Capturing Antarctica

It’s not often one gets to hit up a friend in Antarctica for a favor. When I heard my friend Ed Young was out there, I jumped at the opportunity to ask him to do a Mapillary walk. Sometime in the course of Antarctic mountaineering and running Ice Marathons, Ed squeezed this in.

Here’s what it looks like:


The majesty and mystery of the Antarctic region has been captured by photographers, documentarians, brands, scientists -- and Google Street View Trekkers -- long since the time of Amundsen, Scott, and Shackleton. And yet, this short sequence is another milestone in a year full of milestones for Mapillary. In many ways, capturing Antarctica represents where we are today in our mission:

We can reach the furthest corners of the world with human-powered mapping

Since Ed couldn’t download the Mapillary app because of strict bandwidth restrictions, he took a 15-minute walk outside with his personal camera, then sent along the photos when he got home. We uploaded the footage to Mapillary and reconstructed the view the very next day.

That anyone is able to do this with limited time, connectivity constraints, and consumer equipment validates our belief that visualizing the world isn’t only the work of big companies with fleets of roaming specialized vehicles. By empowering our community, we’ve covered over 45 million photos across 1.2 million kilometers -- now in all seven continents.

We have lots more work to do

One might observe that the map view for Ed’s walk is almost comically blank. This is no fault of MapBox or OpenStreetMap -- here it is on Google Maps:

antarctica google maps

The British Antarctic Survey reputedly has the best paper maps of the Antarctic region, but the data has yet to make it into widely-distributed digital maps. Our work at Mapillary doesn’t stop at making beautiful visuals. The data we can derive from those visuals with the power of community and computer vision will make richer digital maps for everyone.

We have a long way to go. Join us on this great expedition in 2016!

“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all.”
-- Sir Ernest Shackleton

Many thanks to Ed and the British Antarctic Survey for enabling Ed's Mapillary Walk!


Continue the conversation