Google Earth

No Island No Claim: The Cases of Tuvalu and Nauru

In 2009, the Island of Bermeja, located in the Gulf of Mexico disappeared from site. Now, it will disappear on maps, as well.

Mexico was using Bermeja to leverage a claim on oil rights in the Gulf of Mexico, after all, their state maps showed the Island as an unquestionable part of their territory. The problem was, when a crew went out to examine the Bermeja, it could not be found.

Another crew was sent out to investigate the claim, alas, nothing to be found. The disbelief even led to conspiracy theories of the CIA destroying the island (see: Bikini Atoll). The United States gave a prompt and cutting response to Mexico, “No Island, No Claim,” the norm in international law.

This case was followed up in the last week by news that New Moore Island, or S. Talpatti, in the Bay of Bengal, a former maritime dispute point between India and Bangladesh, had ceased to be.

Many of the UN’s tiniest and lowest lying states, Tuvalu, Nauru, and Maldives, for example are in jeopardy of becoming submerged in the next decade, due to rising ocean levels.

The international community has been somewhat sympathetic to these soon to be submerged countries, with New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, and even the United States offering financial aid. There are plans in the works for full scale evacuations of many Islands Oceania, should there be a catastrophic upsurge in sea levels in the form of a king tide.

It is likely that those in Tuvalu, Nauru, and some Parts of the Maldives and the Marshall Islands could soon become people without a state, only a few years after joining the UN.

Goodbye Nanumea Island (Part of Tuvalu). We hardly knew ye.

This issue is the focus of this week’s GeocurrentCast, illustrated in Google Earth. We’ll be taking a satellite look at the fate of the world’s tiniest and least elevated island states.

To download the presentation, first download Google Earth.

Next, download this file, and double click the video icon in Google Earth to start the guided, narrated tour.

You can pause or stop the tour at any time to investigate some of the islands in closer detail.

Happy flying.

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Mining Scars & Smokestacks: Industrial Topography Illustrated in Google Earth

Our Geocurrentcast this week, aims to illustrate some of the most awe-inspriing images of the impact of industrialization. This week’s Google Earth tour looks at man’s physical impact on the surface of the earth through our thirst for mining ore, gold, boron, diamonds, uranium salt, natural gas, oil, and even the wind.

The tour takes time to stop with the army of Alexander the Great at the Khewra Salt Mines of Pakistan, resists Pinochet at El Teniente and El Chuquicama in Chile, and adds an extra karat of guilt to your grandfather’s wedding ring during its stop at the hand dug mines of South Africa.

The goal of this tour is to instill a deeper curiosity on issues extraction, energy use, consumption, land reclamation and industrialization through satellite illustration.


To view this tour, first download Google Earth.

Next, download the tour as a KMZ file, and double click the movie icon the places menu of Google Earth to play the tour.

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The Eyjafjallajokull Eruption Illustrated

As a companion to this post, there is a short google earth tour that will enable you to explore the eruption area in Iceland, and fly to other eruption sites of the past.

To access the tour, first download Google Earth, then download this KML file, and finally double click the video icon in the places menu.

There was significant volcanic eruption in this morning between the Eyjafjallajokull & Myrdalsjokull Glaciers in Southern Iceland. The eruption brought about a glowing, thick, viscous lava flow through the glacial ice and left a plume of smoke and steam more than a kilometer high.
The eruption forced a prompt evacuation of nearby villages, including farming villages Hvolsvollur, Vik, and Skogar. Skogar is a sleepy town of herders, which occasionally attracts wayward, glacier bound tourists, to the local folk museum, shown below. I’ve never seen a photograph, which did less to dispel those elvish stereotypes surrounding Icelanders.
This eruption will not threaten human lives. Abandoned livestock are the most at risk from the gases. It is the flooding that follows that will cause the most problems. The volcanic runoff and heat from the eruption could create spouts of hot water that may melt the glacier.
The biggest threat, in this scenario, would be is a subsequent eruption of the nearby Katla Volcano, a few miles to the northeast, underneath the Myrdalsjokull Ice Cap. Such an eruption would melt the cap and set off catastrophic flooding.
Hopefully, history will not repeat itself, but the odds are not in the Icelander’s favor. According to wikipedia: Over the past 1,100 years, Eyjafjallajokull has erupted three times: in 920, 1612, and between 1821-1823. Each of these incidents directly preceded a major eruption in the nearby subglacial volcano,Katla.[9]

