The Juan Fernández Islands (Spanish: Archipiélago Juan Fernández) are a sparsely inhabited island group reliant on tourism and fishing in the South Pacific Ocean. Situated 670 km (362 nmi; 416 mi) off the coast of Chile, they are composed of three main volcanic islands: Robinson Crusoe, Alejandro Selkirk and Santa Clara. The group is considered part of Insular Chile.
The islands are primarily known for having been the home to the marooned sailor Alexander Selkirk for more than four years from 1704, which may have inspired Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. Most of the archipelago's present-day inhabitants reside on Robinson Crusoe Island, and mainly in the capital, San Juan Bautista, located at Cumberland Bay on the island's north coast.
The group of islands is part of Chile's Valparaíso Region (which also includes Easter Island) and, along with the Desventuradas Islands, forms one of the nine communes of Valparaíso Province. The islands are named after Juan Fernandez, the explorer who discovered them in the 1570s.
Juan Fernández Islands
Archipiélago Juan Fernández
Special Territory and Commune
Coat of arms
Juan Fernández Islands
|Discovered||22 November 1574|
|Commune created||21 September 1979|
|Special territory status||30 July 2007|
|Named for||Juan Fernández|
|Capital||San Juan Bautista|
|• Body||Municipal council|
|• Alcalde (Mayor)||Felipe Paredes Vergara (PH)|
|• Total||99.6 km2 (38.5 sq mi)|
|Elevation||1,268 m (4,160 ft)|
|• Density||9.0/km2 (23/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC-4 (CLT)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-3 (CLST)|
|Website||Juan Fernández Islands|
Alejandro Selkirk is the largest of the Juan Fernández Islands at 49.5 km2 (19.1 sq mi), and its highest peak, Cerro de Los Inocentes, is also the highest point of the archipelago at 1,268 m (4,160 ft). The island's population was 57 in 2012. Robinson Crusoe is the second largest island in the archipelago at 47.9 km2 (18 sq mi); its highest peak, El Yunque, is 915 m (3,002 ft). The population of Robinson Crusoe was 843 in 2012. Santa Clara is 2.2 km2 (0.8 sq mi) in area and reaches a height of 375 m (1,230 ft). Santa Clara is uninhabited. The maximum elevations of Juan Fernández, 915 m (3,002 ft) for Robinson Crusoe and 1,329 m (4,360 ft) for Alejandro Selkirk, respectively, are high enough to cause the phenomenon known as Kármán vortex street, which can be seen from space.
The islands are volcanic in origin, produced by the movement of the Nazca Plate over the Juan Fernández hotspot. As the plate moved eastward over the hot spot, volcanic eruptions formed the Juan Fernández Ridge before being subducted under the South American continent at the Peru–Chile Trench. The islands occur where the peaks of the submarine ridge have protruded above sea level. Radiometric dating indicates that Santa Clara is the oldest of the islands, at 5.8 million years old, followed by Robinson Crusoe, 3.8 – 4.2 million years old, and Alexander Selkirk, 1.0 – 2.4 million years old.
The islands have a subtropical Mediterranean climate, moderated by the cold Humboldt Current, which flows northward to the east of the islands, and the southeast trade winds. Temperatures range from 3 °C (37 °F) to 34 °C (93 °F), with an annual mean of 15.4 °C (60 °F). Higher elevations are generally cooler, with occasional frosts on Robinson Crusoe.
Average annual precipitation is 1,081 mm (42.6 in), varying from 318 mm (12.5 in) to 1,698 mm (66.9 in) year to year. Much of the variability in rainfall depends on the El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Rainfall is higher in the winter months, and varies with elevation and exposure; elevations above 500 m (1,640 ft) experience almost daily rainfall, while the western, leeward side of Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara are quite dry.
The Juan Fernández islands are home to a high percentage of rare and endemic plants and animals, and are recognized as a distinct ecoregion. The volcanic origin and remote location of the islands meant that the islands' flora and fauna had to reach the archipelago from far across the sea; as a result, the island is home to relatively few plant species and very few animal species. The closest relatives of the archipelago's plants and animals are found in the Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests ecoregions of southern South America, including the Valdivian temperate rain forests, Magellanic subpolar forests, and Desventuradas Islands.
