World-famous rock formation crumbles into the sea

Natural erosion finally took its toll on Darwin’s Arch, a famous rock formation off the coast of the remote Galápagos Islands, forcing the top of the archway to collapse into the Pacific Ocean on Monday as tourists watched in awe, Ecuadorean officials said.

Located roughly 600 miles west of continental Ecuador and less than a mile from the uninhabited Darwin Island, the iconic arch now sits as a pile of rubble between two pillars, The New York Times reported.

Ecuador Darwin’s Arch

This photo distributed by Galapagos National Park shows Darwin’s Arch off the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Sunday, May 16, 2021. Ecuador’s Environment Ministry reported the collapse of the top of the arch on its Facebook page on Monday, May 17, and blame natural erosion of the stone. (Galapagos National Park via AP)

“The collapse of Darwin’s Arch, the attractive natural bridge found less than a kilometer from the main area of Darwin Island, was reported,” the Ministry of Environment for Ecuador said in the statement.

Images were also posted on the social media accounts for the ministry on Monday alongside a statement confirming the news.

The arch, which was named after the 19th Century scientist Charles Darwin, who developed his theory of evolution by natural selection while observing wildlife on the Galapagos Islands, consists of two pillars that are now being called “The Pillars of Evolution,” according to the tour company Aggressor Adventures, which organizes group trips to various destinations around the world. The top of the arch stood about 141 feet above the surface of the water, according to The Associated Press.

The tour company shared images of the fallen arch on Facebook indicating that one of its tour groups witnessed the incident take place.

“Unfortunately today, our guests of the Galapagos Aggressor III experienced a once-in-a-lifetime event. This morning at 11:20 a.m. local time, the world-famous Darwin’s Arch collapsed in front of their eyes. There are now only two pillars remaining. Some in the dive & travel industry are already referring to this now as ‘The Pillars of Evolution’. We will miss this iconic site,” Aggressor Adventures said on Facebook.

Still, the idea of nature taking its course was on the minds of some in the wake of the arch collapse.

“Obviously all the people from the Galapagos felt nostalgic because it’s something we’re familiar with since childhood, and to know that it has changed was a bit of a shock,” Washington Tapia, the director of conservation at Galapagos Conservancy, told the AP. “However, from a scientific point of view, it’s part of the natural process. The fall is surely due to exogenous processes such as weathering and erosion which are things that normally happen on our planet.”

The waters around the world-famous formation are known as a top destination for divers, with tours from the main islands offering the opportunity to encounter all sorts of species including sharks, turtles, dolphins and manta rays.

Landmarks and islands around the world are under threat of erosion, sometimes from the passage of time or even the impacts of severe weather.

El Niño — a climate pattern associated with warmer-than-normal Pacific waters near the equator — can also play a role in erosion. In addition, the Galápagos Islands’ proximity to three different ocean currents that meet near the site’s location adds to the elements they are exposed to, according to The New York Times. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has noted that the Galápagos Islands are extremely vulnerable to effects of climate change.

Another iconic sea stack that was adored by generations of tourists and nature photographers now is scattered in many pieces along the shoreline of Lake Superior — all thanks to Mother Nature’s wrath.

Photo of the now-collapsed sea arch along the trail to Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

The sea stack that welcomed visitors to Tettegouche State Park in Silver Bay, Minnesota, was a national tourist attraction until it was destroyed by powerful wind-driven waves that toppled the ancient rock formation into the lake in late 2019.

All that was needed to collapse the structure was the perfect setup weather-wise, Nicole LoBiondo, an AccuWeather meteorologist, said, adding that the water and beach areas in Tettegouche State Park have little friction to diminish wind speeds due to fewer trees and obstacles.

According to LoBiondo, the shoreline is rocky and has plenty of cliffs, and the water below can be influenced greatly by the weather.

Photo of the sentinel left behind after the Tettegouche State Park sea arch collapsed in August 2010. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

Photos after the collapse showed a few rocks jutting just above the lake’s choppy waters, where the formation used to stand.

Winds were blowing from the northeast during the most intense portion of the storm, which meant the winds were blowing along the northeast to the southwest lakeshore, according to LoBiondo. This creates a perfect setup for northeast winds to funnel along the lakeshore, she explained.

Download the free AccuWeather app to check the forecast in your area. Keep checking back on and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

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