Espíritu Santo Archipelago

Espíritu Santo Archipelago

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of an island group in the Gulf of California near the southeastern edge of Baja California Sur. Sunglint reflects off the water surface, accentuating wave movement, ship wakes, and cloud shadows.

The island group comprises two large islands, Isla del Espíritu Santo and Isla La Partida, as well as several smaller surrounding islands, Isla Ballena, Gallo, Gallina, and Los Islotes. The islands appear rust-colored due to previous tectonic and volcanic activity that deposited layers of black lava and pink volcanic ash.

The Baja Peninsula acts as a natural wind and wave break that protects islands in the Gulf of California from erosion. Slowed erosion has resulted in the preservation of rock shelters and caves. Exploration and excavation of these shelters contribute to understanding the geomorphology, geology, and ancient human patterns on the islands. Archeologists have found human artifacts artifacts dating back approximately ten thousand years, providing evidence of human activity on the islands.

As part of a Gulf of California UNESCO World Heritage Site, the islands and surrounding waters are protected in order to support bird migration, endemic species, and marine life. The diverse wetlands and the preserved reef systems provide food and shelter to many species, including the endemic antelope squirrel, blue-spotted jawfish, and black-tailed brush lizard.  There is also a diverse bird population in the area, including brown pelicans, great blue herons, and hummingbirds.

Astronaut photograph ISS067-E-286000 was acquired on August 20, 2022, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 400 millimeters. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 67 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab 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 Sara Schmidt, GeoControl Systems, JETS Contract at NASA-JSC.