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Christmas Island Atoll

37. Christmas Island Atoll

Christmas Island is one of the Line Islands, located in the west central Pacific. The largest atoll in the Pacific, Christmas Island is 160 kilometers in circumference. It was discovered by Capt. James Cook on Christmas Eve, 1777. The original inhabitants lived in the southeast portion of the island where a solitary airstrip can now be seen (bottom left of frame). Coral islands are notorious for the history of shipwrecks on their sharp-reefed coastlines, so it is no surprise that the bay on the east of the island is called the Bay of Wrecks.

More recently, both the United States and Great Britain have maintained bases on the island for nuclear testing, and a more extensive airfield can be seen on the northeast end of the island. The atoll also supports a government-owned copra plantation. (See vegetation in top right of frame.) Notice the pale blue of the northern lagoon contrasted with the deep blue of the surrounding ocean. The southeastern peninsula, jutting into the Pacific, is generating a cloud tail.

STS-41D, August-September 1984. Picture #14-33-046

Right click here to download a high-resolution version of the image (8.91 MB)


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