CultureStriking NASA satellite capture of Great Bahama Bank wins...

Striking NASA satellite capture of Great Bahama Bank wins Tournament Earth 2020


This year marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the 20th anniversary of NASA’s Earth Observatory – a publication that shares NASA’s observations and researches to the general audience.

To celebrate both the anniversaries, the space agency requested the general public to choose from the thousands of images captured by NASA’s Earth Observatory (EO). And the runner-up of the 10th-anniversary contest won the Tournament Earth 2020.

The true gem of capture, the satellite-shot of the Bahama Bank was taken 18 years back on January 17, 2001. Oceanographer Serge Andréfouet assessed the value of the image and passed it to a colleague who submitted the same at NASA’s EO for an Image of the Day feature in 2002.

This is the image of Great Bahama Bank captured in 2001 by Landsat 7. It is a zoomed-out view. (Image courtesy of the Earth Observatory/ NASA)

After 18 long years, advancement in technology led for better capture of the same image, and the results? Well, it knocked off the more recent satellite captures to win the EO’s Tournament Earth 2020.

“I am not surprised it is still a favorite, especially for people who see it for the first time,” Andréfouet told, vouching for the captures timeless stun.

“There are many nice seagrass and sand patterns worldwide, but none like this anywhere on Earth.”

-Serge Andréfouet via NASA

At a glance, anyone could be fooled by the texture and curls captured in the image, thinking it of an artist’s creation. The colors, strokes, all together give this image a handpainted feel. But this is a work of mother nature.

According to NASA, the great Bahama Banks were low lying drylands during the past ice-ages. But as sea levels rose, it got submerged, making it how it is today. Today, it is covered in shallow waters (7 feet at some places).  And the bank is composed of white carbonate sand and limestone, that came from mainly skeletal remains of corals.

A marvel of nature

The hues of blues and greens came from the presence of sand and seagrass at different depths in the underwater bank, NASA explains. The wavy parts are the sand on the seafloor. Some powerful underwater currents gave the wavy pattern.

This is the same image taken this year from Landsat 8. This is a zoomed-in view (Image courtesy of the Earth Observatory/ NASA)

The first image (posted above) was captured by satellite Landsat 7 in 2001. And the image below was captured by Landsat 8 this year when it passed over the area on February 18th. But despite nearly two-decades in between, the area remained largely the same.

See it from further above

The image below was captured by NASA’s Terra satellite. You will see the shallow wavy banks dropping off into the deep, dark gorge in the place called the “tongue of the ocean.”



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If you manage to take a plunge at the depths of 6500 feet below, 160 plus species of corals and fishes will welcome you.

Spot the golf-bat shaped dark area? It is the tongue of the ocean (Image courtesy of the Earth Observatory/

We will never be able to comprehend the entirety of nature, her beauty, and grace. Her elegance surpasses all, her dignity is unfathomable.

Efforts like NASA’s Earth Observatory enable us to get closer to nature and her ethos. Unlike us, the Great Bahama Bank beat the blow of time, and the beauty still intact.


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