6 things discovered by accident in Google Earth

How to use Google Earth Timelapse

Google Earth is a great ally for anyone looking to explore without leaving home. In some cases, persistence works: users have already managed to discover unprecedented places and scenarios through the platform, by accident or not, and can still be accessed through satellite images.

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Some of the most startling revelations include undiscovered forests, rock formations and even skeletons that are nearly two million years old. Check below the main explorations made with the help of Google Earth.

1. Rainforest

  • Location: 16° ​​17′ 56″ S, 36° 23′ 44″ E

In 2005, a group of researchers led by Julian Bayliss identified, through Google Earth, a region in Madagascar very similar to a previously visited forest. In 2008, an expedition found that Mount Mabu conserved an unprecedented tropical forest.

At 1,700 meters above sea level, the mount is home to the largest medium-altitude rainforest in Africa. Local expeditions resulted in the discovery of more than ten new species, in addition to the identification of groups at risk of extinction. Years later, the same Julian Bayliss used the same method to discover another intact rainforest on Monte Lico.

2. Skeleton

The Sterkfontein Caves, or “Cradle of Humankind”, in South Africa, is an archaeological site in which the first skeleton of an adult australopithecus was found. With the help of Google Earth, researchers were able to map more caves and discovered the bones of a hominid that are almost 2 million years old.

Professor Lee Berger of the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg has started a project to map and identify possible sites with bones in the region. In one of his explorations, his son found the collarbone of a hominid species, called Australopithecus sediba, aged approximately 1.977 million years.

3. Largest natural arch in the world

  • Location: 24°41’15.80″ N, 106°47’59.94″ E

Until 2009, the position of the largest natural arch in the world was occupied by the Landscape Arch, in Utah, USA, with 88.4 meters in length. With a Google Earth search, the Natural Arch and Bridge Society (NABS, or “Natural Arches and Bridges Society”, in free translation) discovered a geological phenomenon of the much larger type in China.

The Xianjin Bridge, in Quancim Autonomous Province, was discovered and measured in 2010, from a NABS expedition. At 121.9 meters long, the site has become the largest natural arch on the planet.

4. Mysterious Eye

  • Location: 34°15’07.8″ S, 58°49’47.4″ W

This island located in the Paraná Delta, Argentina, was discovered by film director Sergio Neuspiller while looking for new spaces to record a horror film. The format draws attention: the lake and the piece of land are in the shape of a circle, but the place rotates on its own axis over time.

There is a theory that the movement happens due to water currents, but the result still intrigues researchers and visitors. Because of this, the place receives names such as “Mysterious Eye”, “Rare Eye” and “Eye of the Delta”.

5. Guardian of the Badlands

  • Location: 50° 0’38.20″N, 110° 06′ 48.32″W

While browsing Google Earth, a user found a rock formation in Alberta, Canada, very similar to the profile of a human face. Subsequently, a local poll elected the name “Badlands Guardian” for the valley.

Despite serving as an inspiration for theories about aliens, the place is yet another example of pareidolia: a psychological phenomenon in which the human mind identifies shape patterns, mainly faces, when they do not exist in an object.

6. Reunion with the family

As a child, Indian businessman Saroo Brierley lost his brother, took a wrong train and ended up in a region more than a thousand kilometers from his home village. Brierley was adopted by Australians and it took him 25 years to find his biological family.

Not knowing the name of the village where he was born, he used Google Earth to try to recreate the paths of the train line. The story was portrayed in the book The Long Road Home, by Saroo Brierley, and later adapted for cinema in the film Lion: A Journey Home, from 2016, with six Oscar nominations.