There are 209 native species of vascular plants in the Juan Fernandez Islands, approximately 150 of which are flowering plants, and 50 are ferns. There are 126 species (62 percent) that are endemic, with 12 endemic genera and one endemic family, Lactoridaceae. Many plants are characteristic of the Antarctic flora, and are related to plants found in southern South America, New Zealand and Australia. Vegetation zones generally correspond to elevation, with grasslands and shrublands at lower elevations, tall and montane forests at middle elevations, and shrublands at the highest elevations. The two main islands have somewhat distinct plant communities.
Alejandro Selkirk is mostly covered with grassland from 0 to 400 m (1,300 ft), interspersed with wooded ravines (quebradas), home to dry forests of Myrceugenia and Zanthoxylum fagara. From 400 m (1,300 ft) to 600 m (2,000 ft) are lower montane forests, with upper montane forest from 600 m (2,000 ft) to 950 m (3,100 ft). The treeline is at approximately 950 m (3,100 ft), above which is alpine shrubland and grassland, dominated by temperate Magellanic vegetation such as Acaena, Dicksonia, Drimys, Empetrum, Gunnera, Myrteola, Pernettya, and Ugni. On Robinson Crusoe, grasslands predominate from 0 to 100 m (300 ft); introduced shrubs from 100 m (300 ft) to 300 m (1,000 ft); tall forests from 300 m (1,000 ft) to 500 m (1,600 ft); montane forests from 500 m (1,640 ft) to 700 m (2,300 ft), with dense tree cover of Cuminia fernandezia, Fagara, and Rhaphithamnus venustus; tree fern forests from 700 m (2,300 ft) to 750 m (2,500 ft), and brushwood forests above 750 m (2,500 ft). Santa Clara is covered with grassland.
Three endemic species dominate the tall and lower montane forests of the archipelago, Drimys confertifolia on both main islands, Myrceugenia fernandeziana on Robinson Crusoe, and M. schulzei on Alexander Selkirk. Endemic tree fern species of southern hemisphere genus Dicksonia (D. berteriana on Robinson Crusoe and D. externa on Alexander Selkirk) and the endemic genus Thyrsopteris (T. elegans) are the predominant species in the tree-fern forests. An endemic species of sandalwood, Santalum fernandezianum, was overexploited for its fragrant wood, has not been seen since 1908, and is believed extinct. The Chonta palm (Juania australis) is endangered.
The Juan Fernández Islands have a very limited fauna, with no native land mammals, reptiles, or amphibians. Seventeen land and sea-bird species breed on the islands. The island has three endemic bird species, and two endemic subspecies. Introduced fauna by humans include rats and goats. Robinson Crusoe Island is home to an endemic and endangered hummingbird, the Juan Fernández firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis). This large hummingbird, about 11 cm (4 in) long, is thought to number only about 500 individuals. The other endemic bird species are the Juan Fernández tit-tyrant (Anairetes fernandezianus) of Robinson Crusoe Island, and the Masafuera rayadito (Aphrastura masafuerae) of Alejandro Selkirk Island. The islands support the entire known breeding populations of two petrel species, Stejneger's Petrel Pterodroma longirostris (IUCN status VU) and the Juan Fernandez Petrel Pterodroma externa (IUCN status VU). In addition, the Juan Fernandez Islands may still support a third breeding petrel species, De Filippi's Petrel Pterodroma defilippiana (IUCN status VU), whose only other known breeding grounds are on the Desventuradas Islands.
The Magellanic penguin breeds on Robinson Crusoe Island within the archipelago. The endemic Juan-Fernandez spiny lobster (without claws) lives in the marine waters (Jasus frontalis). The Juan Fernández fur seal (Arctocephalus philippii) also lives on the islands. This species was nearly exterminated in the sixteenth to nineteenth century, but it was rediscovered in 1965. A census in 1970 found about 750 fur seals living there. Only two were sighted on the Desventuradas Islands, located some 780 km (485 mi) to the north. The actual population of the Desventuradas may be higher, because the species tends to hide in sea caves. There seems to be a yearly population increase of 16–17 percent.
The archipelago was discovered on 22 November 1574, by the Spanish sailor Juan Fernández, who was sailing south between Callao and Valparaíso along a route which he also discovered, hundreds of miles west of the coast of Chile, which avoided the northerly Humboldt current. He called the islands Más Afuera, Más a Tierra, and Santa Clara.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the islands were used as a hideout for pirates, were the site of Alexander Selkirk's four-year marooning, and provided a location for a penal colony. In the 1740s, they were visited by Commodore Anson's flotilla during his ill-fated venture to the South Seas. The location of the archipelago was fixed by Alessandro Malaspina in 1790; previous charts had differed on the location. British and American whaling vessels were regular visitors to the islands, starting with the London (Captain Joshua Coffin) in 1795.
