Volcanoes Have Been Erupting In One Of The Most Pristine Spots On Earth

Bolivar Channel dividing Isabela and Fernandino Islands. Volcanoes have erupted on both islands in recent weeks. (Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

Isabela Island in the Galapagos is one of the most pure and unspoiled landscapes where it’s still technically possible to live and visit in relative harmony with the natural world. Rare swimming black iguanas laze on the beach alongside adventurous tourists and penguins and flamingos can also be seen nearby. It’s also home to the most amazing mangoes and other tropical fruits I’ve ever tasted.

But right now nature is also throwing a bit of a tantrum on the western Galapagos isles.

Isabela is the largest of the Galapagos Islands, but is home to only around 2,000 residents with the vast majority of them in the village of Puerto Villamil, sitting in the shadow of Sierra Negra volcano.

Sierra Negra is one of five volcanoes on Isabela and one of the most active in the Galapagos archipelago. Giant tortoises are known to roam in its caldera.  Unfortunately, Sierra Negra began erupting last week for the first time since 2005. Photos of the new eruption showed lava flows making their way down to the coastline, prompting the evacuation of about fifty nearby residents nearby and making the area off limits to tourists.

The eruption began after strong earthquakes opened up new fissures in the shield volcano, not unlike what has been going on for nearly two months now at Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, which has a similar structure.

The Sierra Negra eruption also began less than two weeks after La Cumbre volcano erupted on the nearby uninhabited Fernandina Island.

As of Sunday evening, Ecuador’s Geophysical Institute reported more tremors and lava flows on the northwestern flank of the volcano, which is on the opposite side from Puerto Villamil.

These signs suggest the resumption of the eruptive process of the Sierra Negra volcano,” reads a translated release.

Satellite data also showed new emissions and hotspots around the volcano:

Let’s hope all endangered tortoises in the area got a head start on escaping the eruption. Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race, it turns out.

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