Lava

Galapagos Islands Travel Blog

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Monday we visited Bartolome Island and Sullivan Bay on Santiago. These two islands show how barren and desolate the islands can be before they are colonised. The Galapagos Islands are a series of nineteen large islands, nearly fifty small islands, and many submerged sea mounts. Each formed in a conveyor-belt fashion by the Pacific plate slowly moving over the Galapagos hot spot. This hot upwelling of mantle is now directly underneath Fernandina Island at the western edge of the Galapagos islands, with smaller older islands carried to the east by tectonic shift, and the oldest islands now submerged as sea mounts to the far east.

 

Bartolome Island was still at the desolation stage.

It was barren and rocky, with only a few pioneer plants (the ones able to live on rock and slowly turn it into soil) and lava lizards living on the island. We were still able to see the lava flows, lava tubes, tuff cones and splatter cones from the island’s birth. The most surreal vision from seeing these same volcanic swirls and loops from underneath the water, with white-tipped reef sharks, sea lions and manta rays gliding over shiny magma coils.

 

Pottering around in the bay on the boat we were able to watch storm petrels hopping on the surface of the water, red swallow tails flying above us, and a solitary Galapagos Penguin sitting on the rocks.

 

After lunch we landed in Sullivan Bay in Santiago. This shelf of the island was only born 120 years ago from a fresh lava flow, so we were able to walk over the tinny metallic surfaces and see the pahoehoe (ropelike formations from rapidly cooled lava) and aa (rough and ragged formations formed as gas bubbled out of the lave during cooling) lava flows. The plain was cracked and buckled due to the expansion of the rock after cooling, and the high iron and magnesium content of the basalt made it feel like we were walking on an alien planet made from contorted steel. Even this metallic bed was not sterile though, with lichens and lava cactus growing in isolated spots and starting the process of breaking the rock down into soil.

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Galapagos Islands
photo by: Melboorn