Darwin's Arch Famed Rock Formation Crumbles From Erosion

The area around the Galapagos structure is popular for divers.

Darwin's Arch, Darwin Island, Galapagos
Darwin's Arch before the top crumbled. Sami Sarkis / Getty Images

Darwin's Arch, a famed rock formation in the Galapagos Islands has taken on a new shape. The top of the arch collapsed this week due to natural erosion and crumbled into the Pacific Ocean.

“Obviously all the people from the Galapagos felt nostalgic because it’s something we’re familiar with since childhood, and to know that it has changed was a bit of a shock," Washington Tapia, director of conservation for the Galapagos Conservancy, tells Treehugger.

"However, from a scientific point of view, it’s part of the natural process. The fall is surely due to exogenous processes such as weathering and erosion which are things that normally happen on our planet.”

Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment tweeted an image of what is left of the arch. It's located less than a kilometer from Darwin's Island.

"The collapse of the Darwin Arch, the attractive natural bridge located less than a kilometer from the main island Darwin, was reported," the ministry said.

Darwin's Arch, which is made of natural stone, at one point would have been part of the island, according to the ministry.

The island is the northernmost in the Galapagos archipelago. Named after famed naturalist Charles Darwin, it is not open to visitors. But the area around the islands is a popular diving spot, particularly to observe sharks and other marine species.

Watching the Arch Fall

Travel company Aggressor Adventures said that one of their tour groups witnessed the arch crumble.

"Unfortunately today, our guests of the Galapagos Aggressor III experienced a once in a lifetime event," the group posted on Facebook.

"This morning at 11:20 am local time, the world-famous Darwin's Arch collapsed in front of their eyes. There are now only two pillars remaining."

The group added, "Some in the dive & travel industry are already referring to this now as 'The Pillars of Evolution'. We will miss this iconic site."

The post received nearly 200 comments including one person who wrote, "What a shame. Geologic time is so much different than human time that we forget that it's always going on. Why I like to spend a lot of time among the arches in Southern Utah. You never know when it could be the last time before geology does its handiwork."

A Living Museum

The Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been called a "living museum and showcase of evolution." Darwin visited the islands in 1835 and was fascinated with the massive array of unusual animal life that had developed on the isolated islands. This inspired his famous theory of evolution.

The islands are located about 621 miles from the coast of Ecuador. They are home to many interesting animals including giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and many types of finches.

The Galapagos are composed of 19 islands, including Darwin's Island, which is at the farthest northern tip.

Whale sharks and large schools of hammerhead sharks are often found swimming around Darwin's Arch. Many native birds including the sooty tern are found in the area. There are also sea turtles, manta rays, dolphins, and other species of sharks.

View Article Sources
  1. "About Galapagos." Galapagos Conservancy.

  2. "Galápagos Islands." UNESCO.