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The world in a window… Google Earth

Hrishikesh Samant


Hrishikesh Samant
Sr. Associate Editor (Honorary)
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Dhawal Kumar
Sub Editor-Middle East and North Africa

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Saurabh Mishra
Sub Editor-South East Asia and Pacific
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In early July this year there was an enigmatic mail from a friend with just three words ‘check this out’ and a link to some URL. Taken up with curiosity, I surfed on. After downloading an executable file, and installing the application, it promised a 3D view of our planet. With some very logical navigational skills managed to zoom on to my house… but was disappointed – the image was blurred and not as good as the high resolution images seen by me else where. After a bit of experimentation realisation dawned that the entire landscape could be viewed in 3D… and low behold, I was flying through the hills of ‘National Park’ the only reserved forest in Mumbai City in India.

Being used to the low resolution DEMs draped with false colour composites which were prepared over a decade ago, viewing the city in true colour was real eye candy. Every valley, the three lakes in the city, the coastal mangroves were there – to see, admire and study though at low resolution. As I zoomed out, and viewed the entire coverage for India, the area around Delhi appeared different. Zooming in, the first feature that grabbed my attention were the air strips at the Indira Gandhi International Airport and was amazed to see details to the level of vehicles parked outside the airport let alone the various aircraft. . I was hooked, addicted, smitten…

My next journey in this virtual world was to Mt. Everest, words fail me, you feel like a falcon flying high, when viewing the worlds highest mountain in all its glory. This thrill has to be experienced.

I realised, I had spend about three hours in this virtual world visiting various places around the world, flying to, the pyramids in Egypt, the dunes in the Empty Quarter in the U.A.E, the Rock of Gibraltar, the Grand Canyon…….each was a pilgrimage. At the end of it all, was elated but a bit envious – Delhi could be viewed in amazing detail but not my City, Mumbai. These woes were short lived and about a month ago, was overjoyed to see the site updated with high resolution satellite imagery for a large part of Mumbai and this included my house. Friends, In the last week of June this year the world wide web user community in general and geographic information user in particular woke up to a pleasant surprise – another visionary (literally) product from the house of GOOGLE – The ‘Google Earth’ was launched. Google Earth is a web based GIS service which has generated a fan following. It has done what many attempted to do in the last two decades – popularising the use Geo-spatial data in just four months.

The popularity and relevance of such a ‘service’ is evident from the extensive use of data from ‘Google Earth’ by the media. Though unpleasant, the curious human mind does want to see the aftermath of disasters. The high resolution imagery coverage of areas around Islamabad in Pakistan made available by ‘Google Earth’ after the recent earthquake bears testimony. Data from Google Earth was also used to study the cause of extensive flooding in Mumbai City, India, in July this year resulting in the death of more than 600 people and extensive loss to property.

How do I get it?
Travel across the globe at the click of your mouse – with spectacular true colour satellite imagery drapes on a very realistic terrain in 3D. It all begins with a visit to the ‘Google Earth’ web site – www.earth.google.com . The creators proudly call it ‘A 3D interface to the Planet’ which it truly is. One first needs to download an executable file and install the interface. When triggered, ‘Google Earth’ comes up with a ‘spaceship consol’ like window.

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