See some of the most compelling National Geographic covers from the last 50 years and learn about the significant milestones reported in the magazine’s pages—all of which are available in The Complete National Geographic, a collection of every issue of National Geographic magazine in a six-DVD-ROM set.
July 1959—First Photograph Appears on the CoverSeventy years after its founding in 1888, the National Geographic Society introduces the first photograph on the cover of its increasingly popular journal. April 1960—Jacques Cousteau and National GeographicLess than a year after the first photograph appears on National Geographic, a jet-propelled diving saucer appears on the April 1960 cover.
June 1962—John Glenn Orbits the EarthFriendship 7 rockets across the cover of National Geographic after John Glenn's historic orbital voyage.
August 1965—Remembering Winston ChurchillFollowing the death of Sir Winston Churchill, former President Dwight D. January 1967Dressed for Eid al-Fitr festivities, two young girls play on a swing in Pakistan, then made up of two lands located on opposite sides of the Indian subcontinent. October 1968Sixteen-year-old Robin Lee Graham, featured on the cover aboard his fiberglass sloop, recounts his journey to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world.
December 1969—Apollo 11 Moon LandingNeil Armstrong's famous photo of Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin walking across the surface of the moon lands on the cover of National Geographic five months after the astronauts' historic voyage. December 1970—Our Ecological CrisisA western grebe wears a fatal coat of oil from a spill off California in 1969.
November 1971—AntarcticaIn the service of science, a gentoo penguin waddles through the Antarctica snow wearing a radio backpack that monitors its blood flow and pressure. July 1972To bring knowledge and understanding at a time of conflict and tension, National Geographic prints "The Sword and the Sermon," an American Muslim's account of his yearlong, 22-country exploration of Arab history and culture. March 1973The last whale hunters in the United States, native Alaskans ply slushy waters off the state's coast in a walrus-skin boat. October 1974With his great-great-grandfather's five-colored scarf on his shoulders, 18-year-old Jigme Singye Wangchuck formally becomes monarch in the tiny kingdom of Bhutan.
March 1975After collecting a sample of fresh spatter, a geologist is silhouetted against a fountain of molten lava spouting from Hawaii's Mauna Ulu. December 1976A fleet of ships, some colliding, begin a race from Bermuda to Newport, Rhode Island, to honor the U.S. February 1977Displaying the American flag and the flag of the National Geographic Society, the Silver Fox drifts above the Gulf of St. March 1978Inhabitant of the last Shangri-la, a young Ladakhi woman wears a turquoise-covered insignia of wealth. September 1979An array of stone points, knives, and bone spear parts date to Ice Age hunters roaming Montana 11,000 years ago. November 1980A snow shower dusts Windsor Castle as Prince Phillip drives a four-in-hand toward the Long Walk.
August 1981A 1,200-year-old cave painting of a Maya ballplayer is a recent find when it appears on the August 1981 cover of National Geographic. July 1983Outfitted in a WASP suit, Phil Nuytten is the first man to dive on the northernmost shipwreck ever discovered on the seafloor. May 1984—New Discoveries at Pompeii and HerculaneumHer bones preserved in Herculaneum's volcanic tomb for nearly 2,000 years, a Roman woman is still adorned in rings of gold, carnelian, and jasper.
October 1987—Women of Saudi ArabiaPhotographer Jodi Cobb captures a child's present and future for National Geographic's landmark 1987 article on the women of Saudi Arabia. July 1989—France Celebrates Its BicentennialA special issue of National Geographic celebrates France's bicentennial with nearly 200 hundred pages of photos, illustrations, maps, and reporting, bringing readers into the turmoil and romance of the republic since its historic revolution. March 1990During the waning days of the Soviet Union, National Geographic takes a look at dismantled labor camps, glasnost sweeping across resource-rich Siberia, and the geography, people, and events that shaped the history of the empire.
