An astronaut aboard the International Space Station (ISS) used the highest power lens available to document the complex patterns around Cape Coral, a master-planned city born in 1957. The development is a hub of the Fort Myers metropolitan area—one of the youngest cities in the United States and home to 680,000 people.
Cape Coral is also known to some as the “Waterfront Wonderland.” Many of the dark lines through this development on the Gulf of Mexico are not streets but a vast network of constructed canals totaling more than 400 miles (640 kilometers)—perhaps the longest canal shoreline in the world. The canal system is so extensive that local ecology and tides have been affected.
Boat wakes (image center) appear as thin white lines on the wide Caloosahatchee River, which separates Cape Coral from Iona. The Caloosahatchee has been extensively engineered to assist river traffic. One such channel is the straight line (top left) cutting through the small islands, or keys. The 3,400 feet (1,000 meter) long Cape Coral Bridge (lower right) was opened in early 1964, just a few years after the founding of the city. The bridge significantly reduces travel times to the cities of Iona and Fort Myers on the opposite side of the river. Another bridge (on the left) leads to Sanibel Island, a popular tourist destination.
Many of the shorelines are extensively covered by mangrove wetlands. Several areas in the region are protected, partly because mangroves protect coastlines against erosion. Manatees abound in the waters of Florida, and a wildlife refuge for manatees has been established on San Carlos Bay.
An astronaut on the space shuttle got a wider view of the region in July 1997.
Astronaut photograph ISS047-E-84351 was acquired on April 27, 2016, with a Nikon D4 digital camera using a, 1150 millimeter lens, and 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 47 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 M. Justin Wilkinson, Texas State University, Jacobs Contract at NASA-JSC.