The La Cumbre volcano on Fernandina Island in the Galápagos archipelago erupted Saturday morning, sending lava flows down its flanks into the Pacific Ocean. The eruption was preceded by a series of earthquakes, one measuring 4.1 on the Richter scale.
Officials of the Galápagos National Park are warning boaters to stay clear of the area where lava is entering the ocean. “The mix of lava and water is producing large emissions of toxic gases,” a park announcement said. “In addition, we are concerned that the eruption could intensify in the coming days, sending small rocks into the air. This eruption is in its very early stages and the situation can change dramatically as it develops.”
Fernandina is the youngest of the Galápagos islands and has no human residents. Park officials say they are monitoring the impact of the eruption on the island’s wildlife but say there is no immediate concern.
“There are some species that could be affected, but since the lava flow at this point is only in one direction, on the side of the island facing the ocean, the possible impacts on biodiversity will be minimal,” said Jorge Carrión, director of the Galapagos National Park. “This could change, of course, if the eruption expands.”
Carrión added that Fernandina is the most volcanically active of the of the Galapagos islands and that the wildlife has learned to adapt to eruptions. “It is part of the natural cycle of life on the island,” he says.
The island is known for its large populations of marine iguanas, rodents, snakes, penguins and finches.