La Cumbre Volcano on Fernandina bursts into life after 8 years of lying dormant

On 4 September 2017 local guides sailing near to Fernandina island reported volcanic activity coming from the 4,843 foot high shield volcano located to the west of the Archipelago. This was the first time the volcano has come to life since April 2009, when it released both lava flows and ash plumes, the latter reaching 150km southwest of the volcano. Fernandina island, where La Cumbre resides is the third largest in Galapagos and the youngest in geological terms. It remains uninhabited and holds significant ecological value, as it is home to some of the Archipelago’s most iconic and endangered species, including marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, penguins and sea lions. 

Map of Galapagos Islands

However, this eruption was not the most recent, with Wolf volcano, the Archipelago’s tallest volcano, erupting in May 2015. The eruption sent ash around 15km into the air and lava flowed through fissures down the eastern and southeastern slopes into the sea. These lava flows were causes of major concern for conservationists worldwide, as the endangered pink land iguana reside only on the slopes of this active volcano. Fortunately, as this species lives primarily on the north and western sides of the summit, this small population was left relatively unharmed. This scare was however a stark reminder of the potential lethal impact a future eruption could have on local wildlife.

© Ian Dunn – Adult and juvenile sea lions amongst marine iguanas

© Ian Dunn – Adult and juvenile sea lions amongst marine iguanas

The recent eruption at La Cumbre has reignited fresh fears over the safety of Galapagos wildlife, with concerns that fresh lava flows to the sea could impact marine iguana and sea lion populations. A technical team from the Galapagos National Park Authority (DPNG) have been monitoring the situation since the earliest signs of activity, carrying out flybys in the Sea Wolf plane. Recent surveys have shown that the lava flows have subsided, but that isolated fires continue in isolated areas of vegetation. However, signs of smoke coming from the eastern side of the volcano indicate that further lava flows may still occur. Check here for more updates!

Source: Galapagos National Park newsletters