Guest Posts

On this page you will find valuable posts written outside the main GeoCurrents framework, by guest bloggers.

South Africa’s Soccer Stadiums & Slums in Google Earth

The World Cup has come to an exciting start this week, with no shortage of triumph and tumult.

To begin, take a fly around the Republic of South Africa and be sure to check out all of the host cities. Google Earth has released 3D models of all ten stadiums, as well as new panoramic photographs of the venues via street view mode.




To download a tour of the venues, download this file, created by the good folks at Google Earth (also responsible for this wonderful Jacques Cousteau Inspired KML recently).

While the goaltender blunders and vuvuzelas have stolen the headlines over the first week, riot police deployed tear gas and rubber bullets on South African World Cup employees staging a peaceful protest, after they were drastically underpaid from their agreed wages or not paid at all.

For a drastic counterpoint to the fantastic 3d images of the world cup stadiums- Point your browser to the recently evicted sweltering sandy shantytown of Blikkiesdorp.


South Africa has made great strides since the release of Mandela 20 years ago. Still this news, paired with a flyover of the cities surrounding the venues reveals the extent of inequality.

The road to the world cup was paved with evictions and ‘voluntary relocation programs,’to, dare I say, whitewash the rougher edges city for the thousands of oncoming & certainly judgmental western eyes and voices.



It would best serve FIFA and the South African to consider a ban on enforcing shady business dealings with tear gas, rather than a ban on vuvuzelas or even condoms, in exchange for the illusion of safety and security.

There’s a bit more of a health risk involved.

South Africa’s Soccer Stadiums & Slums in Google Earth Read More »

Deepwater Horizon: Grassroots Mapping & Spill Projections

Since our last post on the Gulf Oil Slick, little progress has come, with the exception of a small containment dome & riser pipe to mitigate a minor percentage of the of the total flow.


The addiction to oil has made this Gulf Spill, something of an inevitability. After all, a spill near this calibre happened decades ago with Ixtoc, yet the rules had not tightened. This photograph, posted in the google earth forums, shows the Gulf of Mexico at night. The sheer volume of lights offshore highlight the ubiquity of gulf drilling operations.


The oil has been flowing for so long, now, that the slick has now progressed out into the Atlantic, via the Gulf Stream Loop Current. A visualization of this is available in this projection below from UCAR.


Here we’d like to highlight a major ongoing development in the geographic web to monitor the spill, Grassroots Mapping, brought to our attention by SpatialSustain.

This campaign is centered on getting as many kites outfitted with observation censors in the sky to act as independent observation stations on the gulf.


For up to date spill estimates and figures, please continue to consult Skytruth, as your primary source for information.

Deepwater Horizon: Grassroots Mapping & Spill Projections Read More »

A Photo Tour of How Russian Billionaire & New Jersey Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov Made His Billions













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(Translation: About the Planet and the Children, )







Mikhail Prokhorov is the former CEO and billion dollar shareholder in the Norlisk Mining and Metals company, as well as rapper Jay-Z’s current business parter, as majority owner of the New Jersey Nets. HIs photo has been intentionally excluded from the series above, so that his name will be associated with pollution, above all else. He once was the baron behind, Norlisk, a secretive siberian smelter city, tabbed by the BBC as the world’s largest producer of acid rain.

Prohkorov, a charming 45-year old, has made more headlines recently for hisflamboyant private life, than pollution, but. Prokhorov’s dossier, aside from chronic pollution, also includes bribery, seizure of public property via emminent domain, and business deals with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.

The Smelter city of Norilsk was originally founded as a Stalinist Gulag in 1937. The temperatures are so extreme that between 1939 and 1959, the gulag claimed at least 16,806 lives. Ten degrees above zero (Fahrenheit) is warm weather in Norilisk. The sun does not shine for six months a year. Temperatures can fall to seventy below. There is a nineteen mile wide dead zone surrounding the city, few babies are born healthy, and the acid rain blankets an area the size of Germany. These are the daily realities of those who toiled to form the base of Prokhorov’s fortune.

This man could be LeBron James’s new boss, for all we know. He’s going to be signing the checks to former Stanford Star Brook Lopez. Yet it is unlikely the press, or national basketball association will make any mention of his pollution of the world’s air and Russia’s water. While Prokhorov has since sold his stake in Norlisk, the environmental damage that occurred during his leadership as director has been devastating.

