The Galapagos islands emerged from the sea floor 5 or 6 million year ago, as a result of violent submarine volcanic activity. In geological terms, the islands are still quite young. When these new islands cooled, two million years later, some species gradually arrived, live animals aboard "rafts of vegetation" departing from the coasts of Central and South America.
These early immigrants had to adapt quickly to a new climate and slowly began to evolve into different species in comparison to their mainland ancestors. One of nature's true wonders that these formed unique or "endemic" species of the islands.
In fact, when Darwin published his book "On the Origin of Species", the thinkers of the nineteenth century confirmed his suspicions that species were not immutable, and recognized the islands as a living natural laboratory.
The Galapagos islands were first discovered by the Archbishop of Spain, Tomas de Berlanga, who was navigating South and Central America on an apostolic mission, February 1535. Due to lack of wind his boat has been pushed south into mysterious islands that apparently offered little charm. He wrote that the land there, inhabited only by birds, seals and reptiles, was "dross, worthless, because it has not the power of raising a little grass, but only some thistles."
In his report to the King of Spain, de Berlanga did not refer to the islands by name, but they appear on Ortelius's 1570 world map as "Insulae de los Galopegos", named for the saddleback giant tortoises de Berlanga and subsequent early visitors reported seeing. Though, humans, who arrived less than 500 years ago, are one of the new species that inhabit the archipelago.
In 1832, the islands were claimed by the 2 year old Republic of Ecuador (that lies 1000 km to the east), and named the "Archipelago del Ecuador". In 1892 they were renamed "Archipelago de Colon" in honor of Columbus. Though "Colon" remains the official name of the islands, Galapagos is the more popular term used today.
In the days following Columbus and Magellan, sailors doubted the existence of a group of islands located between America and Oceania, which is referred to as the Enchanted islands, like a mirage. Sometimes the Galapagos become invisible, almost an illusion at close range, particularly under the veil of morning fog. The waters surrounding the islands are pretty cool to be in the tropics. This produces a fine mist to cool air mixed with the warm. Thus, one can be deceived in the early fog as to what lies ahead.
Then, in 1570, a map was circulated outlining the new domain of Spain, "Nuevo Mundo Español", showing the archipelago, with the islands simply named "Las Galápagos" (Islands of Giant Tortoises). This map, in the hands of the buccaneers, was used in raids on the Pacific coast in the fifteenth century.
During the seventeenth century and much of the eighteenth, the cunning pirates found in the Galapagos Islands a safe place to hide, repair their boats, preparing maps for future incursions and stock fresh meat, taking thousands of turtles. Apparently leaving no buried treasure and finally deciding a venture into the Caribbean was more profitable.
In the late eighteenth century whaling fleets arrived, who made the archipelago its hub, but after a few years the whalers also decided that profits did not justify these long routes. The whalers were the first group of humans that caused a devastating effect on the islands, they killed and took thousands of giant tortoises and introduced animals. The aftereffects are the reason now have strong campaign for Galapagos conservation.
In short, no one really wanted to Galapagos - until 1832. On February 12, Colonel Ignacio Hernandez of Ecuador, on the instructions of General José de Villamil, the Ecuadorian flag planted on Floreana Island and took possession of the archipelago which Columbus called Archipelago. . About 60 years later, in 1892, most of the islands were named in Spanish, all related to the discovery of America.