To find the enchanted islands, leave mainland Ecuador and travel west. Follow the Equator to a patch of sea. There you will find an isolated cluster of islands, the Galápagos.
Some islands look like green gems on top of the ocean. Other islands look barren. There are 13 large islands (12 shown on our map), six smaller ones, and lots of rocks. How did they form? Let’s find out.
From the Depths
The Galápagos Islands sit on top of an active volcanic region. The islands lie on the Nazca tectonic plate. This is touched by four other plates.
Here, there is a hot spot in Earth’s crust. A column of hot magma rises. It reaches the surface. Then lava spews out and piles up. A volcano forms. This is how the first island, Española, formed long ago.
This view from above shows the volcanic craters that make up Isabela Island.
On the Move...
Volcanic activity explains how one island formed. But what about the other islands? Tectonic plates move. Yet, the hot spot does not move.
Over time, Española was carried southeastward along with the Nazca plate. Then a new island, San Cristóbal, formed on the hot spot. As the plate continued to move, more islands were created.
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