Pearl and Hermes Reef (above)
Maro Reef (below)
Hawaiian Islands

Pearl and Hermes Reef

Pearl and Hermes Reef

S13-51-2260 and S13-51-2261
Flight 41 C; 27.5N, 176W, 6 April 1984

Above: Just after the Challenger reached the northern limits of its orbit and the crew watched Midway Island slip by, the descending orbit carried them down the length of the Hawaiian Island chain. About 120 kilometers southeast of Midway, the nearly submerged Pearl and Hermes Reef came into view. An old atoll, sinking into the sea as the northwesterly end of the Hawaiian chain subsides, the former reef, beaches, and lagoonal distributary channels (through which the ebbing and flooding tidal waters were carried) showed in bright, almost luminous blues in the crystal-clear North Pacific waters.

Below: Another 200 kilometers southeast, a further reminder of the subsiding platform of the Hawaiian chain appeared beneath the deep blue of the sea. Maro Reef, another former atoll, has sunk much deeper than Pearl and Hermes. The old distributary channels are still visible, along with a few of the lagoonal coral knolls, but the surrounding reef is too deep and eroded to be seen, despite the great clarity of the ocean's waters.

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