SpaceGizmo points to this lovely image of the South Aral Sea basin taken by NASA’s Landsat 5 satellite. The white areas are sort of a “bathtub ring” of salt indicating the area that was once covered by this sea, which used to be the fourth largest landlocked body of water.
As an illustration of just how far this formerly great body of water on the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan has fallen look at this image, taken by the MODIS satellite in August and released at the end of last month:
The thin dark outline is a representation of the original extent of the lake (circa 1960). I think it’s a striking reminder of how drastic an effect human activity (in this case, poorly thought out Soviet irrigation policies regarding the rivers feeding into the Aral Sea) can have on the environment. Keep in mind that in this image the sea has recovered because of seasonal meltwater. At other times during the year, the water level, particularly in the central remnant lobe of the lake, is even lower. In the vast salt flats left over, one can find scenes like this one in Kazakhstan (courtesy of Wikimedia):
As the shore has moved inland tens of miles, ships that once floated in harbor now sit abandoned on land with no water in sight.