On Friday June 12th, the tourist boat Evolution ran aground near Española in the south of Galápagos. The hull suffered severe damages, a large hole under the waterline. Luckily the ship didn’t sink as the hole affected mostly one of their water/ballast tanks. The National Park boat the Sierra Negra was sent to give them assistance. For reasons unknown, the vessel was able to relocate right into the heart of the archipelago where it is presently sitting in exactly the same location as where the Mollendo ran aground only three weeks ago. None of the diesel was removed from the ship prior to its arrival here. The vessel arrived in Academy bay on Tuesday, June 16th.
The Evolution, a vessel operated by tourist organization Quasar Náutica, had 3,000 gallons of diesel on board of which an unknown quantity has leaked into the bay of Puerto Ayora. According to the crew of the Evolution, this fuel was spilled during a transfer when one of the hoses used in the transfer came loose and fell into the water. Oil booms have been partially deployed around the vessel.
Even though it is said that no more fuel has leaked since, the smell of diesel was so strong that it would seem that quite a large quantity of fuel was spilled. The owners of the vessel are making temporary repairs; shortly the ship will be relocated to the continent for dry-docking.
Recently, the Ecuadorian Minister of Tourism said in an interview with one of the national Ecuadorian newspapers that she hopes that UNESCO will remove Galápagos from the list of World Heritage Sites in danger. She is under the impression that Ecuador has improved the reasons for being listed. One of these reasons being the ecological degradation of Galápagos due to increased tourist numbers. Yet here we have a tourist boat sitting in the centre of tourism in Galápagos leaking unspecified amounts of fuel. This is certainly not the first tourist boat to leak fuel, run aground, or sink over the last years. Regulations are not at all what they should be; many tourist boats are in extremely bad condition. Regularly, one sinks mysteriously and it is often suggested that the owners deliberately run their ships aground to be able to claim insurance money.
Only three weeks after the near catastrophe with the Mollendo, we are once again confronted with evidence that Galápagos is indeed in danger.