A team of American scientists are exploring and mapping the lava tunnels and caves of the Galapagos Islands.
Aaron Addison of Washington University, Missouri, and his team are carrying out a total of five expeditions which will see them explore the many lava tubes – caves formed by flows of ancient lava – that can be found on the island of Santa Cruz.
The island was formed between 0.7 and 1.5 million years ago; during the island’s formation volcanic activity saw the outer skin of molten lava solidify while underneath, liquid magma continued to flow in tunnels up to several kilometers long, leaving behind a series of empty tubes. The group are producing maps of the tunnels in order to “engage in various types of scientific study [and] management activities”, explains Addison. They will do this by using GPS devices to first locate the entrances of the caves and then – as GPS doesn’t work underground – utilize laser distance meters and clinometers to measure the dimensions of the tubes.
Computer programs will later be used to collate the field data into maps and profiles of each of the tunnels. The group will also study any life found inside the undiscovered caves – and perhaps even stumble upon a new Galapagos species.
Read more about the expedition here.
Photo credit: Flickr/Marshdude