Isla Salas y Gómez

Coordinates: 26°28′20″S 105°21′45″W / 26.47222°S 105.36250°W / -26.47222; -105.36250
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Isla Salas y Gómez
Native name:
Motu Motiro Hiva
Aerial view of Salas y Gómez, looking east
Aerial view of Salas y Gómez in March 2000, looking east
Isla Salas y Gómez is located in Pacific Ocean
Isla Salas y Gómez
Isla Salas y Gómez
LocationLocation of Salas y Gómez Island in the Pacific Ocean
Adjacent toPacific Ocean
Total islands1
Area0.15 km2 (0.058 sq mi)
Highest elevation30 m (100 ft)
Region Valparaíso
Province Isla de Pascua
Commune Isla de Pascua
Additional information
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)

Isla Salas y Gómez[2] (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈisla ˈsalas i ˈɣomes]), also known as Isla Sala y Gómez (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈisla ˈsalaj ˈɣomes]; Rapa Nui: Motu Motiro Hiva), is a small uninhabited Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean. It is sometimes considered the easternmost point in the Polynesian Triangle.[3][4]

Isla Salas y Gómez and its surrounding waters are a Marine Protected Area called Parque Marino Salas y Gómez, with a surface area of 150,000 km2. [5] Throughout its history, the island has been largely untouched by humans, due to its diminutive size and remoteness.[4]


Isla Salas y Gómez is located 3,210 km west of the Chilean mainland, 2,490 km west of Chile's Desventuradas Islands, 3,226 km south of the Galápagos Islands and 391 km east-northeast of Easter Island, the closest landmass. Salas y Gómez consists of two rocks, a smaller one in the west measuring 4 hectares in area (270 meters north–south, 200 meters east–west), and a larger one in the east measuring 11 ha (500 meters north–south, 270 meters east–west), which are connected by a narrow isthmus in the north, averaging approximately 30 meters in width. The total area is approximately 15 hectares (0.15 km2), and the total length northwest–southeast is 770 meters. Its highest point, 30 meters above sea level, is in the south of the eastern rock, less than 30 meters from the shore, above a 10 meter high cliff. The highest elevation on the western rock is 26 meters.[citation needed]

The island is showered with salt water, and the shoreline is dotted with countless tidepools. Because the shoreline consists primarily of cliffs, landing on the island is difficult in all but the calmest of conditions.[6]

There are no permanent sources of fresh water on the island, but there is an intermittent rainwater pool in a depression on the eastern rock, which often forms a cache of fresh water 75 meters in diameter. This is essential for the survival of the large population of seabirds.[7]

Even when this area appears dry at the surface, the sand is still moist just a few inches below the surface. This flat sandy area is also the only place on the island suitable for landing helicopters.[citation needed]

In 1994, the Chilean Navy installed an automated beacon and a tsunami warning system. The island has since been declared a nature sanctuary.[8]



The Rapa Nui name for the island is Motu Motiro Hiva or Manu Motu Motiro Hiva, meaning (Bird's) Islet on the way to Hiva. Hiva is part of the names of several Polynesian islands, particularly in the Marquesas Islands. In the Rapa Nui language, however, it means "far off lands" and is the name for the mythical original homeland of the Polynesians. From Easter Island, Salas y Gómez is almost the opposite direction to the Marquesas, and the next inhabited territory "behind" Salas y Gómez would be the coast of South America. This was one of the factors that led Thor Heyerdahl to theorize that there was pre-European contact between Polynesia and South America.

The current name, Salas y Gómez, is derived from the name of Spaniards José Salas Valdés and José Manuel Gómez, who made the first detailed description of the island, following a visit beginning 18 October 1805. The island is sometimes also referred to as Isla Sala y Gómez, with "Sala" being a misunderstanding of Salas.[9]

Human visitation[edit]

Although there is no evidence that the island has ever been permanently inhabited, Easter Islanders were certainly aware of its existence, as indicated by the pre-European name of the island. Tradition says that the island was occasionally visited to collect fledglings and eggs. The island was said to have been difficult to land upon, because the gods Make-make and Huau protected the seabirds from those who ate their eggs and offspring. Because of these historical connections to Easter Island, Salas y Gómez might be considered part of Polynesia; if so its location would make it the easternmost landmass of Polynesia. (That title is usually awarded to Easter Island, 391 km further west.)[10]

The first European to sight the island was José Salas Valdés, a Spanish sailor, on 23 August 1793. It was later explored by another Spaniard José Manuel Gómez and owes its name to these two navigators.[11] Between then and 1917, visits are recorded in at least 1805, 1806, 1817, 1825, 1875, and 1917.[12]

Political situation[edit]

Salas y Gómez was claimed by Chile in 1888, and was administered by the Chilean Navy. Beginning 1 March 1966, the island was included in the department of Isla de Pascua. On 25 July 1974, the department was reorganized as the Easter Island Province.[13]

Marine Protected Area[edit]

On October 6, 2010, President Sebastián Piñera announced the creation of the 150,000 km2 Marine Protected Area Parque Marino Sala y Gómez,[8] also called Parque Marino Motu Motiro Hiva.[14]

During the 2008 Deepsea Coral Symposium,[15] Wellington, the idea of a Marine Protected Area on the submarine ridges of Salas y Gomez and Nazca was launched for the very first time. Then, in February 2009, the World Wildlife Fund, WWF Chile,[16] published a scientific revision in the Latin American Journal of Aquatic Research,[17] giving the scientific background that supported the government report[18] for the declaration of the non-take MPA Motu Motiro Hiva.

