Mar 16 2011

Tsunami news updates for Ecuador & Galapagos Islands


To jump to Post tsunami effects and reports (March 12 to March 16, 2011)

At 03h31 EST March 11, 2011 the Galapagos Islands went into Yellow Alert for a possible tsunami as a result of the 8.9 earthquake in Japan.  Measures are being taken to evacuate people to higher grounds in the Galapagos Islands.

According to a local radio report, if a tsunami hits the Galapagos region, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal Island) could be the worst effected, and to a lesser degree Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island), and Puerto Villamil (Isabela Island).

When the wave enters shallow water, it slows down and its amplitude (height) increases)

With a direct communication from our office with both TAME and AEROGAL airlines, they confirm that flights to/from the Galapagos Islands are currently temporarily suspended.

According to calculations, if a tsunami hits the Galapagos Islands region it will occur roughly at 17h30 (5:30pm) today. Remember that a “tsunami” is usually composed of many waves, not just one, and the initial wave may be much smaller than subsequent waves.

We will update as news and developments occur.

Updates follow …

09h37 According to local authorities, the Ecuadorian coast will be at high tide when the possible effects of the tsunami arrive.  This may mean that the effects could be stronger than those that occurred in Hawaii.

09h53 Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency across the Andean nation and urged coastal and island residents to evacuate fast to higher areas.  State oil company Petroecuador halted product shipments. Ships were stopped, brought back to port or re-routed into open waters in the case of big vessels.

To jump to Post tsunami effects and reports (March 12 to March 16, 2011)

At 03h31 EST March 11, 2011 the Galapagos Islands went into Yellow Alert for a possible tsunami as a result of the 8.9 earthquake in Japan.  Measures are being taken to evacuate people to higher grounds in the Galapagos Islands.

According to a local radio report, if a tsunami hits the Galapagos region, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal Island) could be the worst effected, and to a lesser degree Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island), and Puerto Villamil (Isabela Island).

When the wave enters shallow water, it slows down and its amplitude (height) increases)

With a direct communication from our office with both TAME and AEROGAL airlines, they confirm that flights to/from the Galapagos Islands are currently temporarily suspended.

According to calculations, if a tsunami hits the Galapagos Islands region it will occur roughly at 17h30 (5:30pm) today. Remember that a “tsunami” is usually composed of many waves, not just one, and the initial wave may be much smaller than subsequent waves.

We will update as news and developments occur.

Updates follow …

09h37 According to local authorities, the Ecuadorian coast will be at high tide when the possible effects of the tsunami arrive.  This may mean that the effects could be stronger than those that occurred in Hawaii.

10h00 Evacuations are under way in the populated areas of the Galapagos Islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal & Isabela Islands).  According to the mayor of Santa Cruz, the evacuation is being conducted in an orderly manner, with the cooperation of private, public and institutional vehicles.  On San Cristobal Island, people are being moved to the higher grounds of El Progreso.

The Port Captain of San Cristobal has ordered a suspension of maritime activity, and those vessels in high seas to move to areas where depth are approximately 100m.  Inter-island (maritime & air) travel is suspended in the archipelago.

To jump to Post tsunami effects and reports (March 12 to March 16, 2011)

At 03h31 EST March 11, 2011 the Galapagos Islands went into Yellow Alert for a possible tsunami as a result of the 8.9 earthquake in Japan.  Measures are being taken to evacuate people to higher grounds in the Galapagos Islands.

According to a local radio report, if a tsunami hits the Galapagos region, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristobal Island) could be the worst effected, and to a lesser degree Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island), and Puerto Villamil (Isabela Island).

When the wave enters shallow water, it slows down and its amplitude (height) increases)

With a direct communication from our office with both TAME and AEROGAL airlines, they confirm that flights to/from the Galapagos Islands are currently temporarily suspended.

According to calculations, if a tsunami hits the Galapagos Islands region it will occur roughly at 17h30 (5:30pm) today. Remember that a “tsunami” is usually composed of many waves, not just one, and the initial wave may be much smaller than subsequent waves.

We will update as news and developments occur.

Updates follow …

09h37 According to local authorities, the Ecuadorian coast will be at high tide when the possible effects of the tsunami arrive.  This may mean that the effects could be stronger than those that occurred in Hawaii.

10h09 Source: Galapagos Conservancy

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency on Friday, ordering people in the Galapagos Islands and the coast of the mainland of Ecuador to seek higher ground. The Galapagos Islands, located 600 miles offshore in the Pacific Ocean, are comprised of 19 islands and 42 islets.

Residents of Galapagos’ 4 inhabited islands are leaving the low-lying areas and relocating to the highlands. It is predicted that the wave would arrive in the islands around 5 pm, with an alert until 11 pm.

A similar alert was raised last February after an 8.8 earthquake hit Chile. As a precautionary measure, the residents and visitors of the islands were evacuated from the coastal areas and remained in the highlands until after the alert was canceled. Galapagos Cruises were moved to deeper water further from land and all dive activities were canceled for the day.

Officials do not predict any damage but precautions are being taken to ensure everyone’s safety.

10h23 This is not the first time the Galapagos Islands has gone under tsunami alert.  The most recent alert occurred in February 2010 during the earthquake in Chile.  While all precautions where taken (moving people to higher ground, paralyzing maritime activity etc), no major damaged and effects occurred in Galapagos.