During the maritime fur trade era of the early 19th century the islands were a source of fur seal skins, and the Juan Fernández fur seal was nearly driven to extinction. In his book, Two Years Before the Mast (Chapter VII), Richard Henry Dana, Jr. described the islands as he found them circa 1834. At this time the main island was being used as a penal colony. However, when Dr John Coulter visited the penal colony in the early 1840s, he reported it deserted after the convicts had risen up and killed the soldiers who had held them captive. The prisoners fled to mainland Chile, where they were later hunted down and shot. The story appears in Coulter's book Adventures in the Pacific (1845). In 1908, the islands were visited by the Swedish Magellanic Expedition and Carl Skottsberg is believed to have been the last to have seen the Santalum fernandezianum tree alive.
Late in 1914 the islands were the rendezvous for Admiral Maximilian von Spee's East Asiatic Squadron as he gathered his ships together before defeating the British under Admiral Christopher Cradock at the Battle of Coronel. Following the Royal Navy's win at the Battle of the Falkland Islands a month later, the only surviving German cruiser, SMS Dresden, was hunted down and cornered illegally at Más a Tierra early in 1915, although she was in Chilean territorial waters, where it was scuttled after a brief battle with British cruisers.
In 1966 the Chilean government renamed Más Afuera as Alejandro Selkirk Island and Más a Tierra as Robinson Crusoe Island, in order to promote tourism. Incidentally, Selkirk never set foot on Más Afuera, only on Más a Tierra. On 30 July 2007, a constitutional reform gave the Juan Fernández Islands and Easter Island the status of "special territories" of Chile. Pending the enactment of a charter the archipelago will continue to be governed as a commune of the Valparaíso Region.
On 27 February 2010, a tsunami following the 8.8 magnitude earthquake off Maule, Chile struck the islands causing at least 8 deaths. Eleven people were reported as missing. Some early reports described the tsunami wave as being 40 m (130 ft) high, but later reports measured it at 3 m (10 ft). Most of the town of San Juan Bautista on Robinson Crusoe Island was destroyed.
As a commune, the Juan Fernández Islands are a third-level administrative division of Chile governed by a municipal council, headed by a mayor (Spanish: alcalde) who is directly elected every four years. The mayor for the term 2012–2016 was Felipe Paredes Vergara.
Within the electoral divisions of Chile, the commune was represented in the Chamber of Deputies by Joaquín Godoy (RN) and Aldo Cornejo (PDC) as part of the 13th electoral district (together with Valparaíso and Easter Island). It was represented in the Senate by Francisco Chahuán Chahuán (RN) and Ricardo Lagos Weber (PPD) as part of the 6th senatorial constituency (Valparaíso-Coast).
The isla Robinson Crusoe contains an airport.
According to data from the 2012 Census of Population and Housing, the commune of Juan Fernández had 900 inhabitants; of these, 800 (88.9 percent) lived in urban areas and 100 (11.1 percent) in rural areas. At that time there were 536 men and 364 women. Most of the population is of European origin, mainly Spanish, British, German and other European nationalities.
Alejandro Selkirk Island (Spanish: Isla Alejandro Selkirk), previously known as Más Afuera (Farther Out (to Sea)) and renamed after the marooned sailor Alexander Selkirk, is the largest and most westerly island in the Juan Fernández Archipelago of the Valparaíso Region of Chile. It is situated 180 km (100 nmi; 110 mi) west of Robinson Crusoe Island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean.Alexander Selkirk
Alexander Selkirk (1676 – 13 December 1721) was a Scottish privateer and Royal Navy officer who spent four years and four months as a castaway (1704–1709) after being marooned by his captain on an uninhabited island in the South Pacific Ocean. He survived that ordeal, but succumbed to tropical illness a dozen years later while serving aboard HMS Weymouth off West Africa.
Selkirk was an unruly youth, and joined buccaneering voyages to the South Pacific during the War of the Spanish Succession. One such expedition was on Cinque Ports, captained by Thomas Stradling under the overall command of William Dampier. Stradling's ship stopped to resupply at the uninhabited Juan Fernández Islands, and Selkirk judged correctly that the craft was unseaworthy and asked to be left there.
By the time he was eventually rescued by English privateer Woodes Rogers, in company with Dampier, Selkirk had become adept at hunting and making use of the resources that he found on the island. His story of survival was widely publicised after his return to England, becoming a source of inspiration for writer Daniel Defoe's fictional character Robinson Crusoe.Centaurodendron
Centaurodendron is a genus of flowering plant in the sunflower family. The entire genus is endemic to the Juan Fernández Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean, part of the Republic of Chile.
