Hurricane Dorian was advancing at the pace of a slow crawl when it struck the Bahamas on Monday, September 2. Homes, schools, and hospitals in its path were no match for the 185 mph winds surrounding the eye. Flooding brought on by powerful storm surges overwhelmed the many low-lying islands that comprise the northern Bahamas, submerging the worst affected areas almost entirely.
This image, captured by the crew of ISS Expedition 39 in the spring of 2014, shows a section of the Grand Canyon north of the main tourist center (north and south are inverted here). The Space Station’s 250-mile-high vantage point makes it easy to see the canyon’s intricate system of drainage channels, which kind of resemble twigs and branches radiating from a tree.
The waters of Lake Erie drain into Lake Ontario via the Niagara River, which cuts across a 25-mile-wide stretch of land along the US/Canada border separating the two Great Lakes. The peaceful serenity of the river is interrupted, to say the least, about halfway toward its destination. I’m guessing the first word spoken after its discovery was either “wow”, or “oops”.
Doha, the capital city of Qatar, was little more than a backwater pearl diving village on the shores of the Persian Gulf until its British Protectorate status ended in 1971. Thanks to tremendous wealth generated by vast natural gas and oil reserves Qatar now has the highest per capita income in the world.
Tucked into a lagoon on the northwestern edge of the Adriatic Sea is a city with no roads. Instead, 177 canals and 409 pedestrian bridges interconnect the 118 small islands that make up the City of Venice, Italy. Everyone and everything moves around the city by waterway, including municipal transportation, garbage collection, the police, ambulance service, even the fire brigade.
The International Space Station was passing over Turkmenistan on July 26, 2015 when a crewmember shot this image of the southern extent of the Caspian Sea. The brilliant concentration of light at dead center, set somewhat inland from the coast, is the capital city of Iran - Tehran. Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is the bright area protruding into the Caspian in the lower right third of the image.
The International Space Station was passing over the east coast of Brazil when this photo of the SpaceX Dragon capsule approaching for a rendezvous was taken on December 17, 2017. The Commercial Resupply Service mission known as CRS 13 carried about 4,800 lbs of essential scientific equipment, hardware, and crew supplies to the station. Docking was achieved via a port on the station’s Harmony module.
The dark cyan bodies of water in the upper and lower right of this image are what’s left of the Aral Sea.
This enormous endorheic lake (a lake with limited or no drainage) once spanned large parts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. How big was it? In 1848 three ships from the Imperial Russian Navy were sent to do a complete survey - it took two years. Once the fourth largest lake in the world, it encompassed the entire sand-colored region in the center of this picture. Today it is a small fraction of its original size.
Lest we forget how the Hawaiian Islands came to be there in the first place, Kilauea volcano seems eager to demonstrate the process. A volcanic hotspot in the earth’s mantle has left a 3,600 mile-long trail of islands and submerged mountains in its wake as the Pacific Plate migrates slowly above. While the other 7 islands in the Hawaiian chain are ancient artifacts of long-extinct volcanoes, the Big Island itself is still under construction.
Lighting up the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula in the lower center of this image from November of 2017 is the only European capital city to lie on the Atlantic coast - Lisbon, Portugal. The intensity of its electric light output contrasts its legacy as one of the oldest cities in the world - older by centuries than either Paris or London, and even older than Rome.