National Basketball Association’s willingness to turn ablind eye to political, geographic, and environmental is unsurprising. While the Norwegian government sold their shares in Norlisk because it did not want the environmental damage on their conscience, the NBA is not nearly as progressive an organization. Ecological morality is once again overlooked for the prospect of an extra few millions.

It’s fitting that Prokhorov is set to be the boss in New Jersey, of all places, because when you think Prokhorov, think Pollution (with a capital P).

The images used in this post were all generated in google earth from screenshots or the panoramio tool.

For a flyover tour of Norilsk in Google Earth, download this file.

A Photo Tour of How Russian Billionaire & New Jersey Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov Made His Billions Read More »

Mile Long Tube to Mitigate Gulf Spill





Today, the Unified Area Command for the response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil spill successfully inserted a mile long, four inch wide, riser pipe to the major leaking pipe behind the spill. The initial media estimates report that the tube can divert some of the oil from the pipe behind 85% of the spill to the surface.

Carrying the diverted spill, will be the Discoverer Enterprise Drillship, a modern marvel of engineering itself, deemed worthy of this bombastic promotional video by Deepwater. Perhaps their the BP PR squad thought that American’s could rest easier with the Enterprise in control.

The riser tube insertion is the first truly good news from the Gulf since the Rigs Explosion. While a containment dome was placed over one of the main spill areas, it did not change the rate of flow from the spill to the ocean, instead diverting the spill to the other ruptures at a higher rate of flow.

There is no guarantee of the success with the Riser tube, despite the good news. While its insertion was the first ever success at such depths, the pipe can still fail over the coming week. Methanol must continually be pumped into the pipe at over 120 degrees to prevent the formation of ice-like crystals in the pipe, and the hardware must hold up at extreme depths. The blowout preventor site is still badly leaking, and may still require a Junk Shot to be plugged. Furthermore, millions of gallons of oils are still spilling into the gulf, the well has not yet been plugged, and a relief well, the only sure fix, is still months away.

This comes as the US calls the riser pipe, “No Solution”to the spill, and scientists have discovered ten-mile wide, three miles across, hundreds of feet thick, up to four thousand feet beneath the Ocean’s surface. These slicks are set to become megaliths demarking Oceanic Dead Zones the size of Manhattan. In these areas, Oxygen levels are down more than 30% already, making it doubtful any life could survive. If the oil spill is to benefit anybody (aside from Halliburton), it’ll be the scavenging Giant Isopods.


The trajectory of the Oil spill can be tracked today, as always, via NOAA. The spill is now looming over the Mississippi delta, despite the Miles of boom line. NOAA, as well as the New York Times Spill Tracker, do not take into account the underwater plumes, and still use the rosiest possible estimates. The best bet for spill tracking, as showcased last week on GeoCurrents, remains SkyTruth.

For those interested to researching the historical parallels between the Deepwater Horizon Spill and Response and its most comparable predecessor, the IXTOC-1 spill, NOAA’s Incident Report, is an invaluable resource. The IXTOC was the most devastating spill to date, and layers of IXTOC oil can still be found in Texas beaches. The leak spewed for almost ten months, at twice the depths, until a relief well ended the crisis. While this did not carry the same urgency as the Deepwater Horizon Spill, and technology has improved at extreme depths, there are a number of historical lessons to be take from this case.

Attached below is the Spill’s trajectory forecast for today from NOAA. Even this report admits that Tarballs should begin to hit the Gulf-Stream Loop Current this week. There are already reports surfacing of a strong petroleum smell nearing Tampa, Florida.


There’s a lot riding on that 21 inch wide pipe.

Mile Long Tube to Mitigate Gulf Spill Read More »

The Latest on the Gulf Oil Spill in Google Earth

The Gulf Oil Slick as of 5/8/10



After last week’s dystopian projections on GeoCurrents, last Monday’s New York Times countered with unreasonably rosy projections. Good news sells papers. The article conveyed a sense of hope in its readers that the spill, was not as large as feared, and could be easily plugged as soon as this week. Their only quote from a so-called “Marine Biologist,” was, “The sky is not falling.”


Unfortunately, the rosy Monday articles were wrong, and their estimates on the breadth of the spill were embarrassingly low, based on faulty estimates fed to them from government agencies (see also: Iraq). Skytruth, for example, has found that initial official government and BP figures, widely quoted by the press, have been generated via ballpark estimate without proof. A NOAA Admiral is quoted, calling any estimation, “Impossible.”

