The answer was staring me in the face in the form of a program that I had used repeatedly to help plan my expedition–Google Earth. As I experimented with the powerful tools and interactive features I found hidden in Google Earth, I discovered a new and compelling platform that would allow me to share my experiences–including stories, photos, and HD videos–with an unlimited-size audience. And with the help of GPS data and satellite imagery, I can even take you to the exact locations on the reef where these experiences took place. Hopefully, the resulting Google Earth Multimedia (GEM) journal I’ve created with these tools will give you a better appreciation for what I discovered on the Great Barrier Reef, the most exotic, fragile and bio-diverse region on the planet.
To get started, make sure you have the most up-to-date version of Google Earth, available for free at Google Earth.com Then click on the following link to download a small (2KB), virus-free .kml journal file: Great Barrier Reef Journal. Once downloaded, drag the file into Google Earth to open it. (If you like what you see, send the GBR Journal file to friends via email or social media links.)
Below is a video introduction to the documentary, which will also appear on the opening page of the journal. Enjoy!
The journal is interactive, and you can view it a number of ways. Within the “Itinerary” folder, there are “Day” sub-chapters containing stories, still photos, and HD videos describing the dive sights and creatures I encounterd. (Note: The videos may take a few seconds to open based on your internet connection.) Double click on any highlighted heading and Google Earth will open balloon windows and take you to the location of the event on the map. There’s also a PLACES folder containing placemarks and active links to photos, maps, supporting research, and contact info, while a PATH folder contains map-trails of where I traveled by plane and by boat.
One of the most exciting features of Google Earth is that it supports dynamic links. That means that new material can be automatically added to a journal without any further downloads (or “updates”) on your part. So while this “Introduction” contains material covering the first 5 days of the expedition, over the next few weeks I will be adding chapters covering the remaining six days on the reef. And each time you open Google Earth, new chapters I’ve added to the journal will automatically be available. (A very cool feature!) Before completion, the Great Barrier Reef journal will be joined by a second GEM journal covering my documentary of the Wet Tropics of Queensland, Australia––a World Heritage site that shares a common border with the Great Barrier Reef. While I didn’t film any shark feeding frenzies (see Day 5 of the GBR journal) in the Wet Tropics, my visits to the Flying Fox (large bat) Hospital, Bouncing Rock Beach, and waterfalls in the rain forest should keep you entertained. Stay tuned!
All photos and videos are copyright Michael J. McNamara 2009 unless noted.