Galápagos Islands

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Galápagos Islands

(gəlăp`əgōs) [Span.,=tortoises], archipelago and province (1990 pop. 9,785), 3,029 sq mi (7,845 sq km), Ecuador, in the Pacific Ocean c.650 mi (1,045 km) W of South America on the equator. There are 13 large islands and many smaller ones; Isabela (Albemarle; c.2,250 sq mi/5,827 sq km) is the largest. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, on San Cristóbal, is the provincial capital.

The islands, created by the southeastward movement of the Nazca plate over a geological hot spot (see plate tectonicsplate tectonics,
theory that unifies many of the features and characteristics of continental drift and seafloor spreading into a coherent model and has revolutionized geologists' understanding of continents, ocean basins, mountains, and earth history.
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), are largely desolate lava piles; eight of the volcanoes in the Galápagos have erupted at least once since 1800. The islands have little vegetation or cultivable soil except on the high volcanic mountains whose upper slopes receive heavy rains from the prevailing trade winds and are mantled by dense vegetation. The climate is modified by the cool Humboldt Current. The Galápagos are famous for their wildlife, although the gigantic (up to 500 lb/227 kg) land tortoises the islands are named for are now endangered. There also are land and sea iguanas and hosts of unusual birds, such as the flightless cormorant, which exists nowhere else, and the world's northernmost penguins. Shore lagoons teem with marine life.

The islands were discovered in 1535 by the Spaniard Tomás de Bertanga and originally known as the Encantadas. Early travelers were astonished by the tameness of the animals. In 1832 Ecuador claimed the Galápagos. Charles DarwinDarwin, Charles Robert,
1809–82, English naturalist, b. Shrewsbury; grandson of Erasmus Darwin and of Josiah Wedgwood. He firmly established the theory of organic evolution known as Darwinism.
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 visited the islands (1835) during the voyage of the Beagle, and gathered an impressive body of evidence there that was used later in support of his theory of natural selection. Although buccaneers, seeking food, made inroads on the fauna, real depredations did not begin until the arrival in the 19th cent. of the whalers and then the oilers, who killed the tortoises wholesale for food and oil.

During World War II the United States maintained an air base on the islands for the defense of the Panama Canal, and in 1967 a satellite tracking station was established. On the centennial (1959) of the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species the Galápagos were declared a national park; the surrounding waters are a marine resources reserve. The Galápagos remain one of the few places in the world where naturalists can study living survivals of species arrested at various evolutionary stages. They also are an increasingly popular tourist spot.


See C. Darwin, The Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle (1840); B. Nelson, Galapagos: Islands of Birds (1968); I. W. Thornton, Darwin's Islands (1971); N. E. Hickin, Animal Life of the Galapagos (1980); J. Hickman, The Enchanted Islands: The Galapagos Discovered (1985).

Galapagos Islands


Archipiélago de Colón, a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean below the equator and to the west of South America. The group belongs to Ecuador. Total area of the 16 islands, 7,800 sq km. Population, 3,100 (1967).

The Galápagos are volcanic in origin and covered with the cones of a large number of extinct and active volcanoes, which reach an altitude of 1,707 m. The climate is dry equatorial, but the cold Peru Current keeps temperatures moderate (yearly average temperature, 23° C). The vegetation is primarily of the xerophytic succulent shrub type. Representatives of tropical and antarctic flora and fauna—lianas and mosses, tropical birds and gulls from Antarctica, parrots and penguins, and seals—are found coexisting closely in the Galápagos. There is a great abundance of unique local species, such as the endangered giant tortoises and iguanas. The islands were declared a national park in 1965. Darwin used material drawn from his observations in the Galápagos to substantiate his theory of the origin of species.


Darwin, C. Puteshestvie naturalista vokrug sveta na korable “Bigl’.” Moscow, 1954.
Peterson, R. T. “The Galapagos: Eerie Cradle of New Species.” National Geographic Magazine, 1967, vol. 131, no. 4.
References in periodicals archive ?
In addition to these hotel offerings, guests are also able to couple their stay with a multitude of wildlife excursions throughout the Galapagos Islands through Opuntia eco-journeys.
This new collection coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Charles Darwin Foundation's Research Station in the Galapagos Islands, a project that IWC works closely with.
We want to demonstrate how safe our technology is for the environment and so, are pleased to have the opportunity for the world renowned Galapagos Islands to be the site of our first project.
The Aquatimer family will include the following watches from 2009 onwards: -- Aquatimer Deep Two -- Aquatimer Chronograph Edition Galapagos Islands -- Aquatimer Chronograph -- Aquatimer Chronograph in red gold -- Aquatimer Automatic 2000 All have the following features in common: the case dimensions have increased slightly to 44 mm, and in one particular instance even to 46 mm.
FORESTER Rachel Sparks is to follow in the footsteps of Charles Darwin with a two-month mission to the Galapagos Islands.
They will also visit Chile, Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands during the 10-day trip.
A PROJECT to wean the Galapagos Islands off fossil fuels, which includes three giant wind turbines on one of the World Heritage site islands, has been officially launched.
George lives in the Galapagos Islands, a group of 19 islands in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles (a little less than 1,000 km) west of Ecuador.
Even though the islands are just a few miles off the coast of California, between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara--cities with a combined population of almost 12 million--they receive fewer visitors than the "real" Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.
AROUND SAN CRISTOBAL, in the Galapagos Islands, many open-water swimmers would breathe a sigh of relief if the oceans were cleared of sharks.
In 1699, more than a century before Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands, Maria Sibylla Merian made an incredible journey from Amsterdam to South America to study caterpillars.