Darwin Island, also known as Culpepper (Culpepper was an English lord), is an eroded volcano located on a volcanic ridge (the Wolf-Darwin Lineament) aligned northwest-southeast. The ridge extends from the northwest part of the Galapagos Platform to the Galapagos Spreading Center, some 150 km to the north.
Darwin is only 165 m above sea level, the islands are only the tips of much larger volcano's that rise more than 1000 m above the sea floor. The volcano is now extinct; potassium-argon ages of Darwin show it to be 400,000 years old. There are several smaller volcano's located along the Wolf-Darwin lineament that do not reach the sea surface. Potassium-argon ages from some of these seamount's are as young as 30,000 years and these volcano's are probably still active.
The origin of the Wolf-Darwin Lineament remains somewhat enigmatic. One hypothesis is that it reflects channeled flow of material from the Galapagos mantle plume to the Galapagos Spreading Center within the uppermost mantle. Another hypothesis is that is a fault or tear in the lithosphere that allows magma to rise to the surface.
This small islet is inhabited only by sea birds and is rarely visited. It is however, a wonderful place for snorkeling and scuba diving, Darwin is well-known among divers for the diverse and abundant marine wildlife. Here divers are virtually guaranteed to see large schools of hammerhead sharks which are rare in the main group of islands.
Landing: Wet Landing
Wildlife Highlights: Vampire Finch, Boobies, Sooty terns, Sea birds, great spotted whale shark, whales, hammerheads, white tips, galapagos sharks and more.
Activity Highlights: Scuba Diving, no land visitor sites.
Conditions: Difficult diving conditions, for advanced divers only
Notes: If you're a die-hard diver, don't miss out on the opportunity to dive here. Be aware, though, that this island is for advanced divers.
Tours and Excursions description
The Arch at Darwin Island teaming with bird life is splendid from the surface, but when you get underwater and see what's beneath it, you'll have a hard time deciding which side is more magnificent.
Dolphins skim across the surface following the pangas to the dive site. When you get into the water you'll immediately be greeted by hammerheads. Lots of hammerheads, sometimes so many that you can't count them all. They swim gracefully over the reef sometimes slowing down to be cleaned by King Angelfish. At times you could reach out and touch them, but spooked by the divers bubbles, they will quickly turn away, startling everything else around them (including the other divers!).
The arch sits on a plateau just below the surface. The barnacle covered wall drops off to the deeper ocean around it and seems to be the gathering area for every fish in the neighborhood. Creole fish, rainbow chub, bigeye jacks, moorish idols all swirl in a mystical maze. A large school of jacks hang at the surface, so thick it looks like a black cloud.
Large green spotted eels swim freely across the reefs. So many that you must be cautious not to get too close to the rocks. On the ridge you'll find blue striped snappers, coronet fish and trumpetfish as well as a large parrotfish. In the rubble on the bottom watch for large flounders. Whale sharks have also been spotted here.
Because the arch is very much unprotected, the surface can be rough. Strong, quickly changing currents are common here. Differences from one dive to the other can make this dive interesting enough to do many times. The water temperature at Darwin is warmer than in the southern islands by at least several degrees.