Armchair adventurers have a new way to explore the Galápagos Islands, thanks to Google Maps. A ground-level and underwater view of some of the archipelago’s most treasured spots is now live on the site, enabling users to do a “virtual tour” via computers, tablets and smartphones. Google said it was releasing the images to mark the 178th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s first exploration of the Galápagos Islands.
The project involved teams of hikers and divers with arrays of cameras capturing thousands of images in and around the Galápagos Islands. Those images were then stitched together by computers to provide users a dynamic view of the sights that can be manipulated remotely using the “Street View” feature of Google Maps.
Speaking from Sydney, Australia during a teleconference, Richard Vevers of the Catlin Seaview Survey, a partner in the venture, said, “It’s a great opportunity to bring our 360-degree cameras to Galápagos and record these environments.”
An announcement from the Charles Darwin Foundation, another of Google’s partners in the effort, said, “This is a big day for Galapagos. Now, no matter where you are in the world, you can explore the Galapagos Islands from your computer or handheld device.”
Ironically, one place in the world that will have difficulty seeing the imagery is Galápagos. Because of limited bandwidth on the islands, the many gigabits of photo data obtained by Google take hour after hour to download.
According to Graciela Monsalve, who handles scientific communications for the Charles Darwin Foundation, there will be a video presentation of the Google Galapagos project in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz, on the evening of September 13. Google experts will give hints on how to download the pictures in spite of sluggish Internet speeds.