The Galapagos Islands
When we visited the Galapagos a number of years ago, neither my wife nor I, had discovered ditital photography. All the photos posted to this set were scanned off of 35mm prints. The quality, therefore, is not what I would wish it to be. They are, in my opinion, worth posting however since the Galapagos is so unique and wonderful to visit. Thanks, Rick
The Galápagos Islands (Official name: Archipiélago de Colón;) are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, 972 km west of continental Ecuador. An archipelago is a chain or cluster of islands that are formed tectonically. The word archipelago literally means "chief sea" (from the Italian). Straddling the equator, islands in the chain are located in both the northern and southern hemisphere with Volcano Wolf and Volcano Ecuador on Isla Isabela being directly on the equator line. The group consists of 13 main islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galápagos are a 'melting pot' of marine species.

The Galápagos Islands form the Galápagos Province of Ecuador and are part of the country's National Park system. The principal language on the islands is Spanish. The islands have a population of around 40,000, which is a 40-fold expansion in 50 years.
The oldest island is thought to have formed through volcanic action between 5 and 10 million years ago. It was Charles Darwin who said "Nothing, not even the wind that blows, is so unstable as the crust of this earth."
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 center caldera. Caldera volcanoes are ones where the diameter of the circular to oval crater exceeds 1 mile. These form when so much lava is erupted (blown out) so rapidly it partially empties the underlying magma chamber. When this happens the summit of the volcanic structure collapses into the emptied magma chamber. Some calderas are so large that the only way to tell that they are calderas is from high above.
The largest of the islands, Isabela, measures 4,640 square km and making up half of the total land area of the Galapagos. Volcano Wolf, on Isabela is the highest point with an elevation of 1,707 m (5,600 ft.) above sea level.
Española (Hood) Island: Its name was given in honor of Spain. It also is known as Hood after Viscount Samuel Hood. It has an area of 60 square kilometers (23 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 206 meters (676 ft).
Española is the oldest island at around 3.5 million years and the southernmost in the chain.
Floreana (Charles or Santa María) Island: It was named after Juan José Flores, the first president of Ecuador
At Post Office Bay, since the 18th century whalers kept a wooden barrel that served as post office so that mail could be picked up and delivered to their destination mainly Europe and the United States by ships on their way home.
Santa Cruz is the island that hosts the largest human population in the archipelago at the town of Puerto Ayora. The Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galápagos National Park Service are located here.
Large tortoise populations are found here
Genovesa (Tower) Island: The name is derived from Genoa, Italy where it is said Columbus was born. It has an area of 14 square kilometers (5.4 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 76 meters (249 ft). This island is formed by the remaining edge of a large crater that is submerged. Its nickname of “the bird island” is clearly justified. At Darwin Bay, frigate birds and swallow-tailed gulls, the only nocturnal species of gull in the world, can be seen. Red-footed boobies, noddy terns, lava gulls, tropic birds, doves, storm petrels and Darwin finches are also in sight.

The birds and animals having lived in isolation for millions of years, never developed any instincts to flee from predators or fear of humans. Charles Darwin studied the Flora and Fauna during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection.