 

The Hekla Volcano, above, is proof in itself why Iceland is such a captivating location for scientists and ecotourists, alike. These eruptions should only add to the mystique.















Our fingers here are crossed that Iceland can escape without a second eruption, and that this video is the worst of the damage. The Icelanders had a rough 2009, highlighted by the crash of their banking system. An eruption at Katla would make those problems seem as far off as Bjork’s time with the Sugarcubes.
Now, if they’d only stop selling whale at the supermarkets in Reykjavik…

This post was made possible by information from theSmithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program

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Geocurrents on Google Earth: The Gulag Archipelago Illustrated

The Gulag system began under Lenin as a means of ‘Re-Education through Labor,’ and was expanded exponentially under Stalin. Twenty to Thirty Million people were imprisoned in concentration camps that stretched across the whole of the Soviet Union. The Gulag system was significantly de-intensified under Nikita Kruschev in 1960, but by that time, millions had perished, and millions remained enslaved.

These camps stretched across the continent in a massive system, coined the Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, one of the most important authors and historians of the 20th century, who had himself been enslaved in the system. His interviews with hundreds of zek’s in the Gulag system a harrowing portrait of humanity’s bleakest moments, and is an invaluable historical source.


For this weeks Geocurrentcast, I have digitally mapped a small sample of the labor camps in the Gulag Archipelago. It is an attempt to illustrate how terrain to be used as torture. There are a staggering amount of camps from this system, and I eventually endeavour to digitally map the whole of the Gulag Archipelago, overlaid with historical imagery.

First download the Google Earth File hereto access the tour.

If you are new to Google earth tours, first download google earth. Then download this file, and double click the video icon to play the narrated tour, or just click around the former Soviet Union.


Here are few other sites and maps I found, constructing the tour, that are particularly striking:

SOLOVKI

Solovki, a former monastery in on the Solovetski Islands was first inahbited by monks in the mid 15th century who migrated north from Moscow. Its was renowned for its harsh wintry solitude, and regarded as a holy place by some, owing to the absence of snakes. Passage to the island can be made nowadays only once a twice a week by plane or by ferry, when the conditions permitted.


Solovki was one of the first camps in the Gulag system, operating from 1923-1939. Solovki was a measuring stick for many of the methods of coercion and psychological control by the Soviet Government. It is in a sense, the Alcatraz of the Gulag Archipelago, as it is actually based on a frozen island. Solzhenitsyn said of Solovki:

It was a place with no connection to the rest of the world for half a year. A scream from here would never be heard.


CAVNIK


CAVNIK, based in Northern Transylvania, Romania, is not a striking camp in any way. There were 96 others almost exactly like it in Romania alone. However, I through that this hand drawn prisoners map was particularly telling.


(image from http://www.osaarchivum.org/gulag/txt1.htm)

Poland

Illustrates the extent of the camp system, one state as a microcosm of the whole.



Solzhenitsyn’s history is so important because, as google earth showed, there is remaining no physical evidence of the camps all of Poland. Most of the coordinates lead to empty fields and drifts, while some led to shopping centers. What lies below the surface is invisible to our eyes.

PERM 36

Perm-36 is the only Soviet Gulag that has not been deconstructed. It is now preserved as a world heritage site and memorial, and is accompanied by aUNSECO museum on the Gulag System.