Hate to break it to ya, Chicken Little, but the sky is falling. The proof can be found in the clouds of sludgy soot, bridging the ocean to the land. The proof can be found in the fact that the working environmental response plan, can be simplified as, “call us when you find dead stuff.” The proof can be found when even Al-Jazeera is sympathetic to this travesty. Just look at all the dead sea turtleswashing ashore.

The Reuters Factboxsince the spill, reads as a list of sequential failures, grand in scope and cost. The capping dome/containment system put in place days ago, has failed due to the buildup of ice-like Methane crystals / the inability to skirt the laws of physics. The rupture is more than five thousand feet below the surface of the sea, and must be accessed by these machines, as humans cannot survive at such depths.


As predicted, on GeoCurrents, last week, the slick hit the fragile Chandeleur Barrier Islands, home to the Breton National Wildlife Refuge. The Northeastern part of the slick has made its way towards the Mississippi delta. The next major milestone for the oil would be the gulf stream.

The title, worst-case-scenario, does not involve hyperbole on our part. The oil is as thick as crude comes, buried deep, and threatening the whole of the Gulf of Mexico. Until a relief well is dug (if even, possible, three months from now), the three main options to slowing the spill are: plugging the spill with a new smaller dome, cutting the pipe (which could actually increase flow), and plugging the hole with material with a “Junk Gun,” which sounds more like an item from Captain Nemo’s Nautiulus, than an effecive deterrent to what is quickly becoming the worst environmental disaster of all time.


While we can’t plug the spill from home, knowledge of the spill, is power, as always. To stay up on the true extent of the spill, here are some more of the latest tools for tracking the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in Google Earth.

This GeoCurrentcast utilizes the most recent layovers available in the google earth community, combined with an original lecture, backed with the most recent Satellite Data and Imagery. The visible surface size of the slick, current flows, satellite images, and rupture sites are all marked in this file.

To view this file, open Google Earth and download this file. Then double click the video icon in Google Earth to play the tour. You can toggle the satellite imagery, overlays, and information in the Google Earth Browser on your own, outside of tour mode.

Finally, take the time to play with this web-module, which will compare the size of your own city, to the size of the oil well.

Below is a map of the spill’s forecasted trajectory through Wednesday, generated of by NOAA today (Sunday, 5/9):



A look at the above image, alongside our Google Earth Current flows, shows that within the next two weeks, the oil slick could get dangerously coast to catching a ride on the Gulf stream loop current.

So, while we await the sum totals of disaster, and are forced to burn crude a so thick and heavy and deep, not even hydrocarbon-starved microbes can decompose the oil. Instead, part of the procedure is to torch these now desolate grey-watered ocean wastelands.


Once the worst of the slick has burned off, diluted, and moved beyond the gulf, the United States will still be left swathes of unanswered questions on ecological recovery, liability(the BP FAQis a great source), social justice, and the future of Offshore Drilling in world energy policy. Hopefully this inexcusable tragedy can be used is utilized as a rallying point for change, otherwise it’s all for naught.

We’re sticking to the grim prediction at GeoCurrents.info that the Deepwater Horizon spill will be a record breaker in terms of total volume and dollars.

We are all guilty.

The Latest on the Gulf Oil Spill in Google Earth Read More »

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spillustrated in Google Earth

The last few Geocurrentcasts have featured environmental disasters on a massive scale, and this week’s spill in the Gulf may top them all. If the fissure in the Ocean continues to spew anywhere near its current rate, and attempts to plug it have failed decidedly so far, the Deepwater Horizon spill is likely to become the largest oil spill in history.

Google Earth aficionados have been on the forefront, tracking and illustrating this disaster.
This week’s Geocurrentcast is a compilation of the work done this week in theGoogle Earth Forums, with a short lecture attached.

To view the Oil Spill, first download Google Earth, then download and open this KML file.

For those interested in tracking the official response and latest figures, use this website as a primary source.


The total damage is expected to be a number of billions monetarily, but the real loss comes in terms irreversible environmental damage. Not only is the Gulf thick with millions of gallons of sludge, but fires are being set to control the spill, leading to plumes of smoke on a scale previously unseen outside of the Gulf War (see also: Werner Herzog’sLessons in Darkness).

If you thought the originalGulf Dead Zone was getting lonely, just until the casualty estimates for this accident are finally tabulated. For example, don’t look for a jump in sea turtle populationsthis decade, or maybe ever again.