10h47 The Ecuadorian Navy and Oceanographic Institute will continue monitoring the sea level for population and travelers´ safety. Let us remind you that on the last tsunami alert due to Chile´s earthquake the expected big waves passed thru the Ecuadorian Coast without major impacts.

11h13 The tsunami is expected to arrive in Galapagos later this afternoon, at 5:30 pm approximately. Therefore, we do have sufficient time to take necessary precautions. Flights to Galapagos today have been cancelled and there is an evacuation order in effect.  All tour boats are required to leave port and be at least five miles offshore.  The local populations will need to seek higher ground to the highlands and mid sections of the Islands by noon today.  Obviously, all visits today have been cancelled.

11h33 Aerogal announced at 10h45 today that it has suspended flights today with the following destinations: San Cristobal (Galapagos Islands), Baltra (Galapagos Islands) and Manta.  According to the Ecuadorian National Aviation authorities (DAC) these flights are suspended until midnight tonight.  The flight number cancelled are 2K 30, 31, 32, 938, 939 to Galapagos Islands and 2K96 & 97 to Manta.  The flight routes to Guayaquil, Cuenca, Coca, Quito and International routes to Bogota (Colombia) and New Yark are operating as normal.

11h40 TAME, ICARO, AEROGAL and LAN have cancelled their national flights.  The airports of Esmeraldas, Manta, Salinas, San Vicente, Baltra, San Cristobal and Isabela Island are closed for the rest of the day (under the declaration of a state of emergency).

According to Dirección General de Aviacion Civil (DAC), 6 flights to Manta, 2 flights to Esmeraldas and 7 flights to Galapagos Islands have been suspended.

11h52 Latest instructions given by the port authorities in Puerto Ayora and the Galapagos National Park:

1. No visits on the islands are permitted today until further notice; passengers have to stay on board.
2. All vessels that are at sea at this moment are advised to stay away from the coast in waters with at least 100 meters depth.
3. All vessels that are in port at this moment are advised to leave the port into deep waters with their passengers on board. Alternatively, passengers can disembark and move to higher ground on Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela – accompanied by a crew member and/or the naturalist guide.
4. All flights to Galapagos are cancelled today until midnight. When flights are reestablished tomorrow, there may be a backlog from the flight suspension today.


12h18 Santa Elena peninsula has taken evacuation measure – making the Santa Elena – Guayaquil roads unidirectional as of 15h00 to assist with the evacuation of people away from the coast.

12h21 Port Authorities in Manta have ordered the evacuation of maritime vessels that are currently at the national and international ports.  Evacuations start at 13h00.  In addition, evacuations orders are in place for the coastal region of Ecuador, specifically for the province of Manta from Cojimies to Salango.  The evacuation perimeter is 2.5 km from the coast.  All private and  public commercial activities are to be suspended and gas stations to close at 17h00.

13h38 Evacuation on Santa Cruz Island started around 06h00, moving the population and tourists to higher ground around Bellavista (located aprox. 10 minutes drive inland from Puerto Ayora).

Galapagos National Park evacuate Lonesome George to higher ground under the tsunami alert. Photo: Dirección del Parque Nacional Galápagos

13h41 Lonesome George, Galapagos Islands iconic figure, along with numerous other species found in the Charles Darwin Research Station have been transported inland to the Santa Rosa region of the highlands of Santa Cruz.

13h54 Weather experts in Ecuador declared this morning that a similar situation to the one witnessed in Hawaii earlier today is expected in the Galapagos.  The taller than usual waves, which arrived about every 15 minutes to the Hawaiian coast had no real damaging effects on the shores and ports of the islands.  A very similar scenario is expected in the Galapagos today.  As a safety precaution, many yachts have been relocated to the southwest of the archipelago as of early this morning, 10 miles off the nearest shore.  This is expected to be the most protected area of the islands from the waves that will arrive from the northeast.  The Galapagos National Park has closed all visitor sites today and guests will spend the day aboard their yacht until the Tsunami Warning in Ecuador is lifted.

International Flights to Ecuador

All international flights into Quito and Guayaquil are operating normally and no delays or cancellations are expected.  We do not anticipate having any complications with our passengers for tomorrow’s departures.

Flights to the Galapagos Islands

As a safety precaution, local airlines have suspended flight operations to the Galapagos Islands today but flights are expected to resume operations normally tomorrow.  We do not anticipate any major delays with our regular operation for those passengers leaving for the Galapagos or returning to mainland Ecuador, but we do suggest that all passengers be patient with tomorrows’ commuting to the Islands. Airports in Galapagos are expected to have twice the number of flights tomorrow to normalize the situation of those passengers stranded in mainland Ecuador today.

Map of magnitude of Japan tsunami effect in Pacific region.

14h39 The Ecuadorian Oceanographic Institute (INOCAR) has confirmed that possible tsunami effects are calculated to arrive in the Galapagos Islands region at 17h38 local time (18h38 mainland Ecuador time – GMT-5).  The Pacific mainland coast of Ecuador should feel effects between 19h09 (Esmeraldas) and 19h30 (El Oro).  The height of the seas in Galapagos will most probably be 1.7 m above sea level while on the Pacific mainland coast most probably 2.5 m above sea level.