January 1991The land and people of "the far side of down under" are beautifully photographed by Sam Abell in National Geographic's profile of Australia's vast and sparsely populated Northwest. September 1992—Dolphins in CrisisA pair of Atlantic spotted dolphins hovers in the clear waters of the Bahamas in Flip Nicklen's cover photograph. April 1993—Andrew AftermathAfter meeting at a Florida relief center, Marine David Ketchum and three-year-old Jarvis Williams embody both the struggle and unity that followed the destruction wrought by Hurricane Andrew in the summer of 1992.
September 1994 Representing modern Ireland in 1994, three ruddy-cheeked Dublin children are featured with a pony at a time when cars still dodged horse-drawn carts in the country's capital.
December 1995—Honoring Jane GoodallRecognizing 35 years of pioneering work, National Geographic features primatologist Jane Goodall on its cover for the second time since 1965, when she was depicted in an illustration. June 1996Cape York Peninsula, one of Australia's last frontiers and home to several hundred endangered plant and animal species, is profiled in this issue's cover story. December 1997Wild tigress Sita, cub gently in mouth, gets her close-up when National Geographic addresses the plight of her species' vanishing habitat and vulnerability to poachers. December 1998Continuing a tradition of bringing the world's most remarkable sites, no matter how remote, to National Geographic readers, the December 1998 issue features a look at the ancient city of Petra, the mysterious Nabataean capital carved into cliffs in the desert of present-day Jordan.
August 1999—Global CultureNear the end of the millennium, a mother and daughter are a study in contrasts as they represent the new global culture, the subject of this special issue that examines cultures emerging and vanishing amid the increased exchange of information, products, and ideas.
April 2000A shot inside the notorious mouth of a great white shark is a fitting introduction to Jaws author Peter Benchley's feature article on the threats facing the surprisingly fragile predator.
May 2001Marco Polo likely encountered the forebears of this masked woman in Minab, Iran, during his journey east to the court of Kublai Kahn in the 13th century. September 2002A meerkat pops up on National Geographic's cover after an international team discovers that the small, chatty mammals are among the most cooperative on Earth.
February 2004Standing nearly nine feet tall, two male polar bears engage in play combat on the February 2004 cover. June 2005King Tutankhamun leaves his tomb for the first time in almost 80 years to undergo a CT scan, a process that provides data for this forensic reconstruction of the boyish pharaoh's face. June 2007This issue's icy blue pages profiling polar life and thawing glaciers communicate what is at stake as the climate warms. October 2008—Neanderthals RevealedThe face of a Neanderthal woman, part of a life-size reconstruction informed by fossil anatomy and ancient DNA, peers out from the past for the first time. October 2009—RedwoodsFor the October 2009 article on Pacific Coast redwoods, photographer Michael Nichols and his team create an unprecedented photographic portrait of a complete redwood tree, a mosaic made up of 87 images. For an ice-dependent species like the polar bear, sea ice losses in the Arctic threaten their very survival. You won’t want to miss this beautifully illustrated article that outlines the challenges polar bears face as their icy world literally melts away. In August 1881 the naturalist John Muir was sailing off Alaska aboard the steamerThomas Corwin, searching for three vessels that had gone missing in the Arctic.
Were Muir to sail off Point Barrow in August today, any polar bears he'd see would not be living in a wilderness of ice but swimming through open water, burning precious fat reserves. Photos and story are in the July 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands June 28. When chicks are a few weeks old, parents leave them in a crèche and go in search of food, taking turns returning day and night to feed them. In the evening flamingos leave feeding grounds in large flocks to spend the night in shallow waters.
July 21, 2011The seething turmoil in our sun's atmosphere is captured in extreme ultraviolet light by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), launched in 2010 to better understand solar activity and its impact on Earth. A forest of high-rises, many of them public housing projects, covers central Kowloon, one of the world's most crowded pieces of real estate. Dazzling white sand dunes stretch for miles in places along Socotra's southern coastline, here at Aomak beach.
Sometimes I sit for hours just admiring waves: the aesthetics of each curl, the way the wind shapes a break, the colors morphing and shifting as a swell rises.

