Juan Fernández Islands

Juan Fernández Islands

Archipiélago Juan Fernández
Special Territory and Commune
Image of the town of San Juan Bautista in Cumberland Bay, Robinson Crusoe Island
Flag of Juan Fernández Islands
Coat of arms
Coat of arms
Comuna de Juan Fernández.svg
Juan Fernández Islands is located in Chile
Juan Fernández Islands
Juan Fernández Islands
Coordinates: 33°38′29″S 78°50′28″W / 33°38′29″S 78°50′28″W / -33.64139; -78.84111UTC-3 (CLST[5])
Area code(s)56
CurrencyPeso (Juan Fernández Islands

The Juan Fernández Islands (Spanish: Archipiélago Juan Fernández) are a sparsely inhabited island group in the South Pacific Ocean reliant on tourism and fishing. 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.[6] 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.[7]

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.


A satellite image of a pattern of clouds forming from a disturbance at the lower left causing a series of swirling cloud vortexes that gradually dissipates as they move to the upper right
Landsat 7 image of the Juan Fernández Islands on 15 September 1999, shows the unique pattern of clouds known as "Kármán vortex street" caused by the interaction of winds with the islands' mountains

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.[8] 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.