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When Google Earth was first introduced 10 years ago, it immediately stole my heart. Beyond the freedom to fly anywhere in the world, I was captivated by the ability to paint and visualize geographic data on this incredible global canvas.

Drawn to datasets backed by real human stories, I started making my own maps with KML a few weeks after Earth’s release in 2005. For my master’s degree, I used Google Earth to build a virtual representation of a high-tech biological research reserve. Vint Cerf saw my work, which eventually led to a job on the Google Earth Outreach team, turning my passion for telling stories with maps into a career.

2005 was the beginning of Google Earth’s evolution, as well. In August of that year, Hurricane Katrina showed us how useful mapping tools like Earth could be for crisis response efforts. Rescue workers compared before and after Satellite imagery in Google Earth to better locate where people were stranded. And in the years after, with more than 2 billion downloads by people in nearly every country in the world, Earth has enabled people to discover new coral reefs, journey to the Moon and into deep space, find long-lost parents, clear landmines and much more.
Google Earth images of Gulfport, Mississippi's shoreline before and after Hurricane Katrina

The ability to empower groups as diverse as school children and NASA scientists to learn more about the world is what I love about Google Earth. It has the potential to make the planet a far more connected place, if you take the time to explore, discover and share what you learn. So to celebrate how far Google Earth has come and our leap into the next 10 years, we’ve created a few new ways to help you better see places from around (and above) the world.

Voyager
The world is a big place, and it can be hard to know where to begin your virtual journey. Now you can jump straight to the newest and most interesting imagery around the globe with a new layer, Voyager, available in desktop versions of Google Earth.
Different imagery types in Voyager are shown by color

In this first edition of Voyager, you’ll find five sections to explore:
  • Street View: highlights from Street View, including the Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon
  • Earth View: striking landscapes around the globe as seen from space (more below)
  • 3D cities: a showcase of cities and towns available in photorealistic 3D (don’t forget to tilt!)
  • Satellite imagery updates: a map of our most recently published satellite imagery
  • Highlight tour: with thousands of Voyager locations to choose from, take a quick tour of a few to whet your appetite
The Kemgon Gompa—available in the Street View layer—is a Buddhist monastery in Lukla, Nepal

Earth View
Looking at our planet from above is not only a reminder of how interdependent our human and natural ecosystems are—it also lays bare the Earth’s staggering and often surreal beauty.
The Hammar Marshes of Iran are an uncharacteristic yet beautiful wetland feature in the otherwise arid climate

Earth View is library of some of the most striking and enigmatic landscapes available in Google Earth. It started as a 20 percent project last year by a few Googlers who enjoyed scouring satellite imagery for these gems. These images soon made their way onto Android phones, Chromecast and Chromebooks as a distinctive kind of wallpaper.
Islands surrounding Cuba seen in the Earth View Chrome Extension

For Earth's 10th birthday, we're expanding the Earth View collection to 1,500 landscapes from every continent and ocean and making it accessible to even more people. The new imagery is available with an updated version of our Chrome extension and a new web gallery. Download high-resolution wallpapers for your mobile and desktop devices, or better yet, print them up for your walls!
The coastline near Ningaloo, Australia in the new Earth View web gallery

Thank you for the last 10 years exploring your world with Google Earth. We hope Voyager and Earth View will unlock a new perspective on our planet. We look forward to seeing what the next decade brings!

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Today we’re launching our first-ever vertical Street View collection, giving you the opportunity to climb 3,000 feet up the world’s most famous rock wall: Yosemite’s El Capitan. To bring you this new imagery, we partnered with legendary climbers Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell. Read more about the project from Tommy Caldwell, who completed the world’s hardest climb in Yosemite in January of 2015. -Ed.

“That is awesome. I definitely have to be a part of that.”

Maybe it was the sheer exhaustion from being in the middle of a 19-day climb of the Dawn Wall, but when the guys at Google Maps and Yosemite National Park asked if I wanted to help them with their first-ever vertical Street View collection of El Capitan in Yosemite, I didn’t hesitate. Yosemite has been such an important part of my life that telling the story of El Capitan through Street View was right up my alley—especially when it meant working with the Google engineers to figure out some absurd challenges.

Climbing is all about flirting with the impossible and pushing the boundaries of what you think you can be done. Capturing Street View imagery 3,000 feet up El Capitan proved to be an extension of that, especially when you take a camera meant for the inside of a restaurant and mount it thousands of feet up the world’s most iconic rock wall.
Brett Lowell and Corey Rich capturing Street View of Alex Honnold on the King Swing

Doing anything thousands of feet high on a sheer granite face is complicated, but everyone up there had spent years of their lives on a rope and knew exactly what they were doing. After some testing, we used our tried-and-true climbing gear like cams and ropes to make sure the camera wouldn’t fall to the ground in the middle of our Street View collection.

