Google brings Antarctica to warmth of your home or office

Panoramic images from Google/University of Minnesota highlight Shackleton's hut and other historic and educational sites on Antarctica

The way Google and the University of Minnesota see it, most people would rather visit Antarctica in 360 degrees rather than -74 degrees, the temperature today at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

The search giant and the university's Polar Geospatial Center have launched online 360-degree panoramic images of historic and educational Antarctica sites such as explorer Ernest Shackleton's hut, the Cape Royds Adelie Penguin Rookery and the South Pole Telescope. They're accessible via Google's World Wonders Project website and Google Maps (here's a link to Shackleton's hut, also seen above).

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"This is the ultimate public outreach," said Paul Morin, director of the National Science Foundation-funded Polar Geospatial Center in the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering, in a statement. "These are places that nobody can visit without tremendous effort and cost. This puts the glory of Antarctica at people's fingertips around the world so everyone can be an 'armchair' polar explorer."

(Fun fact: Network World parent company IDG launched a publication called Computerworld Antarctica several years back!)

Assembling the photos for the Google/University of Minnesota collaboration wasn't easy, as many of the sites are exceptionally difficult to access, even by Antarctica standards. They required University of Minnesota researchers to use a special lightweight tripod camera that could withstand harsh weather conditions, and they had to travel by various means, such as snowmobile and U.S. Air Force LC-130 Hercules aircraft.

The researchers helped Google pinpoint locations that are now more accurately reflected on Google Maps.

Bob Brown tracks network research in his Alpha Doggs blog and Facebook page, as well on Twitter and Google +

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