The islands of the Bahamas are situated on large depositional platforms—the Great and Little Bahama Banks—composed mainly of carbonate sediments ringed by reefs. The islands are the only parts of the platform currently exposed above sea level. The sediments were formed mostly from the skeletal remains of organisms settling to the sea floor; over geologic time, these sediments consolidated to form carbonate sedimentary rocks such as limestone.
This astronaut photograph provides a view of tidal flats and channels near Sandy Cay, on the western side of Long Island and along the eastern margin of the Great Bahama Bank. The continuously exposed parts of the island are brown, a result of soil formation and vegetation growth. To the north of Sandy Cay, an off-white tidal flat composed of carbonate sediments is visible; light blue-green regions indicate shallow water on the tidal flat. The tidal flow of seawater is concentrated through gaps in the land surface, leading to the formation of relatively deep channels that cut into the sediments. The channels and areas to the south of the island have a vivid blue color that indicates deeper water.
Astronaut photograph ISS026-E-5121 was acquired on November 27, 2010, with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera using an 800 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 26 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. 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 William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.
East of southern Florida, large swaths of ocean water glow peacock blue, thanks to their shallow depths. Near Florida and Cuba, the underwater terrain is hilly, and the crests of many of these hills comprise the islands of the Bahamas.