The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed on either side of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, around 906 kilometers (563 miles) west of continental Ecuador, of which they are a part. The Galápagos Islands and their surrounding waters form an Ecuadorian province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve. The islands have a population of more over 25,000, and their main language is Spanish. These attractive islands are so popular for their huge number of endemic species and were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His deep observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.
These impressively beautiful islands are found at the coordinate’s 1°40’N – 1°36’S, 89°16′ – 92°01’W. Because straddling the equator, islands in the chain are situated in both the northern and southern hemispheres, with Volcán Wolf and Volcán Ecuador on Isla Isabela being directly on the equator. Española Island, the southernmost islet of the archipelago, and Darwin Island, the northernmost one, are range more than a distance of 220 kilometers. The IHO (International Hydrographic Organization) considers them wholly within the South Pacific Ocean, however. The Galápagos Archipelago consists of 7,880 kilometers of land spread over 45,000 kilometers of ocean. Moreover the largest of the islands, Isabela, measures 2,250 sq mi/5,827 kilometers and makes up close to three quarters of the total land area of the Galápagos. Volcán Wolf on Isabela is the highest point, with an elevation of 1,707 meters above sea level.
Moreover the group consists of 18 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. And these islands are located at the Galapagos Triple Junction. The archipelago is located on the Nazca Plate, which is moving east/southeast, diving under the South American Plate at a rate of about 2.5 inches per year. It is also atop the Galapagos hotspot, a place where the Earth’s crust is being melted from below by a mantle plume, making volcanoes. It is projected that the first islands formed here at least 8 million and perhaps up to 90 million years ago. Though the older islands have disappeared below the sea as they’ve moved away from the mantle plume, the youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, are still being formed, with the most recent volcanic eruption in April 2009 where lava from the volcanic island Fernandina started flowing both towards the island’s shoreline and into the center caldera.
The history tell us, that the first recorded visit to these islands occurred by chance in 1535, when the Bishop of Panamá Fray Tomás de Berlanga went to Peru to arbitrate in a dispute between Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro. De Berlanga was blown off course; however he ultimately returned to the Spanish Empire and described the conditions of the islands and the animals that inhabited them. Therefore the group of lovely islands was shown and named in Abraham Ortelius’s atlas published in 1570. The first crude map of the islands was made in 1684 by the buccaneer Ambrose Cowley, who named the individual islands after some of his fellow pirates or after British royalty and noblemen. Though these names were used in the authoritative navigation charts of the islands organized during the Beagle survey under Captain Robert Fitzroy, and in Darwin’s widespread book The Voyage of the Beagle. As the time passes, the new Republic of Ecuador took the islands from Spanish ownership in 1832, and afterward gave them official Spanish names. The older names remained in use in English language publications, including Herman Melville’s The Encantadas of 1854.