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Situated 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the archipelago consists of nineteen islands and more than forty islets, which were created six million years ago when they emerged from the Pacific in a flurry of volcanic activity.
The islands were discovered in 1535 by Tomás de Berlanga, who sent the first known description of the Galapagos to the King of Spain; "...nothing but seals and turtles and such big tortoises that each could carry a man on top of itself and many iguanas that are like serpents". He also remarked on the tameness of the creatures; "...many birds like those of Spain, but so silly that they do not know to flee and many were caught in the hand."
The most important visitor to the Galapagos Islands was Charles Darwin, who arrived in 1835 on board the Beagle. He was amazed by the extraordinary life he found on the islands and obtained very important samples and facts to develop and sustain his theory of evolution and natural selection. In fact, he was responsible for bringing the Galapagos to the world's attention in 1859, when he published The Origin of Species.
It has been more than 450 years since their discovery and the islands remain largely intact thanks to the conservation efforts of the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station.
A further boost to the protection of the islands was given in 1978, when UNESCO declared them a World Heritage Site. The waters around the Galapagos, which are the lifeblood of the archipelago, are also legally protected within the Galapagos Marine Reserve.
The Galapagos Islands offer a unique interaction with nature and their name is synonymous with survival and the celebration of the diversity of species on earth.
C. Dikmen & R. Richardson
The Wonders Of Galapagos
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