Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Galapagos Islands


The Galapagos, between 1 and 4M years old, are an archipelago of several volcanic islands located in the Pacific Ocean, about 650 miles west of Ecuador. 'Galapago' means tortoise in Spanish and may derive from the word for saddle, referring to the distinctive saddle-like shell of some of the tortoises. Consisting of 19 islands, and dozens of other islets and volcanic rocks it has a total land area of 3,000 square miles, spread over an area of sea covering some 20,000 square miles. About 17,000 people live on 4 of the islands, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela, and Floreana.
It was here that Darwin found the ideal conditions to formulate his theory of evolution: that far from any land mass (nearest land is 650 miles away), life evolved into a strange sub-world of specialized creatures who adapted to their harsh environment in an amazing variety of ways. We also quickly came to appreciate each island as a little "world unto itself" with its own distinctive character, terrain, climate, and wildlife.

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