It may come as a surprise to learn that many geographers consider Iceland to be a part of an extended Europe. It was settled by Europeans centuries ago and still has Danish roots. But, geologically, Iceland lies at the boundary between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. It sits atop one of the few places where the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a divergent spreading zone of volcanic origin, extends over a wide area above the sea surface. Take a look at this satellite image taken in summer when the winter snow have melted (but some of the white is a permanent icecap, shown again on page 17-5).
Iceland has become a popular place for tourist visits. The Icelandic nation has a population of about 330,000 people. Its capital is Reykjavik, on its southwestern shores. Here is an ASTER image along with an aerial photo:
In a sense, this next image also belongs to Europe. The Canary Islands are a part of Spain but lie in the Atlantic off the coast of Morocco. The island of Tenerife is built as a volcano (called Teide) rising as an offshoot of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. It is seen here as a SIR-C image:
Another volcanic island on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is St. Helena, shown here in an astronaut photo from the International Space Station. St. Helena was the British island where Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte I was sent by the European allies into exile following his defeat in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo. He remained on this bleak landscape until his death in 1821.
Now to Europe proper.
Most of us are familiar with the shape of Europe and its surrounding regions from our geography lessons since our grade school days. Now here is what that continent (continuous with, but arbitrarily separated from, Asia) looks like as seen in a physiographic map (greens imply significant vegetation; browns could either mean less vegetation, as in Russia, or, in Africa, desertlike conditions):
Here is an up to date map of Europe that shows the countries from the British Isles to Russia.
To assist those who are not too familiar with the locations of Europe's major cities, we provide this map:
As we might cross the Atlantic Ocean in a spaceship, the first land we might see if enroute to, say, London is the British Isles. Here is a satellite view, looking east (top), of these great islands (Britain-Scotland-Wales and Ireland), with the continental coastline from about Normandy to southern Norway:
Here is a map showing the major cities in the British Isles:
Ireland, the "Emerald Isle" so dear to every Irishman, has been colored green in this next scene by projecting the TM Band 4 image through a green filter. The upper eastern part of the island is Northern Ireland, at the end of the Belfast Lough (actually, a marine bay). The large inland lake to the west is Lough Neagh. In this June image, late spring, the Irish countryside is truly a rich green almost everywhere. The Republic of Ireland occupies the larger part of the land. Its capital, Dublin is on the coast just below center right. The large island in the Irish Sea is the Isle of Man. The jutting land peninsula in top right is the tip of the Scottish mainland, at the Mull of Galloway.
The above image is much like one produced from SRTM radar data used to determine elevation. Low areas (central valleys) appear in green; higher, more hilly to mountainous terrain are in shades of brown:
A bit of the charm of Ireland appears in this photo of Clifden, a resort town on the west coast in County Galway:
Dublin on the Irish east coast is quite familiar to American Irish who journey back to the land of their forekin. Here is Dublin as seen by SIR-C radar (Section 8):
And the center city as seen by SPOT:
And here it is "up close and personal", looking down O'Connell Street, the city's main thoroughfare:
Ireland has always been a favorite destination for Americans, many of Irish ancestry and others who seek its enchantment as tourists. A must-see is the rugged west coast of the Republic of Ireland. A favorite of most visitors is the Ring of Kerry, which follows the coastline around the Iveragh Peninsula, in County Kerry. This SIR-C radar image shows the entire Peninsula, with a hint of the hilly terrain that marks its interior; below it is a typical scene along the Ring:
The British Isles have a special meaning to many Americans. From an historical standpoint, England especially is cherished, since it can rightly be called the "Mother Country". We look at southern England next in an unusual situation: a thick cover of snow blankets most of the landscape, a relatively rare event owing to the normally milder climate afforded by warm ocean currents.
The demographic structure of the main cities of the southern British isles is well-defined by seeing it at night, as it is displayed by its lights:
One of the great cities of the world is London, shown here in this scene that covers part of southeast England. The Thames Estuary is conspicuous. The countryside, in this March 1973 Landsat image, has just begun to "green up" as field crops and grasslands resume growth. Besides greater London (blue, near center), other well known smaller cities, among them Oxford and Reading, are hard to discern. The dark, vegetation-poor area in the upper right is East Anglia, whose rocky soils inhibit extensive farming. Through London itself passes the Prime Meridian (0°) for the global latitude-longitude coordinate system.
This ASTER image zeroes in on Greater London and surrounding countryside. The Parliament area shown two images down is near the center. The green areas to the west are St. James Park and Hyde Park.
This annotated astronaut photo taken from the International Space Station shows many of the famed landmarks within the central city.
Americans feel a special kinship with England, despite our revolt against our "Motherland", its monarchy system, and unrepresented TAXES. But England's Kings and Queens remain through today. Here is the London home of royalty, Buckingham Palace, as seen by an OrbImage satellite:
London's fame and its tie to Americans' heritage will prompt us to spend a bit more time in looking at some of its landmarks. Greater London's area is among the largest in Europe. The image most of us conjure up when asked to visualize London will include the Parliament Building and Big Ben.
The Quickbird satellite has taken high resolution images of the Parliament buildings, the nearby bridge across the Thames, and the Jubilee Park rededicated in 2000 (Millenium Park) with its huge Ferris Wheel (400 ft high) known as the London Eye.
