The Galapagos Islands

Island Formations and History

Formation of the Galapagos Islands the Galapagos Islands are often compared to a terrestrial paradise that civilization and Man have not yet managed to degrade. Although not completely virgin, most of the islands are now protected. Tourist flows are channeled and regulated.

The eastern archipelago was highlighted in 1835 by Charles Darwin during his voyage aboard the Beagle. It was during this trip that the famous naturalist elaborated and found evidence of the evolution of species, especially thanks to the species of persons.

Geographical Location

Located less than 1,000 kilometers west of Ecuador, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Rosary of the Galapagos is made up of 19 islands, 42 islets, and several thousand reefs. The entire archipelago covers an area of 8006 km2.

List of the 19 Galapagos islands: Baltra, Bartolomé, Darwin, Española, Fernandina, Floreana, Genovesa Island, Isabela, Marchena, North Seymour, Pinta, Pinzón, Rábida, San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, Santiago, South Plaza, Wolf.

The Formation of the Galapagos Islands

Islands of volcanoes

These are islands of volcanic origin that have emerged from the basaltic plateau for 4 million years. They are in no way related to the landmass of South America. The islands were thus formed from volcanoes that emerged from the bottom of the ocean.

The Galapagos is one of the” hot spots ” of the Earth, which are zones of the fragility of the tectonic plate. The seabed is fractured, and the molten magma trapped below penetrates the Earth’s crust to form a volcano. It will take several million years to emerge and form an island.

Not all islands are the same age!

The tectonic plate on which the archipelago is located, the Nazca plate, thus migrates gently (5 cm per year) towards the East. The hot spot of the Galapagos being fixed, the islands which are created advance towards the East. The oldest of the islands is therefore to the East, San Cristobal, while the most recent is to the West like Fernandina.

History of the Galapagos Islands

There are no archaeological remains of ancient civilizations in the Galapagos. It is therefore assumed that the islands were not colonized by a man in ancient times. Lost in the middle of the ocean, almost 1000 km from the coast, the probability of birthing is very low.

It was in 1535 that Fray Thomas of Berlanga sent on a mission by King Charles V, officially discovered the Galapagos archipelago. The sailor’s approach, meet strange animals (giant turtles, iguanas) but do not settle on the islands. Berlanga brought back to the King a description of the islands, insisting on the wild side of the islands.

Abraham Ortelius

From 1570 the islands began to be indicated on the maritime maps, including that drawn by Abraham Ortelius in 1574, under the name “Insulae de los Galopegoes”. Being often shrouded in mist the islands are also called at the time “Las Encantadas” (the “enchanted islands”): the navigators see them as laid on the water.

Until the end of the 17th century, the Galapagos served as a natural reservoir of water and food for passing ships. Buccaneers, whalers, and pirates find on the island’s sources of drinking water but especially the giant turtles that they embark as the source of “living” food.

In the Galapagos archipelago, hunting for sea lions and whales flourished: some species were completely exterminated.

In 1807, a first colonizer settled on the island of Floréana, Patrick Watkins. He established a trading post for passing ships. Native Irish he grows potatoes and tobacco, which are the basis of his business.

In 1832, Colonel Ignacio Hernandez took possession of the archipelago and the Galapagos became the property of Ecuador. All the islands are renamed with the Spanish names we know today.

Charles Darwin

The most famous tourist on the islands was undoubtedly Charles Darwin, who explored the archipelago in 1835. Surprised by the specific fauna of the islands, he studies, in particular, the different species of persons found there. His studies will allow him, upon his return, to develop his theory of the evolution of species based on the natural selection process he observed.

The colonization of the islands accelerated, and in 1892 (400th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas) they became known as the colon archipelago.

As early as 1934, laws on the protection of the archipelago were enacted, and part of the islands was transformed into a National Park. Diversity was not saved, however, because during the Second World War Baltra Island was home to an American air base. Soldiers will find no better than to practice shooting at terrestrial iguanas: some species are exterminated!

In 1959 the whole of the archipelago was declared a National Park and the Darwin Foundation was created in Brussels. The purpose of this foundation is to seek funds for the Conservation of the biodiversity of the Galapagos. The Darwin station was built in 1960 to study and protect the islands ‘ flora and fauna.

Creation in 1968 of the Galapagos National Park Service which gives the boundaries of tourist areas to channel visitors and to stop contamination from outside (seeds, animals…).

For the same reasons, the Ecuadorian government established a 40-mile marine reserve around the islands in 1986.

In 1978 the Galapagos was the first site to be inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List.

Photos of Galapagos islands below were conducted in April and May 2008. They show an amazing diversity of landscapes. Each island has its colors, its vegetation…