A pompano (soon to be released) is reeled in near my home in Nags Head on this ribbon of fragile barrier islands.
A full moon rises over the Diksam Plateau, where dragon's blood trees grow in scattered groves. Ancient periods of volcanic activity built the Hajhir Mountains, where rugged granite peaks rise to nearly 5,000 feet.
Heightened vision and specialized feathers let owls fly under a cloak of darkness and silence.
Socotra's varied coastline comprises sandy beach, boulders, mudflats, and both living and fossil coral reefs. A desert rose anchors itself on the Maalah cliffs, in the company of more than 300 other rare plant species on Socotra. A tiger peers at a camera trap it triggered while hunting in the early morning in the forests of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. SingaporeThe vertiginous "infinity pool" at the Marina Bay Sands resort offers a sweeping view of Singapore, a country that's achieved success while building up instead of out.
After the disasters of March 11, tens of thousands were ordered to leave their homes in the vicinity of the damaged nuclear plant, their footprints now frozen in the mud.
The 15th-century church of Rodel on the Isle of Lewis, built for the warlike chiefs of the MacLeods, towers over the sea lochs of Scotland's Outer Hebrides. RebirthNew York, New YorkThe liveliest show in town, Times Square buzzes with reborn energy. China—As if swimming in a fantasy aquarium, a school of decorative fish hovers inside Beijing's renovated Water Cube. Street LifeIstanbul, TurkeyBy foot, rail, and automobile, people pass through Taksim Square, animating the modern hub of Istanbul. Stars a hundred times more massive than the sun pierce the roiling haze of the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Democratic Republic of the Congo—Healthy vegetation in a verdant area of South Kivu Province appears reddish when captured with infrared photography. A centuries-old supernova remnant, its rose-tinted shock wave blasting outward at more than 11 million miles an hour, hangs in the Large Magellanic Cloud like an iridescent holiday ornament. Affluent CitySeoul, South KoreaSeoul's electrifying growth, from impoverished war-torn capital in the 1950s to economic powerhouse, has turned its cityscape into a dense grid of housing and office towers. The fallow deer in the park at Knole, Kent, have looked down at the world with long-nosed lordliness since the days of King James. Abandoned 28 years ago, the land around the failed Chernobyl power plant now teems with tourists.
Tourists, some of whom lived near the Fukushima nuclear plant, prop Geiger counters on a memorial to show how it blocks radiation from the reactor, which will be shielded by a new 32,000-ton arch. Gas masks, common in Soviet schools, were scattered on the floor, creating a popular sightseeing spot.
Once a model Soviet city with almost 50,000 people, Pripyat is slowly decaying, as are about 200 villages in the exclusion zone. Students from Finland, wearing foil-covered helmets to amuse themselves and repel rain, pose in bumper cars in the verdant amusement park.
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Following a tradition of American flag covers in July that began during World War II, the July 1959 issue features the new, 49-star banner. The underwater test of a new submarine is the most recent in a series of National Geographic Society-Calypso expeditions led by Capt. Glenn agreed to carry a small National Geographic flag on his journey, returning it to the Society in April 1962.
The special issue also presents a retrospective on photographic firsts and an essay by former President and Editor Gilbert H. Long involved in redwood conservation efforts, National Geographic presents the findings of staff naturalist Paul Zahl, who discovered the tallest of the tallest trees, a redwood reaching 367 feet. Eisenhower introduces National Geographic's tribute to the British prime minister, featured on the issue's cover.
The cover's traditional interior border of oak leaves and acorns, first introduced in 1910, begins to recede around the increasingly bold feature photographs. Like John Glenn before him, Armstrong carried a small National Geographic flag to the moon and back, which he presented to Society President Melvin Payne when the Apollo 11 crew was awarded the Hubbard Medal in 1970. The issue's series of articles on the ecological crisis is the first full-blown National Geographic contribution to growing concerns over the state of the environment, calling attention to the fragility of the planet under the strain of the growing human population.