An enlargement, taken at another time, shows both the Parliament buildings and the great Wheel in a different orientation than above.
Much of the same area seen in these two space images is identified in this map:
See if you can find the following in the images: Parliament buildings and Westminster Abbey; St. James Park; Waterloo Station; Charing Cross Station; Her Majesty's Treasury; St. Thomas Hospital. We show below a photo of perhaps the visual symbol of London, Big Ben and the Parliament buildings:
Beyond the Thames and the government buildings, present day London is acquiring a modern look, with tall buildings (but few skyscrapers). Some tall buildings noted on the north side of the Thames in the space imagery take on a somewhat different perspective when seen in this color aerial oblique photo:
Two of the largest cities in England are Manchester and Liverpool, seen here in big versions (hopefully, to allow labeling to be read) of Google Earth images:
In much of Scotland are the Scottish Highlands, low mountains that experience glaciation. They are a large part of this scene from space, with well known towns indicated by the annotation.
The northern and western parts of Scotland are mountainous (reaching altitudes above 1300 meters [4000 ft[). The Scottish Highlands (part of the great alpine chain that includes the Appalachians) are a popular tourist destination.
In the history of modern Geology, this is a famous region where many of the 19th Century concepts about metamorphism were developed. The Highlands are divided by the Great Glen Fault, a dextral strike-slip fault (west side has moved southward) around which the west block moved about 100 km southward. The fault localizes valleys and lakes, the most famed of which is Loch Ness (guess who lives in it?) at the north end. Here is a Landsat subscene showing the fault and the Highlands (Grampian Mts. at bottom center and Northern Highlands in upper left):
The mountains west of Loch Ness were once part of the present North American crustal block whereas those to the east belong to the Eurasian block. These blocks came together about 400,000,000 years ago as a supercontinent that has since split apart. The Great Glen fault is of that age. The fault itself is a zone of weakness where a river carved out a valley that was occupied by glaciers as late as 10000 years ago. Glacial deposits blocked the northern outlet causing the post-glacial runoff to collect into the deep Loch Ness. Here is another view from space together with an aerial view of the south end:
In the western Highlands is the large Ardnamurchan Peninula, where the concept of a "ring dike complex" was first developed. Here is the area from space:
The capital city of Scotland, the upper half of the British Isles, is Edinburgh (pronounced "Ed-in-bruh locally but "Ed-in-buro" by Americans). This is an ERS-SAR view, somewhat enlarged. Note the blackish oval feature in from the right center. That is the famed "Arthur's Seat", which was a key aid to the Scot James Hutton who is credited as the one who laid the foundation of modern Geology.
Less colorful but also informative is this Landsat image of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth:
The old city of Edinburgh has a low skyline. Its wide streets help to make it an especially attractive city. Here is a view:
Across the North Sea from England and Scotland lies the northwestern part of the Netherlands, or Holland. The scene below reveals one of the great engineering feats by any nation. Much of the land was once under water or has been created by backfill. The great inland bodies of water were known as the Zuider Zee after they enlarged following breaches in the 13th century of the line of present day barrier islands known as the West Frisian Islands. In 1932 a 25 km (16 mile) barrier dam was completed to divide this water into the Wadden Zee (north) and Ijssell Meer (south). The change in flow facilitated drainage that reclaimed landmasses such as Flevoland, known as polders; these show up a bluish-gray areas. Some of the many Dutch canals are visible. Amsterdam, Holland�s largest city (in blue tones, near bottom center), lies along a major canal to the sea at the bottom of the silty Meer.
This Envisat image shows Amsterdam near the top and Europe's largest port, Rotterdam, in the lower left:
This Landsat subscene provides a closer look at Amsterdam and the surrounding countryside
Look at the inner city, shown as a series of semi-circles. The map reveals their identity
Amsterdam is a city of canals and travel by boat is common, but bicycles as well as cars are also much used.
Amsterdam and some other parts of Holland are on reclaimed land. Seawall dikes protect these areas, some being below sealevel. Two other cities in Holland are well known - Rotterdam (on one of the distributaries at the mouth of the Rhein) and the Hague (Gravenhage):
The capital of Belgium (and Headquarters of NATO) is Brussels, seen first in a Landsat image and then by SPOT:
Nestled among Belgium, Germany, and France is the Duchy of Luxembourg, a small independent country. Here is a view obtained by the SPOT satellite:
France has long been a major, generally stable part of Europe. Here is the entire country as seen in a satellite mosaic; below it is a map of the provinces of France (equivalent to the states in America):
The queen city of Europe - in terms of beauty - is Paris, France. We have already taken a thorough visual tour of Paris on page 4-4, which you can check out as a refresher. As a reminder, here is a SPOT image of the City of Lights. Then we will show some other images of France:
First we examine a very famous area off the English Channel - the beaches of Normandy, the scene of the Allied invasion of France on June 6, 1944 (see the movie "The Longest Day"), and part of the Cherbourg Peninsula:
This is a map of the five landing beaches and a satellite strip showing Omaha and Utah beaches (both attacked by American troops):
This next photo can be labeled "What was Eisenhower thinking when this was chosen?" It shows the cliffs at Omaha Beach and remnants of fortifications on the flat land above.
Aside from Paris, there are few really large cities in the French interior. One of the smaller is Clermont-Ferrand on the Allier River which passes through the Auvergne: