Google’s Street View technology is a fantastic tool for those who love to travel. The service, which is integrated into Google Maps, gives us the chance to take a virtual tour of places that range from our hometown to some of the more iconic places around the globe. For instance, over the past few years, Street View has allowed us to visit Mt. Everest, the Amazon and the Great Barrier Reef, all without ever leaving home. Last week, the Internet search giant announced that it will soon add the Galapagos Islands to that list, giving us a glimpse of one of the most naturally diverse locations on the planet.
Located 500 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are best known for being the place that inspired Charles Darwin to write his seminal work “On the Origin of Species.” It was that book that first explored the concepts of evolution and the idea of natural selection. Darwin’s book would go on to change the way we think about the world around us and how different species adapt to it. The Galapagos served as his living laboratory while he observed his Theory of Evolution in action for the first time.
Working directly with the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) and the Galapagos National Parks Directorate (GNPD), Google sent a team of hikers to trek the Galapagos with its Street View Trekker strapped to their backs. The Trekker is a specially designed backpack with 15 integrated cameras that captures a destination from all angles as the wearer hikes through the environment. Over the course of ten days, the Google Team visited ten unique locations in the Galapagos capturing thousands of images as they went. Those locations included beaches, forests, the crater of an active volcano and even under the ocean.Over the years, the Galapagos have become an incredibly popular destination for travelers. The hundreds of unique species that live there continue to fascinate visitors more than 175 years after Darwin first set foot on the islands. But all of the travelers who go there are also a threat to the fragile ecosystem that exists in this isolated corner of the globe. Google, the CDF and the GNPD all hope that this project will help educate the world about the islands while also spreading the word about how important it is to preserve them.
The Galapagos Islands will be added to Street View later this year.
Have you always dreamed of hiking the Grand Canyon but just can’t get past all of the walking that would entail? Then you’ll be pleased to learn that the latest update to Google Maps brings Street View technology to the national park, allowing us to take a virtual tour of its trails without ever leaving home.
Back in October we told you how Google planned to capture images from the trail by using their new high-tech Trekker camera system. The device is worn like a backpack and automatically snaps photos while some lucky Google employee wanders the landscape. Yesterday, the company announced that it has now incorporated the images and data that were collected on that October excursion, bringing more than 75 miles of Grand Canyon trails directly to your browser.
Amongst the more well known routes that are now included on Google Maps are both Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail, both of which provide superb views in their real and virtual states. You can even explore nearby Meteor Crater or wander along the banks of the Colorado River, the force responsible for carving the Canyon over many millions of years.
Now we at Gadling would never advocate using Street View as a substitute for actually visiting any destination, let alone one as amazing as the Grand Canyon. But we do think that this makes an excellent tool for someone who wants to explore the site before they go so they have an idea of what to expect when they get there. It also serves as a great reminder of just how amazing travel can be on those days when you are stuck at your desk for hours on end. The next time that happens, just open your browser, hop over to Google Maps and spend a little time hiking the Canyon. It’s not as good as the real thing, but it sure beats the work you’ll be avoiding.
The first time I sat in a car in Kabul I was tense. This was the place of car bombs and terrorists after all, wasn’t it? My eyes darted back and forth between the driver, the road and all that was taking place around me. It was sensory overload.
The security situation is ever present in Kabul, there’s no denying that something could happen at any point in time. Then again, the same thing could be said for any city. Yes, Kabul is the capital of a conflict zone, and bombings do happen. But that doesn’t stop life from happening. People walk, vendors sell street food and there’s a general hustle and bustle to the city that feels like many other big cities in the developing world that I have traveled to.
In “The Kite Runner” Khalid Hosseini wrote, “I looked westward and marveled that, somewhere over those mountains, Kabul still existed. It really existed, not just as an old memory, or as the heading of an AP story on page 15 of the San Francisco Chronicle.”
Kabul does exist. It’s just different than many of us have envisioned it.
At the end of October, Anna Brones spent two weeks in Afghanistan with nonprofit Mountain2Mountain working to produce several Streets of Afghanistan public photo exhibits. This series chronicles the work on that trip and what it’s like to travel in Afghanistan. Follow along here.
Yesterday, Google announced that it was sending members of its mapping team, armed with its new Trekker camera system, into the canyon for the first time. They’ll explore the iconic and breathtaking landscape on foot, while the camera automatically captures high quality photos in 360-degree panoramas while they hike. Once the expedition is complete, the team will return home and upload their images, which will eventually be stitched together and displayed in Street View form online.
This week the maps team is concentrating on the stunning vistas of the South Rim as well as the popular Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail. If you happen to be in Grand Canyon National Park over the next few days and come across a group of hikers with oddly shaped backpacks, it’s probably just the Google gang going about their business. The rest of us will have to wait patiently for their photos to be added to the ever-growing Street View library.
On a side note, how cool would it be to get payed by Google to go backpacking for a few weeks? I’m sure this team is well outfitted for this adventure and it certainly beats spending long days in the office.
Want to see Redwood National Park but don’t have the time or money to make the trip? How about Yosemite or Death Valley? Thanks to the graciously, life-improving, expanding Internet, you can now take a stroll through five California national parks right on Google Street View. The Official Google Blog outlines this new step. While seeing these monumental landscapes in person cannot be replicated online, there is something especially majestic about gazing through the Redwoods on your Street View. Perhaps you’ll like the view enough to make the actual trip one day.