Home > Galápagos Islands > Galapagos Volcanoes: Story Of An Eruption (Part 3)

Galapagos Volcanoes: Story Of An Eruption (Part 3)

The sunset hour arrives and we find a strategic vantage lookout point on the north central rim of Alcedo Volcano, just above our makeshift campsite. It has been almost fourteen hours since we landed before dawn and we haven’t stopped, other than for very short rest or meal breaks. Still our spirits are very high, energized by the magnificence of being on such formidable natural surroundings, watching one of Galapagos’ most spectacular volcanic calderas, a privilege just reserved of a few lucky ones….

We quietly sit together to watch the sun start plunging behind the summit of Fernandina Island, which we can clearly see.  The sky is totally void of clouds and intensely blue, providing a superb luminosity…. The western part of the Archipelago begins turning brightly red, shifting to ruby-red, orange, green and then fading into a violet-red.  We couldn’t see the magic “flash” but the sight is awesome and incredible, sending us into loud cheers as we film and photograph the magnificent scenario: Mother Nature has just provided us with a unique and unforgettable show of lights and colors…..

Dusk begins installing over the rim of Alcedo Volcano and we take the last glimpses of its caldera, planning to make our way downhill, back to our tented camp.  However, an increasingly bright glow over the northern part of the Island, directly above the summit of Volcano Wolf, the northernmost of Isabella Island and the highest of the Archipelago, detains us… a new show is in progress…..  Our first reaction is, possibly the moon is just about to emerge from behind the colossus and we’re up for another grand view…..  But there is no moon and yet the glow gets brighter than ever while the night’s darkness has fully installed around us…. Macarena is the first to shout out loud: “guys, it’s an eruption!!!”  And yes, the evidence was unmistakable…. We are now a dozen privileged front row spectators, at the summit of Volcano Alcedo, witnessing a live eruption on the neighboring Wolf Volcano…. The total darkness allows us to clearly detect that the eruption is not coming from the main caldera of Wolf, but instead, from one or two parasitic cones on the upper, southern flanks of the colossal mountain.  Each spout of bright yellow-red fountains of liquid lava, steam, gases and some rocks, rising high into the air, send us all into wild cheers of unparalleled excitement….  Heinz, Rob, Mark and Irene don’t waste a minute filming the show, while the rest of us take photos and record all the data we can….. We have been gifted with the unique privilege of watching from a location, second best to none, one of Earth’s most amazing natural events and we must record all of its details…

The natural show goes on for hours… we have forgotten completely to eat our dinner and just one or two in the group rush down to the camp to bring in more water and chocolate bars for the rest…. The entire southern flanks of Wolf Volcano are now “in fire”, with clearly visible rivers of yellow-red molten lava heading down the mountain’s slopes… at moments it looks like a gigantic procession of torches descending from the giant’s summit…. The periodic explosions tell us it is a major eruption and it will last for several days… Our excitement is just limited by a bit of common sense and we register every detail, to furnish first-hand information to the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Research Station.  We were the privileged witnesses of the actual start, the triggering bang of a major eruption on Galapagos’ highest Volcano….  Jimmy, Luis, Rob and Mark chose to carry their sleeping bags to the actual lookout point to spend the rest of the night in vigil, alert for any major event. The rest of us descended to the camp, commenting frantically our luck and speculating about the event we were so closely witnessing…. We hardly ate and, tucked in our tents and sleeping bags, we all made mostly useless efforts to sleep for a few hours.  Well after midnight, a thick mantle of fog pulled in from the south and covered the view of the surroundings…. We had made a decision: we will lift up the camp at 5:00 am and start rapidly descending, so we can sail towards Wolf and make a new landing right by the eruption’s site.  At five o’ clock while we busily pack up everything and make sure not to leave any litter or other object, I call our Yacht with my handy-talkie radio and, fortunately, the signal is good. Captain Rafael, anchored across from us, at James Bay, responds clearly… I ask him if they saw the eruption… he answers yes and tells me how it was seen from his location, down at sea level… I tell him of our plans and ask him to hoist the anchor and sail as fast as he can to Shifton Cove, as we intend to sail towards Wolf and try to climb as close as possible to the eruption’s site.  In the meantime, I call the National Park, report to them the great event and request permission to the Director for us to proceed to Wolf, as it would take at least 24 hours for the first official expeditions to reach the remote location, while we could do it in few hours.  After assurances of responsibility and many recommendations, permission is granted and we have the green light to proceed.  We literally run down the eastern slopes of Alcedo, keeping an eye at the still cloudy and foggy silhouette of Wolf, clouds tainted in an orange coloration now with day’s light, telling us that the eruption still continues……

This amazing story is to be continued……..

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