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South China Sea, Internal Waves

18. South China Sea, Internal Waves

Taken on the seventh shuttle mission in June 1983, this was one of the most interesting oceanography photographs from the early missions. It alerted NASA photograph interpreters to the oceanographic possibilities of the shuttle Earth Observation Project. Four wave packets can be seen off the island of Hainan in the South China Sea. White sandy beaches along the coast of Hainan can be seen in top left, partly obscured by the clouds that run down the left of the frame.

Such wave packets are best viewed when coming into contact with the continental shelf, and each wave packet imaged in this scene reflects one diurnal tide sequence. This differs considerably from the wave packets in slide #13, where one packet was produced every 24 hours and the packets were subjected to forcing through the confines of the Strait of Gibraltar and subsequently fanned out into the Mediterranean. In the shallow waters flowing over the continental shelf in the Gulf of Tongking, the waves obtain an amplitude of no more than 30 to 40 meters.

STS-7, June 1983. Picture #7-05-0245

Right click here to download a high-resolution version of the image (8.85 MB)


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