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Image Caption: NM22-723-069 Galapagos Islands, Ecuador Fall/Winter 1996
The Galapagos Islands comprise a volcanic archipelago with 21 major islands located approximately 600 miles (965 kilometers) west of Ecuador. Named for their endemic large turtles, these islands, although isolated from much of the world, are known internationally for their beauty and unique flora and fauna. Theirs is a fragile environment that the government of Ecuador is trying to protect. Isabela, the seahorse-shaped and largest island, is about 82 miles (132 kilometers) long. Wolf Volcano, the northernmost and tallest (5600 feet - 1707 meters), is situated almost exactly on the equator. Fernandina, the roughly oval-shaped island west of Isabela, is the youngest of the volcanic islands and is still geologically active, with a most recent eruption occurring in 1995. Notice that calderas have formed in the shield volcanoes that formed the islands. The variety of colors on the islands indicate different ages of lava flows and also illustrate the impact that the elevations of the volcanic cones have on rainfall patterns from one side of the islands to the other. Note the lack of "color" on the northwest slopes or sides of the volcanoes, indicating the "rain-shadow effect."