Text by Ryan Bradley
In the past two years, people staring at computer screens have made some astonishing finds: a rare fringing coral reef off Australia and a crater in the middle of the outback, an ancient fish trap near Wales, and seven species of birds in Mozambique—all via Google Earth. The program, which layers satellite imagery onto a 3-D digital model of the globe, debuted in 2005, but only recently has it been embraced by the scientific community as a serious tool—an armchair (OK, Aeron chair) expedition undertaken online. “Plenty of people still use it for frivolous things, like looking at their backyards,” says Peter Birch, Google Earth’s product manager. “But in front of the right people, you start to realize that this is really powerful.” In February Google Earth introduced an oceans feature, adding yet another realm to explore (there’s also space, the surface of Mars, and time—through historical images). Almost immediately some guy in Britain thought he’d found Atlantis, only to be debunked by mouse-clicking oceanographers sitting thousands of miles away (earth.google.com).
- Nat Geo Expeditions