Good Google street views
Armchair exploration has never been easier. For those who don't have the money or physical stamina to climb the world's highest mountains or see its greatest underwater treasures, Google Street View is one of the tools available to bring panoramic views into anyone's living room – for free.
Google has recently captured thousands of views of Mount Fuji, Japan's highest mountain. And it has explored many other locations, including Antarctica, Everest Base Camp and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, to enable those who are glued to their computers enjoy the view.
Amazon Rainforest, Brazil
Google Street View: Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon is the world's largest watershed, its famous rainforests containing so many millions of species that biologists are constantly discovering new ones. But its trees and creatures are threatened by human activity, especially deforestation.
Instead of street views, virtual travelers to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil will find themselves on forest trails. In collaboration with the Sustainable Amazon Foundation, Google took pictures of the area to highlight its environment as well as the indigenous peoples who live there.
The Google team used bicycles and boats to take the photos, and even asked some locals to ride tricycles equipped with cameras.
Monte Everest, Nepal/Tibete
Google Street View: Everest Base Camp
Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world, standing 29,035 feet (8,850 meters) above the border between Nepal and Tibet in Asia. The first team to confirm the summit, Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, did so in 1953. Six decades later, the climb to the summit is not only still dangerous, but crowded as thousands of people flood the rails.
Google's Everest Base Camp images come from a lightweight camera and a tripod equipped with a fisheye lens. Google's trek to the 16,000-foot camp had its own dangers, including earthquakes, landslides and flash floods, wrote Sara Pelosi, the company's director, in 2011.
It took the team 12 days to reach Base Camp, battling altitude sickness as they hiked more than 70 miles.
Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Google Street View: Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is a group of coral reefs off the coast of Australia that is the largest living structure on Earth. With an area of 350,000 square kilometers (135,000 square miles) and over 2,000 reefs to explore, the Google team had many options when deciding what to photograph.
In 2012, Google revealed 360-degree underwater views showing some of the many reefs. He took the photos in conjunction with the Catlin Seaview Survey, which used a specially designed underwater camera to take the photos.
The reef photos were just one of several sets of underwater reefs released by Google at the same time, with other locations including spots in the Philippines and Hawaii.
Google Street View: Antarctica
Antarctica – the world's largest desert, located at the bottom of the world – is still a difficult and expensive place for scientists to reach. Its very remote location, however, makes it a good place for environmental studies or stargazing in skies uncontaminated by light pollution.
Google has entered several historically significant buildings in the area, including polar explorer Ernest Shackleton's hut and some other structures used in early polar expeditions in the 20th century.
Also visible are the South Pole Telescope, the Ceremonial South Pole (complete with international flags) and the Cape Royds Adélie Penguin Colony.
The photos came from a light camera tripod, using a fisheye lens. Participants included the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota and the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust.
Grand Canyon, United States
Google Street View: Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon – which is over a mile deep at its deepest points – is a popular tourist attraction in Arizona. The difficult terrain, however, may encourage some of the laziest tourists to stay off the trails. This gave Google the opportunity to intervene.
“Travel the narrow, exposed pathways of the Grand Canyon: hike the famous Bright Angel Trail, gaze over the mighty Colorado River, and explore 360-degree panoramic views,” wrote Google on its blog in 2013.
To take the photos, the Google team donned 40-pound backpacks that carried a 15-lens camera system that could capture photos while hiking. Google has placed more than 9,500 panoramas of the region on Google Maps.
Shark Bay, Australia
Google Street View: Sharks Bay
Shark Bay in Western Australia, as the name suggests, teems with sharks. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 for three reasons, the United Nations team said: vast areas of seagrass, sea cows that roam the area, and stromatolites (very ancient algae that form dome-shaped deposits).
Shark Bay has five of Australia's 26 endangered mammals, according to the Australian government. The zone is also home to 35% of Australia's bird species.
In addition to the area's ecological importance, Shark Bay is also historically significant. It is where Europeans are first recorded entering Western Australia in the 1600s. The bay itself was named by a pirate, William Dampier, in 1699.
Mount Fuji, Japan
Google Street View: Monte Fuji
Mount Fuji is Japan's highest peak, reaching 3,776 m (12,388 ft) above sea level. Its last major eruption was in 1707, but the mountain still receives significant cultural attention in the country. Thousands of people climb its slopes every year.
“The dormant volcano has inspired countless haiku and crayons for centuries and around the world. Its perfect conical shape has become one of Japan's most iconic symbols," Google said on its blog.
The company used backpacks equipped with cameras to capture the mountain, collecting 14,000 panoramas. The mountain was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2013.
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Live Science Partner
Elizabeth Howell is a regular contributor to Live Science and Space.com, along with many other scientific publications. She is one of the few Canadian reporters specializing in space reporting. Elizabeth holds a BA in Journalism, a BA in Science from Carleton University (Canada) and a MA. Space Studies (at a distance) at the University of North Dakota. Elizabeth became a full-time freelancer after earning her master's degree. in 2012. He has personally reported on three space shuttle launches and once spent two weeks in an isolated facility in Utah pretending to be a Martian.
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