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The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed on either side of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, 906 km (563 mi) 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.
- These names were used in the authoritative navigation charts of the islandsprepared during the Beagle survey under captain Robert Fitzroy, and in Darwin’s popular book The Voyage of the Beagle.
- The new Republic of Ecuador took the islands from Spanish ownership in 1832, and subsequently gave them official Spanish names.
- The islands are located in the eastern Pacific Ocean, 973 km (605 mi) off the west coast of South America.
- Straddling the equator, islands in the chain are located 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 spread out over a distance of 137 mi.
- It is also atop the Galapagos hotspot, a place where the Earth’s crust is being melted from below by a mantle plume, creating volcanoes.
- While the older islands have disappeared below the sea as they 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 centre caldera.
- This island, and neighboring Sulivan Bay on Santiago (James) island, are named after lifelong friend of Charles Darwin, Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, who was a lieutenant aboard HMS Beagle.
- This island is one of the few that are home to the Galapagos penguin which is the only wild penguin species to live on the equator.
- Punta Espinosa is a narrow stretch of land where hundreds of marine iguanas gather, largely on black lava rocks.
- At Darwin Bay, frigatebirds and swallow-tailed gulls, the only nocturnal species of gull in the world, can be seen.
- He was moved from Pinta Island to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island, where scientists were attempting to breed from him.
- Pigs and goats, which were introduced by humans to the islands and have caused great harm to the endemic species, have been eradicated (pigs by 2002; goats by the end of 2006).
- There is a large range in precipitation from one place to another, not only with altitude, but also depending on the location of the islands, and also with the seasons.
- This led to an influx of whaleships to exploit the new whaling ground and the Galapagos Islands became a frequent stop for the whalers both before and after visiting what came to be known as the Offshore Grounds.
- Ecuadorian laws provided all colonists with the possibility of receiving twenty hectares each of free land, the right to maintain their citizenship, freedom from taxation for the first ten years in Galapagos, and the right to hunt and fish freely on all uninhabited islands where they might settle.
- The Galápagos became a national park in 1959, and tourism started in the 1960s, imposing several restrictions upon the human population already living on the island.
- In 1986, the 27,000 sq mi. of ocean surrounding the islands was declared a marine reserve, second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
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