Isla Nublar (English: Cloud Island; Site A) is a fictional Central American island in the Jurassic Park franchise, first depicted in Michael Crichton's eponymous 1990 novel. It is the primary setting of the 1993 film Jurassic Park, Jurassic World (2015) and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018). Both the novel and film versions of the Jurassic Park theme park are located on Isla Nublar off the west coast of Costa Rica, which has leased the island to John Hammond, the CEO of fictional bio-engineering firm InGen.
The Las Cinco Muertes Archipelago (English: The Five Deaths) is a chain of five islands 200 miles southwest of Costa Rica. They are named Isla Matanceros, Isla Muerta, Isla Pena, Isla Sorna and Isla Tacaño. The name comes from a Native American myth about a brave warrior facing a different execution on each of the five islands: burning, drowning, crushing, hanging and beheading. InGen did not own these islands. They only had a 99-year lease of Isla Nublar from the Costa Rican Government, and owned Isla Sorna (English: Sarcasm Island; Site B); the only island populated with dinosaurs aside from Isla Nublar.
In the novel
In Michael Crichton's original novel, Isla Nublar is a relatively small island approximately 40 minutes by helicopter from the capital of Costa Rica, San José. John Hammond gives its proportions as "...8 miles long and 3 miles wide at the widest point, in total some 22 square miles." It was formed when a volcanically active seamount, or underwater island, built itself up above the surface of the sea. Along the south side of the island are natural steam vents indicating the continuing volcanic activity. The volcanic activity enables a geothermal power plant to be built in the northern mountains.
The island is in the shape of a reverse teardrop, with high mountains occupying the northern end and flat plain to the south. The variations in altitude create an array of micro-climates, with tropical rainforest dominating the lower elevations and temperate rainforest occupying the high elevations to the north. Isla Nublar means 'Clouded Island' in Spanish, so-called because the steam vents and ocean currents cause overcast conditions and cloud forest on the island most of the time. At the center of the island is a huge artificial lagoon spanning the Tyrannosaur and Maiasaur paddocks which feeds into a river that flows to the north, through the Dilophosaur paddock and ends in an artificial waterfall which masks the entrance to a utility tunnel.
In the novel InGen has built an extensive infrastructure to house visitors and contain 15 different breeds of dinosaurs, centered in the northeast sector of Isla Nublar. The Visitor Center is located at the base of the mountains in its own compound. There is a separate hotel, or lodge, for visitor accommodation with a landscaped pool area. The visitor center contains exhibit space for educational purposes, the laboratories, the operations room, a garage where the electric touring cars are housed, and a hatchery where visitors can observe newborn dinosaurs. John Hammond also possesses a private bungalow in a secluded area near the Visitors Center compound. Two docks – at the east and north ends of the island – manage supply shipments from the mainland. A theme-park river ride is under construction, as well as an aviary to house the pterosaurs. There is also a mountain-top luxury restaurant still under construction when the events in the novel take place. Criss-crossing the island are miles of underground concrete maintenance tunnels which connect the paddocks.
In Jurassic Park (1993)
Isla Nublar as depicted in Jurassic Park is a large, mountainous island covered by lush tropical rainforest, 120 miles (190 km) west of Costa Rica. It was leased to John Hammond's InGen Corporation and construction of Jurassic Park is nearing completion after five years of building when the events in the movie take place.
Maps of the island used in the movie, and promotional material for the film, depict it in the same reverse tear drop shape described in the novel. According to this model, high mountains occupy the northern and western ends of the island, while the Park itself is built in the north-eastern sector surrounded by a 50-mile long perimeter fence. As in the novel there is both a North and East Dock, although the East Dock is the only one referenced in the film when Dennis Nedry tries to reach it in order to smuggle his stolen dinosaur embryos to the mainland. The Visitor Center and its support buildings are located within a self-contained sector in the center of the island, nestled at the base of the northern mountains and surrounded by an electrified perimeter fence.
The Visitor Center, in the style of a rustic African lodge, features a two-storey rotunda at its center with incomplete exhibit space across both levels. The fossilized remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex and an Alamosaurus hang from the ceiling as the centerpiece of the room. The operations room, laboratory, garage and viewing theater are all located within the complex. There is also a large restaurant with outdoor terrace and gift-shop. The restaurant is served by an industrial kitchen overseen by a gourmet chef. The Velociraptors are held in a specially built containment unit near to the Visitor Center with a viewing platform and guard tower. There is also a shelter for emergencies and a maintenance shed where the generator that controls the power grid on the island is housed. In the film the visitors reach the island by helicopter and fly through a verdant mountain valley before landing on the helipad at the base of a waterfall. As in the novel InGen has constructed an infrastructure of electrified fences, concrete moats and electrified roadway by which the visitor vehicles are guided on their tours of the various dinosaur paddocks. There are 12 species of dinosaur with their own paddocks, as compared to the 15 in the novel.
