The Humboldt Current & the Galapagos Islands

Nov 23, 2020Blog

If you have previously traveled to the Galapagos Islands for a vacation or for a marlin fishing trip, you may have been surprised to find that the climate is actually quite mild, despite the islands’ proximity to the equator. You can thank the Humboldt Current for that.

You wouldn’t be the first traveler to notice this surprising feature of the Galapagos. Charles Darwin noted the mild climate in his notes during his visit to the islands in 1835. Instead of the tropical heat one might expect along the equator, Darwin noted that the climate was, in fact, relatively mild. Even though he was only 22 at the time, Darwin was able to correctly hypothesize that the cause was the cool waters of what we know as the Humboldt Current. (At the time, Darwin referred to it as the “great southern Polar current.”)

The Humboldt Current and the Mild Climate

As Climates to Travel says, “The Galápagos Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean, about a thousand kilometers (600 miles) west of Ecuador, have a peculiar climate…As was already noted by Charles Darwin, who, as we know, stayed on the islands and was intrigued by the peculiarities of the species living there, their climate is cooler than one would expect from a place located near the Equator.”

To understand why, you need to look at the waters surrounding the islands. As the name might suggest, the “southern Polar current” brings cool waters to the Galapagos. “Now called the Humboldt Current, after the 19th century European explorer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, this most massive of ocean currents sweeps north up the western edge of South America,” the experts at the Living Oceans Foundation say.

A surprisingly mild climate isn’t all that the Humboldt Current brings to the Galapagos Islands.
“It carries cold, nutrient-rich water from Antarctica along the coasts of Chile and Peru, creating the world’s most productive marine ecosystem in the process. (It also brings animals; that’s how penguins and fur seals first reached the Galapagos.),” the foundation’s experts explain.

Penguins and seals may travel to the Galapagos Islands via the Humboldt Current, but you can travel in style. We can help you plan a Galapagos Islands vacation that will be unforgettable.

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