Galapagos

Belonging to Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of 5 large islands of over 500 km2, 8 medium sized islands between 15 and 150 km2, 42 islets of less than 1 km2 and 26 rocks. They lie about 600 miles to the West of Ecuador and 1000 miles Southwest of Panama between 89 and 92 degrees West Longitude.

There are 3 major currents affecting the climate of the islands: The cold Humboldt or Peru current from June to November, the warm Nino current which comes down from the bight of Panama from December to May and brings the tropical weather for the Hot Season, and the cold submarine Cromwell current which brings cool upwelling waters to the Western coasts of Isabela and Fernandina.

As there was never a land bridge between these truly oceanic volcanic islands and the mainland of South America, all of the flora and fauna had to cross an ocean barrier to colonize the islands. This resulted in isolation which led to evolutionary change and hence endemism.

Discovered accidentally in 1535 by Fray Tomas de Berlanga, the bishop of Panama during an official visit to Peru, three of the islands were settled during the 19th century, with Santa Cruz, the most populated island being settled last during the 1920’s. The islands have many similarities with Hawaii, but have only a little more than 1% of the population, and the integrity of the flora and fauna is incomparably untouched by comparison.