If you've ever wished you could visit the Galapagos Islands, you'll soon get the chance to see the remote volcanic islands from the comfort of your own home. Google sent hikers to the area complete with Street View gear to capture panoramic views of even the most inaccessible places—like down the crater of an active volcano—and underwater. "We spent 10 days there hiking over trails," says Raleigh Seamster, the project's leader for Google Maps. "And these are islands, so half of the life there is under the water surface."
The team used Street View gear to swim with sea lions and sharks, and to capture the island's famed giant tortoises, along with other species. Scientists are interested in the footage, too, working with Google with the hope of updating the pictures regularly throughout the years as they study the effects of invasive species, tourism, and climate change on the island's ecosystems. "This whole project was part of Google's ongoing effort to build the most comprehensive and accurate map of the world," Seamster says. The company, which undertook a similar project at the Great Barrier Reef, hopes to have the footage up for viewing later this year. (Read more Google stories.)