Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Embracing Google Earth

I am one of those people who loves to fly United Airlines because I can watch the little GPS screen of the plane making its way across the planet and listen to the pilots and the Air Traffic Control people. I am just thrilled when I hear a pilot say that he is going to go up or down (or turn) . . . and then the plane does just that. I love it when I get one of those talky pilots who wants to talk about geological formations below. I like to open my window shade to the annoyance of my fellow passengers in the hopes that I will see the Northern Lights (which I have twice).

The flight from NY to Tokyo is just beautiful, if you have a clear day. All those mountains in Canada and Alaska, and then the strange rugged beauty of the Bering Sea. And how thrilled was I when I spotted and island off of Russia coming up on the little GPS map! I opened my window shade and took these pictures.

I wondered: Does anyone live down there? If so, how do they survive? Is that part of the US or Russia? Will I ever know? It is one thing to fly over the US and spot places I've been to. It's quite another to look at places I've never even set foot on.

Then I came home and, in a fit of industriousness, got DSL and downloaded Google Earth. Whoah.

I remembered vaguely where the island in question was located, and spun the little Google Earth around trying to find it. And I finally did. Here is a somewhat similar angle of the island.

I'm pretty sure, now, that this is the island in question. Though Google Earth listed the names of the island's mountains and coves, it didn't give the island a name. Since I can be obsessive, I pored through the maps on Wikipedia, and finally figured out that this island is called Attu Island, and it is the Western-most part of Alaska. There are twenty-some people living there, all with the US Coast Guard; they run a LORAN station. Attu Island was home to Aleutians before WWII, but they were all "repatriated" by the Japanese. Americans invaded Attu Island in 1943; apparently there is still plenty of debris from the battles that ensued. Today it a destination for serious birders.

Of course, now that I know all this, I want to go to Attu Island, no matter how impractical it may be. I suspect the desire to go to new places is, for me, only going to be fueled by my constant toying around with Google Earth.


The hype about Google Earth is true! I downloaded it and was all ready to explore, when my computer informed me that the graphics card did not support Google Earth. :(

My computer, as I find out off and on, is of the last generation before many of the modern conveniences were standardized. I can do virtually everything I want to do with this 6 year old laptop, but many things take great effort.

I'm going to get myself a new laptop in July and then I will Google Earth myself to death. I like to find those little out of the way places that no one has ever heard of too.

FYI...a cool place to look into is the small island of Tristan da Cunha. Wait until you read this story!

Google Earth IS really cool and I've had a lot of fun zooming around and looking at places, and sending people pictures of their homes.

You are quite right -- the history of Tristan da Cunha is very interesting. The weather is probably better there than Attu with all its birds.

It's great to see you on Japundit, by the way. Baseball season is heating up and I know that we will be glued to the games; it's fantastic to have your perspective!
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