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Mozambique Channel, Current Boundary

8. Mozambique Channel, Current Boundary

The ecologically disruptive practice of oil bilging by tankers can occasionally have interesting visual results when observed from space. The Discovery crew recorded this boundary between two currents in the Mozambique Channel. Such sharp current boundaries are similar to meteorological current boundaries; they are simply occurring in a denser fluid. It is possible to sense the boundary when crossing it in a ship; wave size and formation may change significantly. We see that the tanker is traveling from the bottom of the frame toward the top, because the older area of the slick, which has been bilged over a period of about 45 minutes, shows greater dispersal than the more recent section toward the top of the frame. Dispersion is being aided by the prevailing light wind, which is blowing from the left of the view. The current at the top of the frame is traveling to the right, relative to the current at the bottom. With the passage of time, the oil slick exhibits an offset shear to the right.

STS-51I, August-September 1985. Picture #511-42-040

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