Tetiaroa Island is part of the Society Islands archipelago in the
southern Pacific Ocean, one of several island clusters in French
Polynesia. Tetiaroa is an atoll comprised of thirteen small islets (or motus). This astronaut photograph illustrates the typical circular appearance of a fully developed atoll.
The ring of islands-covered in green vegetation and white-to-tan
sandy beaches-develops on coral reefs, which originally form around a
volcanic island. As the volcanic island gradually disappears due to
subsidence and erosion, the coral reefs continue to grow upwards. Over
time, the central volcanic island is completely submerged, leaving a
ring of coral reefs and islands that surround a lagoon. The shallow
lagoon waters appear blue-green in this image, and contrast with darker
and deeper Pacific Ocean waters surrounding the atoll.
One of the motus in the southern
portion of the atoll, Tahuna Rahi, is a protected bird sanctuary, and
it is the nesting site of red- and brown-footed boobies, frigatebirds,
and terns (among other species). Access to the atoll is via boat, as
the airstrip was closed in 2004 due to safety and security concerns.
Tetiaroa Island is also known as "Marlon Brando's Island." The late
film star purchased the atoll from the French Polynesian government
between 1966 and 1967. While the motus
were his property, the government retained the rights to the coral
reefs and lagoons to preserve control of marine resources. Following
Brando's death in 2004, ownership of the approximately 8-kilometer-wide
atoll passed into other private hands, and there are now plans to build
a luxury resort among the islets.
Astronaut photograph ISS018-E-24351
was acquired on January 27, 2009, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera
fitted with an 180 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth
Observations experiment and the Image Science & Analysis
Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 18 crew.The image in this article has been
cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been
removed. The International Space Station Program
supports the laboratory to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that
will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make
those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken
by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.