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Bouvet Island near Antarctica

Bouvet Island

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Small volcanic Bouvet Island on four dates

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Bouvet Island (or Bouvetøya) is a territory of Norway. The island is located near the western edge of the observed area. In the top two images, the island presents an obstacle to the westerly winds, and wake patterns in the cloud layers are visible downstream of the island's location. In the lower left image, the island is visible within a relatively clear area of open ocean. In the lower right image, the island is partially obscured by cumulus clouds, and a spiral cloud pattern associated with an atmospheric depression is visible in the southeast quadrant.

These four images from the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) cover the same geographic area but were acquired on four different dates: June 9, 2000, April 9, 2001, May 14, 2002, and June 15, 2002. Each image was acquired by MISR's vertical-viewing (nadir) camera and encompasses an area measuring 257 kilometers x 195 kilometers. North is toward the top.

The Terra satellite, with MISR aboard, flies in a polar orbit and daylight images such as these are acquired as the spacecraft flies from north to south. Terra's orbit is "sun-synchronous", and when the satellite crosses the daylight equator the local time beneath the spacecraft is approximately 10:30 a.m. The four images shown here were processed identically, and relative variations in brightness between the different views have been preserved.

This small volcanic island is situated at the intersection of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge (southern extremity), the America-Antarctic Ridge, and the Atlantic Indian Ridge. Vegetation at this permanently glaciated isle is restricted to lichens and mosses. The highest peak (Olavtoppen) rises to 780 meters (2560 feet).

The island was first sighted in 1738 by French explorer Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier. Bouvet was convinced it was the northernmost tip of Antarctica but could not circumnavigate or land upon the island due to severe weather. Steep cliffs surrounding most sides of the island also made access difficult, and after various attempts, a landing was made in 1822 by an American sealer, Benjamin Morrell, who named the island after Bouvet. A British whaling/sealing expedition arrived three years later and named it Liverpool Island. The Norwegians claimed sovereignty of the island in 1928, and they renamed it in honor of Bouvet during their expedition of 1929.

A few interesting events regarding Bouvet Island:

  • Bouvetøya became a Nature Reserve in 1971.
  • An automated weather station was established in 1977.
  • A nuclear bomb was detonated between Bouvetøya and Marion Island in 1979.
  • A lifeboat and supplies were discovered on the island in 1964, but their origin could not be determined.
  • Seals in the area were declared to be protected in 1935. However, this protection was incorporated into international agreement in 1959.

MISR was built and is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. The Terra spacecraft is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. The MISR data were obtained from the NASA Langley Research Center Atmospheric Science Data Center in Hampton, VA.

Image credit: NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team.

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