After the Exxon-Valdez Oil spill, less than 25% of the wildlife in the affected area survived. Still, the sting did not resonate with many worldwide, because of its relatively desolate Alaskan location. The Deepwater Horizon’s spill has hit the core of our country and has only just begun to menace fishing, agriculture, air traffic, and the environment.

Some have sprung into action for the cleanup, with a Philippine cleanup crew, starting a hair donation program soak up. Still, as they say, you can’t unfry an egg, so stock up on shrimp before its too late.

As the slick approaches the shore today, it begs the question, is this wake-up call the world needs to begin acting in earnest against the rape of our planet, or is it but another astounding milestone in the history of crimes against the planet?

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spillustrated in Google Earth Read More »

Exhausting the Inexhaustible: Ogalala and Aral Illustrated

Earlier in the week, Professor Lewis left us with a dazzling posting on the Death and Partial Rebirth of the Aral Sea.

To see the decline of the Aral and the Ogalala at its most dramatic,download this week’s Google Earth File, as the companion and informational heart of this post.

For those of you whom are still, unfamiliar, The Sea of Aral was once one of the four largest lakes in the world. However, massive mismanagement, inefficient irrigation channels, overuse, poor crop choices, were at the core of Stalin’s unwavering “Great Plan for Tranformation of Nature,” and continued by the Uzbek and Kazhahk governments until a last ditch effort to save the Lake (called a sea), turned to a puddle.


At the peak of the Aral’s water loss, the cubic volumes of entire cities would pack up and leave in a single month. What’s left are rusting caracassess of ships, and empty deserts where water once flowed. The burgeoning trade in muskrat furs is gone too, with the tides.



What’s interesting about the case of the Aral was that there is no physical change to the water level on the satellite images, until it was far too late. Of course, the real problems with the Aral were discovered after massive hubristic, expensive, and inefficient construction projects had been in the works for years. The ironic part of this decline is that during the period of the greatest drain, the satellite imagery of the water level’s decline isn’t quite there. But when the countries finally realize their error, and put measures in place, the Sea sprints into its final decline.

But this problem does not just apply to former Soviet States. The breadbasket of the United States, as well, is guilty of heinous crimes in water mismanagement with the Ogalala Aquifer.

This vast underwater freshwater system was thought to be inexhaustible by US Farmers, even later into the 20th century. Recent estimates show that the Aquifer could be dry in as little as 25 years if consumption and replenishment rates continue as they are.

US farmers will be hard pressed to switch, considering their congressional power, but seeing the Colorado River dry to a near trickle has prompted a proactive response from the USGS.

The solution in the case of the Ogalala, as well as the case of Aral, may be to simply switch away form Irrigation dependent agriculture. In other words, we should avoid costly, terraforming, “Great Plans for the Transformation of Nature.” If the Soviet Government had simply decided not decided to grow cotton in an unnatural environment, the Aral would likely be a cohesive body of water today.

The decline of the Ogalala threatens the freshwater supply of the whole of the Central United States, and merits more significant political attention. This issue was brought to my attention in such a striking manner in the google earth forums, by a fellow cyber-cartographer- Diane, whose work was to good not to share with you all.

If you also work in Google Earth, or would like to contribute and correspond with GeoCurrents, please send us a message on our twitter, or contact us here.

Also as a bonus, for those of you interested in tracking the Icelandic Volcanic Eruption (which we correctly predicted a few weeks back) in Google Earth, please refer to this KML file.

Exhausting the Inexhaustible: Ogalala and Aral Illustrated Read More »

Unmitigated Environmental Disasters Illustrated

This week’s Geocurrentcast is entirely dedicated to about baker’s dozen sites that epitomize the nasty human footprint that comes with heavy metals, heavy industry, and heavy consumerism.

 

The histories of Stalinist industrial wastelands, leaking oil Nigerian pipelines, massive American landfills, Brazilian Deforestation, smog filled Chinese cities, and towering Sarin gas smelters are all illustrated in this weeks in Google Earth tour on Geocurrents.info.

In order to view the tour, first download Google Earth.

Then download this KMZ file, with complete with descriptions, waypoints, and overlays to increase your understanding of these man made tragedies.

Rather than lecture over the tour, the areas speak for themselves. I’ve provided basic historic information, but I encourage all to see this as a call for social justice.

