On a sunny summer day in July, 2013 the clouds opened over Franz Josef Land, allowing a clear view of the ice-capped archipelago. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying aboard NASA’s Terra satellite was in the area at the time, and captured this true-color image on July 19 at 10:00 UTC (6:00 a.m. EDT).
Located only 900 km (560 mi) from the North Pole, Franz Josef Land is one of the most remote areas on Earth. It is home to polar bears, walrus, seals, whales and multitudes of seabirds, but no humans call these islands home.
Franz Josef Land is an archipelago of 6 main islands and about 135 small islands with a total landmass of about 16,134 km2 (6,229 mi2). Totally covered in snow and ice in winter, in midsummer up to 5% of the land is covered in vegetation, and 85% of the land remains covered with glaciers. The glaciers are in retreat, however, and many of the islands in this image can be seen to be partially free of snow and ice.
In 2009 Russia designated Franz Josef Land as well as the northern part of Novaya Zemlya Archipelago and Victoria Island as a national park, the Russian Arctic National Park. When complete, this park will contain about 8.4 million hectares of land and ocean.