The coastal cliffs of Christmas Island
Captain William Mynors was not particularly creative as he sailed past a remote island in the Indian Ocean on the 'Royal Mary', a ship belonging to the British East India Company, on 25 December 1643. He named the 135-square-kilometre island, which he could not even disembark on, 'Christmas Island'. In this image, acquired with the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) TerraSAR-X radar satellite, one thing is clear - even today, tropical rainforest proliferates on the island and the coastal cliffs continue to make life difficult for mariners.
The island is surrounded by some 80 kilometres of cliffs. The choppy waters of the surf on the south coast are not easy to image clearly for the radar on TerraSAR-X - the waves reflect the radar signals back to the satellite very irregularly. It looks different in the bay between the only harbour on the island, Flying Fish Cove in the northeast, and West White Beach in the northwest: "When the image was acquired on 26 November 2012, the water there was apparently calm," explains mission manager Stefan Buckreuss from the DLR Microwaves and Radar Institute. "The smooth surface reflects the signals away from the satellite, so it appears as a dark surface."
View the full resolution image.