15h27 How to help Japan: Earthquake Relief Options (via Huffington Post)

15h38 All about TSUNAMIS

A tsunami (Japanese: 津波 [tsɯnami], lit. ‘harbor wave’; English pronunciation: /tsuːˈnɑːmi/ tsoo-NAH-mee) or English pronunciation: /suːˈnɑːmi/ soo-NAH-mee) is a series of water waves (called a tsunami wave train) caused by the displacement of a large volume of a body of water, usually an ocean, but can occur in large lakes. Tsunamis are a frequent occurrence in Japan; approximately 195 events have been recorded. Owing to the immense volumes of water and the high energy involved, tsunamis can devastate coastal regions. More details on Wikipedia

16h07 Evacuations of hospital patients in the tsunami risk zone of the Ecuador coast (Galapagos, Manabi, Guayas, Santa Elena & El Oro) has been temporarily suspended by the Ministry of Public Health.  The decision was taken on the basis of the latest technical reports that seem to indicate a lessening of the heights of the tsunami waves.

16h40 New earthquake of 6.6 apparently reported in the northeast of Japan.

17h31 About 25,000 people expected to be evacuated from Esmeraldas.  The plan is that everyone is located at least 5m above sea level.

17h42 The tsunami went through Hawaii early this morning with heights reported not larger than aprox. 2 m, with no noticeable damage; authorities in Chile are now expecting tsunami heights no bigger than 2 m, as reported a few minutes ago on CNN.

The wave is supposed to hit Galapagos at 18h30 Central time (17h30 local time).  Due to the tsunami produced by the March 2010 the Chilean earthquake, when a very adequate evacuation was enforced in the Galapagos by our government, following sound advise by the Ecuadorian Navy’s Oceanographic Institute, everybody in Galapagos was ready to repeat procedures and obey warnings.  Evacuation in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island was made around noon (local time) to the nearby highlands at heights of 200 m or more; I guess transfer back to Puerto Ayora would be anywhere around 19h00/20h00 gps time.  The wave is supposed to reach the mainland Ecuadorian coast at around 19h00/20h00; all the Santa Elena Peninsula and famous beach sites like Salinas and Montanita were evacuated this morning.

Boat crews in local Galapagos’ ports were not evacuated, but allowed to take boats into deep waters, in order to avoid the smash of the possible breaking tsunami wave when approaching shallow waters.  All other cruise ships have been ordered to stay in waters deep enough to avoid problems and all visits to shore sites have been forbidden.

The only concern we have is that the estimated time of arrival of the tsunami wave is going to be very close to our Galapagos high tide (19h00) and even closer to the mainland’s high tide.

All flights to/from Galapagos were cancelled this morning, so you can expect heavy air  traffic and overbooking for your passengers, please set in contingency plans for extra hotel nights and redirecting international connections.

20h00 Effects in Galapagos Islands were significantly minor.

21h29 Apparently San Cristobal was the hardest hit with parts of the main dock being damaged and several vessels “moved site”.  The sea retracted 30 meters and then returned causing some flooding in the urban zones. On Santa Cruz Island – specifically Puerto Ayora, the water level dropped 2 meters in 4 minutes.  Some flooding has been reported in Puerto Ayora.

More details in Spanish from El Comercio

21h38 Sea levels dropped aprox. 10 meters in Esmeraldas (north Pacific coast of Ecuador).  No apparent damage or major incidents reported yet.

21h38 First waves hit north Peru near Talara where waves were reported between 20 to 40 cm.  No damage reported.

21h56 Attentions may be focused for possible replicas from current and possibly future earthquakes in Japan.

22h00 Reports from the Galapagos Islands have just arrived with the following update on the passing of the waves that resulted from Japan’s earthquake earlier today:  The waves arrived to the Islands about an hour later than originally expected.  Seas are choppier than normal around the entire archipelago (according to our captains aboard M/V Evolution and M/Y Grace), but nothing out of the ordinary.  Waves at Academy Bay, in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island), were taller than normal as well, but there are no records of any damages caused to boats, coasts or ports in the Galapagos.  The animals from the Charles Darwin Research Station that had been transported to the highlands as a precaution will be transported back down during the course of the day tomorrow. All appears to be back to normal in the Islands.

Local airlines have confirmed as well that all flights will operate normally tomorrow at their regular scheduled times.  No delays are expected with our flight operations for tomorrow.

The Tsunami Warning in Ecuador is expected to be lifted in the next couple of hours.


22h10 Signing off the air as no note-worthy news regarding major incidents or damages being reported for Ecuador & Galapagos Islands.


A personal thank you for all of those who have been following along, as well as the questions, comments and contributions made.  Any developments (tsunami related or other) will be updated as they occur.

For more information, visit Pacific Tsunami Warning Center


March 12 17h30 Ecuadorian coast apparently back to normal.

March 12 20h42 – Galapagos National Park evaluating damages (source Galapagos Conservancy)

The Garrapatero visitor site was damaged by the tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The Galapagos National Park Service is evaluating damage caused to the protected areas of the archipelago, especially tourist sites, by strong waves associated with the Tsunami that originated in Japan. The primary objective is to determine the condition of infrastructure at visitor landing sites.

