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Pearl Harbor from above, 1941-2011


A satellite picture of Pearl Harbor, acquired by the GeoEye-1 satellite on Sept. 24, shows the USS Missouri docked at Battleship Row as a museum ship, with its bow pointing toward the USS Arizona memorial at lower right. The wreck of the Arizona can be seen below the white memorial, barely visible beneath the water's surface.

Seventy years after a "date which will live in infamy," this satellite image of Pearl Harbor shows the symbols of a war's beginning and end.

The symbol of the end is more evident: The USS Missouri sits at its dock at Ford Island in the Hawaiian harbor, serving as a museum ship. In 1945, the "Mighty Mo" was the stage for the formal Japanese surrender at the end of World War II. After almost a half-century of service, the battleship was decommissioned for good in 1992 and took its place on Pearl Harbor's Battleship Row in 1998.

The Missouri wasn't even afloat on Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese airplanes bombed the harbor and drew the United States into the war. But the battleship Arizona was. In the picture above, snapped by the GeoEye-1 satellite, the outlines of the Arizona are barely visible at upper right, beneath the surface of the water. The USS Arizona Memorial is the white structure sitting above the ship.

GeoEye-1, a polar-orbiting satellite operated by the GeoEye commercial venture, focused on Pearl Harbor on Sept. 24 from a height of 423 miles as it sped over the scene at 17,000 mph.

The scene was quite different in 1941, on what President Franklin Roosevelt dubbed a day of infamy. The aerial photograph you see below, taken from U.S. Navy archives, shows the wreckage in the harbor on Dec. 10, 1941, three days after the attack. Dark trails of oil stream from the dead and damaged ships. From this altitude, you get a sense of the attack's toll on the U.S. fleet, but not of the human cost: 2,390 Americans killed, 1,178 wounded.   

U.S. Navy

This aerial photograph of Pearl Harbor's Battleship Row was captured on Dec. 10, 1941, after the Japanese attack. The sunken USS California is at upper left. The capsized Oklahoma and the Maryland are at left center, the sunken West Virginia and the lightly damaged Tennessee are at lower center, The sunken Arizona is at lower right, in the same position where it lies today. Dark streaks of oil stream from the damaged vessels.

Today, veterans, family members and dignitaries are gathering at Pearl Harbor to commemorate the 70th anniversary. Flags are flying at half-staff. And Americans are looking back at the events of 1941 from a remote perspective, as if from a great height.

These views of Pearl Harbor serve as a somber entry in the Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar, which puts a spotlight on views of Earth from outer space every day from now until Christmas. Click on the links below for more about Pearl Harbor Day, as well as other images from the calendar:

Pearl Harbor coverage:

More space views from the calendar:

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