An accompanying map supplement expands on the region's language, politics, land use, and physical geography. The cover story follows the hunt for a bowhead whale and includes a report on the fight for traditional whaling rights, answered by Congress with an exemption written into the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972.
John Scofield's picture story highlights the color and enduring traditions of the sequestered nation. Photos within the magazine reveal the natural contrasts of Hawaii's Big Island, built over eons by lava flows welling up from the ocean floor.
Four years after India opens Ladakh to foreign visitors, National Geographic explores the lost valleys that were for centuries isolated by the rigors of Himalayan travel. National Geographic's "Search for the First Americans" uses photos, maps, and illustrations to create a time line of the earliest human activity in the Americas. Discovered in a remote cavern in Guatemala, the artworks and writings of the ancient Maya identify dates and notables of the Classic period.
The British Breadalbane was lost beneath the Arctic ice while aiding in the search for survivors of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition.
Two years after macabre new relics are discovered at the site of the ancient seaside town, National Geographic provides haunting photos and new details on the long-dead victims of Vesuvius. The haunting green eyes that stared out from the June 1985 cover of National Geographic belonged to an unknown refugee who for 17 years was identified simply as the "Afghan girl." She has since been located and was once again featured on the magazine's cover in April 2002. In the last 20 years, her species has not escaped its endangered status, today numbering only around 6,000 in the wild. Created in the palaces of princesses and in the tents of Bedouin, Cobb's images shed rare light on one of the world's most conservative societies.
Peary's expedition to the North Pole to the discovery of the Titanic, National Geographic highlights a century of exploration on its centennial cover. The Eiffel Tower, built for France's centennial in 1889 and backlit by celebratory fireworks on the magazine's cover, still stands as a symbol of French ingenuity and independence. On the cover, a rancher poses with her three children while waiting to take part in a rodeo. In the decade before the accompanying article was published, millions of the intelligent marine mammals were drowned in nets or poisoned by polluted waters. With stunning photographs and personal stories, National Geographic recounts the devastation of what was then America's most destructive storm.
Sam Abell's photographs of shifting Irish life and storied landscapes capture the island's moral and economic evolution. In 1995, Goodall is presented with the Society's Hubbard Medal as a tribute to her influential study of chimpanzees, described by former Society President Gilbert M. The face of the continent's northern stronghold of native culture is an Aboriginal teenager wearing a mask of mud while swimming in a waterhole.

Unmanned remote cameras helped photographer Michael Nichols capture startling images of the endangered cats in their shrinking range. This year is the last in which the magazine's cover still features a crown of laurels, the final remnant of the oak leaf border first introduced in 1910. Twenty-five years after the box-office hit based on his novel terrified moviegoers, Benchley and photographer David Doubilet set out to portray the ocean's great hunters in a different light. In his three-part feature, Mike Edwards follows Marco's route through lands that still evoke the Venetian explorer's amazing finds. The colorful close-ups illustrating the feature story show group members providing daycare, keeping sentinel, and sleeping in furry piles for warmth.
A photo spread within reveals the bears during their downtime: Unable to hunt seals and seal pups until the ice freezes solid in winter and spring, the bears live off fat reserves from July to November. Unapologetic cuteness abounds on the pages within—something feature author Lynne Warren writes may, along with their persistent scarcity, largely contribute to the popularity of China's beloved bear.
Photographer James Balog's startling survey on retreating ice presents visual evidence of changing conditions at the Poles and elsewhere around the globe. DNA results suggest that Neanderthals and modern humans are separate species, and National Geographic explores who these close ancestors were and the question of why one group survived while the other perished. The cover shot of the redwood trunk shooting through the yellow border is only part of the 300-foot-tall, 1,500-year-old titan. Sea ice provides crucial habitat for the Arctic's top predator, but warming temperatures are creating extended ice-free periods that tax the bears. When it hatches, the proud pink parents feed their chick crop milk, an elixir rich in fat and protein that both parents produce in their digestive tracts and regurgitate. Though watched by a few adults, babies are vulnerable to predators such as dogs and jaguars. Some scientists blame a lack of water caused by a decrease in seasonal cloud cover—and predict that many stands could disappear within a century. In this colorized view (NASA color-codes SDO images to represent different wavelengths of light), bright coronal loops arc between regions of intense magnetic activity, while cooler, darker filaments hang suspended in the sun's magnetic field.
