Petroecuador confirms that a ship carrying nearly 2000 gallons of diesel has gone down just off one of the Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos Islands, which belong to Ecuador, are one of the most ecologically valuable places in the world. Volcanic, isolated by currents and climates and five hundred miles of ocean, the archiepiscopal of 21 islands and over a hundred islets represent a true microcosm. Life has evolved here in unique ways, with hundreds of species that can be found nowhere else in the world. It’s here that Charles Darwin became convinced of his theory of evolution, as proof of it can be seen walking, flying, and swimming around.

On Saturday, a small ship which was bringing fuel out to supply the islands sank inside the waters of the Galapagos National Park, just off Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is the second largest of the main islands, and the site of Puerto Ayora, the largest permanent human population in the archipelago.

The ship, which belongs to the state-run oil firm Petroecuador, had 47 barrels of diesel fuel aboard, as well as its own fuel. Officials estimate between 1900 and 2000 gallons. It may not seem like a huge amount, but 2000 gallons of diesel fuel can contaminate 25 square miles of ocean, and this happened immediately adjacent to the protected, biologically rich waters of Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz, aside from being the site off the Charles Darwin Research Station, also features mangrove forests and marine iguana habitats. Its beaches and shallows are breeding grounds for sea turtles, rays, and sharks. Oil could even penetrate Cerro Dragón, the lagoon where flamingos raise their young.

All four sailors aboard the ship were rescued without injury and containment booms deployed, but oil stains have been found at multiple sites around the island. Petroecuador has initiated cleanup procedures and is looking into further safety precautions for future fuel deliveries.

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