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Sala y Gomez

Isla Salas y Gomez, also known as Isla Sala y Gomez, is a small uninhabited Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean. It is the easternmost point in the Polynesian Triangle. Administratively, it is part of the Easter Island commune and province of the Valparaiso Region.


Isla Salas y Gomez is located 3,210 km west of the Chilean mainland, 2,490 km west of Chile's Desventuradas Islands, and 390 km east-northeast of Easter Island, the closest landmass. Salas y Gomez consists of two rocks, a smaller one in the west measuring 4 hectare in area , and a larger one in the east measuring 11 ha , which are connected by a narrow isthmus in the north, averaging approximately 30 meters in width. The total area is approximately 15 hectares (0.15 km), and the total length northwest-southeast is 770 meters. Its highest point, 30 meters above sea level, is in the south of the eastern rock, less than 30 meters from the shore, above a 10 meter high cliff. The highest elevation on the western rock is 26 meters.

The island is showered with saltwater, and the shoreline is dotted with countless tidepools. Because the shoreline consists primarily of cliffs, landing on the island is difficult in all but the calmest of conditions.

There are no permanent sources of freshwater on the island, but there is an intermittent rainwater pool in a depression on the eastern rock, which often forms a cache of freshwater 75 meters in diameter. This is essential for the survival of the large population of seabirds.

Even when this area appears dry at the surface, the sand is still moist just a few inches below the surface. This flat sandy area is also the only place on the island suitable for landing helicopters.

In 1994, the Chilean Navy installed an automated beacon and a tsunami warning system. The island has since been declared a nature sanctuary.


Human visitation

Although there is no evidence that the island has ever been permanently inhabited, Easter Islanders were certainly aware of its existence, as indicated by the pre-European name of the island. Tradition says that the island was occasionally visited to collect fledglings and eggs. The island was said to have been difficult to land upon, because the gods Make-make and Huau protected the seabirds from those who ate their eggs and offspring. Because of these historical connections to Easter Island, Salas y Gomez can be considered part of Polynesia; if so its location makes it the easternmost landmass of Polynesia. The title is usually awarded to Easter Island, 415 km further west.

The first European to sight the island was Jose Salas Valdes, a Spanish sailor, on 23 August 1793. Between then and 1917, visits are recorded in at least 1805, 1806, 1817, 1825, 1875, and 1917.


The Rapa Nui name for the island is Motu Motiro Hiva or Manu Motu Motiro Hiva, meaning ''(Bird's) Islet on the way to Hiva. Hivais part of the names of several Polynesian islands, particularly in the Marquesas Islands. In the Rapa Nui language, however, it means "far off lands" and is the name for the mythical original homeland of the Polynesians. From Easter Island, Salas y Gomez is almost the oppositedirection to the Marquesas, and the next inhabited territory "behind" Salas y Gomez would be the coast of South America. This was one of the factors that led Thor Heyerdahl to theorize that there was pre-European contact between Polynesia and South America.

The current name, Salas y Gomez, is derived from the name of Jose Salas Valdes and Jose Manuel Gomez, who made the first detailed description of the island, following a visit beginning 18 October, 1805. The island is sometimes also referred to as Isla Sala y Gomez, with "Sala" being a misspelling of Salas.

Political situation

Salas y Gomez was claimed by Chile in 1808, and from 1888, was administered by the Chilean Navy. Beginning 1 March 1966, the island was included in the department of Isla de Pascua. On 25 July 1974, the department was reorganized as the Easter Island Province.


Salas y Gomez is a volcanic high island, consisting of the summit of a large mountain which rises about 3500 metres from the sea bed. Scott Reef(not to be confused with Scott Reefs off Western Australia), 1.5 km further northeast, is another peak of the same mostly submarine mountain, and has a least depth of 25 meters above it. Salas y Gomez is part of the same Salas y Gomez Ridge, as Easter Island to the west, the only places where the otherwise submarine mountain range extends above sea level. There are several dozen more seamounts in the range, which extends 2232 km eastward until Nazca Seamount at , where it joins the Nazca Ridge.

Salas y Gomez is the fourth youngest mountain in the chain, which is being formed by the Nazca Plate floating over the Easter hotspot. The two youngest mountains in the chain, Pukao and Moai are sea mounts to the west of Easter Island.


Salas y Gomezand Easter Island form a distinct ecoregion the Rapa Nui subtropical broadleaf forests. However Salas y Gomez is largely barren with no forests and only four species of terrestrial plants; these include Asplenium(or "Spleenwort"), a type of fern which only grows in protected areas at higher elevations.


Besides a number of insect species, the only non-aquatic fauna are about a dozen species of seabird, which use the island as a rookery, with the estimated number of adult birds in 1985:

Those numbers may vary considerably from year to year, due to weather conditions, and it has been observed that the overall numbers were much lower in 1986.

Marine fauna includes a large number of littoral crustaceans, echinoidea, etc., as well as a large assortment of reef fishes and a number of species of shark, which swimmers report to be "curious", but not aggressive.

Cultural references

The German poet Adelbert von Chamisso wrote a poem about the island, based on his reflections upon visiting the island in 1816.

See also

Desert island

San Felix y San Ambrosio

Juan Fernandez Islands


Wetlands.org information about the designation of SyG as a wildlife refuge

Te Rapa Nui (The Gazette of Easter Island) Vol. 4 No. 8, Summer/Fall 1999

The Islands from notes on the Cordell Expeditions. Aug. 1995

Revista Espanola del PacificoNo. 2, 1992. From the Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes.

Chilian history page outlining history of Rapa Nui province

Radiometric Ages for Seamounts from the Easter-Salas y Gomez-Nazca Hotspot Track from Smithsonian/NASA ADS Physics Abstract Service. Duncan, R.A., et al.

Priliminary Multibeam Mapping and Dredging Results along the Nazca Ridge and Easter/Salas y Gomez Chain'' from the 2002 Ocean Sciences Meeting

Address by Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia Siim Kallas ( as HTML) from a Eurovision website.


External links

National Monuments, Chilean government.

document with sketch map




Adalbert von Chamisso's Salas y Gomez at Gutenberg (in German)

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Sala y Gomez

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