During the luncheon scene in the Visitor Center, slides in the background show future attractions under construction in the park. These include a "Jungle River Ride", an aviary, and a separate restaurant facility.
The northernmost Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi, known as the "Garden Isle", was used extensively to film exteriors that depicted Isla Nublar. In the movie, the helicopter carrying John Hammond and his guests approach the island along the Nā Pali Coast, then enters the Hanaepepe Valley before landing at the helipad at the base of a waterfall, in actuality Manawaiopuna Falls. Other Kauai locations used were the Valley House Plantation Estate, where the Visitors Center façade and emergency bunker were constructed, and Allerton Garden, used for both the maintenance shed exterior and the scene where Grant and the children discover newly-hatched dinosaur eggs.
The island of Oʻahu was also used to film the Gallimimus valley scenes in the Kualoa Ranch, as were the islands of Maui and Niʻihau. The suspenseful perimeter fence scene, which Dr. Grant and the children must scale, was built in the Waimea Valley on Kauai.
In The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
Isla Nublar is not shown in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, the 1997 sequel to Jurassic Park adapted from Crichton's The Lost World novel. No details are provided as to the fate of Isla Nublar after the events in Jurassic Park, although it is implied that Isla Nublar is abandoned and the dinosaurs on the island have been exterminated. This is why InGen seeks to recoup some of its losses from Jurassic Park by capturing the surviving dinosaurs on Isla Sorna and bringing them to San Diego. John Hammond reveals that Isla Nublar was the "showroom" for the tourists, while Isla Sorna, 87 miles further west, was the secret breeding-ground where the vast majority of the dinosaurs were cloned and nurtured on an industrial scale before being moved to Nublar. The facility in San Diego, an enormous amphitheater, was built before John Hammond decided on relocating the park to Isla Nublar.
In a deleted scene from the film, Peter Ludlow, the nephew of John Hammond, addresses an InGen board meeting and tallies that the "demolition, deconstruction, and disposal of the Isla Nublar facilities, both organic and in-organic" cost $126 million. This would apparently confirm that InGen had exterminated the dinosaurs in the park and essentially erased the physical footprint of Jurassic Park from Isla Nublar, though the scene was ultimately deleted so it cannot be considered canon. Jurassic World (2015) contradicts the assertion that Jurassic Park was demolished and the dinosaurs destroyed, due to the T. rex being the original from Jurassic Park (1993). Original structures from Jurassic Park, including the Visitors Center and various paddock fences, also appear as ruins in Jurassic World, confirming that InGen's original park was abandoned and not demolished.
In Jurassic Park III (2001)
Isla Nublar is briefly mentioned in Jurassic Park III, during the conversation between Paul Kirby and Dr. Alan Grant when the group of survivors went to search for Paul and Amanda's son who was lost on Isla Sorna. Paul and Amanda Kirby had been instructed by the mercenaries they hired to find someone familiar with the island and they erroneously believed Dr. Grant had been on Isla Sorna before. When informed about this after they are stranded on Isla Sorna, Grant angrily reveals to them he had never been on the island before and Billy Brennan corrects Paul that Grant had been on Isla Nublar and not Isla Sorna.
In Jurassic World (2015)
Jurassic World revives Isla Nublar as the main setting for a Jurassic movie for the first time since the original Jurassic Park. This time it is the site of a fully operational and wildly successful version of the original park: Jurassic World. InGen is run as a subsidiary of Masrani Global Corporation, which purchased InGen in the years after the events in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. It is also discovered that the new park was running for ten years, starting in 2005. Simon Masrani mentions that he purchased InGen in order to fulfill the dying wish of John Hammond that the park should be operational.