There are two types of Iguana found in the Galapagos, the Marine and Land Iguana. The Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) is an iguana found only on the Galapagos Islands that has the ability, unique among modern lizards, to live and forage in the sea. On his visit to the islands, Charles Darwin was revolted by the animals' appearance, writing:
“The black Lava rocks on the beach are frequented by large (2-3 ft), disgusting clumsy Lizards. They are as black as the porous rocks over which they crawl & seek their prey from the Sea. I call them 'imps of darkness'. They assuredly well become the land they inhabit”.
In adult males, coloration varies with the season. Breeding-season adult males on the southern islands are the most colorful and will acquire reddish and teal-green colors, while on Santa Cruz they are brick red and black, and on Fernandina they are brick red and dull greenish. On land, the marine iguana is rather a clumsy animal, but in the water it is a graceful swimmer, using its powerful tail to propel itself. The male marine iguanas have 2 penises, one contains the sperm, and the other is used to stimulate the female.
The Galapagos Land Iguana (Conolophus subcristatus) is a species of lizard in the Iguanidae family. It is one of two species of the genus Conolophus. It is endemic to the Galápagos Islands, primarily the islands of Fernandina, Isabela, Santa Cruz, North Seymour, Hood and South Plaza
Charles Darwin described the Galapagos Land Iguana as "ugly animals, of a yellowish orange beneath, and of a brownish-red colour above: from their low facial angle they have a singularly stupid appearance."
The Galapagos Land Iguana grows to a length of three to five feet with a body weight of up to twenty-five pounds, depending upon which island they are from. Being cold-blooded, they absorb heat from the sun by basking on volcanic rock, and at night sleep in burrows to conserve their body heat. These iguanas also enjoy a symbiotic relationship with birds; the birds remove parasites and ticks, providing relief to the iguanas and food for the birds
It is estimated that between 5,000 and 10,000 land iguanas are found in the Galapagos.

The Galápagos tortoise or Galápagos giant tortoise (Geochelone nigra) is the largest living tortoise, native to seven islands of the Galápagos archipelago. Fully grown adults can weigh over 300 kilograms (661 lb) and measure 1.2 meters (4 ft) long. They are long-lived with a life expectancy in the wild estimated to be 100-150 years.
Charles Darwin remarked "These animals grow to an immense size ... several so large that it required six or eight men to lift them from the ground."

Introduced plants and animals, such as feral goats, cats, and cattle, brought accidentally or willingly to the islands by humans, represent the main threat to Galápagos. Quick to reproduce, these alien species decimate the habitats of native species. The native animals, lacking natural predators on the islands, are defenseless to introduced species and fall prey.
Many species were introduced to the Galápagos by pirates. Thor Heyerdahl quotes documents that mention that the Viceroy of Peru, knowing that British pirates ate the goats that they themselves had released in the islands, ordered dogs to be freed there to eliminate the goats. Also, when colonization of Floreana by José de Villamil failed, he ordered that the goats, donkeys, cows, and other animals from the farms in Floreana be transferred to other islands for the purpose of later colonization.
Non-native goats, pigs, dogs, rats, cats, mice, sheep, horses, donkeys, cows, poultry, ants, cockroaches, and some parasites inhabit the islands today. There has been an effort over the years to eradicate the non-native species and to return the Galapagos to their original pristine state.

The Blue-footed Booby (Sula nebouxii) is a bird in the Sulidae gannet family which comprises ten species of long-winged seabirds.
The name “booby” comes from the Spanish term bobo, which means "Stupid" or "Fool"/"Clown". This is because the Blue-footed Booby is clumsy on the land. Like other seabirds, they can be very tame. Blue-footed Boobies are distributed among the continental coasts of the eastern Pacific Ocean to the Galapagos Islands and California.

The Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) is a large seabird of the gannet family, Sulidae. They are powerful and agile fliers, but they are clumsy in takeoffs and landings. The Red-footed Booby is the smallest of all boobies at 71 cm in length and with a 137 cm wingspan. It has red legs, and its bill and throat pouch are colored pink and blue.
It winters at sea, and is therefore rarely seen away from breeding colonies.
Red-footed Boobies are spectacular divers, plunging into the ocean at high speeds to catch prey. They mainly eat small fish or squid which gather in groups near the surface.

The Nazca Booby (Sula granti) is a booby which is found in the eastern Pacific Ocean, namely on the Galápagos Islands. It was formerly regarded as a subspecies of the Masked Booby but the Nazca Booby is now recognized as a separate species. They lay two eggs, several days apart. If both eggs hatch, the elder chick will push its sibling out of the nest area, leaving it to die of thirst or cold. The parent booby will not intervene and the younger chick will inevitably die. It is believed that two eggs are laid so that one remains an insurance in case the other gets destroyed or eaten, or the chick dies soon after hatching.
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