Iconic image of the Outer Banks taken March 12, 1969 from Apollo 9.
Iconic image of the Outer Banks taken March 12, 1969 from Apollo 9.

Apollo 9 left blasted off on March 3, 1969, and at as they orbited earth, the crew snapped one of the most iconic image of the Outer Banks that has ever been captured.

The crew was 120 miles above the earth around 10 a.m. on March 12. There were no clouds over the Outer Banks that day, at least not in the morning. To the west, there is a light cloud cover, but nothing obscures the the jewel-like sandbars in the middle of the image.

What the Apollo 9 Photo Shows

The photograph is at once startling in its beauty, yet tells a cautionary tale.

There was a strong northwest wind that day, and temperatures struggled to reach 40 degrees. North Carolina rivers were high after a series of winter storms and evidence of that can be seen in the plumes of sandy, silty water flowing out from Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlets.

Hatteras Inlet is the first inlet south of the the Cape Hatteras Point, clearly jutting out into the ocean as an elbow as the Outer Banks bends 90 degrees.

In this image, the sounds are filled with silt, consistent with rivers at high levels.

The dominant movement of offshore silt and sand is north to south, and the image show that clearly. Look at the the plume of sand that has formed just to the south of The Point to see that movement in action.

The power of the force involved is just remarkable in the Apollo 9 photo. The sand and silt clearly extends 30 miles offshore. Looking carefully, the flow of the Gulf Stream can be seen. The silt seems to end abruptly and then fades as it goes north. That is the Gulf Stream creating that effect.

Apollo 9 was featured the first two-man space walk, as well as tests of life-support systems and docking maneuvers that were critical for the success of Apollo 11 that landed on the moon.

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