Silt and phytoplankton off Elephant Island, Antarctica
Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC
The Antarctic Peninsula stretches north from the northwest side of the continent towards the southern tip of South America. Scattered islands punctuate the Atlantic beyond the northernmost tip of the peninsula, and among these is Elephant Island. The white outline of the island resembles the head of an elephant with its trunk extended. White flecks of ice float in the ocean around the island. The ocean itself is literally alive with color. The wide blue swirls are formed by microscopic plants, phytoplankton, that grow near the surface of the water. Their outer scales are made of calcium carbonate, a white substance that reflects light back to the satellite. When viewed through the ocean water, the phytoplankton often look blue, as they do here. The water immediately around the island is tan and green, probably from sediment washing from the island. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image on September 13, 2003.