Google has always thought up cool new ways to capture pictures for Google Maps' Street View. To date, the Trekker camera has gone scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands to take breathtaking underwater photos, and dog-sledding in the arctic tundra in Canada. Now, the Trekker can cross off ziplining in the Amazon rainforest from its list.
Thanks to the Trekker's latest adventure, users can now take a virtual tour through a remote part of the South American jungle via Street View, which began offering 360-degree views of American towns and cities in 2007 but expanded to include iconic places and landmarks such as the jungles of the Amazon.
The latest pictures, which are now available on Street View, take users on a treetop expedition over the forest through to the forest floor, where one can look up to see thick moss and miles of vines hanging from the trunks of hundreds-year-old trees with canopies so thick the sun can barely shine through the forest roof. There is also a variety of undiscovered flora and fauna that are sure to fascinate the enthusiast and the professional biologist.
The project was done in collaboration with the Amazonas Sustainable Foundation (FAS) through its Trekker Loan Program. Unlike tourist destinations, however, which usually have established paths mapped out for the Trekker to go through, the challenge in photographing the Amazon is figuring out where to put the zipline.
As Karin Tuxen-Bettman, program manager for Google Earth Outreach, says, workers for the FAS, accompanied by some monkeys they met along the way, had to set out on foot and by boat to find suitable locations where the Trekker would not hit anything as it wound through its zipline expedition.
"The new imagery is the result of boating down 500 kilometers (310 miles) of rivers, walking 20 kilometers (12 miles) of forest trails, and ziplining through forest canopies," wrote Tuxen-Bettman in a blog post.
Google also placed 12 40-pound Trekker cameras on boats and sent them out to the Rio Aripuanã or the Rio Mariepauá to come out at the Rio Madeira, one of the largest tributaries of the Amazon River. The virtual tour will also include a visit to the community of Abelha, one of 17 local communities living along the river.
"These people are the devoted stewards of the river and forests and protect it by living with it, preventing the destruction of the trees and the life that depends on them," Tuxen-Bettman says.
In 2010, Google first partnered with FAS to take 360-degree images of the Rio Negro Reserve in Brazil's part of the Amazon by mounting the Trekker on the Street View trike. Google says it hopes to help scientists, researchers, and armchair travelers discover what unique places like the Amazon have to offer and preserve them for future generations.
In 2009, for instance, a team of researchers came across a previously unknown rainforest hidden in the mountains of northern Mozambique in Southeast Africa using Street View, leading to the discovery of unrecorded plants and animals.