There are few places in the world that are still untouched, the Galapagos archipelago is certainly one of them. Made famous thanks to the work "The origin of the species" by Charles Darwin, these thirteen volcanic islands are still little known especially from the underground point of view.
Three years after our first prospecting, this year we returned taking part to an expedition organized by American speleologists from the Cave Research Foundation who have been exploring the forests of the archipelago in search of lava tubes for several years.
The main objective of the expedition was to continue research on the island of Santa Cruz, the second largest island of the archipelago.
Despite the few days of activity, almost 3km of new tunnels have been explored and discovered: the caves develop a few meters deep compared to the external surface and are easily accessible through surface collapses that are in the middle of the forest, where to proceed it is necessary to pay close attention to every step because of the unstable soil and above all due to the impervious vegetation. Our guides (local breeders who know the area very well) accompanied us by opening paths with machetes while we occasionally stopped to take the coordinates of external collapses and evaluate exploration possibilities. In fact, collapses in the galleries below often completely block the passage and it is not always possible to access the underground system.
Some of the most interesting features from a geological point of view have also been detected with a laser scanner, this will allow us to compare the morphologies present in the Galapagos caves with other volcanic cavities already detected with the same technology.
But of course in addition to the caves these islands are spectacular even on the surface and finding in Santa Cruz a visit to the "C. Darwin Research Center" to observe giant tortoises is mandatory, while on the island of Isabela we take the opportunity to make outdoor excursions around the island's volcanoes.
We come back home as usual with the feeling of having seen few things and convinced that there will still be much to explore among those forests...
Special thanks go to the management of the Parque Nacional Galápagos.
Participants: Aaron Addison, Hein Angermeyer, Rick Haley, Scott Linn, Bob Osburn, Tommaso Santagata, Livia Savioli, Elizabeth Winkler, Richard Toomey, Theofilos Toulkeridis.