and the Nazca plate drifts over it to the southeast (at a rate of about 3 inches, or about 6.5cm, per year), taking the older islands with it. The oldest island in Galapagos is in the east (Espanola), while the youngest islands are those in the west (i.e., Isabela and Fernandina).
Most of the islands are the tips of enormous volcanoes formed by slabs of the Earth’s crust moving south east over a “hot spot”or stationary area where concentrated heat and magma are released.
The Galapagos were discovered in 1535 by Fray Tomás de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama. This was the time of Spanish exploration and discovery, and followed Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe by a just a dozen years and Balboa’s discovery of the Pacific by two dozen. de Berlanga, however, was no explorer. He had been sailing to Peru, recently conquered by Pizzaro, when his ship became becalmed and was carried west by currents; his discovery was entirely accidental.
During the nineteenth century, whaling ships were a common sight in Galapagos waters. Sperm whales once swam in large pods around the islands.
Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in September 1835, first landing on San Cristobal. He spent a total of 5 weeks in Galapagos.. His observations about life on the islands eventually led to his famed theory of evolution. His On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published in 1859.
There are thirteen species of Darwin’s finches endemic to the islands. As noted by the great naturalist, these birds are famous for their beaks. Marine iguanas are only found in the Galapagos region. These are the only marine-going retiles found anywhere in the world.
The Galapagos penguin is the only tropical penguin in the world.
The endemic Flightless Cormorant is the largest of the world’s 29 cormorant species, and the only one to have lost its power of flight.
Most experts consider the Waved Albatross to be endemic to the Galapagos Islands. They are only found at Punta Suarez on Espanola Island between April and December.