Orbital View: Oceans Edition

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

It’s World Oceans Day, giving the astronauts circling above us (or those back here on planet Earth) the perfect opportunity to post their best ocean-themed ‘grams. Here’s one from a current resident of the International Space Station, NASA’s Jeff Williams:


Happy #WorldOceansDay. It is easy to appreciate their beauty from up here.

A photo posted by Jeff Williams (@astro_jeffw) on

Meanwhile, British astronaut Tim Peake of the European Space Agency got a taste of some salt-water serendipity, flying over the same iceberg for a second time:

And here’s former ISS resident Scott Kelly with a throwback:

One of the Instagram accounts for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration posted this lovely shot from beneath the waves:

If that doesn’t inspire you to become a mermaid (or merman), I don’t know what will.

To leave you off with a bit of seawater inspiration, here’s an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s “Bardic Symbols”—a poem which, Sage pointed out, was later republished as “As I Ebb’d With the Ocean of Life.” It originally appeared in the April 1860 issue of The Atlantic and features the poet’s contemplative walk along the shoreline:

As I ebbed with an ebb of the ocean of life,

As I wended the shores I know,

As I walked where the sea-ripples wash you, Paumanok,

Where they rustle up, hoarse and sibilant,

Where the fierce old mother endlessly cries for her castaways,

I, musing, late in the autumn day, gazing off southward,

Alone, held by the eternal self of me that threatens to get the better

        of me and stifle me,

Was seized by the spirit that trails in the lines underfoot,

In the ruin, the sediment, that stands for all the water and all the

         land of the globe.

(See all Orbital Views—our long-running series of satellite images from around the globe—here.)