The Galapagos Islands, officially named the Archipelago of Colon, have existed in almost total isolation for millions of years. Located in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles west of the South American country of Ecuador, the archipelago consists of 13 main islands and 61 islands and islets in total. Only five of the main islands are inhabited.
As one of the first to visit, Charles Darwin had a fascination with the Galapagos Islands that led to his Theory of Evolution. The then 26-year-old stayed for five weeks, observing natural life, and in 1859 he published his findings in "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection."
The islands also intrigued the author of Moby Dick, Herman Melville, who wrote essays about Galapagos in a work called "The Encantadas."
Over the past 200 years, scientists have documented approximately sixty volcanic eruptions in the Galapagos Islands. The islands formed due to volcanic activity and are located over an area of hot mantle that burns through the Earth's crust. The tectonic plates move at the rate of 5 cm per year, taking volcanic activity with it and creating newer islands to the west while reducing the eruptions on the older eastern islands.
Galapagos is home to almost 60 species, half of those native to the islands. The marine iguanas on Galapagos are the only of their kind in the world. The only type of penguin that lives at the equator can be found on the islands as well; the Galapagos penguin is an endangered species, with less than 1,500 in existence. The scolopendra centipede grows to about 30 cm and eats lava lizards and young rats. Visitors to the Galapagos region can catch sight of its most famous animal resident, the male blue-footed booby with its high-stepping mating dance.
Both the interior waters and the waters within 40 nautical miles from the baseline of Galapagos have served as the second largest Marine Reserve in the world since 1994. The Galapagos Marine Reserve covers approximately 133,000 sq. km. and is the only protected coastal marine area in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
These islands are one of the only places in the world without an indigenous population. Most of the islands' residents are mixed Ecuadorians or descendants of Native Americans and Spanish colonists. Former residents of the Galapagos Islands included whalers, convicts, early settlers and pirates.
Sable Woods worked as a staff member of her high school newspaper and co-editor of the yearbook. In addition to writing for Demand Studios, she has written articles for Associated Content, ELance clients, and for use in marketing websites.