A Visual Perspective of American Samoa as Seen from Space

The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission has provided us with a breathtaking view of the tropical island of Tutuila, the largest in the American Samoa archipelago. Situated in the South Pacific Ocean, this stunning image allows us to zoom in and explore the island at its full 10 m resolution.

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the US and is part of the Samoan Islands chain. Located approximately 4000 km southwest of Hawaii and about 3000 km northwest of New Zealand, American Samoa consists of five volcanic islands (Tutuila, Aunu’u, Tau, Ofu, and Olosega) and two coral atolls (Rose and Swains). The eastern part of the chain forms American Samoa, while the western part forms the independent state of Samoa.

Tutuila, the focus of this image, is a small and narrow island characterized by volcanic mountains. Mount Matafao, which lies in the center of the island, reaches an impressive height of 653 m, making it the highest peak. The mountain range cuts across the island, creating a rugged landscape with steep cliffs dominating the northern part while the south is relatively flatter.

The presence of coral reefs surrounding Tutuila creates natural barriers to the open sea, resulting in beautiful lagoons that can be seen in turquoise hues along the southern coast. These reefs not only provide stunning visual appeal but also serve as important ecosystems supporting a diverse range of marine life.

Tutuila is also home to the capital of American Samoa, Pago Pago. This vibrant urban area lies on the deepest inlet that nearly divides the island in two. The city is served by a busy harbor and encompasses several villages and popular beaches. One notable feature of Pago Pago is its location within part of the National Park of American Samoa. This park, established to protect thick tropical rainforests and pristine coral reefs, is the only US national park in the South Pacific. It serves as a sanctuary for unique flora and fauna, offering visitors an opportunity to immerse themselves in the natural wonders of the region.

A notable landmark in the vicinity of Pago Pago is the Pago Pago International Airport, located approximately 10 km southwest of the city. The airport’s runways are built partly on a fringing reef, a testament to the engineering ingenuity required to establish infrastructure in this remote and geographically challenging environment.

Off the southeast coast of Tutuila lies the small volcanic island of Aunu’u. Covering about 1.5 sq km, Aunu’u features the Faimulivai Marsh, a freshwater marsh visible as a dark area on the eastern part of the island. This marsh, designated as a protected National Natural Landmark, was formed from the drainage of the low-lying Aunu’u Crater. It’s the largest wetland of its kind in American Samoa and harbors a rich variety of plant and animal species.

The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission has once again provided us with a mesmerizing glimpse into the natural beauty of our planet. This image of Tutuila, with its volcanic mountains, stunning coral reefs, and vibrant urban areas, serves as a reminder of the diverse and fragile ecosystems that exist across our world’s oceans. Let us continue to appreciate and protect these wonders for generations to come.