The visitor sites closest to the populated areas were not seriously affected by the waves and will remain open to visitors.

The Giant Tortoise Breeding Center and the dock of the Galapagos National Park Service in Santa Cruz will remain closed because of damage caused by the waves. The tortoises from the Breeding Center will remain in their temporary corrals in the highlands until repairs can be made to the Center.

Preliminary reports indicate that the southeast coastline of the island of Santa Cruz was among the areas most affected in the archipelago. The Islas Lobos and Manglecito visitor sites are located in that area.

In Santa Cruz, the infrastructure and coastline of Garrapatero Beach suffered damage. A channel formed linking the lagoon, known for the presence of flamingos, with the ocean. This is also a nesting area for sea turtles whose nests were destroyed by the waves.

Wardens are also evaluating the status of iguana nests in the principal nesting areas.

Park personnel are clearing up public and park areas affected by the waves.

The Emergency Operations Committee is currently meeting to evaluate damage in populated areas.

March 14, 2011 Tsunami Aftermath in Galapagos Islands: Update from Charles Darwin research Station Director Dr. J. Gabriel Lopez

Source: Galapagos Conservancy

The tsunami waves were far more intense than during last year’s tsunami alert. Wave amplitude at Santa Cruz was 1.77 meters (nearly 6 ft) and the arrival time of the tsunami waves coincided with the high tide. It proved a destructive mix.

The Biomar Building at the Charles Darwin Research Station suffered serious damage in Friday’s tsunami. Clean-up has already begun in this photo from the station’s Director, J. Gabriel Lopez.

The waves at intervals of 26 minutes reached to 1.40m above the level of the Biomar pier. The CDF Marine Sciences (Biomar) building suffered considerable damage to its first floor installations which includes the laboratories. The waves completely destroyed a concrete pump house and broke massive wooden doors, flooding laboratories, workshops, and storage facilities, scattering furniture and equipment despite advance emergency preparation prior to evacuating the premises. Oxygen tanks and other equipment were widely scattered and found buried in sand and vegetation as far as 200m away.

Other low-lying areas of the Station were spared. Seawater came very close to entering the directors house — right to the edge of the veranda and around the eastern side of the house within a few centimeters. Large piles of debris blocking parts of the path to the house and the front garden. The A frame house was spared. The duplex house near the Station beach suffered modest damage to the wash room and surroundings.

It was a challenging Friday night as electricity was out and phone communications were difficult or nonexistent. Electricity and water was restored to the Station by late-morning Saturday. Everyone is safe but a bit battered by the experience.

Our staff has again performed admirably and mingas (voluntary work parties) were organized to clean up at Biomar and where needed.

The Finch Bay Hotel and the destruction to it’s boardwalk.

The low-lying areas of town also suffered significant damage. Scuba Iguana, Red Mangrove hotel, Banco del Pacifico and the area around the Parque San Francisco in particular. The Hotel Finch Bay on the western side of the Bay was heavily damaged; the lobby filled with more than a meter of seawater. The board walk along the beach completely ripped out.
Reports from the Park indicate that their dock suffered damage.

With regard to the flora and fauna, the impacts are being assessed. According to Galapagos National Park reports, some marine turtle nests at Garrapatero Beach on Santa Cruz were destroyed. We had significant damage to the vegetation along the shore of the Research Station. The marine iguana nests that we have been monitoring within the area around my home seem fine. We will be learning more in the next day or so on the full extent of the damage.

Dr. J. Gabriel Lopez

Executive Director

Finch Bay Hotel, Santa Cruz

March 16, 2011 Gareth Morgan’s Galapagos “hotel destroyed by tsunami”disputed
Source: NBR (National Business Review)

UPDATE WEDNESDAY MARCH 16, 12.30pm: Gareth Morgan – whose account of the Japan earthquake tsunami hitting his Galapagos Islands hotel Friday has been disputed by its owner – has uploaded his own photos, taken the morning after the waves hit, to his World by Bike site.

The pictures – taken when Mr Morgan returned to the Finch Bay Eco Hotel on Saturday morning, after being evaculated Friday night – show the wave clearly struck with some force. They show a demolished wooden boardwalk (right) and track the tidal surge’s path up to the hotel’s pool, and its first floor.

UPDATE WEDNESDAY MARCH 16, 12.20pm: Of Mr Morgan’s account of turtles in the swimming pool (see original story below), Mr Hamilton adds: I’ve checked with the Manager of the Finch Bay, who has checked with the staff who were on site on Saturday morning. He reports that a marine turtle was washed up on the shores of a neighbour’s house by the high tides. Hotel staff helped to carry it back to the sea. It was never in the hotel’s swimming pool.”

UPDATE WEDNESDAY MARCH 16, 9.30am: The owner of the Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos hotel evacuated ahead of the Japan quake tsunami has disputed Mr Morgan’s version of events.

The Finch Bay Eco Hotel is owned by Metropolitan Tours. The company’s communications director, Dominic Hamilton, left the below comment after NBR’s original story.

Today, he forwarded NBR two photos, which he said were taken this morning.

Metropolitan will not repay guests for lost nights, but did spring for nights in a hotel on higher ground following the Friday night evacuation. Those who didn’t fly back to the mainland on Saturday spent the following two nights at the alternative accomodation before moving back into the Finch Bay today.

