Become an Antarctic explorer with panoramic imagery

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 at 12:00 AM

(Cross posted to the Official Google Blog

In the winter of 1913, a British newspaper ran an advertisement to promote the latest imperial expedition to Antarctica, apparently placed by polar explorer Ernest Shackleton. It read, "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success." While the ad appears apocryphal, the dangerous nature of the journey to the South Pole is certainly not—as explorers like Roald Amundsen, Robert Falcon Scott and Shackleton himself discovered as they tried to become the first men to reach it.

Back in September 2010, we launched the first Street View imagery of the Antarctic, enabling people from more habitable lands to see penguins in Antarctica for the first time. Today we’re bringing you additional panoramic imagery of historic Antarctic locations that you can view from the comfort of your homes. We’ll be posting this special collection to our World Wonders site, where you can learn more about the history of South Pole exploration.


With the help of the Polar Geospatial Center at the University of Minnesota and the New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust, we’ve added 360-imagery of many important spots, inside and out, such as the South Pole Telescope, Shackleton's hut, Scott’s hutCape Royds Adélie Penguin Rookery and the Ceremonial South Pole.




The ceremonial South Pole - View Larger Map


The interior of Shackleton’s Hut demonstrates the host of supplies used in early 20th century Antarctic expeditions—everything from medicine and food to candles and cargo sleds can be found neatly stored inside. (View Larger Map)

With this technology, you can go inside places like Shackleton’s Hut (pictured above) and the other small wooden buildings that served as bases from which the explorers launched their expeditions. They were built to withstand the drastic weather conditions only for the few short years that the explorers inhabited them, but remarkably, after more than a century, the structures are still intact, along with well-preserved examples of the food, medicine, survival gear and equipment used during the expeditions. Now anyone can explore these huts and get insight into how these men lived for months at a time.


The landscape outside of Robert Falcon Scott’s supply hut conveys just how desolate the area is. For these early explorers, the supply huts were an oasis of warmth and comfort in a cold and inhospitable landscape. (View Larger Map)

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. We worked with this technology because of its portability, reliability and ease-of-use (our Street View trikes wouldn’t be much use in the snow).

The goal of these efforts is to provide scientists and travel (or penguin) enthusiasts all over the world with the most accurate, high-resolution data of these important historic locations. With this access, schoolchildren as far as Bangalore can count penguin colonies on Snow Hill Island, and geologists in Georgia can trace sedimentary layers in the Dry Valleys from the comfort of their desks. Feel free to leave your boots and mittens behind, and embark on a trip to Antarctica.


Posted by Alex Starns, Technical Program Manager, Street View