According to news sources, the top of Darwin's Arch, a famous natural stone archway in the northern Galapagos Islands, has collapsed into the waves.
The arch, which was less than 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) off Darwin Island's steep and rocky coast, collapsed on May 17 as "a result of natural erosion," according to a tweet from Ecuador's Ministry of Environment and Water.
The natural arch was named after Charles Darwin, an English naturalist who studied evolution in the Galapagos during his early 1830s journey aboard the HMS Beagle. According to CNN, now that the arch's top has been gone, one travel agency, Aggressor Adventures, has dubbed the two stone monoliths that remain "The Pillars of Evolution."
According to a 2014 study published in the journal PLOS One, Darwin Island is a volcanic island that stands on a rocky platform about 32 feet (10 meters) underwater. This platform stretches to the southeast, past Darwin's Arch. "At one stage [the arch] would have been part of Darwin Island," the ministry said in a second tweet, apparently alluding to when sea levels were lower.
According to the PLOS One study, the platform that holds the island and the bridge dips into a steep slope that drops more than 328 feet (100 m).
While travelers won't be able to see the arch from land since Darwin Island is closed to visitors, the seas off its coast are "considered one of the best spots on the planet to dive and view schools of sharks and other animals," according to the ministry's second tweet.
Informamos que hoy 17 de mayo, se reportó el colapso del Arco de Darwin, el atractivo puente natural ubicado a menos de un kilómetro de la isla principal Darwin, la más norte del archipiélago de #Galápagos. Este suceso sería consecuencia de la erosión natural.— Ministerio Ambiente, Agua y Transición Ecológica (@Ambiente_Ec) May 17, 2021
📷Héctor Barrera pic.twitter.com/lBZJWNbgHg
The scientists said in the article that previous research had revealed that the waters surrounding the arch were "home to an unusually high density of numerous species of sharks and other reef and pelagic [open ocean] fish that alter on a seasonal basis." According to the Galapagos Conservancy, this includes hammerhead sharks and other sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, and dolphins.
The researchers found that whale sharks use Darwin Island "as a crucial stopover in a journey, probably for reproductive purposes."
The Galapagos Marine Reserve was established to safeguard sea life, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization has classified the Galapagos Islands as a World Heritage Site (UNESCO). The islands will no longer appear the same without the arch, but the whale sharks should be unaffected.