March 27, 2014 - Kerguelen Island, South Indian Ocean

Kerguelen Island, South Indian Ocean

Approximately 2660 mi (4380 km) southwest of Perth, Australia, a group of small volcanic islands break the surface of the South Indian Ocean. Known as the Kerguelen Islands, the islands lie in what has been called one of the remotest areas in the world - a lonely bit of ocean roughly equidistant from Australia, Antarctica, and southern Africa.

Beaten by the winds of the “Furious Fifties”, a belt of westerly winds that whips around the Southern Hemisphere, the frigid, rocky islands are uninhabited, except for a handful of people who man research stations. There is no airport, although the islands are home to astronomical scanners and radar. The islands provide vital resting spots for migrating birds, and are home to several sensitive species, including fur and elephant seals and a variety of penguins.

On March 18, 2014 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite passed over the South Indian Ocean and captured a rare cloud-free view of the Kerguelen Islands.

On that same date, a multinational team searched the waters roughly half way between Kerguelen and Perth for debris from Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370. The flight departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia heading for Beijing Capital International Airport on March 8. About an hour later it made contact with air traffic control before it was lost, with 227 passengers and 12 crew members aboard.

According to news reports, close scrutiny of images captured by multiple satellites have located up to 122 objects that could – potentially – be debris from the missing flight. As of March 26, however, a squadron made up of a dozen planes and five ships from multiple nations has been unable to definitively locate a single piece of wreckage attributable to that aircraft.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 3/18/2014
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC