In case you didn’t see, Google launched a massive update to Google Earth today, and it’s absolutely incredible. Check out this teaser video before we talk about how cool it is for travel junkies like us.
Besides some beautiful new mapping and 3D redesigning, the two biggest changes in the new Google Earth are massive. The first is that now it’s easily accessible to anyone on a Chrome internet browser, so you don’t need to download a desktop app. But the second is a really beautiful new feature called ‘Voyager’. While on the Google Earth website, simply click on the ‘Captain’s Wheel’ icon on the left-hand side to be brought to the exciting new page. While you may think this is just a random algorithm that generates interesting places, it actually is not. It’s carefully curated ‘stories’ that Google has created with the help of content creators like the BBC and Planet Earth.
Being curious, I dug right into the Voyager section and was immediately greeted with a virtual journey called ‘The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks.’ Being that is is National Park Week, I thought this was the perfect way to test out the new Google Earth.
I clicked Start Exploring and was given an option to check out 5 specific National Parks.
Being a big fan of ice and cold environments, I clicked on the Kenai Fjords and was immediately transported to the remote Kenai Peninsula in southern Alaska. The short tours involve a number of stops, in the case of Kenai, 7. Each stop launches a YouTube 360 video in which you can scroll around as the park ranger talks you through what you are experiencing. In Kenai, you start by ice climbing down into an ice crevasse.
Other stops inside the park included a 360 view of the ‘toe’ of the the Kenai glacier. Our ranger guide, Fiona North, tells us that climate change is having on this park, and other glaciers and ice caps around the world. The glacier usually recedes 46 feet per year, but lately, the annual average has spiked to 150 feet per year. It’s eye opening information that I am glad Google is bringing to us. And, just three stops into my tour, I have already learned something.
Not all of the videos are 360 however, which I actually welcome since I usually get bored of 360 video rather quickly. The 4th stop of my tour was all beautiful aerial footage over Bear Glacier with my Ranger tour guide giving me fascinating information as I flew over this frozen tundra.
Another non-360 video showed me a 40-ton Humpback Whale soaring out of the water.
After Kayaking through Bear Glacier, I was done with my Ranger guided tour of Kenai Fjords National Park. It only took a couple of minutes, but I hung around zooming around the 3D world of this awesome park for a bit before moving on.
All in all, my first Voyager experience with the new and improved Google Earth was pretty cool. It went quick enough where I didn’t get bored (a common occurrence), and I saw some pretty cool stuff and learned a thing or two. And this was just one of more than 40 that launched today. So what happens after you experience all 40 Voyager stories? How about checking out ‘National Parks of North America’?
And if you are really out of ideas on what to search for, let Google do the work for you with their new ‘I’m Feeling Lucky’ tool. Google claims there are already over 20,000 locations in this feature, all with knowledgeable cards that are displayed on landing. On my first roll of the die, I landed on Waiheke Island in New Zealand, a location I had never heard of, so right away, the I feel Lucky button has shown me something new to explore.
All in all, the new Google Earth is pretty cool and will be a valuable tool for all travelers, both for wanderlust and for actual planning. Let us know what places you think we should check out by sharing your Google Earth links in the comments!