(Perm-36 Camp, Photo from the Museum’s Website)

If you’re taking a real Gulag tour through Russia, stop by the Perm-36 camp, as well as theMednoye Memorial Complex. Otherwise you’d have to take your chances with the strange historical narratives from the Russian State History Museum, or the Darwin Museum.

Make sure to read your Solzhenitsyn. Start with A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, then progress to the poems he memorized in the camps which compose The Trail. Then, make a deep study of the Gulag Archipelago.

(Many thanks to Warc 1 in the Google Earth Community, for assembling the Kolyma Highway KML used in this presentation, and available here)

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Free Tours of Guantanamo Bay… in Google Earth

Guantanamo and the United States, and One Cashed Rent Check
Today’s post focuses on Guantanamo Bay, and is illustrated with Google Earth.
Please download a free copy of Google Earth, and then download this KML file, as an interactive accompaniment to this Geocurrents post.

Guantanamo Bay was obtained by the United States following the Spanish American war. The natural harbor made it an important staging point for the 1898 invasion of Cuba.
In 1903, with US Warships still docked in the bay, the newly independent Cuban government signed a deal with the United States granting it a perpetual lease on the land.
At the time, what made Guantanamo such a key strategic site for the United States’ ambition for hegemony in Latin America, was the fact that it was the best harbor laying on the Windward Passage, a key shipping lane through the Caribbean to the Panama Canal.

The US maintained control of the area, through a series of treaties: the Cuban American Treaty of 1930 and the Avery Porko treaty of 1934, with the US paying approximately a 2000 dollar a year lease on the land and shared access to the waters. This treaty provided that only US abandonment of the base or mutual agreement would end the stay. For a more heavily detailed version of the terms and geography of this controversy this report from SEMP, will get you up to speed.
The heart of the territorial controversy about the area between the US and Cuba (aside from acquisition through imperial force & that it’s a staging point for torture) can be pinpointed at in the diction used in the top right hand corner of the map below.


The Phrase ‘Reaffirmed in 1963,’ was really only reaffirmed by one side, the United States.
The US State Department has kept the position that Castro’s revolution government reaffirmed the lease by cashing a US check for the land, shortly after taking power. Castro has played this as an early bureaucratic mistake, and has not cashed any checks since. Castro considers the occupation of Guantanamo Bay illegal.
According to Castro, the US Checks are made out to the ‘Treasurer General of the Republic,” a position that does not exist in his government. He keeps the US Checks in a desk, as a souvenir.
The detainment and torture of US prisoners on Cuban soil, is obviously a touchy issue for the Cuban government, and Obama may have realized this during efforts to re-engage with the Cuban Government, taking steps on closing Guantanamo.
Obama has announced plans to move the current detainees to the Thomson Correctional Center in Thomson, Illinois, a prison with an unused Maximum Security wing. The Prison, once beefed up for the detainees will exceed Supermax status, boasting 15-foot walls, electrified with 7000 volts.
If I may throw a diplomatic idea out here: I suggest that United States return Guantanamo to the Cubans as a bargaining chip to restore benevolent diplomatic relations. This isn’t 1900, we don’t need to scramble to bully the Windward Passage and protect the Panama Canal anymore. The Guantanamo territory was taken in an imperialist war over a century ago, and is an exclave that almost exclusively encompasses US imperialism and torture.


For the Google Earth Portion of this tour, which I linked at the beginning of the article, I suggest you explore not just the topography of the region, but also the inconsistencies in the region.
Much of the Guantanamo Terrain is obscured intentionally in the images, and many of the map overlays I’ve tried with the software are inconsistent. Huge hills jut out of nowhere, showing that there is a geographical cover up, going on with Google Earth in Guantanamo.
The tour will then swing to aerials views of the detainee’s future home, in Thomson, Illinois. No cover-ups there, just corn.
All this has brought me to think that, I could only imagine what would have happened if Khrushchev and Kennedy had Google Earth during the Cold War.

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