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Spacecraft nadir point: 38.2° N, 54.0° E

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Spacecraft Altitude: 173 nautical miles (320km)
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Image Caption: STS51F-040-0064 Kara-Bogaz Gol, Turkmenistan August 1985
This northwest-looking, low-oblique photograph shows the nearly empty basin of Kara-Bogaz Gol, an arm of the Caspian Sea. The average elevation of the deep blue Caspian Sea is 92 feet (28 meters) below sea level. The average elevation of Kara-Bogaz Gol, which acts as a natural evaporation basin--draining water from the Caspian Sea and depositing salts along the shore of the basin--is 102 feet (31 meters) below sea level. In 1979, the government built a dike across the narrow strip of land that separates the sea and the basin. In the 1980s, the low water levels in the Caspian Sea--caused by the diversion of water upstream on the Volga River (the sea's main source of water) for numerous government projects--allowed only a small amount of water into Kara-Bogaz Gol. The climate of this region is semiarid, but lack of precipitation during some years can cause desert-like conditions, resulting in even lower water levels in the sea. This photograph shows that much of the Kara-Bogaz Gol basin is void of water, except near its western end.