Google Trekker just announced the expansion of its street view hiking map project to outside organizations, and today it’s revealing another aspect of the program’s broadening: Getting virtual tourists behind velvet ropes at completely unique, remote destinations. On the Google Maps blog today, the team showed off a virtual tour of the island of Hashima, in Japan’s Nagasaki Prefecture, which providing the setting for Bond villain Raoul Silva’s hideout in Skyfall.
Hashima, otherwise known as “Battleship” island in Japanese, is a former coal mining facility and living area for its workers. It was abandoned completely in the 1970s, and then finally opened its doors to tourists again in 2009. But tourists aren’t allowed everywhere in Hashima, since it’s basically a toppling wreck of concrete and steel – pieces of buildings regularly fall off and might not mix well with the soft skulls of gaggle-eyed visitors.
The Trekker team managed to gain special access to off-limits areas, however, and even got in-building imagery to provide a near-complete virtual view of the strange, industrial-era island. You can see how they did it in the video above.
This expansion of the Trekker program will likely encourage tourism to the area, but it’s also a great example of how Google’s ambitious digital archiving project can preserve a digital record of sites unlike any other. Especially in a case like Hashima, where in 10 years time what remains there won’t resemble what’s there today in the least, thanks to the continued effect of ocean winds on the crumbling city infrastructure, that’s a valuable and previously unavailable resource, for researchers, students and the just plain curious alike.