Once we figured out how to keep the camera on El Cap, we created two sets of vertical Street View. First, we collected Street View of legendary Yosemite climbers—and my good friends—Lynn Hill and Alex Honnold in iconic spots up the sheer vertical face.

Lynn Hill’s ascent of El Capitan changed the paradigm of climbing, and she had an extraordinary effect on my climbing career. I’ll never forget when she became the first person, man or woman, to free-climb (using only her hands and feet) “The Nose” back in 1993. Now, you can see her navigate these epic moves— like climbing sideways on tiny holds of the Jardine Traverse, inventing a “Houdini” maneuver on the Changing Corners and traversing under the Great Roof.

Any story of El Capitan had to include my good friend Alex Honnold. He holds the speed record for climbing the Nose at 2 hours and 23 minutes - most people take 3-5 days. His unwavering confidence in himself is contagious; when I’m with him, I feel like the mountain has shrunk to half its size. As you make your way around Yosemite in Street View, you’ll see Alex doing what he does best: chimneying up the “Texas Flake,” racing up the bolt ladder, or getting dinner ready in the solar-powered van he calls home.

You’ll also see a glimpse of yours truly on the Dawn Wall. I spent some of my rest days during my January climb of the Dawn Wall testing out the Street View technology the Google team had sent me that month. El Cap is an intimidating environment for experimentation, but years of setting ropes proved pretty helpful in figuring out how to get the equipment rigged and ready to collect Street View.

Then, we really put Alex to work to collect the second set of Street View: the entire vertical route of “The Nose” on El Capitan. One of the few people that could do this efficiently and quickly, Alex took the camera and pretty much ran 3,000 feet up with photographer partner Brett Lowell. Now, anyone can get the beta (climbing speak for insider advice) before they climb the entire route.

Lynn, Alex and I also helped create a new Yosemite Treks page, where you can take a tour up El Cap and learn more about climbing, from what a “hand jam” is to why we wear such tiny shoes. And as a father, I’m excited kids will learn more about Yosemite when Google brings students to the park through NatureBridge later this year as a part of this project. Plus, its pretty awesome that students who can’t make it to Yosemite yet will be go on a virtual reality field trip to the Park with Google Expeditions.

Yosemite’s driven so much of my life that I’m excited to be able to share it with the world through my eyes. These 360-degree panoramic images are the closest thing I’ve ever witnessed to actually being thousands of feet up a vertical rock face—better than any video or photo. But my hope is that this new imagery will inspire you to get out there and see Yosemite for yourself… whether you travel up a rock wall or just down the trail.

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Nestled between Messina and Catania in the North East of Sicily sits one of the most active volcanos in the world: Mount Etna. The highest volcano on the European continent—and almost constantly in a state of activity—dwarfs all around it; its fertile volcanic soil cultivates the fine vineyards, farms and orchards draped about its slopes.


On June 21, 2013, Etna was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Now, to celebrate the second anniversary of this event, you can now explore the beast the locals know ominously as "a muntagna" (“the mountain”) on Street View in Google Maps.


Our fearless Trekker operator climbing the mountain


On our way to the summit, we took imagery of the darkened slopes of the Crater Silvestri, about 2,000 meters above sea level (see below); and after another challenging climb—carrying our equipment above 3,000 meters—we managed to capture breathtaking views from the top of the Crater Silvani.




This stunning imagery not only enables anyone with an Internet connection to walk the beautiful trails of the mountain—it’s also a way to protect and enhance the cultural and historical heritage of the Sicilian territory and its beauty.




Precisely for this purpose, the Google Cultural Institute has partnered with Unioncamere and the Chamber of Commerce of Catania who built an exhibition where you can discover the unique history of Mount Etna and the art and culture of its surroundings—in particular, how the Etna basalt, formed by the slow solidification of the volcanic lava flows as they cool, shaped the architectural heritage of this region.


And if you’re passionate about volcanic landscapes, Google Maps spoils you: you can visit the volcanoes of the National Park in Hawaii; Crater Lake National Park in Oregon; the Meteor Crater in Arizona; Japan’s Aso volcano; and you can even walk the Nishiyama Crater Promenade.


