These are photographs of Maracaibo
taken from earth orbit. These photographs range from shots taken from
both manned and unmanned flights. Some of them are quite spectacular,
and I've decided to include them here with the thought that others
might find them interesting as well.
Note that a few of the enlarged views
are quite large as they are posted with little or no compression to
maintain high resolution.
Bay & Lake Maracaibo
to Lake Maracaibo from Tablazo Bay, image taken in
above center of the image, a plume of sediment spreads
from the delta of the Catatumbo River,
the chief supplier of fresh water to the lake. Dredging
of the navigation channel through Tablazo Strait has
resulted in increased salinity of the lake; eutrophication
due to the discharge of sewage and industrial waste
has degraded the water quality of the lake, as has
pollution from oil exploration and production activities.
good view of Tablazo Bay at the entrance to the lake
in an image taken in the Fall of 1997.
Gulf of Venezuela, with a heavy load of sediment,
occupies most of the left portion of this near-vertical-looking
view. An inlet of the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf is a
major shipping lane for Venezuelan oil. The oil is
shipped from ports in Maracaibo (upper right) and
the new city of Tablazo across the Bay of Tablazo
from Maracaibo. The bay is constantly dredged to allow
the passage of large oil tankers to and from the ports
of Maracaibo and Tablazo and other ports in the northeastern
part of Lake Maracaibo (not visible on image).
you click on the enlarged view, the Gral.
Rafael Urdaneta Bridge can be seen quite
clearly as a white line in the upper right of the
south-southwest-looking, low-oblique photograph shows
the Bay of Tablazo and the city of Maracaibo at the
entrance into Lake Maracaibo.
was taken in February of 1996.
This satellite view
of the Tia Juana area was meticulously stitched together
by Steve Sleightholm. It's a great view of the area,
and those of you who lived in Tia Juana can use it
to identify the area where you used to live - assuming
it's still there. If it isn't, then one can view the
changes that have taken place since the years that
you were there.
Note that the enlargement
you get by clicking on the image below is full-sized,
so please give it time to download if you're on a
Many thanks to Steve
for his hard work in putting this image together &
allowing us to share it here
& Production Area - La Salina
Camp, Production Area & Harbor - Lagunillas
three satellite images, stitched together from recent
multiple satellite images by Steve Sleightholm, encompass
the areas of Cabimas and Lagunillas as they look today.
Descriptions of each area are provided within the images
themselves. Considerable time & effort was put into
these images by Steve to make them appear seamless.
that, in order to maintain the highest resolution
of the enlargements, they have not been
decreased in size or resolution from the originals.
So each enlargement that you get when you click on
the images may take some time to download depending
upon the speed of your Internet connection. But this
will allow you to closely examine each area when
you review the enlarged images.
Lake Maracaibo presents a complicated surface to interpret.
The area is the largest oil producing region in the
western hemisphere. Oil platforms and other infrastructure
supporting the oil industry can be seen in the lake
and along the coast. Oil slicks (very bright streaks)
are common. Heavy ship traffic produces linear ship
wakes. The vivid green streaks and swirls are patches
of duck weed growth that has thrived on the lake this
summer. The duck weed problem is so extensive that the
Venezuelan government launched a massive campaign to
image was taken by astronauts aboard the International
Space Station on August 23, 2004. Sunglint—sun
light reflecting off the relatively smooth water surface—produces
patterns that highlights water surface features and
movements. Sunglint reflects brightly off oil slicks,
ship wakes and water roughened variably by wind in this
image. Rough surfaces like floating vegetation (duck
weed) stand out against the smooth water.
photograph ISS009-E-19682 was acquired August 23, 2004,
with a Kodak K760C digital camera with an 180-mm lens,
and is provided by the Earth Observations Laboratory,
Johnson Space Center.
false-color (near-infrared, red, green) image of Lake
Maracaibo, Venezuela, has been processed to emphasize
details on the lake’s surface. The
scene shows oil slicks (the various dark patches)
in the southeastern portion of the lake on January 20,
2003. The slicks come from leaks in the various
oil production and storage platforms located on Lake
Maracaibo. Venezuela is the largest oil producing nation
in the Western Hemisphere.
image was produced using data from the Advanced Spaceborne
Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) flying
aboard NASA’s Terra satellite. The scene uses
the sensor’s near-infrared, red, and green bands
(3, 2, and 1), which were then “stretched”
to highlight the contrast of the oil slicks with the
unpolluted water. The water and land components of this
scene were processed and stretched separately and then
“stitched” back together into one image;
this stitching is evident along the shoreline in the
high-resolution version of this image. On land, the
red color indicates vegetated areas, the bluish areas
show paved surfaces, and the browns are bare land. At
full resolution, this scene is 15 meters per pixel and
spans an area of 900 square km.
courtesy NASA Earth Observatory.
