Another cargo ship slips under the waves...

Thankfully the "San Cristobal" (built in 1966) did so soon after having left the mainland on its way to the islands on November 17 - so there's no risk of an oil slick affecting Galapagos, nor of debris scattered among their wild shores.  The San Cristobal seems to have developed a list of 15 degrees before capsizing completely and going down in 10 minutes no more than 100 km from the coast (Galapagos is 1,000 km away) - the crew was unharmed.  This comes 6 months after another such cargo ship sank, the Galapaface (who names these ships?), but this time just off the shores of San Cristobal island in Galapagos (see our earlier news stories in May and July this year).  

Though not a risk for Galapagos ecosystems, this sinking, right on the heals the other, is a big blow to many small merchants in the islands.  The ships carry all kinds of goods, from food, household goods, hardware, building supplies, gas cannisters, even vehicles.  Very few of these small merchants insure their shipments, and those having received a blow last May, may now find themselves completely bankrupt.  There is a real risk of shortages of supplies in the coming weeks and months.  

There was a time back in the 1970s when the islands were served by one cargo ship which came once a month - but rapid growth in both population (from perhaps 5,000 then, to 30,000 now), and the great expectations of material comforts and a rapid increase in land based tourism have led to the need for a  much more regular supply of goods to the islands.  This increased back-and-forth between the islands and the mainland also poses a risk for the introduction of new species to the islands. Introduced species are the greatest threat to Galapagos biodiversity.

So everything is connected.  One silver lining in this and the earlier sinkings is the hope that the ships will be replaced by new ones that meet the strictest bio-security and phytosanitary standards, reducing the chance that they will be vectors for the introduction of harmful pests to the islands.   Let's keep our fingers crossed. 

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