Monday, January 14, 2008

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos islands image courtsey:

Galapagos Archipelago or the Enchanted Islands

The end of innocence

Frey Tomas de Berlanga -the fourth Bishop of Panama - who set sail to Peru, lost his path in the mid-sea; while drifting in the waters he happened to see an unknown island and anchored his ship on its shore. This incident happened in a fine morning 10th March, 1536 turned out to be a historical one; as for the first time; a European had set foot on the group of islands later came to be known as Galapagos Islands (giant tortoise island). In fact it was beginning of an era and an end to the numerous exotic species of animals which lived in the group of islands without any fear of predators, for them this group of island was a real Garden of Eden.

A living museum of species

Galapagos IslandsGalapagos islands Long-nose Hawkfish

Galapagos Islands are an isolated cluster of 19 volcanic islands of varying sizes in the Pacific Ocean located around the equator. It is a territory of Ecuador and located about 600 miles off from it. Galapagos Archipelago (a scattered group of islands cut off from mainland) is well known for its bio diversity and Charles Darwin; the renowned scientist stayed there to do his researches on biological evolution. Much of his citations are exclusive about the species of this archipelago. An institute in the name of Charles Darwin located in Santa Cruz Island is still doing valuable researches (as well as preservation of endangered species) on its flora and fauna.

What is in a name?

Galapagos IslandsGalapagos islands crab: image courtsey:

This Archipelago is a territory of Ecuador; the regional capital of these islands is Puerto Barquerizo Moreno; for administrative convenience these islands are divided in to three zones 1 Isabela, 2 San Cristabel and 3 Santa Cruz. Most of these islands at present bear the names coined by Ecuador and vary from their original English names. The following article gives brief descriptions about these islands; written clock wise beginning from Isabela -the largest- as follows

The Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands Map

1 Isabela (Albemarie) Island; the largest island with an area of 4640 sq km, shaped as a sea-horse, formed of six volcanoes, the Wolf Volcano is on this island.

2 Fernandina (Narborough) Island, named after King Ferdinand II who sponsored the voyage of Columbus area 642 sq km), it is the youngest and western most located island.

3 Pinta (Abingdon) Island, named after the masted ship (caravel) of Columbus; 60 sq km in area, inhabited by swallow tailed gulls and marine iguanas.

4 Marchena (Bindloe) Island, 130 sq km in area, named after Fray Antonio Marchena, inhabited by Galapagos Hawks, Sea lions, Marchena lizards.

5 Genovesa (the Tower) Island, named after Genoa city of Italy the birthplace of Columbus; area 14 sq km home to numerous birds like Red Footed Boobies, Noddy Terns, Darwin Flinches.

6 San Cristobal (Chatham) Island, named after St. Christopher the Patron Saint of sailors, area 558 sq km, hosts the largest fresh water lake (Laguna El Junco) in the archipelagos, home to giant tortoise, various Boobies, Iguanas and Dolphins etc.

7 Espanola (Hood) Island, named after Spain, it is secluded from other islands hence home to many exclusive floras and faunas, its marine iguanas can change its colors like garden lizards (the only one with this power).

8 Floreana Island (Santa Maria); after one of the caravels of Columbus), named after Juan Jose Flores the first president of Ecuador, 173 sq km in area, the earliest inhabited island, Devil’s Crown –an underwater volcano is on its shores, it is home to many birds like flamingos, green-sea turtles etc.

9 Santiago (San Salvador), named after St. James, area 585 sq km, pigs and goats introduced by man has eliminated many endemic flora and fauna. At present government schemes are on for the eradication of pigs and goats. It is home to Darwin Finches and Galapagos Hawks.

10 Santa Fe (Barrington), named after a city in Spain, it is home to Galapagos land iguanas, Lava Lizards and numerous species of endemic birds, its forest of Optunia Cactus is the largest in this archipelago.

11 Santa Cruz Island (Indefatigable Island named after the British vessel HMS Indefatigable), it is most populated island in the archipelago, Charles Darwin Research Station; is located here, this island is also the head quarters of the Galapagos National Park. There is a large tortoise breeding center engaged in hatching tortoise eggs and releasing them to their natural habitats; its shore is home to large tortoises, sea-turtles, rays and sharks.

12 Baltra (South Seymour), this island has an airport, it is a former World War II base of US Air Force and present base for Ecuadorian forces. It is home to large Iguanas.

13 Seymour Norte, a tiny island named after a noble Englishman, a haven of many sea animals like sea-lion, marine iguana, pelicans etc, also growths of Palo Santo trees.

14 Pinzon (Duncan) Island, named after the Pinzon Brothers captains of the caravels of Columbus, area 18 sq kms, it is rich in biodiversity.

15 Rabida (Jervis) Island, area 4.9 kms, its soil is rich in iron ore which give it a reddish tinge; this is also rich in animals.

16 South Plaza Island is a tiny one with land area 0.13 sq km it is rich in flora and fauna.

17 Darwin (Culpepper) Island, named after Charles Darwin, the northern most island of the group, area just 1 sq km, it is very rich in its fauna like marine turtles, whales, fur- seals, marine iguanas etc.

18 Wenman (Wolf) Island, named after the German geologist Theodore Wolf, northernmost but Culpepper, area is just 1.3 sq km, it is inhabited by many animals and birds, the exclusive variety is the vampire finch which feeds upon the blood of boobies.

19 Small Islands; small as its name denotes; located north of Santa Cruz and west of Baltra; devoid of trees, its cliff rises 120 meters above sea-level; it has a volcanic crater; rich in bird population especially finches.

Lonesome George

The Charles Darwin Research Station located in Santa Cruz Island is actively engaged in preserving the exotic species home to this island, it has a Guinness Book Celebrity; the Lonesome George; a Galapagos Tortoise (native to the Pinta Island) of about 80 years old. His uniqueness is that; he is the only member of a sub-species the Geochelone nigra abingdoni; if George dies without passing his genes to the future generations; that will be the end of the sub-species! George is reluctant to mate with the ladies of other sub-species; however beautiful they are, O! Mr. George, Don’t be so obstinate, please cooperate with the good scientists!

Good show; dear scientists, keep it up!

Galapagos IslandsGalapagos island Waved Albatross on EspaƱola

In 26th June 2007 UNESCO has certified the Galapagos Islands as a ‘World Heritage Site in danger’ pointing out the damages to the living things. Scientists of the Charles Darwin Research Station are not just busy finding a match for this chronic bachelor tortoise; but they hatch so many eggs of tortoises, iguanas and birds and let them go free in to the wild thus helping the chain of generations to continue and flourish. In George’s case; so far they could not meet with much success let us hope one day they will. Due to human migration and the predators like cats, dogs and pigs etc man has brought in; so many species of this islands have become extinct, if these scientists succeeds in reversing the trend it would be a great thing, let us hope and prey!

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1 comment:

Michael Creasy said...

If you're going to copy my photos without my permission you should at least have the decency to link back to my site.