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Want to explore the lava fields, stunning underwater scenery and blue-footed booby habitats of the Galapagos Islands — from the comfort of your computer chair? Google has got you covered.
The web giant is bringing its popular Street View to the famous islands that prompted Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection. Google's team spent 10 days on the islands in May, and is releasing the resulting images today. Check out our gallery for a taste of what the cameras captured.
A Galapagos giant tortoise crawls along the path near Karin Tuxen-Bettman while she collects imagery with the Street View Trekker in Galapaguera, a tortoise breeding center that's managed by the Galapagos National Park Service.
Daniel Orellana, of the Charles Darwin Foundation, crosses a field of ferns to reach Minas de Azufre — naturally-occurring sulfur mines — on the top of Sierra Negra, an active volcano on Isabela Island.
Christophe Bailhache navigates the SVII camera through a large group of sea lions at Champion Island.
A Galapagos giant tortoise walks through Galapaguera, a tortoise breeding center managed by the Galapagos National Park Service.
Daniel Orellana climbs out of a lava tunnel where he was collecting imagery for the project.
The blue-footed booby is one of the unique Galapagos animals that can be found in the Street View imagery from North Seymour Island. During mating rituals, the male birds show off their blue feet to the females with a distinctive dance.
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Raleigh Seamster, program manager with the Google Earth Outreach Team, led the Galapagos project. Her department supports organizations that are using Google Maps to visualize environmental and social issues all around the world — in this case, the Charles Darwin Foundation.
The Galapagos team spent their time hiking trails, clambering across lava fields and venturing into the crater of a live volcano to capture 360-degree images of 10 locations on the islands — some chosen for their importance to marine conservation, some chosen because tourism isn't allowed there.
They boated to Isabella Island to photograph the restoration of the land iguana population there, which had been decimated by invasive species but is now on the rise once again. Hiking through North Seymour Island, they came within a couple meters of of iconic bird species like the blue-footed booby and the Great Frigatebird, which has a huge, heart-shaped throat sack to attract females.
"We didn't realize what an early wakeup call we'd be getting," Seamster says. "A lot of the animals, like the land iguana, are very active in the morning before the hot sun comes up."
The images offer you a way to see another faraway piece of the world, but they are also valuable for research and education purposes.
"Students can learn about geography, biology, evolution, geology," says Daniel Orellana of the Charles Darwin Foundation. "Scientists can conduct studies based on the imagery, and everyone can be part of the global action to understand, enjoy and protect Galapagos."
To see more of the imagery that Google Earth collected in the Galapagos Islands, visit the Street View map to check out the rest of the project.
You may also want to see Vetstreet's article featuring Google's underwater photography of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
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