This declaration follows the efforts of Oceana and National Geographic to both study and highlight the ecological value of this area, and to encourage its protection. These organizations are planning additional expeditions to the area in order to draft a conservation plan, and to propose the widening of the protected area to encompass the whole Exclusive Economic Zone around the island.[19]


Salas y Gómez is a volcanic island consisting of the summit of a large mountain which rises about 3500 metres from the sea bed. Scott Reef (not to be confused with Scott Reefs off Western Australia), 1.5 km further northeast, is another peak of the same mostly submarine mountain, and has a least depth of 25 meters above it. Salas y Gómez is part of the same Salas y Gómez Ridge as Easter Island to the west, these two locations being the only places where the otherwise submarine mountain range extends above sea level. There are several dozen more seamounts in the range, which extends 2232 km eastward until Nazca Seamount at 23°36′S 83°30′W / 23.600°S 83.500°W / -23.600; -83.500, where it joins the Nazca Ridge.[20]

Salas y Gómez is the fourth youngest mountain in the chain, which is being formed by the Nazca Plate floating over the Easter hotspot. The two youngest mountains in the chain, Pukao and Moai, are seamounts to the west of Easter Island.[21][22]


View of Salas y Gómez in April 1999

Salas y Gómez and Easter Island form a distinct ecoregion, the Rapa Nui subtropical broadleaf forests. However Salas y Gómez is largely barren with no forests and only four species of terrestrial plants; these include Asplenium obtusatum ("spleenwort"), a type of fern which only grows in protected areas at higher elevations.[citation needed]


Besides a number of insect species, the only non-aquatic fauna are about a dozen species of seabird, which use the island as a rookery, with the estimated number of adult birds in 1985:

Species (Polynesian name) Scientific Name Adult birds in 1985
Christmas shearwater Puffinus nativitatis 5,000
Masked booby (Manukena) Sula dactylatra 3,000
Brown noddy Anous stolidus 1,400
Great frigatebird (Makohe) Fregata minor 700
Sooty tern Onychoprion fuscata 200
Blue noddy Procelsterna cerulea 80
Red-tailed tropicbird (Tevake) Phaëthon rubricauda 30
Polynesian (white-throated) storm petrel Nesofregetta fuliginosa 2
White tern Gygis alba 2
Red-footed booby Sula sula 2
Black noddy Anous minutus 2
Grey noddy Procelsterna albivitta 1

Those numbers may vary considerably from year to year, due to weather conditions, and it has been observed that the overall numbers were much lower in 1986.

Marine fauna includes a large number of littoral crustaceans, echinoidea, etc., as well as a large assortment of reef fishes and a number of species of shark, which swimmers report to be "curious", but not aggressive. Lacks of studies resulting in poor understandings of oceanic fauna of Easter Island and waters in vicinity, however possibilities of undiscovered breeding grounds for humpback, southern blue and pygmy blue whales including Isla Salas y Gómez and the Easter Island have been considered.[23]

Cultural references[edit]

Charles Stephenson's book The Face of OO features the island, and the submerged rocks around it, heavily.[24]

Alan Dean Foster referred to the island in his 1971 Cthulhu mythos short story "Some Notes Concerning a Green Box".[25]

Although only passing Salas y Gomez in 1816 and not going ashore,[26] the German poet Adelbert von Chamisso wrote a poem based on his reflections upon the island.[27]

See also[edit]

