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. 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.