Mr Hamilton’s message.

I do not profess to know about how to hold a graph the right way up or to measure the success of growth fund. But I do know about the situation of the Finch Bay Eco Hotel in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island.

Following is the correct information regarding the hotel, which certainly will NOT be “closed for a couple of months”. Unfortunately, for reasons Gareth Morgan best knows, his reporting of the situation at the hotel is exaggerated.

All our staff have been working non-stop to get the hotel back to its usual, excellent state. We are delighted to report that, thanks to the dedication and energy of all our employees in Puerto Ayora, the hotel will be operational tomorrow, Tuesday 15th. It will receive its guests with the standards of service, passion for hospitality and dishes from its restaurant that has made it so popular with visitors the world over.

The hotel was flooded by the equivalent of various very high tides – not waves. Six of the lower-lying rooms were affected by the waters. They are being repaired at present and we expect these to be ready again very soon. All the other 21 rooms are fine and were not damaged at all.

An internal wall by the reception is currently being repaired, as is the boardwalk that connects the hotel with the dock (guests will walk a small section along the sand).

The swimming pool will be back to normal in under 10 days.

None of the effects of the flooding will be felt from an operational point-of-view from tomorrow onwards.

With regards to the Galapagos National Park, the park’s staff, with the help of the guides onboard the vessels that cruise the islands, are currently assessing the damage that the tsunami may have had on the archipelago’s wildlife. Reports today spoke of three sites “affected”. It will take this week for the extent of any effects to be assessed in any professional way. All of us who care about the islands hope that the disruption to its famous wildlife has been minimal.

Dominic Hamilton
Head of Communication
Metropolitan Touring – owner of the Finch Bay Eco Hotel

UPDATE MONDAY MARCH 14, 12.30pm: Now in a hotel in the Ecuador capital of Quito, Gareth Morgan chatted to NBR via Skype about his Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos hotel being destroyed by the tsunami caused by Friday’s earthquake in Japan.

NBR: What was it like when the tsunami hit – did you fear for your lives?
GM: No we were ordered to higher ground [before it arrived]. the whole town was evacuated. There was no impact here at all from the Chile tsunami this time last year, so we all thought it wa a bit of a drama until we then heard what had happened. We returned the next day which is when I took the photos [yet to be uploaded to Mr Morgan’s World by Bike site, although he hopes to get them on later today].

NBR: Where were you at the time of the Chile tsunami? [August last year]
GM: We were just over the border in Argentina for the 8.8 quake at Concepcion – in a town called Villa Union – one guy killed there when wall collapsed on him.

NBR: How was the hotel – bit of damage or was it totaled?
GM: Not totaled, but it will be out of action for a couple of months. There was two metres of water through the bottom story which took the dining area, kitchen and six rooms out. Turtles ended up in the pool so even they were disrupted.

NBR: Were the turtles okay?
GM: Yes they were gently placed back on the shore that evening!

NBR: Was anybody injured in Santa Cruz?
GM: No – the precautionary stance of the authorities ensuring everyone was evacuated was proven to be sensible. But even they were surprised how much of a surge there was – quite surprised. In Pisco, Peru – 300 house were demolished. So it proves that distance is not necessary a safety buffer with this type of event.

NBR: What next, back to NZ?
GM: No, no. Tomorrow we fly to Bogota to pick up our motorbikes – we’ll be riding again by lunchtime. It’s the third leg of what’s been a big ride all over South and Central America. We finish in Los Angeles in mid-May

NBR: Whenever NBR posts a story mentioning you, there are always people who say “he’s biking all over the world all the time. When does he manage his Kiwisaver funds?” etc. How do you respond to that?
GM: The topbox of my bike has a satellite dish in it, I’m online every day, I get to see far more of investment opportunities around the world than I would staying in little ‘ol NZ. Indeed we have invested in a number of the themes I’ve uncovered as I move around.

SUNDAY MARCH 13: Outside of Japan, there were few reports of waves caused by Friday’s earthquake causing damage.

But one came from fund manager and philanthropist Gareth Morgan.

Mr Morgan and his wife Jo, who has been on a motorcycling tour of the Americas, were staying on the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz. He tweeted Sunday morning:

Our beachfront hotel [was] destroyed by tsunami. We were moved to higher ground. 3m water through the dining room, turtles in the pool. Sad

Official accounts are sketchy. ABC News reported that the Galapagos Islands suffered “infrastructure damage” caused by the tsunami, which struck early Saturday morning NZ time.

Then, shortly after:

Who would believe it? On Santa Cruz island in the Galapagos – other side of Pacific from Japan – and water surge has destroyed our hotel!

And Sunday evening NZ time, son Sam Morgan weighed in with:

Mum and Dad stuck up a hill in the Galapagos Islands after Tsunami rips through and destroys their hotel.

The Gareth Morgan Investments principal later messaged NBR that he had been staying at the Finch Bay Eco Hotel. The hotel’s website lists it as a eco establishment with a five-star rating and rates around $NZ450 a night. It boasts – or at least boasted – “six brand new ocean view rooms” and a private yacht for guests.

Early Monday morning, Mr Morgan. tweeted another user that he was returning to the mainland hoped to be in the Ecuador capital Quito in six hours. He said he had taken photos, which he would upload at that time.