Unmitigated Environmental Disasters Illustrated Read More »

A Parade of Man Made Oddities: Shipwrecks, Crop Circles and the CCCP

This week was rife with tragic news: the Polish Presidential plane crash in Russia, revolutions and upheaval in Kyrgyzstan, and refugee crises emerging from Tamil emigrees from Sri Lankan, I thought it would be best to leave the gravity to the newspapers for the time being, and insert a bit of humor into this week’s Geocurrentcast.

This weeks tour, which can be accessed by downloading this KMZ File for Google Earth, is a compilation of a dozen of the most stunning, humorous, and mysterious sites that have rose to prominence the Google Earth Forums and on Google Earth Hacks.

This compendium of man made geographic oddities includes: crop circles, monolithic Antarctic remnants of the CCCP, ship graveyards and sunbathers.



The goal of this exercise, aside from dazzling you with Geographic Eye Candy, is to pique your curiosity towards the less conventional uses of Google Earth.

As a bonus to this tour, I’ve also composed and included what might be the first comedy sketch ever composed in Google Earth tour mode, ‘Jumping off Niagara Falls in a Barrel.”

Double click the video icon for this one minute long sketch, loosely based off of the existential desperation of Western New York depicted in Vincent Gallo’s landmark independent film, Buffalo 66.

As always, happy flying.

A Parade of Man Made Oddities: Shipwrecks, Crop Circles and the CCCP Read More »

The Kyrgyz Revolution, Illustrated in Google Earth

Yesterday, protestors stormed the offices of the iron-fisted Kurmanbek Bakiyev regime across all of Kyrgyzstan.

Ministers were taken hostage, government buildings- torched, police cars- turned over, and the Kyrgyz flag- replaced with the blue flag of the opposition.

The opposition has claimed that a provisional government, under the rule of former minister Rosa Otunbayeva, with a constitution to be redrawn in six months.

Bakiyev has not officially resigned power, which may lead to a residual power struggle.

he uprising came following the failure of the Bakiyev regime to capitalize on the promise of the Tulip revolution, which ousted Soviet Strongman.

Rather than echo what you’ve heard already in the news, I’d like to visually illustrate the Kyrgyz uprising in Google Earth.

To see the major sites of the Kyrgyz Revolution, the piazzas where the protests began and the buildings which were seized, download this KMZ file.

The Kyrgyz Revolution, Illustrated in Google Earth Read More »

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.

Geocurrents.info is now on twitter. Make us your source for history, geography, and cyber-cartography.

No Island No Claim: The Cases of Tuvalu and Nauru Read More »

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.

Mining Scars & Smokestacks: Industrial Topography Illustrated in Google Earth Read More »

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

The Eyjafjallajokull Eruption Illustrated Read More »

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)

Geocurrents on Google Earth: The Gulag Archipelago Illustrated Read More »

Geocurrents on Mars- A 3D Tour of the Red Planet in Google Earth

This weekend’s Google Earth adventure on Geocurrents will take us to a place colder than Svalbard or the Ross Ice Shelf, and dustier than the Namib, Nefud, or Taklaman Deserts.

With sweeping dune fields, seismic chasms, deep double impact craters, and a monolithic human face; Mars is a geographer, topographer, seismographer, hydrologist, and conspiracy theorist’s delight.

Provided for you, below, is a smooth, short narrated flyover tour of the red planet. The tour highlights the planet’s topographical features, including: the first man made object on mars, dune fields, polar ice caps, rover sites, canyons, dried riverbeds, and the captivating ‘Cydonia’ formation.


If you’re already comfortable with Google Earth,
download the video tour and waypoints here. Otherwise, instructions on accessing our Martian tour are provided below.

First, download and install a copy of Google Earth.

Once you’ve loaded the program, switch your Google Earth browser into Mars mode. You can do this by using the explore tab in the view bar, as shown below:

Next, download this file, which contains both the narrated guided tour, and our waypoints. To play the tour, double click the video reel in the sidebar. The tour is at its most awe inspiring when viewed in full screen mode with the sidebar disabled.


You may also explore the planet step by step by double clicking the waypoints to fly from feature to feature.

Make sure to stop and read the information linked to the featured landmarks. This information provided by NASA, Google, and the University of Arizona, will enhance your tour experience.

This tour marks giant leap for Geocurrents.info.

Happy flying!

Geocurrents on Mars- A 3D Tour of the Red Planet in Google Earth Read More »