The Natural Wonders of the Earth: South America
The islands are located in the eastern Pacific Ocean, 973 km (525 nmi; 605 mi) off the west coast of South America with the closest land mass being the mainland of Ecuador to the east (the country to which they belong), to the south is Easter Island and San Felix Island at 3,200 km and to the north is Cocos Island at 720 km.
The first crude navigation chart of the islands was done by the buccaneer Ambrose Cowley in 1684, naming the individual islands after some of his fellow pirates or after the English noblemen who helped the privateer’s cause; today little has changed in the Galapagos Island since Charles Darwin visited them in 1835, with the animal population, including species found nowhere else in the world, still far outnumbering the human headcount. The islands are geologically young and became famous because of Charles Darwin, who studied the vast number of endemic species during the voyage of the Beagle; his observations stand at the base of the evolutionary theory by natural selection.
The Galápagos Islands’ official name is Archipiélago de Colón, but there are also known as Islas de Colón or Islas Galápagos, while many users, especially ecological researchers, continue to use the older English names; the group consists of 15 main islands, 3 smaller islands and 107 rocks and islets, located at the Galapagos Triple Junction, atop the Galapagos hotspot, a place where the Earth’s crust is being melted from below by a mantle plume, creating volcanoes.
The Galapagos Islands were included in UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites, the archipelago of volcanic islands being surrounded by the waters which form an Ecuadorian province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve. The animals living here have never been hunted by animal predators or humans; the islands are home to over fifty-seven species of birds like the large black frigate sea birds and the blue-footed booby, marine iguanas and giant tortoises and many other wildlife wonders.
The Amazon River (US) or River Amazon (UK) of South America is the largest river in the world with a total discharge greater than the next ten largest rivers combined, stretching on 4,000 miles through six countries. The Amazon originates from the Apacheta cliff in Arequipa at the Nevado Mismi, with a sole sign of a wooden cross.
The Amazon is the second longest river, just slightly shorter than the Nile, with a width that varies between 1.6 and 10 kilometers at low stage, but expands during the wet season to 48 kilometers or more; this river also has the largest drainage basin in the world, which, at about 7,050,000 square kilometres (2,720,000 sq mi), accounts for approximately one-fifth of the world’s total river flow. The Amazon River’s dimensions are so vast that it is nearly impossible for modern engineers to construct bridges over it; instead the bulk of the river flows through tropical rainforest with an unique biodiversity, where there are few roads and even fewer thriving small cities, but also villages of remote tribes. The river’s upper stretches are called Apurímac (in Peru) and Solimões (in Brazil) and the wildlife dreamscape consists in almost one third of the world’s species, the watering testing done by Amica Research in 2009 indicating that this is one of the cleanest water sources in the world.
Kerepakupai merú, meaning “waterfall of the deepest place”, or Parakupa-vena, meaning “the fall from the highest point”, is a waterfall in Venezuela and with a height of 979 m (3,212 ft) and a plunge of 807 m (2,648 ft), it is the world’s highest waterfall, dropping over the edge of the Auyantepui mountain in the Canaima National Park, located in the Gran Sabana region of Bolívar State, being included in UNESCO’s lost of World Heritage Sites. The waterfall was known for most of the twentieth century by the name “Angel Falls” after Jimmie Angel, a US aviator who was the first to fly over the falls in a plane.
The wild waterfall flows into the Churun River, a tributary of the Carrao River, with the base of the falls feeding into the Kerep River or the Río Gauya, while the tropical park is isolated from the rest of the world, giving it an unexplored vibe with lush forests, unique vegetation including cool carnivorous plants like bromeliads and sandstone mountains called tepuis. The waterfalls’ main plunge is undoubtedly the highest single drop in the world, the heights being so great that much of the water is evaporated or carried away as a fine mist by the strong wind before even getting anywhere near the ground.11