For all of us who haven’t been lucky enough to visit the Galapagos Islands, you’ll soon be able to explore this remote volcanic archipelago with just a click or swipe of your smartphone.
Few have set foot on the otherworldly landscape of the Galapagos, famous as the home of the world’s biggest tortoises.
But Google has now sent a team of hikers carrying Street View trekker backpacks, which must have made them look just as weird and wonderful as the indigenous inhabitants of the islands.
Carrying 42 pounds worth of equipment in backpacks with ball-like cameras mounted on a tower above their heads, the hikers spent 10 days exploring, sometimes in places usually off-limits to tourists, in a bid to shoot enough footage to put together an extensive Google Galapagos Street View .
Soon, we’ll be able to simply click our mouse to see some of the Galapagos Islands’ most remote areas, its surrounding waters and the unique creatures who live there. Sitting on either side of the Equator in the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos are famed for their vast number of endemic species and were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle.
Each trekker’s equipment contained an orb with 15 cameras instead, meaning one person could capture panoramic images of otherwise inaccessible areas of the Galapagos. And, it wasn’t just above ground that got the Google treatment. The internet search giant worked with crews from The Catlin Seaview Survey to capture 360-degree views of selected underwater areas too.
Raleigh Seamster, Google Maps’ project leader, said: “We spent 10 days there hiking over trails and even down the crater of an active volcano. And these are islands, so half of the life there is under the water surface. So we brought Street View underwater to swim with sea lions, sharks and other marine animals.”
At the moment, Google is busy working through all the footage, trying to piece it all together with the aim of making it all available on Google Maps by the end of this year.
So far, Google editors have spotted footage of the nesting sites of seabirds like the blue-footed booby, and of the red-throated magnificent frigatebird. There are also images of giant tortoises and underwater shots of swimming hammerhead sharks. Scientists are now working with Google to screen captured footage in a bid to see if they can find other species.
Daniel Orellana, who is a scientist with the Charles Darwin Foundation, is now hoping the footage will be used not just by those of us with a natural curiosity about the Galapagos, but by schools as part of the study of Darwinism.
“We hope that children in classrooms around the world will be trying to discover what they can see in the images, even tiny creatures like insects,” said Orellana. “We can use this as an education experience for children, and there is a huge opportunity for rare discoveries.”