NBR is both alarmed at the wave’s impact on the Morgans, and impressed by Gareth’s ability to post to Twitter from a tsunami-hit island in one of the remotest places on earth.


March 16, 2011: Tsunami Spares Galapagos Wildlife, but Destroys Marine Laboratory
Source: UNESCO
© UNESCO / Marc Patry

Minor damage has been reported at Galápagos Islands World Heritage site following the earthquake and tsunami that occurred off the coast of Japan on 11 March. The tsunami struck at high tide, and manifested itself as a series of marine surges, rising over 1.7 metres above the normal high water mark, flooding coastal buildings. Residents of Galapagos had been warned and had taken refuge in higher ground – no injuries were reported.
The Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) immediately set out to evaluate the tsunami’s impact on coastal visitor sites to ensure that the infrastructure to support the arrival and departure of passengers was in good condition. It reported that visitor sites near populated islands had not suffered major impacts by waves, and were thus kept open.

The GNPS visitor pier on Santa Cruz remains closed due to minor damage while the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center will not be open to visitation until visitors can be properly attended. Lonesome George, the iconic last Giant Tortoise from Pinta island, had been moved to high ground prior to the tsunami as a precautionary measure. In contrast, the Marine Biology laboratory at the Charles Darwin Research Station, located right on the waterfront, suffered serious flooding and is out of service until key equipment can be replaced. Those interested in supporting the re-equipping of the laboratory can donate to the Research Station directly by clicking here.

The GNPS also reports that the Southwest side of San Cristobal island is among the most affected. Infrastructure to facilitate visitation here has been significantly damaged. Marine iguanas are in full nesting season at this time of year, and it is likely that some mortality will have occurred due to the flooding and resulting erosion of coastal nesting sites, but not to a significant degree.

GNPS staff is conducting the cleanup of areas affected by the waves, both within the institution and along the coast near the towns.

Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1978, the Galápagos Islands are situated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 km from the South American continent. Comprised of over 100 islands and islets and of a large marine reserve, the Galapagos has been called a unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galápagos are a ‘melting pot’ of marine species. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands. These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual animal life – such as the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch – that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835.


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  1. T

    i read on another website that they have suspended any flights to or from the galapagos. how are they getting people out if there aren’t any flights??

    1. Robin Slater

      All flights to/from the Galapagos Islands are currently suspended. Authorities are moving people to higher grounds (i.e., highlands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal & Isabela Islands). This was the same procedures that were put in place during the tsunami alert as a result of the earthquake in February 2010.

    2. Ginger JOhnson

      They go up into the mountaina, idiot.

      1. Bob Barker

        Ginger. No no need to be such a rude bitch.

  2. T

    i’m just nervous… my sister is there with her school and they were supposed to leave today

    1. Robin Slater

      Local authorities are conducting an orderly evacuation of tourists and locals to higher grounds … the same procedures that occurred during the tsunami alert from the Chile earthquake in February 2010 (where no major damage .. other than a rapid change of tides … occurred). Authorities prefer to take all the precautions necessary and be prepared just in case.

      Your sister (and the rest of the school) will be safe and have/are most probably being moved to higher grounds. Currently all flights in/out of the Galapagos Islands are suspended.

      I will keep you (and other readers) updated.



    1. Robin Slater

      Of all the islands, Isabela has the highest grounds – as high as 1710m in altitude, so your brother will be safe in the higher parts (where the population and tourists are being evacuated to).

      1. ALEXANDRA


        1. Robin Slater

          You’re most welcome Alexandra.

  4. A

    I presume the tour boats will be safe out in the open water? I have family on one.

    1. Robin Slater

      Most Galapagos Islands cruise / tour boat operators disembark their passengers so that they can move to high ground, while the crew and boats move away from shallow waters (i.e., ports and harbours) and strategically locate the vessels in more protected open water areas (as was done during the tsunami alert caused by the Chile earthquake back in February 2010).

      1. A

        Interesting. My family was supposed to fly out of Baltra today, but were informed that since the flights are canceled, they will have to ride out the tsunami on the boat.

        1. Robin Slater

          Many Galapagos Islands cruise boats are still carrying passengers aboard but moving to strategically located open waters.

  5. Luis

    Evacuation will means stay on the Islands on a high ground?, what about get out of the Islands?, there is any plan for that?

    1. Robin Slater

      Yes, evacuation means either moving to high ground on the various principal islands or moving the various vessels to safer sheltered waters away from the shores. All air traffic is grounded, with no flights in or out of Galapagos Islands until midnight tonight. Those in Galapagos right now must stay in Galapagos in the meantime, and those travelling to Galapagos must wait until flights are resumed (supposedly tomorrow).

      1. Luis

        Thanks Robin, you sir has been very helpfully on this horrible situation.

        1. Robin Slater

          You’re most welcome Luis.

  6. andrea

    hello my mom is in atacames esmeraldas what is happening there now

    1. Robin Slater

      Apparently there is a mandatory precautionary measure forcing evacuation of the population and tourists along the Pacific coastal region of Ecuador (including Atacames) inland at least 2.5 km.

