1. Most people don’t realize that what we now known as Google Earth was originally called Earth Viewer. The project was created by Keyhole, Inc., a company that received some of its funding from In-Q-Tel, which was a venture capital firm for hi-tech companies sponsored and funded by the CIA.
2. Instead of trying to design, create, and release their own cutting edge technologies, the CIA apparently just invests in smaller firms through this shell venture capital firm, and reaps the rewards that keep them armed with the latest information technology and advancements.
3. Nowadays, Google Earth, Google Maps, and Street View have become invaluable parts of every day life for billions of people around the world, including advances in agriculture, clean energy, weather patterns, geological tracking (earthquake, volcano, and tsunami tracking), gaining information about unfriendly foreign nations (like North Korea), scientific breakthroughs, solving natural mysteries, and documenting and protecting our natural environment. Oh, and I almost forgot that it helps us get from Point A to Point B on our roadways without getting hopelessly lost.
4. Every year, we use Google Maps to help us navigate through 12 billion miles of roads.
5. Since Google Map’s Street View project began in 2007, their team has driven more than 5 million unique miles of roads and taken tens of millions of images to document them.
6. There’s even a feature that lets you view where the Google Street View vehicles are driving at the moment.
7. If you add up all the satellite, aerial, and street level imagery that Google Maps has collected, it comes to over 20 petabytes of data (about 21 million gigabytes, or 20,500 terabyte drives lined up and used to capacity.)
8. Some of you photogs might be wondering what kind of cameras and image tech Google uses for their Street View project. In fact, each Street View camera system has 15 lenses that can take photos at an incredibly sharp 65-megapixel resolution.
9. These 15 lenses take photos simultaneously in a 360-degree panoramic, and then digitally align the photos to produce seamless images.
10. Google Maps, Google Earth, and Street View images are updated as frequently as possible with logistics, weather, road, and other conditions permitting, but that usually comes to an update about once every two weeks.
11. Not everyone is a big fan of being documented by Google Earth. In fact, the Middle Eastern country of Bahrain banned Google Earth because it didn’t want its citizens to be able to see the huge areas of land owned by the royal family, dotted with swimming pools, mansions, and other opulence right next to overcrowded slums and villages.
12. The Chinese military inadvertently let the cat out of the bag on one of their military operations thanks to Google Earth. In 2006, a perfectly detailed 1:1500 scale model of a border region between China and India that was under dispute was photographed from above. The scale model of the terrain was 3,000 x 2,300 feet in size and right next to a Chinese military complex that apparently was using it to plan mock raids and troop movements.
13. Google Earth has a feature that allows you to recall historical imagery, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks can be seen.
14. A large number of shipwrecks that rest under the oceans and seas have been viewed with Google Earth, including the wreck of the Titanic!
15. When Google Earth images taken over Iran’s national airport were revealed for the first time, Iranian officials were shocked to see a Star of David – the symbol of Judaism – sitting atop the airport roof. Apparently, the star was erected and left by Israeli engineers who built the structure before the Iranian Revolution in 1979 when it was a more peaceful country, but not discovered for three decades.
16. An archeologist named Angela Micol discovered a grouping of lost Egyptian periods by surveying satellite images taken by Google Earth.
17. Virtually buried by thick jungle in a remote part of China, the world’s largest natural bridge was unknown to humankind until Google Earth observed and documented it. Now called The Fairy Bridge, it spans 400 feet of solid limestone across a river.
18. A rainforest in Mozambique in Africa – earned the nickname, ‘Google Forest’ after it was first discovered by scientists – as well as the mountain it spanned - using Google Earth in 2005, as only local villagers knew about it until then.
19. A lot of good can be done if the technology is in the right hands. For instance, they’re using Google Maps to track and mark dangerous landmine fields in Kosovo so others can avoid danger.
20. And scientists have used Google Maps to set up maps of every recent animal extinction or mass death.
21. Once isolated Tribes in the Amazon rainforest in Brazil have started using GPS and Google Earth technology to map their lands, monitor natural resources like rivers and medicinal plants, and monitor for illegal logging and mining.
22. In an eerie mystery befitting a sci-fi novel, there is a phantom city that shows up on Google Earth and Google Maps. The non-existent town was called Argleton and appeared on Google’s projections in West Lancashire, England before being removed.
23. Law enforcement agencies around the world have made good use of Google Earth’s mapping imagery, like the Swiss police force, which spotted a two-acre marijuana farm on Google Earth.
24. If you’ve used Google Earth, you may notice that it first centers in on a spot in the middle of the U.S. In fact, default center for Google Earth is Lawrence, Kansas – the home of the man most responsible for the technology, Brian McClendon.
25. Concerned about privacy after seeing that your house shows up in detail on Google Street View? You can request that Google blurs the image of your own home or address and they will comply.
Look for part two of this blog, with 25 more facts about Google Earth!