Despite Hong Kong's glittery reputation, almost half of its seven million residents live in subsidized housing. He drank strong coffee to combat the cold while taking long exposures of the night sky above Helmos Observatory in northern Peloponnesus. At least ten kinds of seabirds breed on Socotra or the small islands around it, making the archipelago a regionally significant home for them. The wild beauty and weather of this place have beguiled me since I was a kid, but now along with other inhabitants I wonder how long the islands will remain. Marine resources remain vital: Many islanders make their living from fishing at least part of the year. Auroras appear when charged solar particles strike atmospheric gases, lighting them up like neon in a tube.
Tigers can thrive in many habitats, from the frigid Himalaya to tropical mangrove swamps in India and Bangladesh. Nothing in early modern Britain, from its cities to its remotest corners, was more political than religion. A 30-year redevelopment project turned a seedy stretch of Broadway into today's neon-lit shopping and entertainment walkway.
Where Olympic swimmers used to compete, visitors now frolic in a wave pool and on elaborate water-park rides. Compensation for loss of life caused by cats outside the park gives villagers some consolation. Schemes to restrict the area to foot traffic worry planners who fear the famous crossroads could lose its creative energy. Gas and dust from exploding stars serve as seed matter for new stars, making this one of the most active stellar nurseries in our galactic neighborhood. That's the name Steve Winter gave this youngster, cooling off in a watering hole in Bandhavgarh National Park, after he slapped the automated camera trap until it stopped clicking. In vacant schools they create strange tableaux with children’s toys and books featuring iconic figures like Vladimir Lenin. Alaska, admitted to the Union in January 1959, is profiled in several articles, and a map of the newest state is included as a supplement with the issue.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau, a partnership of ocean exploration that began in 1950 and continued for 15 years. National Geographic photographer Dean Conger's photos of Friendship 7's recovery from the ocean were featured in the issue and published around the world. The 70-page tribute includes photos, recollections, and a look at Churchill's political life and personal achievements.
A second feature in the issue presents remarkable photos of the Earth and sun taken from Skylab. Grosvenor, Editor of the magazine for a decade before assuming the presidency of the National Geographic Society in 1980.
His article for National Geographic details the challenges he undertook to achieve the longest manned balloon flight.
As introduced on the July 1979 cover, the oak leaf interior border crowning the magazine's title is replaced by a single garland, which remains on the cover until the end of the millennium. Both the submersible WASP suit and the photographs taken by a National Geographic camera mounted on a remotely piloted vehicle are revolutionary devices for exploring the deep. A second feature photographed by David Doubilet highlights the marine life found off the region's ragged coastline.
Though only limited dolphin fishing occurs today, they continue to be threatened by commercial fishing for other species. The issue features 45 pages of photos and maps and an account of Sita's years successfully breeding in the wild. The full photo unfolds from within the magazine, revealing the most complex crown scientists have mapped.
Most common near the Poles, auroras also occur in lower latitudes during strong solar storms.
Some dislike the theme park commercialism of the redo, but almost all applaud that the streets are alive with a city's valued resource—people. The grandeur of this aristocratic style seeped into every corner of King James's England—and into the language used by the translators of his Bible.
Hammond, with photographs by Dean Conger that illustrate urban life in the Soviet Union of the mid-1960s. Amstrup, talks about the threats to this iconic species in the July issue of the National Geographic magazine—but emphasizes that time remains to save them if humans take action to reduce CO2. It was an age in which social hierarchy was considered a reflection of the divine order of the universe.

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