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Lesson 12

Galapagos Islands

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The Galapagos Archipelago is a cluster of some 13 volcanic islands and associated islets and rocks located just under the equator, about 600 miles west of Ecuador in South America. The oldest of the islands are about 4 million years old and the youngest are still in the process of being formed. Indeed, the Galapagos islands are considered to be one of the most active volcanic areas in the world.

The islands were discovered by chance in 1535 when father Tomas Berlanga, the bishop of Panama sailed to Peru to settle a dispute between Francisco Pizarro and his lieutenants after the conquest of the Incas. The bishop's ship stalled when the winds died and strong currents carried him out to the Galapagos. In his account of the adventure, he described the harsh, desert-like condition of the islands and their trademark giant tortoises. He wrote about the marine iguanas, the sea lions and the many types of birds. He also noted the remarkable tameness of the animals that thrill and delight modern visitors.

Following the bishop, the islands were rarely visited and became the refuge for pirates and privateers preying on Spanish galleons and coastal towns. Subsequently they became the haunts of whalers and sealers. The biggest attractions to these visitors were the fur seals and the giant tortoises. Tortoises could be kept alive in the hold of ships for up to a year with no food or water so, needless to say, the tortoise populations were decimated. Each island has its own unique variety of tortoise and the depredations caused the extinction of several and placed most of the others on the endangered list. Today, the Pinta island tortoise is survived by a single male, named "Lonesome George".

Charles Darwin was the first to make a scientific study of the islands in 1835. He was a young student just out of university and was the naturalist on a round-the-world scientific and geographical voyage on board HMS Beagle (1831 - 1836). He had spent the previous four years exploring the geology and wild-life of South America. In later life, Darwin maintained that the Galapagos were the source of all his ideas and research and, of all the visitors there, the Galapagos are most closely associated with Darwin.

Today the Galapagos are owned by Ecuador and are maintained as part of that nation's national park system. About 95% of the islands are part of the park, with the remainder being inhabited by about 14,000 people in four major communities. The islands are jointly operated by the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station. The Park Service provides rangers and guides, and is responsible for overseeing the many tourists who visit each year. The Darwin Station conducts scientific research and conservation programs. It is currently breeding and releasing captive tortoises and iguanas.

Much of the same flora and fauna that inspired Darwin's The Origin of Species still thrives on the Galapagos today. Because of the separation from mainland predators and competition, there are many species here that are not found anywhere else on earth, and which are relatively unafraid of people. The legendary marine and land iguanas, the giant tortoises, and seal colonies of the Galapagos are among nature's most fantastic beings. Visitors will gasp at these stunning animals, all of which are highly approachable as their isolated evolution has not conditioned them to fear humans. Iguanas and tortoises bask in the sun like bored movie stars, feet away from the photo-snapping Homo Sapiens. Though their indifference may make the animals seem humorously aloof, their very ignorance makes them vulnerable. A few bad experiences with humans can alter their behavior irrevocably and turn them reclusive. Respect their natural hospitality and keep your hands to yourself.

There are 58 resident bird species on the Galapagos, nearly half of which are endemic (don’t breed anywhere else in the world). Among these are waved albatross, pelicans, flamingos, flightless cormorants, blue footed, red footed, and masked boobies and Galapagos’ penguins, the most northerly penguins in the world. The birds on the islands are so plentiful, even the most casual visitor is certain to see 20 to 30 different species in the course of a week.

The Galapagos also offer some of the world's best scuba diving. Dive boats that tour the islands can be reserved on the mainland. Devil's Crown, an atoll near Floreana Island, is a submarine wonderland that shouldn't be missed. The shallows of this sunken volcano are burgeoning with an incredible myriad of corals and fish. Giant tortoises hover over the reef like living balloons, and sharks can sometimes be found, harmless and asleep on the sandy bottom.

