The last remnant of France's once-vast holdings in North America, this island archipelago off the coast of Newfoundland bears the scars of a complicated geologic history. Saint Pierre and Miquelon cover just 242 sq km (93 sq mi), and the three biggest islands lend the entire archipelago its name.
In this false-color satellite image, vegetation appears in varying shades of pink and red, bare land is beige, urbanized areas are blue-gray, and water appears in shades of blue and blue-green.
Saint Pierre is the smallest of the archipelago's major islands, a mostly northeast-southwest running landmass with several smaller islands and islets scattered around it. In the west (top of the image), Miquelon consists of three main sections: an arc-shaped body in the north (top right), Grande Miquelon immediately southeast of that, and Langlade (or Petite Miquelon) Island in the south. Grande Miquelon and Langlade are connected by a tombolo, a ridge of beach material (typically sand), built by wave action, that connects an island to the mainland. This tombolo formed in the eighteenth century.
The terrain of the archipelago consists of mostly barren rock. Deforestation has claimed much of the vegetation, although woodland still covers 20 percent of the surface. Scrub vegetation and peatland are extensive. Cold, wet, foggy weather predominates, with windy springs and autumns.
The islands, particularly Langlade, bear a scoured appearance, and this is no coincidence. During the Pleistocene Ice Age, glacial ice scraped the island. Today, wind and waves continue to erode these landmasses. For several months a year, winds regularly exceed 60 km (35 mi) per hour, and frequent storms pound the coastlines with high waves. Anecdotal evidence from local fishermen suggests that recent mild winters and less extensive sea ice might have allowed more erosion by ocean waves. Photo courtesy of NASA.