Media related to Category:Sala y Gómez at Wikimedia Commons


  1. ^ a b "Time Zone & Clock Changes in Isla Gómez, Chile". Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  2. ^ Chile: Ciudades, Pueblos, Aldeas y Caseríos 2005, Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas – June 2005.
  3. ^ Wagner, Daniel; van der Meer, Liesbeth; Gorny, Matthias; Sellanes, Javier; Gaymer, Carlos F.; Soto, Eulogio H.; Easton, Erin E.; Friedlander, Alan M.; Lindsay, Dhugal J.; Molodtsova, Tina N.; Boteler, Ben; Durussel, Carole; Gjerde, Kristina M.; Currie, Duncan; Gianni, Matthew (2021-04-01). "The Salas y Gómez and Nazca ridges: A review of the importance, opportunities and challenges for protecting a global diversity hotspot on the high seas". Marine Policy. 126: 104377. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2020.104377. ISSN 0308-597X.
  4. ^ a b Hershauer, Samantha N.; Pakarati, Sebastian Yancovic; Wynne, J. Judson (2020). "Notes on the arthropod fauna of Salas y Gómez island, Chile". Revista Chilena de Historia Natural. 93. doi:10.1186/s40693-020-00093-w. S2CID 219175550.
  5. ^ Press release Archived 2010-10-12 at the Wayback Machine by Oceana announcing the creation of the Salas y Gómez Marine Protected Area.
  6. ^ Lauren De Vos (June 2017). "Science at the far end of the world". Save Our Seas. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  7. ^ "Moais Mythology & Castaways: Easter Island to Valparaiso". Luxury cruise & more. Retrieved 11 June 2022.
  8. ^ a b Hoffens, Annelore (6 October 2010). "Valoran Creación de Parque Marino en Isla Sala y Gómez". Archived from the original on 12 October 2010. Retrieved 5 August 2023. By Oceana announcing the creation of the Sala y Gómez Marine Protected Area
  9. ^ Revista Española del Pacífico No. 2, 1992 Archived 2005-12-10 at the Wayback Machine. From the Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes.
  10. ^ Te Rapa Nui (The Gazette of Easter Island) Archived 2005-05-17 at the Wayback Machine Vol. 4 No. 8, Summer/Fall 1999
  11. ^ Brand, Donald D. The Pacific Basin: A History of its Geographical Explorations The American Geographical Society, New York, 1967, p.139.
  12. ^ The Islands Archived 2005-03-30 at the Wayback Machine from notes on the Cordell Expeditions. Aug. 1995
  13. ^ Chilian history page Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine outlining history of Rapa Nui province
  14. ^ Gobierno de Chile, Parque Marino Motu Motiro Hiva. Retrieved January 28, 2018.
  15. ^ Handbook – 4th International Symposium on Deepsea Coral Archived 2012-04-25 at the Wayback Machine, 4th ISDSC.
  16. ^ Fondo Mundial para la Naturaleza, WWF Chile.
  17. ^ Galvez, M. 2009. Seamounts of Nazca and Salas y Gómez: a review for management and conservation purposes Archived 2012-01-19 at the Wayback Machine, Lat. Am. J. Aquat. Res., 37(3): 479–500.
  18. ^ Informe Técnico (R.Pesq.) 81/2010 de agosto 2010. Subsecretaría de Pesca., Fundamentos para establecer el Parque Marino Salas y Gómez.
  19. ^ Article on Archived 2011-07-07 at the Wayback Machine with details regarding the creation of the Salas y Gómez Marine Protected Area
  20. ^ Radiometric Ages for Seamounts from the Easter-Salas y Gomez-Nazca Hotspot Track from Smithsonian/NASA ADS Physics Abstract Service. Duncan, R.A., et al.
  21. ^ Preliminary Multibeam Mapping and Dredging Results along the Nazca Ridge and Easter/Salas y Gomez Chain from the 2002 Ocean Sciences Meeting
  22. ^ The Petrogenetic Evolution of Lavas from Easter Island and Neighbouring Seamounts, Near-ridge Hotspot Volcanoes in theSE Pacific
  23. ^ Hucke-Gaete, Rodrigo; Aguayo-Lobo, Anelio; Yancovic-Pakarati, Sebastián; Flores, Marcelo (2014). "Marine mammals of Easter Island (Rapa Nui) and Salas y Gómez Island (Motu Motiro Hiva), Chile: a review and new records" (PDF). Lat. Am. J. Aquat. Res. 42 (4): 743–751. doi:10.3856/vol42-issue4-fulltext-5.
  24. ^ The Face of OO. FeedARead. 6 June 2013.
  25. ^ Foster, Alan Dean, "Some Notes Concerning a Green Box" (1971)
  26. ^ "Wir sahen am 25. [März 1816] den nackten Felsen Salas y Gomez, 26°36'15" südlicher Breite, 105°34'28" westlicher Länge" [...] "Am Morgen des 25. verkündigten uns über dem Winde von Salas y Gomez Seevögel in großer Anzahl, Pelikane und Fregatten, diesen ihren Brüteplatz, an welchem wir mittags vorüberfuhren." Adelbert von Chamisso. Reise um die Welt. Projekt Gutenberg-DE. Retrieved May 30, 2021
  27. ^ Adelbert von Chamisso (1981) Gesammelte Werke (Collected works), Band 2 (Vol. 2), Leipzig, p. 291

Further reading[edit]

  • González-Ferrán, Oscar (1995). Volcanes de Chile. Santiago, Chile: Instituto Geográfico Militar. ISBN 956-202-054-1. (in Spanish; also includes volcanoes of Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru)

External links[edit]

26°28′20″S 105°21′45″W / 26.47222°S 105.36250°W / -26.47222; -105.36250