Galapagos volcanic eruption sends dozens of tourist ships to Isabela Island; park service worries about a ‘traffic jam in the middle of the ocean’

May 26, 2015

A Galapagos Islands volcano has erupted for the first since 1933, providing a spectacular light show for hundreds of tourists on cruise ships and yachts. The eruption of the Wolf volcano is on Isabela Island, the western-most of the Galapagos.

Volcan Wolf erupting Monday afternoon.

The Wolf volcano erupting Monday afternoon.

Park rangers at Galapagos National Park say that the eruption does not threaten any human populations since the nearest town, Puerto Villamil, is more than 110 kilometers to the south, but says they are concerned about the fragile ecosystem in the area, including the habitat of the world’s only colony of pink iguanas.

Wolf began erupting about 4 a.m. local time Monday morning, sending fire and smoke thousands of meters into the sky, and lava flows running down its flanks.

Authorities said that for now, the lava flow poses no immediate danger to the iguanas, which live west of the volcano.

Isabela is the only island in the Galapagos chain that has active volcanos.

Galapagos pink iguana

Galapagos pink iguana

One concern, of park officials say, are the large number of ships and boats in the area. “By boat is the only way to see the eruption and there are dozens of tourist ships and many more small boats currently in the waters off of Isabela,” said a park ranger. “Many of them are already anchored there and others are arriving all the time. We are concerned about collisions.”

At Puerto Villamil and Puerta Ayora, the Galapagos’ largest towns, private boat owners were besieged by tourists and residents wanting to charter boats to go see the eruption, but there were almost none for hire.

Park rangers flew over the volcano Monday afternoon and said that the lava flow had not yet reached the ocean. Wolf is about 10 kilometers from the coast.

The Galapagos park is preparing for a possible onslaught of international scientists to study the eruption. “Controlling the boat traffic will be our biggest job,” said a park ranger. “Imagine having a traffic jam in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.”

 

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