Sources: 1. The Galapagos Islands by Dr. Robert Rothman
      2. ECUADOR The Galapagos Islands interKnowledge Corp.
Vocabulary
1. island - остров
2. cluster - група, рой
3. islet - островче
4. indeed - нещо повече, дори
5. by (mere) chance - съвсем случайно
6. to settle - уреждам
7. conquest - завладяване
8. to stall - запъвам се; блокирам
9. current - течение
10. account - отчет; описание, разказ
11. harsh - гол, пуст, див
12. desert - пустиня; пустинен, пуст
13. tortoise - костенурка
14. marine - морски
15. sea lion - морски лъв
16. to tame - опитомявам
17. tameness - питомност, опитоменост
18. to thrill - вълнувам се
19. to delight - радвам, очаровам
20. refuge - убежище, подслон
21. privateers - капер (кораб или човек)
22. coastal - крайбрежен
23. subsequently - впоследствие, след това
24. haunt - свърталище, убежище
25. whaler - китоловец; китоловен кораб
26. sealer - ловец на тюлени; кораб за ловене на тюлени
27. fur - козина
28. hold - трюм (мор.)
29. to decimated - погубвам голяма част от; намалявам рязко
30. depredation - грабеж, плячкосване
31. extinction - измиране, изчезване (биол.)
32. to endangere - излагам на опасност
33. lonesome - 1) самотен; 2) тъжен, унил
34. to maintain - 1) поддържам; 2) твърдя, заявявам
35. remainder - остатък; останала част
36. to inhabit - обитавам, населявам
37. jointly - съвместно
38. to oversee - надзиравам, ръководя; am. наблюдавам
39. captive - затворник, пленник
40. mainland - земя, суша, континент
41. to gasp - оставам с отворена уста, ахвам
42. stunning - поразително красив; смайващ
43. to bask - пека се (на слънце)
44. indifference - безразличие, апатия
45. aloof - сдържан, резервиран; надменен
46. vulnerable - уязвим
47. irrevocably - окончателен, безвъзвратен
48. reclusive - уединение; отшелничество
49. resident - местен; непрелетен (за птица)
50. booby - морска птица (зоол.)
51. casual - случаен, непредвиден
52. submarine - подводен; подводница
53. shallow - плитчина
54. sunken - потопен, потънал
55. to burgeon - развивам се бързо, процъфтявам
56. myriad - неизброим, безчетен
57. to hover - нося се, рея се
Desert or Dessert

G a l l e r y

    
    


Test it out!

Fill the gaps in the sentences, using the words and phrases below:

vulnerable, gasp, depredations, reclusive, stalled, refuge, burgeoning, hover, temeness, marine and land iguanas, mainland predators, jointly, cluster, reclusive, decimated, bask, the giant tortoises

1. The Galapagos Archipelago is a of some 13 volcanic islands and associated islets and rocks located just under the equator, about 600 miles west of Ecuador in South America.
2. The islands were discovered by chance in 1535 when father Tomas Berlanga, the bishop of Panama sailed to Peru a dispute between Francisco Pizarro and his lieutenants after the conquest of the Incas.
3. The bishop's ship when the winds died and strong currents carried him out to the Galapagos.
4. He noted the remarkable of the animals that thrill and delight modern visitors.
5. Following the bishop, the islands were rarely visited and became the for pirates and privateers preying on Spanish galleons and coastal towns.
6. The biggest attractions to these visitors were the fur seals and .
7. Tortoises could be kept alive in the hold of ships for up to a year with no food or water so, needless to say, the tortoise populations were .
8. Each island has its own unique variety of tortoise and the caused the extinction of several and placed most of the others on the endangered list.
9. The islands are operated by the Galapagos National Park Service and the Charles Darwin Research Station.
10. Because of the separation from and competition, there are many species here that are not found anywhere else on earth, and which are relatively unafraid of people.
11. The legendary , the giant tortoises, and seal colonies of the Galapagos are among nature's most fantastic beings.
12. Visitors will at these stunning animals, all of which are highly approachable as their isolated evolution has not conditioned them to fear humans.
13. Iguanas and tortoises in the sun like bored movie stars, feet away from the photo-snapping Homo Sapiens.
14. Though their indifference may make the animals seem humorously aloof, their very ignorance makes them .
15. A few bad experiences with humans can alter their behavior irrevocably and turn them .
16. The shallows of this sunken volcano are with an incredible myriad of corals and fish.
17. Giant tortoises over the reef like living balloons, and sharks can sometimes be found, harmless and asleep on the sandy bottom.



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