Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sierra Negra Sulfur Mine

This is my last post about the Galapagos :( We are in Quito now and go back to Miami tomorrow night. I have to write a blog about our last couple days in the Galapagos and saying goodbye, but this is the last post for this leg of the journey with pictures. This was our big field trip for geology class which including some camping. What was so different about this trip to the volcano was the clouds and the fog. We left last Tuesday (March 29) around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and hiked for 2.5 hours through the drizzle and cloudiness. We had 3 horses that our guides led that carried our food, water, tents, and all other camping gear. The fog was pretty mysterious and reminded us of Jurassic Park. I was ready for T. Rex to jump out at me.
all 14 of us (1 student didn't go and we brought along Lauren for fun and Falk as the professor)

After hiking in the fog for 2 hours we finally saw something we recognized...a giant caldera!

first glimpse of the fumeroles

We set up camp on the rim of the caldera overlooking the sulfur mine. From our camp you could look to the left to see Volcan Cerro Azul, straight to see Fernandina, and right to see the steaming sulfur deposits and the rest of Sierra Negra caldera.

learning from Falk about water wapor

we found a friend

sunset next to Cerro Azul
We spent the evening eating food that was prepared for us and playing mafia. The sun set early and without a lot of light, we all went to bed early. It got COLD at night. Not as cold as it is here in Quito, but it was pretty chilly. The next morning we woke up at 6, ate some food and began the hike down into the caldera and back up the side of the sulfur mine. They don't actually mine the sulfur anymore and hiking the trail once is enough to convince me why. It is steep going down the side of the caldera, steep going up the sulfur mine and then you have to do it in reverse. It was a workout of a lifetime. 

the path down the inside of the caldera

between the inside of the caldera and the sulfur mine

Marina and I on the landslide prone rocks
These are called fumeroles. The magma deep in the earth heats up the water  and it comes to the surface and releases gas and leaves behind sulfur deposits. The steam is HOT and the gases are impossible to breathe. Just from walking around the area it smells awful and stings your lungs. Many coughing fits occurred. My lungs hurt and I feel nauseous just looking at these pictures again. That's how bad it was.

You may be thinking, "Hannah, this doesn't look safe" and to that I say no, it's probably not. But did that stop us? Nope. Not really. But it is Galapa-safe. There's a difference between safe and Galapa-safe. 

After, we hiked back to camp and broke down all of our tents and packed up and started the 2.5 exhausting journey back down. We aren't sure about the exact distance, but we hiked almost 6 hours straight that one day. My feet paid the price....
I was wearing socks the ENTIRE TIME. I put them on when I left IOI and didn't take them off until I got to my house and this is how my feet looked. The dirt went through both my sneakers and socks. It took 4 showers to get it all off including scrubbing with a bar of soap and scratching with my fingernails. 


  1. I can't believe you're already heading back to the states! It seems like it was the semester of a lifetime, though :)