Google Maps for African Safaris, the Night Sky, Hurricanes

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-08-11

Google Maps for African Safaris, the Night Sky, Hurricanes

Google Maps deliver more than just directions to far-away destinations. With the help of clever developers, Google Maps APIs are constantly being used to create cool, intriguing Websites and online features for visitors around the world.

With that in mind, it's time for yet another eWEEK roundup of some of the most interesting sites recently discovered online that incorporate Google Maps APIs and use maps in different ways.

African Safari on Your Web Browser

If you're lucky enough to head to Africa on safari, you can likely see many wild animals—from elephants to lions to giraffes—in their native habitats. But if a safari isn't on your agenda any time soon, you can at least share in the wild animal sightings of others through Wild Africa Live. The site uses Google Maps to invite visitors to report the live animal sightings they have made in the wilds of South Africa and surrounding nations while the visitors are on safari.

Wild Africa Live shows the sightings made in the last 24 hours and designates each sighting with a tag that lists the animal type, date and time and the sighting, and the Internet handle or name of the person who made the report. The site doesn't offer photos of the sightings, but there are different icons used on the map to show what was spotted, from giraffes to lions, elephants, hyenas, leopards, kudu and more.

The map, created by Satpack Travel of Johannesburg, also has a database of long-term sightings over the last eight months that features more sightings across much of the African continent.  Visitors can search that database by animal species and date to see what sightings were reported. There's also a Website and Android and iPhone apps to use the maps.

See the Night Sky and Constellations

For years, publishers have printed books with detailed maps of the night skies and constellations, but to use them, you need to head outside with a flashlight and the books to begin your search for the stars. Not so with developer Paul Neave's Planetarium map site, created with Google Maps APIs.

Planetarium is an interactive sky map for exploring the stars and planets that uses a visitor's location to provide accurate maps of the night sky in an area. Users can view the stars and planets in skies by night or day, and can hide or see the constellations on the map. They can also set the time and date of their visit to get the most accurate sighting information.

What makes this map very cool is that instead of taking your star map book outside with you, you can take this site outside with you on a tablet computer and compare it to what you are actually seeing in the night sky. That's awesome.

Hurricane Safety in New York City

When Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast in late October 2012, key parts of the New York City metro area were inundated with floodwaters due to the powerful storm. And though the city had an online evacuation map ready for residents to use, the high number of people who went to use the site overwhelmed it, which caused the city to move to a new map using Google Maps Engine for future storms, according to Google Maps Mania.

Google Maps for African Safaris, the Night Sky, Hurricanes

The city's new Hurricane Zone Finder is an interactive map to help residents find safe shelter and places to go in case of flooding in the future. The map lists locations of shelters and the designated zones for evacuations, with Zone 1 being closest to the water surrounding Manhattan, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Long Island. Residents should be aware of this map and service before they need it, especially as the clean-up from Hurricane Sandy continues across the area.

Look Inside an Emirates Airlines Luxury Jet

If you've flown on just about any domestic flight in the last few years, you know the planes can be crowded, dirty, uncomfortable and stuffy. So maybe you shouldn't look inside this Emirates Airbus A380-800 jetliner, which is the subject of a Google Street View image tour of the interior of this magnificent jet.

Be warned that if you do peruse the images of this spacious and clean cabin, the roomy and luxurious on-board overnight suites, the unbelievable bathroom and the magnificent on-board cocktail bar, you may never be able to get into another domestic aircraft again. Even the cockpit is beautiful and clean.

Street View Goes to Mt. Fuji

Japan's Mt. Fuji, which has been designated as a World Heritage Site, is 12,388 feet tall and is one of the nation's most iconic symbols. Google recently climbed to the top of Mt. Fuji with its Trekker backpack-mounted camera to capture 360-degree images of the mountain, to bring its splendor to more people around the world. Those images are available in the Mt. Fuji Street View Collection, which covers the highly popular Yoshida trail that takes hikers up the mountain, the full walk around the crater at the top and the quick zigzag descent, according to Google.

"If you can't get over to Mt. Fuji this summer for the big hike, you can use Street View to take a virtual trek up its peak and enjoy the views of the world below," according to Google.

Car Wash via Street View

Certainly, Google Street View teams have taken online visitors to the most majestic places with their amazing photographs, from the Grand Canyon to the Great Barrier Reef, the Alps and more. But, apparently, not all of the destinations have to be so unique.

In a whimsical visit in Phoenix, a Street View team recently stayed inside a vehicle and captured an inside view of the Clean Freak Car Wash, an automated commercial car wash on 44th Street, which featured the wetting, soaping, washing, rinsing and drying cycles during the visit. Visitors to the images can see the vehicles ahead and behind in the car wash that day, as well as the images of entering and existing the establishment. Hey, every destination can't be Mt. Fuji.

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