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Baltra Island - GALAPAGOS
Area:  21 km2 or 8 mi2
Maximum Altitude: 100 m or 328 ft
Human Population: Personnel from the Ecuadorian Navy and the Ecuadorian Air Force

A Flat and Small Island Baltra is located near the center of the archipelago ,Baltra Island, or Isla Baltra also known as South Seymour was of little interest to humans until the 1930s, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited aboard the USS Houston, as the US government sought to establish an air base in the Pacific to protect the western approach to the Panama Canal.

The island is very arid and vegetation consists of salt bushes, prickly pear cactus and palo santo trees. While consideration was given to San Cristóbal because of its water supply and human population.

Baltra looking straight south to Santa Cruz, with a separation of just about 150 meters by a channel of clear water coexisting with sea lions, birds and many other endemic species that accompany tourists travel by boat to cross to Santa Cruz where await the buses that take you to Puerto Ayora main part of Santa Cruz.

The first dock is located in a small bay where the boats cruising the Galápagos await passengers. The second is a ferry dock which connects Baltra to the island of Santa Cruz via theItabaca Channel.Constructions for a larger, modernized airport began in 2011, and as of early 2013 it has started operation and the old buildings are being dismantled.

The new airport is being run under a 15-year concession by ECOGAL, a subsidiary of the Argentinian group Corporación América and has been promoted as "the first ecological airport worldwide"due to its reduced energy consumption for lighting and ventilation, rainwater recovery, waste recycling etc.

Baltra was chosen because of its location at the center of the archipelago and its flat topography. Construction of the airbase began in February 1942 and within two months a mile-long airstrip was completed. With time, associated infrastructure grew to over 200 buildings, including barracks for 1,000 soldiers, hangars, office buildings, an outdoor beer garden, a cinema, and even a bowling alley During World War II Baltra was established as a United States Army Air Force base. Crews stationed at Baltra patrolled the eastern Pacific for enemy submarines and provided protection for the Panama Canal.After the war the facilities were given to the government of Ecuador.

Today the island continues as an official Ecuadorian military base. The foundations of buildings and other remains of the US base including the old airfield can still be seen on the island.Until 1986, Seymour Airport was the only airport serving the Galápagos. Now there are two airports which receive flights from the continent, the other located on San Cristóbal Island. Private planes flying to the islands must fly to Baltra as it is the only airport with overnight facilities for planes.On arriving into Baltra, all visitors are transported by bus to one of two docks.

Popular Attractions , Visitor sites :
  • North Seymour :Along with Baltra to the south, North Seymour and the northeastern part of Santa Cruz were formed by a series of uplifts of submarine lava, resulting in flat plateaus. The trail on North Seymour makes two loops providing visitors with ample opportunity to observe sea lions and marine iguanas along the coast, the largest colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds in Galapagos, Blue-footed Boobies, and occasionally land iguanas. Marine iguanas on North Seymour have been observed eating land vegetation, a very unusual behavior for this species.
  • Mosquera :A small, flat, sandy islet almost devoid of vegetation, Mosquera sits in the channel between Baltra and North Seymour. It has one of the largest populations of sea lions and its sandy expanses offer visitors the perfect chance to observe their behavior. It is a beautiful site to observe Lava Gulls, coastal birds, and Sally Lightfoot Crabs
  • Daphne :Daphne is a rather large tuff cone somewhat eroded by the action of the sea. It is a very fragile visitor site, which is only open to boats with 16 or fewer passengers. And even then, these boats require a special permit and can only visit the site once each month. Visitors climb to the rim of the two adjacent craters along a rough, rocky trail. Nazca Boobies and Red-billed Tropicbirds nest on the outer slopes. Looking down into the crater, visitors are blasted with the noisy, echoing cries of thousands of Blue-footed Boobies, which use the floor of the crater for nesting. Daphne is the primary site of Peter and Rosemary Grant’s long-term study of Darwin’s finches, an iconic study of evolution in Galapagos. Nearly all of the finches on Daphne are banded.
  • Marine Sites : North Seymour / Mosquera :There are three dive sites around North Seymour, along the line from the northeast corner of Baltra to Mosquera, from Mosquera north to the southeast corner of North Seymour, and in the northeast zone of North Seymour. All of these sites are good sites for sea lions, large schools of fishes, some sharks, rays, and sea turtles.
  • Marine Sites : Daphne Major & Daphne Minor .Two dive sites encircle the smaller islands of Daphne Major and Daphne Minor. At Daphne Major, divers can observe sea lions, sea turtles, Eagle Rays, various species of sharks, and other pelagic species. Daphne Minor offers something a bit more unique. There divers can observe the large quantity of benthic organisms that live on the underwater walls of the island, all of which create a multi-colored aspect to the undersea world. Sea horses can be seen around the black corals and Galapagos Sharks and sometimes rays and sea turtles are present.
Conservations Sites :
  • Baltra & Iguana : Land iguanas became extinct on Baltra by 1954. While US soldiers are often pointed to as the cause of the iguana’s demise, by the early 1930s observations of the iguanas on Baltra indicated that they were already in poor condition. Due to their condition and the fact that the island just north of Baltra, very similar in both geology and vegetation, had no iguanas, the team of scientists on the Hancock Expedition (G. Alan Hancock was a wealthy Californian industrialist) transferred approximately 70 iguanas to neighboring North Seymour in 1931-32. The ultimate demise of the last iguanas on Baltra is attributed to a combination of factors including habitat destruction by introduced goats, predation by introduced cats and dogs, and additional habitat destruction caused by the construction and use of the US air base. In 1980, several iguanas from North Seymour were brought to the iguana center on Santa Cruz for breeding and in 1991, the first 35 young land iguanas were reintroduced to Baltra. By 1997, scientists recorded 97 iguanas living on Baltra, 13 of which were born on the island. Within another decade, a total of 420 iguanas were living and reproducing on Baltra and the population is now considered healthy.
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