Iconic Natural Rock Feature in the Galápagos Islands Crumbles Into the Ocean

The top of the Darwin’s Arch, a natural stone archway, fell as a result of natural erosion

A photograph of Darwin's Arch in the Galàpagos Islands. The rock formation is two pillars attatched by a natural rock bridge. It stands itself in the ocean with a cloudy sky in the background.
While erosion is a natural occurrence that happens over time, the Galàpagos Islands are more at risk to threats of erosion because of climate change. refractor via Wikicommons under CC BY 2.0

Darwin’s Arch, a natural rock feature located near the Galápagos Islands, collapsed into the Pacific Ocean on May 17. The collapse left behind two freestanding pillars and rocky debris where the arch once stood.

While it is a shock to see the famed arch collapse, officials from Ecuador's Ministry of Environment explained on social media that it is a “consequence of natural erosion,” reports Tamara Hardingham-Gill for CNN.

The structure stood 141 feet high, 230 feet long and 75 feet wide, reports Daniel Victor for the New York Times. The arch is located less than a mile from Darwin Island, which is 600 miles west of Ecuador. Both the arch and the island were named after English naturalist Charles Darwin. In 1835, the famed naturalist visited the Galápagos islands to study its flora and fauna. Inspired by the volcanic archipelago's thriving wildlife and vegetation, he penned his theories of evolution and natural selection based on his observations.

While erosion occurs naturally over time, the Galápagos islands are more at risk to threats of erosion because of climate change, reports the New York Times. The islands intersect three ocean currents and are vulnerable to El Niño’s weather system that causes the Pacific Ocean’s temperatures to rise.

The famed archway was a popular destination for photographers, divers and tourists to spot hammerhead sharks, dolphins, and other species, reports Jordan Mendoza for USA Today. A tourist boating group, Aggressor Adventures, witnessed the arch fall around 11:20 a.m. local time and dubbed the two pillars that remain, “The Pillars of Evolution,” CNN reports. The tourist group shared photos of the event on Facebook.

“The collapse of the arch is a reminder of how fragile our world is," Jen Jones of the Galàpagos Conservation Trust tells the Guardian's Rhi Storer. "While there is little that we as humans can do to stop geological processes such as erosion, we can endeavour to protect the islands’ precious marine life. Galápagos Conservation Trust is working with partners to protect these sharks both within the Galápagos marine reserve and on their migrations outside in the wider eastern tropical Pacific."

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