Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Captain John Smith's Voyage of Discovery from an "Out of this World" Perspective

Fellow Code 600 Employees:

Several people have been asking about the Earth science gift that was presented to the Queen today by Dr. Colleen Hartman of NASA HQ during the Science on a Sphere portion of the Queen's visit.

Attached is a jpeg of the artwork, and below and attached is a written explanation of the content of the artwork. PAO has expressed plans to mass produce a poster of the artwork -- but that would probably be a couple of months down the road. The concept was conceived by me and the artistic interpretation/implementation was done by Ms. Laura Rocchio of SSAI, supporting the Landsat Science Office. The basic idea was to commemorate the 400th anniversary of John Smith's exploration by using three of NASA Goddard's Earth imaging sensors (MODIS, Landsat 7 ETM+ and EO-1) to tell the story of the expansive portion of the Earth that he traversed that year.


Darrel Williams
Associate Chief, Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory
and Landsat Project Scientist

Credit: NASA

On December 20, 1606, a group 105 men and boys plus 39 sailors set sail from London, bound for the shores of America, some 4828 kilometers (3000 miles) distant. After 144 days at sea, the three Virginia Company ships made landfall at Cape Henry, Virginia on April 26, 1607. The Company went on to establish Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in what eventually became the United States of America. In 1608, one of the sailors, Captain John Smith, embarked upon a three-month surveying expedition of North America's largest estuary, the Chesapeake Bay. With no map or sextant to guide him, Smith relied upon compass and astrolabe for navigation.

This poster celebrates the Virginia Company's long journey from London to Jamestown and Captain Smith's exploration of the Chesapeake Bay. The 400th anniversary of Smith's Voyage of Discovery is commemorated here using data from three of NASA's Earth imaging sensors.

A cloud-free image showing the North Atlantic Ocean, eastern North America, and western Europe and Africa, features Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data captured in July 2004. This serves as the body of the poster, and helps convey the expansive portion of Earth that John Smith and his cohort traversed in 1607.

A Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) image of the Chesapeake Bay region is featured in the center. The white line demarks the path of Captain Smith's Chesapeake expedition in a 10-meter long shallop. White crosses indicate locations where Smith and his small cadre of sailors nailed wooden crosses to trees, marking the farthest extent of their explorations.

The small circle on the upper right of the bay image features an Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) Advanced Land Imager (ALI) image of central London acquired on February 14, 2001. The opposite circle shows a corresponding image of Jamestown acquired on April 3, 2007.

The rhumb lines across the Atlantic Ocean and the engraving of Captain Smith over Africa are taken from Smith's 1616 map of New England, the first published map to name America's northeastern seaboard. A small image of the Susan Constant, the largest of the three Virginia Company ships, can be found near the Chesapeake Bay on the MODIS image.

Captain Smith would surely marvel at the present day map-making capabilities, illustrated here. Today, images such as these, and the data used to create them, are relied upon by many nations to better understand and manage the natural and cultural resources of our planet.

Hmm. Give HRH the Queen a 'poster,' eh? Argh.



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