SpeciesCentaurodendron dracaenoides Johow - Juan Fernández Islands
Centaurodendron palmiforme Skottsb. - Juan Fernández IslandsCuminia
Cuminia is a genus of flowering plant in the Lamiaceae family, first described in 1835. It contains only one known species, Cuminia eriantha. It is endemic to Robinson Crusoe Island, one of the Juan Fernández Islands in the southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile and politically a part of that country.Two varieties are recognized, regarded by some as distinct species:
Cuminia eriantha var. eriantha
Cuminia eriantha var. fernandezia (Colla) HarleyThe species is listed as "critically endangered."De Filippi's petrel
The De Filippi's petrel or Masatierra petrel (Pterodroma defilippiana) is a species of seabird in the family Procellariidae. It is endemic to Chile where it nests in the Juan Fernández Islands (including Masatierra) and Desventuradas Islands. Its natural habitats are open seas and rocky shores.Drimys
Drimys is a genus of about eight species of woody evergreen flowering plants, in the family Winteraceae. The species are native to the Neotropics, ranging from southern Mexico to the southern tip of South America. They are primitive dicots, associated with the humid temperate Antarctic flora of the Southern Hemisphere, which evolved millions of years ago on the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. Members of the family generally have aromatic bark and leaves, and some are used to extract essential oils.
Selected speciesDrimys andina (Reiche) R.A.Rodr. & Quez. (syn. D. winteri var. andina) - Chile and adjacent Argentina
Drimys brasiliensis Miers - southern Brazil to southern Mexico
Drimys confertifolia Phil. - Juan Fernández Islands
Drimys granadensis L.f. - southern Mexico south to Peru
Drimys winteri J.R.Forst. & G.Forst. - southern Chile, southwestern ArgentinaD. confertifolia is endemic to the Juan Fernández Islands, 670 km off the Chilean coast, where it forms a dominant tree in the tall lowland forests and lower montane forests of the islands.
The genus formerly included a number of species from Australasia, including Tasmanian pepper (D. lanceolata). Recent botanical studies have led to a growing consensus of botanists to split the genus into two, with the Neotropical species remaining in genus Drimys, and the Australasian species classified in genus Tasmannia (Doust et al. 2004).Fernandezian Region
The Fernandezian Region is a Floristic Region which includes two island groups, the Juan Fernández Islands and Desventuradas Islands archipelagos, that lie in the South Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Chile. It is in the Antarctic Floristic Kingdom, but often also included within the Neotropical Kingdom.
Endemic plant families include Lactoridaceae, with many endemic plant and animal genera are found here too.Juan Fernández (explorer)
Juan Fernández (c. 1536 – c. 1604) was a Spanish explorer and navigator in the Pacific regions of the Viceroyalty of Peru and Captaincy General of Chile west of colonial South America. He is best known for the discovery of a fast maritime route from Callao (Peru) to Valparaíso (Chile), as well as for the discovery of the Juan Fernández Islands off the coast of Chile.Juan Fernández Ridge
The Juan Fernández Ridge is a volcanic island and seamount chain on the Nazca Plate. It runs in a west–east direction from the Juan Fernández hotspot to the Peru–Chile Trench at a latitude of 33° S near Valparaíso. The Juan Fernández Islands are the only seamounts that reach the surface.Juan Fernández firecrown
The Juan Fernández firecrown (Sephanoides fernandensis) is a hummingbird found today solely on Isla Róbinson Crusoe, one of a three-island archipelago belonging to Chile. It is non-migratory and shares the island with its smaller relative the green-backed firecrown (S. sephaniodes), which seasonally migrates to the mainland.Juan Fernández fur seal
The Juan Fernández fur seal is the second smallest of the fur seals, second only to the Galápagos fur seal. They are found only on the Pacific Coast of South America, more specifically on the Juan Fernández Islands and the Desventuradas Islands. There is still much that is unknown about this species. Scientists still do not know the average life span of this species, or the diet and behavior of males apart from the breeding season.Juan Fernández hotspot
The Juan Fernández hotspot is a volcanic hotspot located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. The hotspot created the Juan Fernández Ridge which includes the Juan Fernández Archipelago and a long seamount chain that is being subducted in the Peru–Chile Trench at the site of Papudo giving origin to the Norte Chico Volcanic Gap.Juan Fernández tit-tyrant
The Juan Fernández tit-tyrant (Anairetes fernandezianus) is a species of bird in the family Tyrannidae. It is endemic to the Juan Fernández Islands in the South Pacific Ocean off Chile.
Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, rural gardens, and urban areas. It is threatened by habitat loss.Juania
Juania australis, the Chonta palm, is a species of flowering plant in the Arecaceae family, the only species in the genus Juania. It is a solitary trunked palm tree which is endemic to the Juan Fernández Islands archipelago in the southeast Pacific Ocean west of Chile.
This palm is slow growing and has a green trunk; plants are either male or female. It is threatened by habitat loss. Only one mature tree grows outside its native island habitat. It is on the IUCN Red List of Vulnerable species.Lactoris
Lactoris fernandeziana is a flowering shrub endemic to the cloud forest of Masatierra — Robinson Crusoe Island, of the Juan Fernández Islands archipelago of Chile.Ochagavia
Ochagavia is a genus of the botanical family Bromeliaceae, subfamily Bromelioideae. The genus is named for Sylvestris Ochagavia, Chilean minister of education. Endemic to southern and central Chile (including the Juan Fernández Islands), this genus is represented by four accepted species.Robinson Crusoe Island
Robinson Crusoe Island (Spanish: Isla Róbinson Crusoe pronounced [ˈizla ˈroβinson kɾuˈso]), formerly known as Más a Tierra (Closer to Land), is the second largest of the Juan Fernández Islands, situated 670 km (362 nmi; 416 mi) west of San Antonio, Chile, in the South Pacific Ocean. It is the more populous of the inhabited islands in the archipelago (the other being Alejandro Selkirk Island), with most of that in the town of San Juan Bautista at Cumberland Bay on the island's north coast.The island was home to the marooned sailor Alexander Selkirk from 1704 to 1709, and is thought to have inspired novelist Daniel Defoe's fictional Robinson Crusoe in his 1719 novel about the character (although the novel is explicitly set in the Caribbean, not in the Juan Fernández Islands). This was just one of several survival stories from the period that Defoe would have been aware of. To reflect the literary lore associated with the island and attract tourists, the Chilean government renamed the place Robinson Crusoe Island in 1966.San Juan Bautista, Chile
San Juan Bautista is the main town in the Juan Fernández Islands. Some sources say it was founded in 1877, while others give an earlier date of 1750. It is located on Cumberland Bay on the center of the northeast coast of Robinson Crusoe Island.
Although the community maintains a rustic serenity dependent on the spiny lobster trade, residents employ a few vehicles, a satellite internet connection, and many television sets. As of the 2012 census, the town had a population of 800 in an area of 0.31 km2 (0.12 sq mi).
There is a soccer pitch at the northern end of the village. The nearby school is called the Dresden School, after the German light cruiser SMS Dresden which was sunk there during World War I, as is the street it is situated on. The names of other generally unpaved streets in the village include Larraín Alcalde, Ignacio Carrera Pinto, El Sándalo, Vicente González, Teniente Cortés, and La Pólvora.
Overlooking San Juan Bautista are Las Cuevas de los Patriotas (Patriots' Caves), where 42 Chilean creole independence activists lived during their exile by the Spanish authorities after the Battle of Rancagua in 1814. The exiles included prominent figures such as Juan Egaña and Manuel de Salas.Santa Clara Island
Santa Clara Island (Spanish: Isla Santa Clara) is a tiny, uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Robinson Crusoe Island in a group of islands known as the Juan Fernández Islands. The island is of volcanic origin and is approximately 1 km (0.6 mi) long and 0.6 km (0.4 mi) wide. The island group is politically part of the South American country Chile, and is administratively assigned to the Region of Valparaíso.
|Climate data for Juan Fernández Islands (1981–2010, extremes 1958–present)|
|Record high °C (°F)||28.8
|Average high °C (°F)||21.5
|Daily mean °C (°F)||18.5
|Average low °C (°F)||16.4
|Record low °C (°F)||10.6
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||32.5
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm)||11||10||13||15||21||23||21||19||16||14||10||10||183|
|Average relative humidity (%)||73||73||73||77||78||78||79||77||77||76||74||73||76|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||248.0||209.1||158.1||123.0||108.5||99.0||93.0||105.4||147.0||204.6||249.0||260.4||2,005.1|
|Source #1: Dirección Meteorológica de Chile|
|Source #2: Climate and Temperature (humidity and sun)|
Eastern Pacific Islands
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