Google Streetview seems to be conquering the globe rather quickly and not just cities and easily accessible places. Places like the Amazon, the Great Barrier Reef, and now, the remote Midway Atoll can all be explored from your computer.
Our own Jaymi Heimbuch visited the atoll earlier this year (you can see her series of posts and slideshows here), which is one of only 28 places designated as both a cultural and historical World Heritage Site. It's home to endangered species like the Hawaiian monk seal, the green sea turtle and 19 different types of birds nest or make their home their, most notably the Laysan and Black-Footed Albatrosses, which have their largest colonies on the Midway's islands.
The Google project to create streetview maps of the atoll, which is part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM), has to potential to expose the area to a wider group of people who could help to protect its important sites and fragile ecosystems.
The PMNM staff says, "The project team, consisting of PMNM staff and a Google technician, spent two weeks on Midway this summer, capturing more than 9,200 panoramic images of 60 different natural and historic sites along 21 miles of roads and paths on the island. This mapping effort provides a valuable interpretive tool for Papahānaumokuākea's unique treasures and demonstrates the need to protect this remote and special place."
Some of the threats to the atoll include invasive plant species and plastic pollution that constantly washes ashore on the islands. Both of those threats are killing birds. A group of volunteers have been giving their time to monitor and protect the bird species of the atoll, but funding constraints have led to the volunteer program being canceled and the visitor program, which lets people chip and help with with projects around the island while getting to see the sights, may be canceled as well.
Proper funding is necessary to protect the albatross and seabird species as well as the various other animals that call the atoll home, not to mention all of the historically significant sites on the islands. Hopefully, this new way for people to visit Midway from wherever they are in the world will help to spread the word about this special place and help it to get the funding it needs to remain that way.