Since Google Earth hit the Web in 2005, besides instantly turning all office desk globes into decorative accessories, it has opened the world up to global exploration at the click of a mouse.
But it’s not just a neat toy; some extraordinary things have been discovered with its one-click access to satellite imagery. Things like …
#6. The Real-World Land of the Lost
From the non-PVP-enabled safety of their computers, British researchers were using Google Earth to look around Africa when they noticed a patch of forest on and around Mozambique’s Mount Mabu that they didn’t know was there. They soon realized they were looking at the largest rain forest in Southern Africa, and one that had previously been completely unknown to science.
It turns out that mountainous terrain and civil war had protected the region from the notoriously machine gun and mountain climbing averse scientific community. Meanwhile, its location in the center of an ocean of African savanna meant it was ecologically protected as well — whatever species were living there had spent years evolving in complete isolation from any known jungle creatures. The scientists quickly booked a trip to check it out in person.
When they finally set foot on the hidden-in-plain-sight mountain forest in 2008, what they found was practically a bio-dome paradise for biologists and botanists alike.
The result has been a treasure trove of new species — the 27 square miles of lush forest have revealed pygmy chameleons, Swynnerton’s robin, four new species of butterfly, pseudo-scorpions, crabs, monkeys, antelopes, rare orchids, giant snakes like the gaboon viper and a previously unknown type of adder, as well as entire colonies of rare birds. The list goes on like a yacht party with Noah.
Having evolved effectively in isolation, more new species are being discovered there to this day. In fact, it’s getting to the point that whatever they pick up is new to science. Jonathan Timberlake, the original expedition leader, said of the discovery, “The phenomenal diversity is just mind-boggling.”
Apparently the locals had kept their mouths shut about the pristine forest because they liked to hide there when things got too intense during their two-decade-long civil war that killed an estimated one million people. Yeah, that makes sense. We wouldn’t have mentioned our very own Jurassic Park safe zone either.