Chelonia mydas, commonly known

Archipelago Galapagos

Galapagos Islands Guided Tour

The Archipelago

Jeff Waugh

World Heritage Site

The Galapagos Archipelago is situated 800 kilometers west of the Ecuadorian coast and lie directly on the equator. The archipelago encompasses over 50 islands of volcanic origin that are spread out over an area of about 4, 500 square kilometers. The volcanic Galapagos platform originated probably not more than 15 million years ago and the oldest island not more than 2.4 million years ago. Volcanic eruptions still occur in the islands. Isla Fernandina and the Sierra Negra volcano on Isla Isabela have erupted within the past 10 years.

According to legend... the Inca Tupac Yupanqui set sail from the coast of Ecuador in the late 1400's with 20, 000 men on balsa rafts. On his journey he discovered and named two islands - Ava Chumbi (Outer Island) and Nina Chumbi (Fire Island) . Some historians believe these islands were the Galapagos.

Volcanic craters on BartolomeIn 1535, a Spanish captain, Thomas de Berlanga rediscovered the Galapagos archipelago.

Puerto Viejo April 26, 1535: "The ship sailed with very good breezes for seven days, and the pilot kept near land and we had a six-day calm; the currents were so strong and engulfed us in such a way that on Wednesday, the tenth of March, we sighted an island; and, as on board there was enough water for only two more days, they agreed to lower the life-boat and go on land for water and grass for the horses. And once out, they found nothing but seals, and turtles and such big tortoises that each could carry a man on top of himself, and many iguanas that are like serpents."

1794 Map of the Galapagos Islands

They were later used by Spanish and English buccaneers, whaling fleets, and fur sealers.

USS Essex in Galapagos c. 1813
The Essex was sent to Galapagos to destroy the British whaling fleet during the War of 1812

1794 Map of the Galapagos IslandsCharles Darwin visited the islands in 1835 and made them famous in Origin of Species.

Charles Darwin
"SEPTEMBER 15th. - This archipelago consists of ten principal islands, of which five exceed the others in size. They are situated under the Equator, and between five and six hundred miles westward of the coast of America. They are all formed of volcanic rocks; a few fragments of granite curiously glazed and altered by the heat, can hardly be considered as an exception. Some of the craters, surmounting the larger islands, are of immense size, and they rise to a height of between three and four thousand feet. Their flanks are studded by innumerable smaller orifices. I scarcely hesitate to affirm, that there must be in the whole archipelago at least two thousand craters.
The archipelago is a little world within itself, or rather a satellite attached to America, whence it has derived a few stray colonists, and has received the general character of its indigenous productions. Considering the small size of the islands, we feel the more astonished at the number of their aboriginal beings, and at their confined range. Seeing every height crowned with its crater, and the boundaries of most of the lava- streams still distinct, we are led to believe that within a period geologically recent the unbroken ocean was here spread out. Charles Darwin

H.M.S. Beagle

Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact - that mystery of mysteries - the first appearance of new beings on this earth."

- Charles Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle

scientific collection expedition of The California Academy of Sciences in 1906 also helped bring the Galapagos to attention of scientists and the public. Galapagos National Park was established in 1959 to protect the unique flora and fauna of the islands. That same year the Charles Darwin Research Station was founded in Academy Bay on Isla Santa Cruz. In 1979, the Galapagos Islands were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

In order to protect the islands
and their unique flora and fauna, the National Park and Darwin Station established visitor sites on most of the islands to limit visitor impact. All visitors to the national park must be accompanied by a licensed Galapagos naturalist guide and must remain on designated trails or within the visitor sites. Guides are included as crew members on all tour ships, boats and yachts operating in the islands to interpret the natural and human history and to enforce national park regulations.

The Giant Galapagos Tortoise on the rim
of Alcedo Volcano in September, 1979.

The best way to learn about the islands is with a guide

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Land wildlife of the Galapagos archipelago, Ecuador
Land wildlife of the Galapagos archipelago, Ecuador
Mocking Birds dancing on Galapagos Archipelago
Mocking Birds dancing on Galapagos Archipelago
The Galapagos Archipelago Case: Why Google Will Survive Apple
The Galapagos Archipelago Case: Why Google Will Survive Apple
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