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October 2005



The Galápagos Islands, officially called the Archipiélago de Colón (an administrative district of Ecuador), are famous for their diverse flora and fauna. The islands are over 600 miles from the mainland coast. Ecuador, located in Western South America between Colombia and Peru, is approximately the size of Colorado.

The Galápagos Islands consist of a chain of large, medium, and small islands that have a combined area of roughly 8,000 square kilometers. The largest island is Isabela Island, also known as Albemarle Island, which is 120 kilometers long with an area of 4,275 square kilometers. All of these islands are of volcanic origin and some have active cones. Santo Tomas, located on Isabela Island is the highest peak of the Galápagos at 1490 meters.

Ecuador has over 30 potentially active volcanoes, seven with recent eruptive activity and signs of unrest. Earthquakes of varying magnitude occur frequently. Beginning in September 1998, the Guagua Pichincha Volcano, located just west of Quito, began exhibiting a significant increase in the number of tremors and an accompanying rise in magma level. Since October 1999, there has been an intermittent series of explosions. Volcanic ash fell on Quito during some of the explosions, causing temporary closings of area schools and the airport.

The Global Volcanism Program website from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has weekly activity reports available at

U.S. Dept. of State Background Notes; U.S. Dept. of State Consular Info Sheet; LoC Country Studies, 08/2005, 10/2005, 1989