Last update: December 13th, 2019 at 8:00 am
Situated in the remote Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 km (600 mi) from Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands’ unique geography and location at the confluence of three ocean currents create a unique and biodiverse environment – both on land and underwater. The Islands first became famous after Charles Darwin visited in 1835 and created his theory of evolution by natural selection after studying the unique adaptation of species to various environmental niches found on the islands.
The Galapagos archipelago is made up of 127 islands, islets, and rocks, nineteen of which are large and only four inhabited. One additional island has an airport and military facilities. The total emerged surface is approximately 7,665,100 hectares, and about 97 percent has been declared National Park. The waters around the islands are part of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, with a surface area of about 133,000 square kilometers.
The islands are volcanic in origin and the volcanic processes of island formation are continual. Isabela and Fernandina Islands are young islands, less than one million years old. The oldest islands are aged somewhere between three and five million years old. Wolf Volcano, located on the northern end of the reversed-L-shaped Isabella Island and straddling the equator, is an active volcano. It last erupted in June of 2015, sending ash 15 km (50,000 feet) into the air.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of the Galapagos Islands on October 8, 2016. The rocky nature of the islands can be seen in the large amount of grays and tans in the landscape. Bright green vegetation is evident, particularly inland. The largest four islands seen in this image are, from west to east: Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, and Puerto Ayora.