MAY 2005: European Space Agency
(ESA) - This Envisat multitemporal
radar composite shows the port of Maracaibo, positioned
on the west side of the narrow strait that links oil-rich
Lake Maracaibo - the largest water body in South America
- with the Gulf of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea.
once pristine waters have been heavily polluted: oil
spills, along with sewage and river run-off, have caused
runaway blooms of duckweed or lemma, an aquatic plant.
port of Maracaibo, located on the west side of the strait,
is the second city of Venezuela after Caracas and the
capital of Zulia state. With a 1990 population of 1.29
million, it is the country's oil capital and a commercial
and industrial centre. Bright points visible off its
coast are individual ships.
General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge connects the
city to the eastern side of the strait. At eight kilometres
in length it is one of the longest bridges in the world.
It is just visible at the centre of the image as a reddish
line contrasting with the surrounding greenish waters.
On the eastern side to the south is the city of Cabimas.
images measure surface texture rather than reflected
light. The colour in the image comes from the fact that
this is actually a combination of three Envisat Advanced
Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) images, and works to
highlight changes occurring between acquisitions. A
colour is assigned to each date of acquisition: red
for 8 September 2004, green for 26 February 2004 and
blue for 17 June 2004.
particular, signs of seasonal cultivation can be seen
in the patchwork fields on the eastern side of the strait.
view was acquired in ASAR Image Mode Precision, with
pixel sampling of 12.5 metres. It covers an area of
62 km x 70 km.
2005: The first three satellite images
were taken using a subscription program called KEYHOLE.
Actually, GOOGLE just purchased this
company & its software a few weeks ago, so it's
now been renamed GOOGLE EARTH PLUS
although, as of this date, many aspects of the program
still retain the former name. It's an amazing program
that allows one to “fly” & zoom to any
address in the United States, & many overseas cities,
by just typing in an address, from which one then can
zoom in for more detail. Tilting, panning, & revolving
the images to obtain a better view angle is also possible.
many parts of the world are not adequately mapped in
high resolution, some cities show considerably more
detail than others. Unfortunately, Venezuelan cities
show only low to moderate resolution, so one can't zoom
in to a particular address yet. But the resolution is
good enough to at least give a good view of the cities
from a distance.
see some amazing shots of what is available today, download
the free demo program by clicking here,
install it, and then go to the KEYHOLE/GOOGLE
Community Forums website to see some of the amazing
images that people have found using this program. You
may even find it compelling enough to subscribe to,
as I did some time ago.
of the 'new' airport “La Chinita”
which replaced the old “Grano de Oro”
airport, and its relationship to the city, situated
to the west of Maracaibo.
closer view of “La
of the old “Grano
de Oro” airport, and its relationship to
showing the relationship between the location of the
new airport & the old airport.
of the old
de Oro” showing the location of the old main
of the old “Grano
airport showing the former layout
of the airport for comparison with the image on the
left. Inset taken from map originally contributed by
all of us have landed and taken off from Maiquetia
at least once during our years in Venezuela, I decided
to include a satellite photo of it as well.)
Ivan & Lake Maracaibo, 2004
satellite image of Hurricane Ivan over the Caribbean
Sea taken at 0845EDT (1245GMT) September 9, 2004, with
Lake Maracaibo lower right of center.
satellite image from the National Oceanic
and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane
Ivan taken at 3:45 p.m. EDT on September 9, 2004.
satellite view released by the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA) of Hurricane Ivan over
the Caribbean region, date & time unknown, but later
than those above by about 12 hours, on
September 10, 2004.
photo of the Bay of Tablazo, entrance to Lake Maracaibo,
and the city of Maracaibo. Date unknown.
taken with infrared film. Date Unknown.
Maracaibo from high altitude taken from the SeaWiFS
satellite sometime after 1997, launch date of SeaWiFS.
The islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire are
visible just off the northern coast.
Maracaibo with the
Urdaneta bridge circled. This shot is
extremely rare as lighting conditions have to be just
right to be able to see the bridge from space. Date
Maracaibo, taken in 1992.
to Lake Maracaibo, taken in 1992. Shot looks to the
Maracaibo taken from the Space Shuttle on flight STS
59, taken in 1994.
Maracaibo taken from the Space Shuttle on flight STS
73, taken in 1995.
taken from the Space Shuttle on flight STS 109 from
305 nautical miles high, taken in 2002 with a Hasselblad
on Kodak Elite 100S film, 10% cloud cover.
slicks occurred on Lake Maracaibo in northwestern
Venezuela between December 2002 and January 2003,
and were observed by various satellite instruments.
Dark areas show surface slick, best seen in the middle
altitude, high resolution shot of Lake Maracaibo and
surrounding area including Colombia and down through
the Andes. Date unknown, but fairly recent. The red
highlighted areas show fires in Venezuela & Colombia.
Peninsula, Golfete de Coro (angular patch of muddy
water). The Golfete de Coro is cross-cut by faults
of the Caribbean plate boundary system, hence the
sharp, straight shorelines. South of the gulf, details
of other faults and structures are clearly seen.
Taken from the Space Shuttle on flight STS 109 from
305 nautical miles high, 2002.