In Jurassic World, the new Visitor Center complex is in the middle of the island, the focal point of a network of chain shops and restaurants with a broad Main Street in the middle. The Visitor Center itself is a much enlarged version of the original in Jurassic Park, with a multi-story rotunda that features dinosaur holograms, interactive displays and a life-size statue of John Hammond. The laboratory on view to visitors is called the Hammond Creation Lab. An enormous lagoon where the Mosasaurus lives forms the centerpiece of the visitor complex, around which the hotels, train terminal and shopping village are centered. There is also an amphitheater overlooking the lagoon for live viewings of Mosasaurus feedings (similar to SeaWorld); the seating rows can be lowered beneath the surface to view the creature behind glass. Visitors are transported to Isla Nublar on large ferries and shuttled to the Visitors Center via a high-speed light rail that ends in a massive terminal near the Visitor Center. The operations center sits just beyond the tourist area, within the foothills of the mountains. Several of the structures mentioned in the novel and original film have come to fruition in Jurassic World. These include the aviary and the Jungle River attraction (which is called the "Cretaceous Cruise"). "Gyrospheres" bring visitors on tours among the Parasaurolophus, Stegosaurus, Triceratops, and Apatosaurus. Within Jurassic World are 20 species of dinosaurs – 14 herbivores and 6 carnivores.
The northern part of the island, where the original Jurassic Park was centered, is a restricted area off limits to tourists. The containment unit where the Indominus Rex is held is located in this sector. During the course of the film, two of the characters, Zach and Gray, discover the ruins of the Jurassic Park Visitor Center, deeply overgrown with vegetation. The visitor center appears to have been untouched since the T. rex attack at the climax of the first film; the torn banner and pieces of the Tyrannosaurus display still lie on the floor. Zach and Gray explore the garage and are able to get one of the abandoned 1992 Jeep Wranglers working. They crash through the remains of one of the original electrified fences to reach the perimeter of Jurassic World.
This film indicates that Jurassic Park was not demolished, but was left abandoned, except for the area now occupied by Jurassic World. It also appears that at least some of the original Jurassic Park dinosaurs survived; the T. rex on display is said to be the original and still bears the scars from its encounter with the Velociraptors in Jurassic Park.
The production crew returned to Kauaʻi to film aerial shots for Isla Nublar, and also shot smaller sequences at the Honolulu Zoo, the Hawaii Convention Center, and the Kualoa Ranch on Oʻahu for the Gallimimus valley scenes. However, the bulk of the movie was filmed in New Orleans, Louisiana, where the Main Street of the Visitors Complex was constructed in the parking lot of the abandoned Six Flags New Orleans theme park.
In Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
In the opening scene of the movie, a submersible enters the lagoon of Jurassic World only a few weeks after the events of the previous movie, to retrieve the bones of the Indominus rex. The retrieval team inadvertently leave the gates to the lagoon open in a rush to evacuate, and the Mosasaurus escapes into the open ocean. Three years after the incident of Jurassic World, Mount Sibo, a formerly dormant volcano, threatens to erupt and destroy the dinosaurs living on Isla Nublar. As the lava and the pyroclastic flow from the volcano barrel down over the island, the last shot of Isla Nublar is of a Brachiosaurus (revealed to be the first, and also last, dinosaur ever seen on Isla Nublar), being consumed by lava and smoke. It is assumed that Isla Nublar is now destroyed and lifeless on account of the volcanic eruption.
The filmmakers returned to the Kualoa Ranch on Oʻahu, used in every Jurassic movie featuring Isla Nublar. Additional stand-in locations for Isla Nublar were Heʻeia Small Boat Harbor in Heʻeia, Hawaii, which stood in for Isla Nublar's harbor, and some of the jungle around Heʻeia. An Isla Nublar beach where Owen and Claire wash up was filmed at Hālona Blowhole in Oʻahu, while the Main Street of Jurassic World was re-constructed at Papailoa Beach, also on Oʻahu.
Real life counterpart
There has been speculation that Michael Crichton loosely based Isla Nublar on Isla del Coco or Cocos Island in the eastern Pacific. Cocos Island is a Costa Rican National Park 340 miles off the west coast of Costa Rica. Like Isla Nublar, which means "Clouded Island", Cocos Island receives especially high rainfall year-round and is the only island in the eastern Pacific that features cloud forests. The physical geography is also similar to Nublar, in that the island is guarded by high cliffs, rugged terrain, and dense tropical vegetation. It is much smaller than Isla Nublar, however, coming in at just over 9 square miles. Because of its protected status, the island is closed to the public and only open to park officers.
- The Isla Nublar Map. Access in 2017/05/02
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- (Michael Crichton 1990, p. 78)
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Colin Trevorrow clarified that the opening scene takes place only a few weeks, or at most a month, after Jurassic World.
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