Spiral Eddies

Southern Hemisphere
Indian Ocean

Southern Hemisphere, Indian Ocean

Flight STS-7; 22 June 1983, southern Indian Ocean

Observations of isolated spiral eddies were made on subsequent shuttle missions and were well imaged from the Shuttle Imaging Radar-A (SIR-A) flown on STS-2, November 1981. All of these observations led oceanographers to believe that the spirals were isolated spots in the ocean intriguing but of no great importance. Then came STS-7, in June 1983.
    The crew of the Challenger was searching for spirals in the ocean and found them in the southern Indian Ocean, south of the equator. They were spiraling clockwise counter to all seen previously in the Northern Hemisphere. It was clear then to oceanographers that spiral eddies were influenced by the Coriolis effect of the rotating earth and that they were, therefore, significant dynamic features in the upper ocean.

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