      1. Andrea

        thank you my mom is at the edge of the water in atacames beach and she is not going to higher ground yet what should i tell her

        1. Robin Slater

          Apparently prediction are that the effects will hit the Esmeraldas region (just north of Atacames) by 19h09 (GMT-5) and sea levels most likely will rise aprox. 2.5 meters.

          For precaution, I recommend that she moves at least .5 to 1km inland by 6pm … temporarily. The effects shouldn’t be too great (other than minor flooding etc) but rather be safe than sorry.

          1. andrea

            robin thank you

  7. Becky Dever

    I have family expected to fly out of Guayaquil to New York today. Are there any delays/cancellations from mainland Ecuador?

    1. Robin Slater


      According to the latest news and information I have all International flights (both inbound and outbound) are operating normally from both the Quito and Guayaquil International airports.

  8. Jeanette Groening

    My father is working in one of the tourist cruisers. The passengers have been evacuated but he and the rest of the crew is still out there – by the coast of Galapagos. How is the situtaion right now? Im not able to contact him.

    1. Robin Slater

      No new developments yet. The last relevant report is this:

      The Ecuadorian Oceanographic Institute (INOCAR) has confirmed that possible tsunami effects are calculated to arrive in the Galapagos Islands region at 17h38 local time (18h38 mainland Ecuador time – GMT-5). The Pacific mainland coast of Ecuador should feel effects between 19h09 (Esmeraldas) and 19h30 (El Oro). The height of the seas in Galapagos will most probably be 1.7 m above sea level while on the Pacific mainland coast most probably 2.5 m above sea level.

      Boats have been ordered to leave the harbours and locate themselves in waters at least 100m in depth in sheltered areas.

  9. Susanna

    I just got a phone call from my husband in Pto.Villamil. Apparently, President Correa said the danger is practically over. Is that true or is he just trying to calm me?

    1. Robin Slater

      Although they are calculating that any effects of the tsunami should pass through the Galapagos Islands around 18h38 [GMT-5] the latest technical reports seem to indicate that the intensity & height of the waves are lessening. I doubt that there will be more than a semi-sudden increase-decrease in the sea levels for a very brief period (much as what happened with the Chile tsunami from the earthquake in Feb.2010). I personally highly doubt any major incidents in Galapagos … other than minor flooding in low areas near beaches and some bumps and scratches on small boats.

  10. Shary

    My son and his wife are in the Galapagos, and your information has been very helpful and reassuring since we can’t seem to get in touch with anyone.

    1. Robin Slater

      You are most welcome. For this exact reason I am trying to keep on top of the situation and pass on as much confirmed and verifiable news as possible.

      1. john

        any updates?

        1. Robin Slater

          No major local news other than the effects were minor … so until I have access to concrete information it appears that everything returning back to normal.

  11. Sarah

    What is the risk to the wildlife on the other islands in the Galapagos? Could marine iguana, crabs, sea lions etc. be swept out to sea in a surge onto the various islands? I was just there in February and it seems this could wash out lots of creatures.

    Hope this passes with minimal impact!

    1. Robin Slater

      Little if any risk to wildlife. Seems to have had a minimal impact (yet to be reconfirmed).

  12. Michele Guerin

    Your updates have been extremely valuable. I hope we will learn when our loved ones are able to return from Highlands to Pto Ayora. Thank you so much…much appreciated.

    1. Robin Slater

      My extreme pleasure. It’s the least I can do to try and keep readers & public informed as accurately as possible.

  13. andrea

    how long should people wait in evacuation until they could go back home

    1. Robin Slater

      It appears that (providing there are no new tsunamis created) people can return in the next few hours – but local authorities will be the ones to accurately access such a decision.

  14. Gisella

    thank you very much for the information. I have many relatives in Manta, who are watching the local news regarding Galapagoes to help them asses if and when they will leave Manta.
    for us in the US, mainstream media of course is not very effecient nor interested in providing information regarding Ecuador and even less regarding Manta. thanks again.

    1. Robin Slater

      My pleasure … just trying to serve as a useful and accurate source of information (mainly local Spanish data translated for English readers).

  15. ArK

    To anyone who’s worried:
    Everyone’s been evacuated from low ground, and the first waves that hit the islands were pretty small. I’m getting calls from my parents, who are there.

    1. Robin Slater

      Thanks for the comment.

  16. Kim

    Hey! Our daughter has been evacuated to El Progresso… is that village high enough in elevation to be safe? thanks for all your GREAT responses!

    1. Robin Slater

      Yes, El Progresso in significantly high and inland so everyone there is perfectly safe.

  17. Victoria Leyva

    Can you please informed me. Will tourist be able to go back to their hotels and at what time. Will they be evacuating the island even though they are not in danger anymore? Thank you for your information.

    1. Robin Slater

      Apparently people can return to their hotels within 2 hours of the tsunami waves passing. Everything will return back to normality – flights and cruises will apparently be getting back on track tomorrow morning.

  18. john

    Thanks to all for your contributions

    1. Robin Slater

      My pleasure John.

  19. Chuck

    Just spoke with my son(5:25 Calif/8:25 Ecuador time) who is at a hilltop home overlooking the beach near Montanito, Ecuador. His home is right on the beach nearly at sea level so we are expecting the worst at any minute now since 5 meter waves have been reported up the coast at Columbia. As it is dark now, do you know of a site where I can get updates without waiting until morning? Thanks for your inputs.

