We awaken in the morning to an incredible sunrise casting an orange light on the volcanic craters of Bartolome and Santiago (or
James or San Salvador) islands. After a hardy breakfast we board our panga for the short ferry to our landing site in Sullivan Bay on the east coast of Santiago. We land on a white coral sand beach and begin our walk over lava that flowed less than 100 years ago. This is the perfect place to see and feel the volcanic origin of Galapagos.
The last major eruption on Santiago was probably in the early 1900's. One observer aboard a sailing vessel reported that
the ship approached the lava flow so closely that the pine tar used to seal the hull of the ship began to soften, and the captain had to hurry the ship away from the bay.
© Jeff Waugh
The walk across the lava is amazing! This stuff looks like it solidified yesterday. Most of what we see here is pahoehoe (a Hawaiian term) or ropey lava, and some of it looks just like rope. The other type of lava found in Galapagos is aa. This is the stuff that will rip your shoes or boots apart when you walk on it - it really can be that sharp!
The type of lava you get depends on the temperature of the molten lava and the gas content.
The higher the temperature and more gas means it is has lower viscosity (or less stickiness) and flows at a faster speed, hence you get smooth ropey
pahoehoe lava. The cooler the temperature and less gas means it has higher viscosity (or is pretty sticky stuff) and doesn't flow as well. In this case you end up with broken flows and sharp edges. You find gradations from very smooth pahoehoe to very broken and sharp
aa, sometimes in the same flow.
© Jeff Waugh
We have fun
walking across the lava picking out imaginary images cast in the once molten material.
The morning sun soon begins to heat the black lava to the point where we are all ready to seek shelter in the cool water off that white sand beach. The snorkeling is fairly good along the edge of the lava flow but you have to be careful not to step on stingrays on all beaches in Galapagos. Once we have cooled off we are back to the boat for cold drinks, swimming, lunch, and a siesta before our afternoon outing...