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|Native name: Santa María|
Map of the Gapápagos Islands
|Location||East Pacific Ocean|
|Area||173 km2 (67 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||640 m (2,100 ft)|
|Highest point||Cerro Pajas|
|Largest city||Puerto Velasco Ibarra (pop. 100)|
|Density||0.6 /km2 (1.6 /sq mi)|
Floreana Island is an island of the Galápagos Islands. It was named after Juan José Flores, the first president of Ecuador, during whose administration the government of Ecuador took possession of the archipelago. It was previously called Charles Island (after King Charles II of England), and Santa Maria after one of the caravels of Columbus.
The island has an area of 173 square kilometres (67 sq mi). It was formed by volcanic eruption. The island's highest point is Cerro Pajas at 640 metres (2,100 ft), which is also the highest point of the volcano like most of the smaller islands of Galapagos.
Since the 19th century, whalers kept a wooden barrel at Post Office Bay, so that mail could be picked up and delivered to their destination by ships on their way home, mainly to Europe and the United States. Cards and letters are still placed in the barrel without any postage. Visitors sift through the letters and cards in order to deliver them by hand.
Due to its relatively flat surface, supply of fresh water as well as plants and animals, Floreana was a favorite stop for whalers and other visitors to the Galapagos. When still known as Charles Island in 1819, the island was set alight as a prank by helmsman Thomas Chappel from the Nantucket whaling ship the Essex. Being the height of the dry season, the fire soon burned out of control and surrounded the hunters, who were forced to run through the flames to escape. By the time the men returned to the Essex almost the entire island was burning. The crew were upset about the fire and Captain Pollard swore vengeance on whoever had set it. Fearing a whipping, it was some time before Chappel admitted to being the culprit. The next day saw the island still burning as the ship sailed for the offshore grounds and after a full day of sailing the fire was still visible on the horizon. Many years later Thomas Nickerson, who had been a cabin boy on the Essex, returned to Charles Island and found a black wasteland: "neither trees, shrubbery, nor grass have since appeared." It is believed the fire contributed to the extinction of some species originally on the island. One year later during the same voyage, the Essex was sunk by a massive bull sperm whale, in an episode that became the basis for Herman Melville's classic novel, Moby-Dick.
In September 1835 the second voyage of HMS Beagle brought Charles Darwin to Charles Island. The ship's crew was greeted by Mr. Nicholas Lawson, acting for the Governor of Galápagos, and at the prison colony Darwin was told that tortoises differed in the shape of the shells from island to island, but this was not obvious on the islands he visited and he did not bother collecting their shells. He industriously collected all the animals, plants, insects and reptiles, and speculated about finding "from future comparison to what district or 'centre of creation' the organized beings of this archipelago must be attached."
In 1929, Friedrich Ritter and Dore Strauch arrived in Guayaquil from Berlin to settle on Floreana, and sent messages back encouraging others. In 1932 Heinz and Margaret Wittmer arrived with their son Harry, and shortly afterwards their son Rolf was born there, the first citizen of the island to have been born in the Galápagos. Later in 1932, the self-described "Baroness" von Wagner Bosquet arrived with companions, but a series of strange disappearances and deaths left Margaret Wittmer as the sole survivor of the group who had settled there. She set up a hotel which is still managed by her descendants, and wrote an account of her experiences in her book Floreana: A Woman's Pilgrimage to the Galapagos.
The demands of these visitors, early settlers, and introduced species devastated much of the local wildlife with the endemic Floreana Tortoise being declared extinct and the endemic Floreana Mockingbird becoming extirpated on the island (the few remaining are found on the nearby islands of Gardiner and Champion).
When Charles Darwin visited the island in 1835, he found no sign of its native tortoise and assumed that whalers, pirates, and human settlers had wiped them out. Since about 1850, no tortoises have been found on the island (except for one or two introduced animals kept as pets by the locals), and the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified the Floreana tortoise (Chelonoidis elephantopus sometimes called Chelonoidis nigra) as extinct. However, it may be that there are pure Floreana tortoises living on other islands in the archipelago.
Points of interest
- A favorite dive and snorkeling site, “Devil's Crown”, located off the northeast point of the island, is an underwater volcanic cone, offering the opportunity to snorkel with schools of fish, sea turtles, sharks and sea lions, which are abundant amongst the many coral formations found here.
- At Punta Cormorant, there is a green olivine beach to see sea lions and a short walk past a lagoon to see flamingos, rays, sea turtles and ghost and Grapsus grapsus Sally Light Foot crabs. Pink flamingos and green sea turtles nest from December to May on this island. The "joint footed" petrel is found here, a nocturnal sea bird which spends most of its life away from land.
- Post Office Bay provides visitors the opportunity to send post cards home without a stamp via other travelers and the over 200 year old post barrel.
- A miniature football (soccer) field, complete with goals, at the end of Post Office Bay, used by tour boat crews and their tourists.
- "Galapagos Islands Guided Tour - Isla Floreana, Ecuador". Retrieved 1 November 2011.
- Philbrick, Nathaniel (2001). In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-100182-8.
- Nickerson, Thomas. "Account of the Ship Essex Sinking, 1819-1821". Nantucket, Massachusetts: Nantucket Historical Society. Retrieved 18 February 2013.
- Account of the Ship Essex Sinking, 1819-1821 Thomas Nickerson
- Faiella, Graham, Moby Dick and the whaling industry of the 19th century, New York : The Rosen Publishing Group, 2004. Cf. Chapter 3, "Moby Dick: The Inspiration".
- Keynes, R. D. ed. 2001. Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 356.
- Floreana, Galapagos Islands: Black Beach; Medium Tree Finch
- "In Depth in Galapagos Islands at Frommer's". Retrieved 1 November 2011.
- Fitter, Julian; Fitter, Daniel; and Hosking, David. (2000) Wildlife of the Galápagos. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, p.83.
- Fitter, Julian; Fitter, Daniel; and Hosking, David. (2000) Wildlife of the Galápagos. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, p.68.
- "Extinct Galapagos tortoise may just be hiding : Nature News Blog". Blogs.nature.com. 2013-07-11. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
- "'Extinct' giant Floreana tortoise may be alive, say scientists | Nature". The Earth Times. 2012-01-10. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
- "Extinct Galapagos Tortoise Could Be Resurrected". News.nationalgeographic.com. 2010-10-28. Retrieved 2013-08-23.
- Treherne, John The Galapagos Affair (New York : Random House, 1983) ISBN 978-0-394-53327-8.
- Wittmer, Margaret Floreana: A Woman's Pilgrimage to the Galapagos (Moyer Bell, 1990) ISBN 978-1-55921-001-0.
- Egnal, George Frederick Ritter My Evil Paradise Floreana (Amazon Kindle Ebook, 2013)
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