Mar del Fuego

Tierra del Fuego, the land of fire, was what Magellan named the tip of South America in 1520. He saw the fires set by local inhabitants who did not want the Portuguese explorer to set foot on their land.

A new page in the history of this distant part of our globe is now being written. Oil has been discovered off the eastern shore of Tierra del Fuego, and Argentina is building offshore platforms to access it. Brightly lit, they appear from orbit as constellations—not in the starry sky, but on the surface of the sea. Collectively, they are one of the most brightly-lit areas I have seen anywhere on Earth (except for Las Vegas, which still holds the title). From my orbital perspective, this is no longer Tierra del Fuego but Mar del Fuego.

In these pictures taken from Space Station, the dim lights from Tierra del Fuego, visible in the background, do not hold a candle to the bright lights of the offshore oil platforms.

Don’s blog also appears at

14 thoughts on “Mar del Fuego”

  1. Dear Don,
    those are not offshore oil platforms… those are lights from squid fishing boats, over the Argentinean continental shelf border.
    Regards from Buenos Aires!

  2. Brilliant pictures,Don………light pollution has hit the darkness of the seas now…….


  3. Wow what a Blog! This really shows in my own I statement that man kind sure knows how to light something up and when its visible from ISS you know its Bright.Astronaut Don Pettit really is remarkable not only with his knowlege but in the way he describes a story such as Tierra del Fuego, the land of fire and how Oil is found and how they are starting to set up to drill and you can see it from space.To the crew of ISS may God Bless you and protect you all and others to come I follow you all daily and before bed my son and I look up to you all.

    Many Thanks And Prayers,
    The Pridy Family
    Medford, Oregon 97504

  4. What a view! I would be hard pressed to do any work if I was there! I rode into work this morning and watched a beautiful quarter moon, with clouds passing by on the way.

  5. Interesting. I cannot help but imagine what I would think, if I were an inhabitant of an agrarian society on Mars, viewing the earth telescopically, and if I were not aware of oil.

    Imagine how bizarre it would seem to see such points of light in the oceans, and how I would wrack my brain, trying to figure out what is was.

  6. Que Ă© isso? Fico espantado com essas imagens. O que diz a Nasa a respeito dessas imagens?Gostaria muito de saber? Obrigado

  7. I really enjoy reading your blog – brings me close to an experience I’ve wanted since I was a child and even at this point remains just as strong.
    Great post, always nice to know what’s being done and how it’s being done. The aerogel and mylar concept also seems utterly brilliant and you’re right, it is really astounding all the unexpected uses a discovery can find.
    All the best from someone who is always looking sky-ward, cheers.

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