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Galapagos Fast Facts

Galapagos Facts

  • Abundant unfearful wildlife, visitors can get up close and personal to some of the world's rarest animals.
  • The Galapagos was home to the only surviving giant Pinta tortoise, 'Lonesome George' which unfortunately died in June 2012.
  • The convergence of three major oceanic currents brings an incredible mix of marine life to Galapagos.
  • The endemic Galapagos marine iguana is the only lizard to swim in the ocean.
  • Darwin's research in Galapagos led to the groundbreaking theory of The Origin of Species.
  • In 1978 UNESCO designated Galapagos as the first World Heritage site.
  • The movie Captain and Commander was filmed on the islands of Bartholomew and Santiago.
  • The name 'galapagos', an old Spanish word for 'saddle', was originally used by Bishop Tomas and his crew to describe the giant tortoises but the name stuck.
  • Due to the early presence of both Spanish and English inhabitants in Galapagos, the Islands now have both Spanish and English names.
  • Due to their isolation and position on the equator the Galapagos can be visited all year round.
  • There are considered to be two main seasons: The 'dry season' June to December and the 'warm season' December to May.
  • The dry season is characterized by blue skies and midday showers whereas the warm season is more tropical with daily rain and cloudier skies.
  • Sea mammals and land birds are most active during the dry season and there are many sea bird courtship displays.
  • There are two seasons: December to May is warm and wet and June to December is cool and dry.
  • Annual rainfall in the lower regions is 2-4in (60-100mm) and the air temperature varies between 69°-84°F/21°-29°C.
  • The islands' climate is determined by ocean currents.
  • The sudden climatic change caused by El Niño can be devastating and as many as 50% of sea lions and marine iguanas can die during this time.
  • The convergence of three major oceanic currents brings an incredible mix of marine life to Galapagos.
  • Despite being located in the tropics, the Islands' micro-climate is curiously dry.
  • During the cool season, the Humboldt Current brings relatively cold water, which produces thermal inversions that impede rainfall.
  • At this time, a fine mist called “garúa” is formed as cool, moist air just above the water meets a higher layer of air which is warmed by the hot sun.
  • 'El Niño' is a phenomenon that occurs roughly every 5-7 years. The southeast trade winds slacken and cause the sea temperatures to rise dramatically and cause storms and heavy rainfall.
  • Los Gemelos (the twins) are two 'pit craters', formed when empty magma chambers collapsed in on themselves.
  • Alcedo Volcano on Isabela Island has the largest tortoise population and is the only volcano visitors can climb.
  • The Devil's Crown is a dramatic snorkeling site to the north of Cormorant Point where there is an almost completely submerged volcano .
  • The lava tunnels on Santa Cruz provide an understanding of how the islands are formed.
  • Post Office Bay on Floreana is home to a fascinating tradition where a barrel placed there by whalers in the late 18th century was used as an unofficial postbox.
  • The Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela has the largest basaltic caldera in the world measuring 5.6x6.2 miles(9x10km).
  • The Wall of Tears on Isabela was constructed by the prisoners of the Penal colony in the mid 40's and characterizes the cruelty the prisoners had to endure.
  • Darwin sailed to Galapagos on board the HMS Beagle in September 1835, when he was 26 years old.
  • During the five weeks that he spent there, he went ashore to collect plants, rocks, insects and birds.
  • He observed the unusual life forms and their adaptations to the harsh environment.
  • He noted that it was possible to distinguish which island a tortoise came from by the shape of their shell.
  • His most well-known research is of the numerous species of finches which inspired his groundbreaking theory The Origin of Species, published in 1859.
  • The estimated age of the islands is between 3 and 10 million years.
  • The Islands lie on the Nasca tectonic plate and are the plate's primary land mass.
  • Intense heat caused by the plates being pushed apart leads to eruptions which create new volcanoes and eventually form new islands ('Hot spot' theory.
  • There have been around 13 volcanic eruptions in Galapagos in the last 100 years.
  • Most recent eruptions: 3rd June 2008 on Isabela and April 2009 on Fernandina
  • In 1959, the Government of Ecuador declared all uninhabited areas of Galapagos a national park.
  • In 1978 UNESCO designated Galapagos as the first World Heritage site and the Galapagos Marine Reserve received the same status in 1998.
  • The Galapagos is second only to the Great Barrier Reef National Park of Australia in terms of the size of marine area protected (80780miles2/130000km2 ).
  • The Galapagos National Park Service is the main government authority which oversees the safeguarding of the islands' natural resources
  • The Galapagos penguin is the only to be found in the northern hemisphere and to breed in the tropics.
  • A Galapagos tortoise can weigh up to 595lb (270kg) with a carapace length of 4ft (1.2m) and outlive most humans.
  • The endemic Galapagos fur sea lions are the smallest among the world's seven species of fur sea lions.
  • The Galapagos Marine Iguana is the only marine lizard to exist in the world.
  • The Galapagos Islands are home to the world's largest cormorant and the only one unable to fly.
  • Galapagos has one of the world's rarest ecosystems in which the herbivores at the top of the food chain are reptiles.
  • Galapagos Swallow-tailed gulls are the only gulls in the world to feed at night .
  • The Galapagos boasts the world`s largest and only red-footed booby colony.
  • There are 23 species of reptile in the Galapagos and all but two of those are endemic to the archipelago.
  • The Galapagos is one of the few areas of the world where turtles are still a common sight.
  • Over 400 species of fish have been recognized in the Galapagos, with 41 species unique to the islands.
  • At 30cm in length and with a large pair of venomous jaws, the endemic centipede (Scolopendra galapagoensis) is among the Islands' most feared animals .
  • A lichen survey in June 2010 by the Charles Darwin Foundation uncovered more than 60 new species in the Galapagos with an estimated ten species new to science.
  • Situated approximately 600 miles (1000km) west of the Ecuadorian mainland.
  • Covers a land area of roughly 4971 miles² (8000km²).
  • Straddles the Equator between 1.5° north and 0.5° south, and 89° to 92° west.
  • Highest point is the peak of Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island at 5600 ft (1707 m).
  • The islands have 837 miles (1350 km) of coastline, more than mainland Ecuador.
  • 1535-The Galapagos Islands are discovered by the Bishop of Panama, Fray Tomas de Berlanga.
  • 1835-Charles Darwin arrived on HMS Beagle.
  • 1959-Government of Ecuador declared all uninhabited areas to be a national park.
  • 1964-Official inauguration of the Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz.
  • 1978-Galapagos was designated as the 1st World Heritage site by UNESCO.
  • 'Lonesome George' was one of the rarest animals in the world.
  • He was the only surviving giant Pinta Island tortoise (Geochelone elephantopus abingdoni).
  • His estimated age was 90 years.
  • Had been relocated to the Charles Darwin Research Station, Santa Cruz Island.
  • Had been put with two females, but although eggs have been produced, none have been hatched
  • Early human activity on the islands was extremely damaging for the wildlife as pirates and buccaneers took giant tortoises aboard for food.
  • 24% of plant species and 50% of vertebrate species are still considered as endangered due to human activity in earlier times.
  • Clandestine fishing of black coral, lobster, shark fin, sea cucumber and sea horse is incredibly destructive to the marine life.
  • Population growth caused by tourism is putting a strain on the unique and fragile environment.
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