Galapagos | Understanding plate tectonics and the geology of the islands

Understanding plate tectonics and the geology of the islands


As you may already be aware, the Galapagos Islands were created by volcanic activity in the deep Pacific Ocean. A series of eruptions from the seabed over hundreds of years saw the islands emerge from the deep water, forming an archipelago. This developed into one of the most unique and stunning natural environments on the planet.

Thanks to its isolated geographic location, the animal and plant life that did find its way here was allowed to develop and evolve in its own unique way. However, this is a very simplified version of events. Just exactly what was it that caused these eruptions in the first place? And how has this impacted or created the many Galapagos Islands tourist attractions that we see today?

The Galapagos Islands are located on the Nazca tectonic plate. This is a perpetually moving piece of the earth’s crust that is heading eastward over what is known as the Galapagos Hotspot. It’s found near the equator, not far from the divergent plate boundary with the Cocos Plate. The Nazca and Cocos also meet the vast Pacific plate here to create a Triple Junction that means it is rife with volcanic activity.

This Hotspot is thought to be over 20 million years old and in that time there has been much interaction between the plates. This has caused the frequent eruptions that have led to the formation of the distinctive cone-shaped islands we know as the Galapagos Islands today. These conical shapes have been built up, layer upon layer from the seabed. It’s for this reason that the Galapagos Islands tourist attractions are situated on the steep slopes of the volcanic cones, some rising as much as 5,000 feet above sea level.

With the exception of Isabella, each of the large islands consists of large volcanic cones. And geologically speaking, this is land that is relatively very young compared to some of the large continental landmasses. Some of the westernmost islands may be as little as a few hundred thousand years old, which makes them babies in geological terms. It also means that volcanic activity is still common here and that new layers and eruptions are happening all the time.

So, the archipelago continues to grow, creating more Galapagos Islands tourist attractions to see when visiting on basic and luxury yachts, all of which offer incredible access to the region.

Take a look of these tour programs:

1. Galapagos Cruise Itinerary: Amazing Nine Days East & Central Islands Boat Journey
2. Cusco Tour: Cusco and Sacred Valley Tour
3. Inca Trails Tour: The Incas Trail Tour
4. Amazon River Cuise in Ecuador:  Amazon River Cruise Journey
5. Galapagos & Machu Picchu Tour: Galapagos & Machu Picchu 12 Days Voyage

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