Juan Fernández Islands

Juan Fernández Islands

Infobox Country
native_name = Islas de Juan Fernández
conventional_long_name = Juan Fernández Islands
common_name = Juan Fernández Islands

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map_caption = Map of Insular Chile with Easter Island, Sala y Gómez, Desventuradas Islands and Juan Fernández Islands|

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capital = San Juan Bautista
latd=33 |latm=38 |latNS=S |longd=78 |longm=51 |longEW=W
official_languages = Spanish
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government_type = Special territory of Chile
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area_rank =
area_magnitude = 1 E6
area_km2 = 181
area_sq_mi = 113
percent_water =
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population_census = 598
population_census_year = 2002
population_density_km2 = 3.3
population_density_sq_mi = 5.3
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currency = Peso
currency_code = CLP
time_zone = n/a
utc_offset = -4
time_zone_DST = n/a
utc_offset_DST = -3
cctld = .cl
calling_code = 56

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The Juan Fernández Islands is a sparsely inhabited island group reliant on tourism and fishing in the South Pacific Ocean, situated about 667 km off the coast of Chile, and is composed of several volcanic islands:

* Robinson Crusoe, (coord|33|38|00|S|78|51|00|W|) (also known as "Isla Más a Tierra"), located closest to the mainland of continental South America, and its surrounding islets:
** Juananga, ("Islote Juananga")
** Santa Clara (coord|33|42|07|S|79|00|05|W|) ("Isla Santa Clara"), an islet located 1 km southwest of Robinson Crusoe
* Alejandro Selkirk Island (coord|33|46|00|S|80|47|00|W|) (also known as "Isla Más Afuera"), 181 km further west.

The islands are mainly known for having been the home to the sailor Alexander Selkirk for four years, which may have inspired the novel "Robinson Crusoe". The islands have an area of 181 km², of which 93 km² are taken up by Robinson Crusoe (together with Santa Clara), and 33 km² by Alexander Selkirk. The population is 633 (all on Robinson Crusoe); of those 598 reside in the capital, San Juan Bautista, on Cumberland Bay on the north coast of the island (2002 census).

The archipelago administratively belongs to Chile's Region of Valparaíso (which also includes Easter Island), and more specifically forms one of the nine "comunas" (municipalities) of the province of Valparaíso, namely "Juan Fernández".


The archipelago was discovered by chance on November 22 1574, by the Spanish sailor Juan Fernández, who was sailing between Peru and Valparaíso and deviated from his planned course. He called the islands "Más Afuera", "Más a Tierra", and "Islote de Santa Clara".

In the 17th and 18th century it was used as a hideout for pirates, and provided a location for a penal colony. In the 1740s, it was 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. [cite book |last= Kendrick |first= John |title= Alejandro Malaspina: Portrait of a Visionary |year= 2003 |publisher= McGill-Queen's Press |isbn= 0773526528 |pages= p. 46; online at [http://books.google.com/books?id=qVmxMSH7ayYC Google Books] ]

In late 1914 the islands were the rendezvous for Admiral Maximilian von Spee's East Asiatic Squadron as he gathered his ships together prior to defeating the British under Admiral Christopher Cradock at the Battle of Coronel. Following the Royal Navy's revenge at the Battle of the Falkland Islands a month later, the only surviving German cruiser, SMS "Dresden", was finally hunted down and cornered at Más a Tierra early in 1915, where she was scuttled after a brief battle with British cruisers.

In 1966 the Chilean government renamed Isla Más Afuera to Alejandro Selkirk and Isla Más a Tierra to Robinson Crusoe, in order to promote tourism. Incidentally, Selkirk never set foot on Más Afuera, only on Más a Tierra.

In July 30 2007, a constitutional reform gave the Juan Fernández Islands and Easter Island the status of "special territories" of Chile. Pending the enactment of a special charter, the archipelago will continue to be governed as a municipality of the Valparaíso Region. [ [http://www.bcn.cl/leyes/pdf/original/263040.pdf Chilean Law 20,193] , National Congress of Chile]


The islands are volcanic in origin, and were created by a hotspot in the earth's mantle that broke through the Nazca Plate to form the islands, which were then carried eastward off the hot spot as the Nazca Plate subducts under the South American continent. Radiometric dating indicates that Santa Clara is the oldest of the islands, 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. Robinson Crusoe is the largest of the islands, at 93 km² and the highest peak, El Yunque, is 916 meters. Alexander Selkirk is 50 km² ; its highest peak is Los Innocentes at 1319 meters. Santa Clara is 2.2 km², and reaches 350 meters.


