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Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 21:20 EDT

Google Street View Brings Antarctica To A Computer Near You

July 18, 2012
Image of Robert Falcon Scott at his desk in hut on Ross Island, circa 1911 Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Yesterday was the 110th anniversary of the invention of the air conditioner, so why not keep on a cool theme during the dog days of summer with a virtual trip to Antarctica?

Thanks to Internet search giant Google´s controversial Street View imaging system you can now take a virtual tour of the vast icy, desolate landscape right on your desktop. While Google first included imagery from the South Pole in its 2010 Street View collection, the company added even more 360-degree pans of the continent on Tuesday.

The images include the historic locations of huts built by the first Antarctic explorers to visit the region more than a hundred years ago. The cold, dry atmosphere of the Antarctic has preserved the huts, keeping them frozen in time for all the world to see.

Explorers Sir Ernest Shackleton (1908) and Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1911) had both led expeditions that attempted to be the first to reach the South Pole, but were beat out by a Norwegian expedition led by Roald Amundsen.

Other panoramic images show the actual South Pole and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. Other images show a group of penguins at Cape Royds Adelie Penguin Rookery, and the vastness of the Antarctic landscape.

As for the cabins, a New Zealand charity has worked to keep them in decent shape, and also worked with Google to get the pictures taken. Users can navigate the images to see the various items and supplies used by the expedition teams, as they are still preserved in place. Shackleton´s hut still carries about 5,000 belongings including books, clothing and food. Scott´s hut has over 8,000 items, all preserved in the subzero temperatures.

The goal of the project is to provide scientists and others around the world with “the most accurate, high-resolution data of these important historic locations,” said Google program manager Alex Starns in a Google blog.

“With this technology, you can go inside places like Shackleton’s Hut and other small wooden buildings that served as bases from which the explorers launched their expeditions,” added Starns. “Now anyone can explore these huts and get insight into how these men [explorers] lived for months at a time.”

The images are a part of the World Wonders project, launched in May, which allows users to explore archaeological sites, monuments and memorials, and places of worship around the world, as well as searches by location.

The World Wonders project includes panoramic vistas from Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America, and now Antarctica. With the addition of the South Pole to the project it means that Africa is the only missing continent in the project.

“This new imagery was collected with a lightweight tripod camera with a fisheye lens–equipment typically used to capture business interiors through the Business Photos program,” said Starns. “We worked with this technology because of its portability, reliability and ease-of-use.”

The Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota and the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust made the work possible.

Starns said Street View provides an experience “almost as good” as being there in person.

Follow this link to see the panoramic vistas for yourself.


Source: Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online