Konpira and Nishiyama Crater Promenade


We hope these fascinating images entice you to visit Sicily yourself someday—but for now, enjoy your virtual trip up one of the most beautiful volcanoes in the world with Street View.

By Valentina Frassi, Program Manager Special Collects, Google Street View

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Whether you’re stepping off a plane into a new country or out of a taxi into your favorite cafe, you want a current, accurate map that gets you where you want to go instantly and easily. Today we're making that possible in more places with the launch of Ground Truth in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Turkey. Ground Truth enables us to improve a country’s map quickly so that it mirrors the constantly changing world as closely as possible. Ground Truth also makes it possible for you to contribute your local knowledge to Google Maps by reporting any problems directly to us through the Report a Problem tool, so together we can build the most realistic representation of the world around you.

With cleaner, crisper depictions of natural features, water bodies, mountains and more, each of these four countries has an updated map. For example, Valdivia in Chile now has an elaborate network of snaking rivers surrounded by lush greenery, living up to its nickname as the “City of Rivers.”


For those of you yearning for an adventure by sea, we’ve added extensive ferry routes including ferry line and harbor names. For example, in Turkey, you can now easily explore the numerous routes connecting popular ports like Yenikapı to Kadıköy as well as points of interest in the surrounding areas.


We’ve also significantly expanded and improved the road networks in all four of these countries with better route suggestions based on the quality of roads, more street names, and highway signs for more accurate directions. In Colombia, the dense complexity of national highways around Bogotá is now clearly visible with colored demarcation and highway numbers on major highways.


We’ve also made places of interest like airports, hospitals, universities and parks more easily distinguishable through improved visual enhancements like colored grounds, water bodies and winding walkways. Explore the beautiful grounds of Bosques de Palermo in Argentina.


Whether you’re trekking to the breathtaking waterfalls of Iguazu or sipping a cup of locally grown coffee while cruising the historic streets of Medellin Colombia, Google Maps is here to help you explore your world.

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Editors note: This post is the first in a series of guest entries by members of the XL Catlin Seaview Survey team, a group dedicated to recording and revealing the world’s coral reefs in high-resolution, 360-degree panoramic imagery. These posts will take you behind the scenes of the project and introduce you to the people taking these images.



Asia Pacific is home to some of the world’s top marine biodiversity hotspots. To celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8, we’ve worked with Google to launch our largest ever collection of underwater imagery on Google Maps, featuring 360-degree virtual dives from 20 reefs across the region, including the Philippines, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands, Australia and American Samoa.






Come take a closer look at how we carry out these underwater surveys by going behind-the-scenes on our dive at Indonesia’s Bunaken National Park, the heart of the Coral Triangle. Often called the “underwater Amazon,” the Coral Triangle is a 5.7 million square kilometer area that spans from the Philippines in the north, down to Indonesia and as far as the Solomon Islands in the east. This giant triangle is also home to 76% of known coral species and over 3,000 species of fish.



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The SVII camera system surveys the remarkable reefscapes of the Coral Triangle (c) Catlin Seaview Survey

Every dive begins with getting our divers rigged up and the 60kg camera off our research boat Makarena and into the water. The SVII is a revolutionary camera system that creates high-resolution 360-degree images of the underwater environment using technology similar to Google Street View. By attaching SVII to an underwater scooter, we can cover distances of up to two kilometers in a single dive, taking about 3,000 images each time.



We’ve also added instruments to this camera set-up, including a depth transponder (altimeter) so that we can read the altitude of the camera from the sea floor, which allows us to gather standardized scientific information at a volume and scale which was previously unattainable to the marine science community.



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Deploying the SVII camera in the waters off Manado (c) Catlin Seaview Survey


We’ve seen large schools with hundreds of reef fish such as butterfly fish (Chaedotontidae spp) or red toothed triggerfish (Odonus niger) cascade down the healthy reef slope. On this particular day, we were lucky enough to be greeted by a dolphin and a free swimming banded sea snake cruising along of one Bunaken Islands’ epic undersea walls.



XL Catlin Seaview divers explore underwater marine life at Bunaken Islands





While we could easily spend all day amongst the depths and colors of the Coral Triangle’s reefs, we try to complete our expeditions as early as possible to get started on downloading and processing the images. We’ll tell you more about the data we gather from these 360-degree photos in upcoming posts, but for now, we hope this new underwater imagery available on the XL Catlin Global Reef Record will give anyone with an Internet connection the ability to immerse themselves in stunning coral reefs like never before.

Posted by Dominic Bryant, XL Catlin Oceans Scholar and PhD Candidate at the Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland