oceanic islands

Desventuradas Islands

The Desventuradas Islands (Unfortunate Islands) are relatively small oceanic islands located approximately 870 km off the coast of Chile; they are part of the Valparaíso municipality. The Desventuradas Islands consist of the two main islands Isla San Félix and Isla San Ambrosio and several rocks and stacks: Islote González or Isla González, a small islet that is located southeast of Isla San Félix and Roca Catedral which is located north of Isla San Félix. Together, the Desventuradas Islands have a surface area of only 3.9 km². The topography is very rugged, with peak elevations of 193 m on Isla San Félix, 479 m on Isla (de) San Ambrosio, 173 m on Islote/Isla Gonzalez and 53 m on Roca Catedral.

Both islands are of volcanic origin, and the flora and fauna are of great scientific interest, though there is little known about it. Isla (de) San Ambrosio rises from the sea as sheer cliffs on almost all sides, is 4 km long by 850 m wide, and primarily basaltic. Isla San Félix is slightly smaller and has two small peaks, reaching 193 m, which are denuded by high winds. The vegetation is a miniature mosaic of matorral, barren rock, various size trees, and shrubs mixed with ferns and perennial herbs. There is a single-runway military airfield in San Félix (ICAO code: SCFX).

There are no permanent sources of fresh water on the islands. Vertebrates inhabiting both islands are exclusively limited to birds. Ten species of marine birds and one land bird species, some of them endangered, make their nests on or visit the islands.

Because of their isolation and difficulty of access, there are no human settlements on these islands, but a detachment of the Chilean Navy is stationed on Isla San Félix, which also hosts a 2,000 meter runway.


The islands were sighted by Juan Fernández in 1574, and perhaps earlier by Ferdinand Magellan in 1520. Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa wrote in 1579 that "they are now called after St Felix and St Ambor [i.e. Felix and Nabor])". However, by linguistic corruption, the name of the martyr Ambor (Nabor) became confused with that of the more famous bishop Saint Ambrose (San Ambrosio).

List of islands and location

Desventuradas Islands ('Unfortunate Islands'), from east to west:

Island/Rock Area
Elevation (m)
San Ambrosio 2.2 479
San Felix group
Islote González 0.25 173
San Félix 1.4 Cerro Amarillo, 193
Roca Catedral 0.01 53
Desventuradas 3.9 479  


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