Saturday, May 14, 2005

Fernandina volcano erupts in Galapagos

A volcano spewed ash and lava onto part of the ecologically delicate Galapagos Islands on Friday, threatening to kill vegetation and some animals on the island of Fernandina, officials said.
The islands, of the coast of Ecuador, are considered one of the most important natural preserves in the world.

"Evidently a lot of vegetation will be burned and some animals, especially iguanas, will die," Galapagos National Park Director Washington Tapia told Reuters.
"But considering that Fernandina is the most pristine island of the archipelago, we don't have to worry much. This is a natural process," he said.
No humans live on Fernandina, the westernmost island in the formation. The volcano, also called Fernandina, shot a column of ash and gas 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) into the air while lava descended its banks.

The lava could reach the Pacific Ocean in five days, Tapia said. Sea lions, penguins and bullfinches also live on Fernandina.

The most active volcano in the Galapagos, Fernandina has had between 20 and 22 eruptions since 1813.

Ecuadorean authorities said they would not declare the island, which is formed mostly of lava, a disaster area. The eruption has not interrupted air traffic to and from the Galapagos, which were made famous by Charles Darwin, who studied the islands for 20 years before publishing "The Origin of Species by Natural Selection."

In 1959, at the 100th anniversary of the publication of the book, the Galapagos Islands became Ecuador's first national park and the Charles Darwin Foundation was established to help preserve them.

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