The Fernandina volcano in the Galapagos Islands appears poised for a major eruption, according to geologists at the Ecuador Geophysical Institute. Fernandina is the westernmost island in the Galapagos and the most volcanically active.
“From what we observed on Monday, the volcano is probably waking up,” says the institute’s Patricia Mothes. She said that a vapor and ash and column was observed rising 4,000 meters into the atmosphere. “The volcano last erupted in 2009 and since it erupts every six to eight years, the new activity is not a surprise.”
Fernandina Island is uninhabited and has little plant or animal life due to the frequency of volcanic activity. “There are sea iguanas on the beaches and a few stands of vegetation but not much else,” Mothes says.
In a Tuesday morning bulletin, the institute said the eruption poses no immediate threat to other islands in the Galapagos chain. “The eruptive column is blowing to the west and northwest, away from the other islands,” it said.
On Tuesday night, the institute reported that lava flows had been observed.
Fernandina is classified as a basaltic shield volcano, and has an elevation of 1,476 meters, or 4,843 feet. During historic time it has experienced several large eruptions, at least three of which have sent ash clouds thousands of miles to the east and west.
In 1732, two Spanish ships anchored miles offshore disappeared during a violent eruption of Fernandina.