wolf volcano erupts on isabella island

Courtesy of Galapagos National Park.

Wolf Volcano erupted yesterday after 33 years of inactivity, according to a report released by the Galapagos National Park. The volcano, which is located on Isabela Island, is the highest point in the archipelago at 5,600 feet above sea level. The slopes of the volcano are home to the world’s only population of pink iguanas (Conolophus marthae) as well as a distinct subspecies of Galapagos giant tortoise (C. n. beck).

While Isablea is one of the three inhabited islands in the Galapagos, there is no risk at this point to humans according to park officials. The nearest town, Puerto Villamil, is about 70 miles south of the volcano. The park has also said that there is currently no risk to tourists or tourism operations, but Ecuador’s Ministry of Environment has notified tour operators to take precautions while operating in the area.

So far the lava is flowing in a southeasterly direction; good news for pink iguanas and tortoises, which  live on the volcano’s northwestern flank. Pink iguanas, which are considered endangered, were first discovered on the volcano in 1986 and were only identified as a distinct species in 2009.

The park released dramatic pictures of the eruption, which showed plumes of smoke billowing miles overhead. Some conservationists are worried that the lava flow will reach the sea and negatively impact marine life.

Isabela is by far the largest island in the Galapagos archipelago. It is also one of the youngest islands. It was formed about a million years ago when six shield volcanos merged. All but one of them is still active, making the island one of the most volcanically active places on earth.