Status Report

NASA MODIS Image of the Day: May 3, 2012 – South Sandwich Islands, South Atlantic Ocean

By SpaceRef Editor
May 3, 2012
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The Southern Ocean surround the South Sandwich Islands has been described as having “furious moods”, often buffeted by howling winds and covered in heavy clouds. As he explored the region, Captain James Cook, who discovered the islands in 1775, wrote of “Thick fogs, Snow storms, Intense Cold and every other thing that can render Navigation dangerous”. At times, however, the furious mood calms, the clouds part, and sunshine warms the frigid archipelago. On April 28, 2012, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard the Terra satellite passed over the Southern Ocean and captured this nearly cloud-free glimpse of the South Sandwich Islands. The South Sandwich Islands consists of a chain of eleven main islands that bend in an arc about 240-miles (390 kilometers) long. They are volcanic in origin, and, with an age of less than 5 million years, are considered young. Many of the islands, which arise from the subduction of the South American Plate beneath the South Sandwich Plate, are still volcanically active. From May until November, the islands are generally surrounded by pack ice; they remain covered by ice and snow year-round. Despite the stormy winds, ever changing clouds, rumbling volcanoes, and frigid cover of ice and snow, the South Sandwich Islands teem with life. In 1997, two surveys designed to identify and estimate the species found on the Islands found 16 species of breeding birds, including globally significant numbers of chinstrap penguins, Antarctic fulmars, cape petrels and snow petrels, and five species of seal inhabiting the islands. The number of the chinstrap penguins represents about 30% of the world population, but this survey estimated a significantly lower number of these birds than previously estimated. Other than the wildlife, visitors to these islands are rare. There are no human settlements on the South Sandwich Islands.

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SpaceRef staff editor.