A century ago Sir Ernest Shackleton and his 27-member crew set sail from Argentina to Antarctica with ambitions of being the first to cross the coldest continent on foot. Partway through the journey south, however, winter sea ice froze their ship in place. The explorers first stayed close and camped on the surrounding ice but their ship, crushed by shifting ice, broke up and sank after 10 months. Then, Shackleton’s crew set out in small boats to reach nearby but uninhabited Elephant Island. From there Shackleton and five of his crew again set sail to find help while the others awaited rescue. In 16 days the six men crossed 1,300 kilometers of open ocean to South Georgia, a far-flung island off the tip of Argentina. They found help at a whaling station there and returned to rescue the entire crew.
Google set out in March 2014 to make Shackleton’s adventure accessible to anyone with a browser. The company sent Eric Wehrmeister, a videographer from a tourism company called Lindblad Expeditions, to South Georgia and the nearby Falkland Islands with the 19.5-kilogram Google Trekker strapped to his back. The Trekker has 15 cameras that poke up from a backpack like a periscope. The cameras were controlled by built-in software that snapped a photo every 2.5 seconds. In the end Google uploaded more than 10,000 images of the islands to Google Street View and made them available on October 23.