Kerguelen Island South Indian Ocean
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Kerguelen Island, South Indian Ocean

January 17, 2012
A warm, sunny summer day in the southern Indian Ocean allowed the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite to capture a rare cloud-free image of the Kerguelen Islands in early January, 2012. On January 5, the day this image was captured, the high temperature registered a balmy 60° Fahrenheit, eight degrees greater than the average daily high of 52° during the short summertime (January and February).

The Kerguelen Archipelago lies midway between Australia, Antarctica and Africa. Along with the Crozet Islands, the Amsterdam and Saint Paul Islands and Adélie Land, the Kerguelen Islands are part of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands. The main island, Grande Terre, is surrounded by about 300 other islands, islets, and reefs.

The archipelago is rich in animal, bird and marine life, but there are no permanent human settlements. France, which lies about 13,000 kilometers away, maintains a year-round presence of scientists, engineers and researchers.

At a latitude of about 49 degrees South, the islands lie directly in the path of the “Furious Fifties”, a belt of westerly winds that howl across the Southern Hemisphere, with little land in the way to slow their fierce gusts. Kerguelen's landscape is wind-blown and rugged, with the coasts deeply indented by fjords and much of the inland covered by glaciers.

The largest glacier, Cook Glacier, is covered with a large, circular icecap, even in mid-summer, as can be seen in this image. Mount Ross, the highest peak at 1,850 meters, can be seen as a snow-covered patch in the southeast of the island.

Credits: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

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