After seeing increased activity for the past couple of months, the second-largest volcanic crater in the world has erupted on June 26, 2018. When the volcano first showed signs increased activity, the Ecuadorian Geographic Institute advised visitors to the Galapagos Islands to avoid this popular tourist destination. Sierra Negra is located a few kilometers from Puerto Villamil on the Isla Isabela.

Warning from the Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute

In the last few weeks, the Sierra Negra volcano on the Isla Isabela in the Galapagos Archipelago has seen major seismic activity and the floor of the caldera continued to rise. On June 26, 2018, the volcano erupted, sending lava into the very wide caldera on the north side and outwards towards Elizabeth Bay and the smaller Volcano Chico.

As of July 7th, the volcano continues to erupt with lava flow heading to the northeast, into Elizabeth Bay. Ash and smoke are traveling to the southwest, away from the airport on Baltra and from populated areas on the Isla Isabela. If winds shift, the ash cloud could cause problems for local residents. The July 7th update can be read here in Spanish.

The current update is posted in Spanish on the main page of the Instituto Geofísco. Follow the Instituto Geofísico de Ecuador on Facebook and on Twitter for up-to-date information in Spanish.

Map highlighting Sierra Negra on Isla Isabela in the Galapagos Archipelago | Instituto Geofíscico de Ecuador | http://www.igepn.edu.ec/

About the Sierra Negra Volcano

The Sierra Negra Volcano experiences eruptions an average of every 15 years. The last two eruptions took place in 1979 and 2005. Lava flow from the 1979 eruption escaped the crater to the north, flowing away from the populated areas of Puerto Villamil into Elizabeth Bay. The eruption lasted two months.

In 2005, the lava flow from the eruption was primarily contained in the 9 kilometer-wide caldera with only a small amount of lava escaping. Again, the lava flow was to the north, away from the populated areas of Isla Isabela. The eruption lasted only 9 days. Ashfall from both eruptions fell to the east and south of the volcano, causing disruption in Puerto Villamil.

Current Concerns for Tourists

Tourists traveling to the Galapagos Islands may have Isla Isabela included in their itineraries. Very often, hikes to the Sierra Negra Volcano and its closely located sister, the Chico Volcano, are popular activities with tourists staying on the island. Those trails are obviously closed and will not re-open for months to come.

Though not included in any warnings thus far, this volcanic eruption could possibly affect air travel to the islands. A lot will depend on how much ash is produced by the volcano and the direction of any winds blowing that ash skyward. Currently, the ash cloud is traveling southeast. This may present problems for cruise ships taking tours around Isabela Island or for day trippers looking to enjoy destinations on the east side of the island. Double check your travel itineraries with your travel agencies, consultants, or local hosts.

Travel safe and be prepared for wind shifts that could disrupt port traffic out of Puerto Villamil or air traffic to and from the small airport on Isabela or the main airport on Baltra (Santa Cruz). We will do our best to keep this article updated with the latest information.

Natural Disaster Alert from THE US EMBASSY in Ecuador

This is an alert from the STEP program in Ecuador posted on June 27, 2018. We will update as the US Embassy posts more current news:

Natural Disaster Alert  U. S. Mission Ecuador (26 June 2018)

Location:  Sierra Negra Volcano, Isabela Island, Galapagos, Ecuador

Event:  According to the Ecuadorian Geographic Institute, on June 26, 2018 the Sierra Negra Volcano began erupting.  Rural area habitants have been evacuated to Puerto Villamil as a precaution.  The Ecuadorian Geographic Institute has advised visitors to avoid the area of the Sierra Negra until further notice.

Actions to Take: 

  • Avoid the area of Isabela Island near the Sierra Negra Volcano.
  • Monitor local media for updates. The Ecuadorian Geophysical Institute is on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Contact your loved ones directly and/or update your social media status to inform people you are safe.
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in Quito or the U.S. Consulate General Guayaquil if you are a U.S. citizen in need of emergency assistance.

Assistance:
U.S. Embassy Quito, Ecuador
+(593)(2) 398-5000
+(593)(2) 398-5000 (after hours)
ACSQuito@state.gov

U.S. Consulate General Guayaquil, Ecuador
+(593)(4) 371-7000
+(593)(4) 371-7000 (after hours)
ACSGuayaquil@state.gov

State Department – Consular Affairs
888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444

Volcan Sierra Negra, Isla Isabela, The Galapagos, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake / Not Your Average American
Volcan Chico and Elizabeth Bay, Isla Isabela, The Galapagos, Ecuador | ©Angela Drake / Not Your Average American

This article was originally published in January 2018 as a warning of a potential eruption. It was last updated on July 8th to reflect the current active eruption of Volcan Sierra Negra.