    1. Robin Slater

      As soon as I get mainland Ecuador (Pacific coast) details, I will update the page.

    2. Robin Slater

      Good evening, due to heavy demand & traffic, along with sporadic confirmed news my updates have been irregular. Current conditions along the Pacific coast of Ecuador seem to be returning to normal, with only moderate to small waves hit the coastal line. No major damage or incidents have been reported to date.

  20. liz

    Hi… when is this super wave be over?

    1. Robin Slater

      Apparently the tsunami wave(s) have passed Galapagos Islands while on the Pacific coast of mainland Ecuador, waters are returning back to normal (according to several local news sources).

      1. liz

        thank you very much

  21. MK

    Thank you so much for your updates throughout the day! My brother just left for his Galapagos cruise yesterday and spent the day out at sea. Hopefully it wasn’t too awful. Little reliable information was available here and my family greatly appreciated all of your effort.
    Sincerely, a fellow University of Ottawa Psychology student :)

    1. Robin Slater

      Nice to connect with a fellow U of O Psych student! My pleasure keeping things updated throughout the day. Your brother should be more than fine … but I am sure he will have some interesting stories to relate! I don’t think it was more than very choppy and a considerable movement aboard for a short period. Apparently it is fairly wet (drizzly) all of today in Galapagos.

  22. Matt

    Thank you for the up-dates you are posting and to all who have kept people up to-date.

    Is there any news on the mainland. I have family in Esmeraldas, so just wondering what the situation there is.
    Thanks again.

  23. Lisa F

    I also thank you for your many updates which I have been following all day long in addition to the “official” sites that have offered much less detail about the area I’ve had interest in. My husband is in Guayaquil for business for a few weeks and we have been a bit concerned about his safety. Thank you!

  24. B

    How is manta I have friends and relatives their were are they supposed to be evaculated

    1. Robin Slater

      No major incidents in Manta, although there was evacuation plans. Things should be back to normal today (and flights in and out of Manta have resumed as of last night).

  25. Marina

    my sister is in Galapagos but I have no communication with her ​​about 3 hours, I would like news about the communication in Galapagos

    1. Robin Slater

      Things should be back to normal today (Saturday, March 12). If you need any help, just let me know.

  26. Sarah Langford

    Thank you for your updates. I was concerned for my friends who live in the Galapagos and your updates have helped, it is not easy to find up to date accurate information.
    Many thanks.x

  27. Jeanette

    Thank you for your time and updates. Im in Denmark, and its has been very nice beeing updated, since my father is in Galapagos, and we have been quite worried. Thanks.

  28. Valeria

    Thanks a lot for your updates. I’m glad that all people are fine and safe. I’m now just wondering about animals. Do you any news about wildlife? In particular coastal wildlife. Thanks

    1. Robin Slater

      Hello Valeria,

      Apparently there have been no specific reports coming from Galapagos regarding the wildlife …. which makes me think by defauly that nothing major occurred. The coastal wildlife are accustomed to string tides, so I highly doubt there was significant damage or loss. Apparently a few beach were slightly effected though.

  29. latin

    did ecuador get hit by the tsunami?? :O i have family in there and i havent heared nothing in the news about ecuador.

    1. Robin Slater

      The tsunami gradually lost force as it traveled and by the time it reached Ecuador only minor effects were felt.

  30. Mary

    Have a friend working on a small cruise ship in Galapagos (TipTop III). Have sent a few emails to check on situation but no replies. I know they are sometimes not in a good reception area. Is internet service working now? Cell phone service?
    Thanks for all of your info and updates!
    It was worrisome to think of the fragile environment getting damaged. I will be traveling back there in about a month.

    1. Robin Slater

      Good evening Mary,

      According to a confirmed source directly in San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands, at least much of the internet connection went down but apparently is getting back on air slowly (as of today – at least in San Cristobal). As I don’t have direct knowledge regarding mobile/cell phone status I have to think it is much the same. If you want I can put you in touch with the owner/operator of the Tip Top III – just let me know.

      Warmest regards,


      1. Mary

        Thank you so much for info. I will remain patient…and do not wish to bother Mr. Wittmer…yet. :-) I have been on one of his nice cruise boats and I know the crew iss kept very busy. I’m sure the disruption in their schedule caused a bit of havoc dealing with their passengers, etc.
        Thanks for any updates. It is so nice to have someone who has direct contact there.

  31. Dominic Hamilton

    Hey Robin.

    With regards to Gareth “Easy Rider” Morgan in Galapagos, please see the update on the website which published one of the original quotes:

    Many thanks


    1. Robin Slater

      Hi Dominic,

      Mr. Morgan (and son’s) tweets caught my attention on Twitter and asked if they could clarify which part of Galapagos & which hotel (as I didn’t know at the time) as I hadn’t received any news on major damage in Galapagos, to which they never replied.

      I have been keeping an eye on this apparently very exaggerated claim. If there are any further update, do let me know!

      Warmest regards,


      1. Dominic Hamilton

        Hi Robin,

        No real update and no response from Mr Morgan.

        The Finch is up and running, and the swimming pool is back in action (sans fictitious turtles…)



        1. Robin Slater

          Concur as I haven’t seen anything else on the net waves. Thanks Dom.

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