The islands have a subtropical climate, influenced by the cold Humboldt Current which flows northward along the South American coast east of the islands, and the southeast trade winds. The temperature ranges from 3-34 °C, with an annual mean of 15.4 °C. Higher elevations are generally cooler, with occasional frosts on Robinson Crusoe. Rainfall is higher in the winter months, and varies with elevation and exposure; elevations above 500 meters experience almost daily rainfall, while the western, leeward side of Robinson Crusoe and Santa Clara are quite dry. Average annual rainfall is 1081 mm, varying from 318 to 1698 mm year to year. Much of the variability in rainfall depends on the El Niño-Southern Oscillation.


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 has relatively few plants and very few animals. 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. 126 species, or 62%, 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.

Alexander Selkirk is mostly covered with grassland from 0-400 meters, interspersed with wooded ravines "(quebradas)", home to dry forests of "Myrceugenia" and "Fagara". From 400 to 600 meters are lower montane forests, with upper montane forest from 600 to 950 meters. The treeline is at approximately 950 meters, 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 0-100 meters; introduced shrubs from 100-300 meters; tall forests from 300-500 meters; montane forests from 500-700 meters, with dense tree cover of "Cuminia, Fagara", and "Rhaphithamnus"; tree fern forests from 700-750 meters, and brushwood forests above 750 meters. 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. Robinson Crusoe Island is home to an endemic and endangered hummingbird, the Juan Fernández Firecrown ("Sephanoides fernandensis"). This large hummingbird, about 11 cm (5 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. Introduced fauna by humans include rats and goats, which castaway Alexander Selkirk survived on during his four year stay from 1705 to 1709; his travails provided the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe.

The endemic "Juan-Fernandez spiny lobster" ( without claws ) lives in its waters ( "Jasus frontalis").

The Juan Fernandez Fur Seal ("Arctocephalus philippii") 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 indicated about 750 fur seals present in the Archipelago. Only two were sighted on the Desventuradas Islands. 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%.


External links

* [http://web.archive.org/web/20050204135404/www.geocities.com/jpberlinger/ Juan Fernández Islands Site by Juan Pablo Berlinger)]
* [http://web.archive.org/web/20070224170312/http://arts.monash.edu.au/ges/who/haberle/JFernandez/JFernandez.html Human impact on vegetation of the Juan Fernandez Islands, Chile]
* [http://www.travel-images.com/juan-fernandez.html Juan Fernandez Islands - images]
* [http://www.qsl.net/ce0zy/mapa-isl.jpgMap of Robinson Crusoe Island]
* [http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildworld/profiles/terrestrial/nt/nt0401_full.html Juan Fernández Islands temperate forests (World Wildlife Fund)]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Juan Fernández Islands — [hwän΄ fer nan′dez] group of three islands in the South Pacific, c. 400 mi (644 km) west of, & belonging to, Chile: c. 69 sq mi (179 sq km) * * * Island group, South Pacific Ocean. Located 400 mi (650 km) west of Chile, it consists of two islands …   Universalium

  • Juan Fernández Islands — [hwän΄ fer nan′dez] group of three islands in the South Pacific, c. 400 mi (644 km) west of, & belonging to, Chile: c. 69 sq mi (179 sq km) …   English World dictionary

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  • Santa Clara (Juan Fernández Islands) — Santa Clara is the smallest of the mainland islands in the Juan Fernández Islands. It is located 1.5 km from the south coast of Robinson Crusoe Island. The island is 375 metres high and the terrain is dry. The majority of the original vegetation… …   Wikipedia

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  • Juan Fernández — (c. 1536 ndash; c. 1604) was a Spanish explorer and navigator. Probably between 1563 and 1574 he discovered the Juan Fernández Islands west of Valparaíso, Chile. He also discovered the Pacific islands of San Félix and San Ambrosio (1574).Some… …   Wikipedia

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