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Malpelo Island

Malpelo Island
Native name: Isla de Malpelo
Profile of Malpelo Island
Location Pacific Ocean
Area 1.2 km2 (0.46 sq mi)
Length 1.643 km (1.0209 mi)
Width 0.727 km (0.4517 mi)
Highest elevation 360 m (1,180 ft)
Highest point Cerro La Mona
Municipality Buenaventura
Department Valle del Cauca
Population Uninhabited
Additional information
Official name Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary
Type Natural
Criteria vii, ix
Designated 2006
Reference no. 1216
State Party Colombia
Region Latin America and the Caribbean
Map of Malpelo Island

Malpelo is a small island in the East Pacific Ocean, located about 500 km (310 mi) west of the Colombian mainland. Except for a small military post that is manned by the Colombian Armed Forces, it is uninhabited. It consists of a sheer and barren rock with three high peaks, the highest being Cerro de la Mona with a height of 300 metres (980 ft). The island is about one mile in length from northeast to southwest, and 700 yards in width.

It is the only island that rises above the surface from the Malpelo Ridge, which is a solitary volcanic submarine ridge that extends in a northeast-southwest direction with a length of 300 kilometres (190 mi) and a width of 100 kilometres (62 mi). This island is surrounded by a number of offshore rocks. Off the northeast corner are the Tres Mosqueteros. Off the southwest corner are Salomon, Saul, La Gringa, and Escuba. All the rocks are surrounded by deep water, and most of the face of the main island is very steep. Soundings of between 1,000 and 5,000 fathoms are obtainable within a few miles of the shore, and the currents are strong and changeable. As an oceanic island, this island has never been connected with any other islands or the mainland.[1][2]

Malpelo Island is composed of Miocene pillow lavas, volcanic breccias, and basaltic dikes that have been dated as being 16 to 17 million years old. This island and the underlying and underwater Malpelo Ridge were created along with the Carnegie Ridge in the Late Miocene by a very complex interaction between the Cocos-Nazca Spreading Centre and the Galápagos hotspot.[1][2][3]

At first glance, the island seems to be barren rock, devoid of all vegetation. But deposits of bird guano have helped colonies of algae, lichens, mosses and some shrubs and ferns establish, all of which glean nutrients from the guano. The Malpelo Nature Reserve, a plant and wildlife sanctuary, is defined as a circular area of radius 9.656 kilometres (6.000 mi) centered at . On July 12, 2006, Malpelo was declared by UNESCO as a natural World Heritage Site. A Colombian foundation[4] is trying to preserve the biodiversity of the site.

Malpelo is home of a unique shark population; swarms of 500 hammerhead sharks and hundreds of silky sharks are frequently seen by diving expeditions, making it a very popular sharkdiving location. Malpelo is one of the few places where the smalltooth sand tiger has been seen alive; it is frequently spotted at the dive site "El bajo del Monstruo".[5] Acanthemblemaria stephensi, the Malpelo barnacle blenny, is a species of chaenopsid blenny found in coral reefs around Malpelo.

Malpelo counts as a separate "entity" for amateur radio credit. Because of the rugged terrain, strong currents, and remote location the island is rarely activated.[6] A DX-pedition occurred in early 2012, with the operators making 195,292 contacts under very difficult conditions.[7]


  • Chronology 1
  • Gallery 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5




  1. ^ a b Anonymous (2010) Pacific Coast: Malpelo Island, Coasts of Colombia. Coastal and Marine Geology Program, United States Geological Survey, Santa Cruz, California.
  2. ^ a b Marcaillou, B. P. Charvis, and J.-Y. Collot (2006) Structure of the Malpelo Ridge (Colombia) from seismic and gravity modeling. Marine Geophysical Research. 27:289–300.
  3. ^ Hoernle K., P. Bogaard, R. Werner, F. Hauff, B. Lissinna, G.E. Alvarado and D. Garbe-Schnberg (2002) Missing history (16–71 Ma) of the Galapagos hotspot: implications for the tectonic and biological evolution of the Americas. Geology. 30(9):795–798.
  4. ^ Fundación Malpelo y Otros Ecosistemas Marinos
  5. ^ Schneider, P. (nd) Malpelo Island the "Mount Everest" of shark and large pelagic diving. Advanced Diver Magazine Digital. Bradenton, Florida.
  6. ^ DXpedition to Malpelo Island 1969
  7. ^ Malpelo DXpedition 2012

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Malpelo, Cocos, and Easter Islands. Peace handbooks. London : H.M. Stationery Office, 1920.

Further reading

  • Verga, Giovanni (1936). Malpelo (in Spanish). México: Departamento de Biblioteca de la Secretaría de Educación Pública. 
  • Prahl, Henry von (1990). Malpelo la roca viviente (in Spanish) (1. ed.). Bogotá, Colombia: Fondo para la Protección del Medio Ambiente,. 
  • Parques Nacionales Naturales de Colombia. Fundación Malpelo y Otros Ecosistemas Marinos. Plan de Manejo del Santuario de Flora y Fauna de Malpelo (PDF) (in Spanish). Bogotá, Colombia: Fondo para la Protección del Medio Ambiente. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 

External links

  • Fundación Malpelo
  • UNESCO World Heritage profile
  • Report on diving at Malpelo, with photos of sharks (German)
  • Isla de MALPELO (Colombia) (Spanish)
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