Thursday, October 25, 2018

Street View of Hawaii's Sunken Island

East Island, one of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, has disappeared. The island, the second-largest in the French Frigate Shoals, was the most important nesting place for green sea turtles. It has now been washed away by Hurricane Walaka.

Despite having been wiped off the map you can still visit East Island on Google Maps. Back in 2013 Google captured Street View imagery of the island, which means you can take a virtual walk around a now sunken island using Google's 360 degree panoramic imagery.

A map of the island can also still be seen on Google Maps. Presumably in the near future Google will remove East Island from Google Maps. Google will then have to make the decision about whether to remove the Street View imagery of the island as well. This is an interesting problem for Google. If they leave the Street View imagery of East Island on Google Maps then the map is in effect out of date. However this imagery is now an important historical record of a place that no longer exists, imagery which Google have a duty to preserve.

For the record, at the time of writing, East Island is also still on OpenStreetMap. If you are worried about rising sea levels then you can always use Flood Maps to check the effect of different levels of sea level rise on your home.

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