CSU alumna dives beneath Galapagos Darwin’s Arch day of collapse

“It was a really humbling moment,” said Colorado State University alumna Audrey Ramsey of her experience diving under Darwin’s Arch in the Galapagos Islands mere hours before it collapsed due to natural erosion on May 17, 2021.

Darwin’s Arch was an iconic natural bridge and rock formation for the Galapagos, named after famed English biologist Charles Darwin. It is located less than a mile away from the main area of Darwin Island and can only be accessed for diving or research.

Audrey Ramsey
Ramsey approaching Darwin's Arch aboard the Calipso cruise ship.

On that fateful day, Ramsey, who was working in the Galapagos National Park as a capacity development assistant with CSU’s Center for Protected Area Management, was visiting the arch aboard the Calipso, a cruise ship designated for SCUBA diving.

When she and others finally got out of the water to return to the ship, there was even a majestic feel to the end of the dive, said Ramsey who recently graduated from the Conservation Leadership Through Learning master’s program at CSU.

“It was such a magical exit. There were huge waves crashing onto the island and there was a pod of dolphins swimming and jumping next to us,” Ramsey said. “It was a great exit for what I know now was the final dive of ‘the Arch’.”

When Ramsey returned aboard the ship, she decided to take one last look at the arch as the ship pulled away.

“I wanted to take one last picture as we drove away, so I went to the back of the boat while the other passengers gathered inside for lunch.” Ramsey said. “I stood there and looked and looked, and I only saw the pillars, and I thought, ‘There is no way it has fallen.’”

Ramsey took a picture and brought it to a tour guide aboard the ship. All who looked were perplexed—most agreed it was merely the angle of the photo, but as they made their way to take a look for themselves, the captain came over the intercom to announce the famous arch had fallen. The passengers, guides, and crew expressed both shock and grief having just visited the historical and ancient landmark together, Ramsey said.

The experience of being in the location on that day was momentous and gave Ramsey plenty to reflect on.

“I almost didn’t even take a picture of the arch that morning. I thought I may be back someday, to take pictures of it in a new light” Ramsey said. “This really makes you appreciate every second and every opportunity. Nothing, not even something so seemingly solid as stone, lasts forever.”