7 March 2003 by the ESA's MEris satellite, the area
covers the Lago de Maracaibo and the
Guajira and Paraguaná peninsulas, with
the islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire
clearly visible in the Caribbean. The
Lake is surrounded on either side by mountain chains,
to the east the Cordillera de Mérida and to
the west the Sierra de Perijá. The most interesting
things in this image, however, are the forest fires
that can be observed on the forest plains extending
out from the mountainous regions to the left and the
right of the image. Particularly looking at the bottom
right we see smoke plumes from these fires spreading
from the northeast to the southwest. These fires are
likely to be controlled fires for forest clearing
for agriculture; such de-forestation is at its peak
in this area in March. 300 meter resolution.
Maracaibo and the
entrance to the lake clearly showing the GeneralRafael Urdaneta bridge.
Perfect shadowing of the bridge and the reflectivity
of the water combine to make this impressive view
possible. Shot looks to the southwest, with the bridge
circled in red. Taken in early 2000 from the Space
Shuttle, mission STS099.
photo taken in early 2000 from the Space Shuttle, Mission
STS099, except that this adjacent image has been rotated
180° to more accurately orient the image to show
Maracaibo on the western side of the lake. Also, the
photo was shifted more to the southwest. The GeneralRafael Urdaneta bridge is
also visible in this image, but not as clearly as in
the 1st image. Taken with a Hasselblad camera with a
photo taken in early 2000 from the Space Shuttle, Mission
STS099, and this adjacent image has also been rotated
180° to show Maracaibo on the western side of the
lake. This photo was shifted more to the northeast,
clearly showing the dredged channel entry to the lake
from the Golfo de Venezuela & the Carribbean Sea.
The GeneralRafael Urdaneta bridge is
not visible in this image because of a change in the
lighting. Also taken with a Hasselblad camera with a
- 17 DEC 2003
- 26 JUN 2004
Invasion in Lake Maracaibo
of duckweed dominate the center of Venezuela’s
Lake Maracaibo in this Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer
(MODIS) image acquired by NASA’s Aqua satellite
on June 26, 2004. The Venezuelan government declared
a state of emergency in mid-June to remove the fast-growing
weed, spending about $2 million per month on clean-up
efforts. Duckweed, more formally known as Lemna obscura,
is not native to Venezuela and this is the first time
that officials have had to deal with the plant.
There is some
mystery as to how the foreign interloper came to reside
in the waters of Lake Maracaibo—South America’s
largest lake. “This type of Lemna is from
Florida and Texas. We believed that it was transported
by a ship,” says Dr. Nola Fernandez Acosta,
a researcher from the Department of Environmental Engineering
at the University of Zulia in Maracaibo, Venezuela.
It is also possible that someone brought the plant to
how the plant arrived, it is thriving on the lake. In
the above image, duckweed covers 18 percent of the 13,280-square-kilometer
lake, according to Acosta’s analysis. The only
way to remove the weed is to pull it out of the lake
physically, says Acosta. No chemical or biological method
has been found to treat the weed. The removal process
has proven to be particularly difficult in the center
of the lake where a specially equipped ship may be needed
to pull the weed off the lake. So far, efforts to remove
the weed are barely keeping pace with its growth. In
the conditions prevalent in Lake Maracaibo, duckweed
can double in size in two days.
invasion points to other problems in Lake Maracaibo.
The lake basin hosts Venezuela’s largest oil fields
and, ironically, dispersants used to clean up oil spills
on the lake contributed to the current crisis. Acosta
reports finding high concentrations of biodegradable
dispersants that contain phosphorous and poliaspartic
acid—a chemical used to increase nutrient uptake
in crops. The dispersants combined with fertilizers
flowing into the lake through agricultural run-off to
provide a veritable feast for the duckweed. Interestingly,
the plant’s growth follows the same swirling pattern
as the oil slicks seen on the lake in satellite images
in December 2002 and January 2003.
Acosta says the
weed probably began growing on Lake Maracaibo in early
February 2004, but was not recognized until April. Duckweed
is not toxic to fish, but some scientists are concerned
that it could suck oxygen out of the lake as it decays,
asphyxiating large numbers of fish. Though officials
say the weed hasn't harmed fish yet, it is putting a
dent in the local fishing industry. The pesky plant
clogs the motors of small boats, making it impossible
for fishers to launch their vessels. Duckweed further
threatens the local ecosystem by choking out native
plants as it shades large portions of the lake. In certain
conditions, the weed may concentrate heavy metals and
bacteria such as salmonella and Vibrio cholerae, the
bacterium that causes cholera. Despite these problems,
the weed may yet have some positive use; Acosta says
duckweed can be treated to be fed to poultry or to make
The above image
shows Lake Maracaibo at 250 meters per pixel, MODIS’
maximum spatial resolution. The image is available in
additional resolutions. On December 17, 2003, before
the duckweed invasion, MODIS onboard the Aqua satellite
captured another image of Lake Maracaibo in which the
green swirls that are so notable in the above image
NASA image courtesy
Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA
GSFC. Caption information courtesy Dr. Nola Fernandez
Acosta, the Department of Environmental Engineering,
University of Zulia in Maracaibo, Venezuela.