Ever since Google first let people scour the planet from the comfort of their computers through the Google Earth software program, fans have been on a virtual scavenger hunt from the North Pole to the South Pole looking for anything interesting, unusual, or unexplained. From shipwrecks to crop circles, from ads big enough to be read from space to a giant pink bunny nearly the size of a football field, we’ve collected just a few of the odd and spectacular sights. You can see the same images in Google Maps by clicking the links we provide–but you’ll get a better view by copying the coordinates in parentheses after each link and pasting them into Google Earth’s ‘Fly To’ box.
1. Celebrity Obsession
As if Oprah Winfrey’s celebrity weren’t big enough already, an Arizona farmer built a 10-acre homage to the talk show host (Google Earth coordinates 33.225488,-111.5955). Visitors can tell their friends, “I got lost inside Oprah’s head.” The celebrity-obsessed can also visit Google Earth Hacks, which has a Google Earth-style map of Hollywood stars’ homes.
2. Bikinis From Space
Spend enough time on Google Earth, and you start thinking that the world is a pretty low-resolution place. But Google Earth is steadily updating its maps with high-resolution pictures. Zoom in on this Google Earth satellite shot of Australia’s Bondi Beach (Google Earth coordinates -33.892351,151.27538), and you can almost read the designer labels on the bikinis.
3. Show Me a Sign
Google Earth doesn’t have advertising, unless you consider the corporate logos and trademarks big enough to be seen from space. This giant Ford logo (Google Earth coordinates 42.302284,-83.231215) is found near (where else?) Detroit, Michigan. You think that’s big? Check out the massive Coca-Cola logo (-18.529225,-70.25002) etched into a hillside in Chile with 70,000 Coke bottles. Haven’t they heard of recycling?
4. Map Mysteries
Some of the sights you find in Google Earth are just plain mysterious. For example, why is a fighter jet parked (Google Earth coordinates 48.825183,2.1985795) in what looks to be a residential neighborhood lot near Paris? And why is this lake in Iraq (33.39845000,44.48416800) blood red?
5. Only From the Sky
Dubbed The Badlands Guardian by locals, this geological marvel (Google Earth coordinates 50.010083,-110.113006) in Alberta, Canada, bears an uncanny resemblance to a human head wearing a full Native American headdress–and earphones, to boot. Of course, The Guardian was produced naturally. For a more synthetic wonder that can be truly appreciated only from above, check out the giant man-shaped lake (-21.805149,-49.089977) near Bauru, Brazil.
6. All-Seeing Cat’s Eye
Standing in front of China’s Beijing South Railway Station must be impressive, but seeing it from the perspective of the Google Earth satellite is cool, too (39°51’50.35″N, 116°22’21.78″E) (see it on Google Maps). From above, this ultramodern railway station looks like a cat’s eye. For larger-than-life architectural finds, nothing beats Google Earth for getting a grand perspective–be it the 350-foot Atomium (50°53’41″N 4°20’28″E) in Brussels, Belgium [zoom to image], or Dubai’s Burj Al Arab (25° 8’30.90″N, 55°11’4.76″E) [zoom to image], the world’s tallest freestanding hotel.
7. Airplanes, Jets, and Missiles
Whether parked, crashed, or flying, airplanes are among the most sought-after and collected finds in Google Earth. Here is the mammoth airplane graveyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (32° 9’1.75″N, 110°49’56.57″W) (see it in Google Maps) in Tucson, Arizona. You might ask, why should a good airplane go to waste? Some people agree with you–like these folks (45°24’28.71″N, 123° 0’28.23″W) (see it in Google Maps) [zoom to image] who live in Washington state and couldn’t bear to see perfectly good Boeing 727 go to waste: They made a home out of it.
8. One Nation Under Chicken
If alien visitors happen to land in Rachel, Nevada, don’t be surprised if they think Colonel Sanders is our leader. That town has an 87,500-square-foot image of the smiling Colonel (37°38’47.40″N, 115°45’1.27″W) (see it in Google Maps) composed of 65,000 one-foot-square tiles, according to reports. This KFC logo is part of a larger trend called mapvertising, in which companies create product logos that are visible from space (or from planes landing at Chicago O’Hare Airport (42° 0’28.67″N, 87°53’9.89″W) (see it in Google Maps) [zoom to image]. A video of the making of the giant-size Colonel Sanders has been posted to YouTube.
9. Caught on Satellite
Sometimes Google Earth is lucky enough to catch things as they happen. Here Google Earth captures a truck that crashed (Google Earth coordinates 46.765669,-100.79274) outside of Bismarck, North Dakota. In another instance, Google Earth caught fishermen illegally bottom-trawling (28.102512,-14.265835) beaches near Spain’s Canary Islands.
10. Car Tipping
You’ve probably heard of cow tipping, but what about car tipping? To judge from this photo, a dearth of cows in the Netherlands has inspired people to begin tipping parked cars instead (51°19’18.13″N, 6°34’35.64″E) (see it in Google Maps).
11. Military Mysteries
What’s the purpose of the mammoth designs painted onto the floor of a Chinese desert?(40°27’4.87″N, 93°44’42.90″E) (see it in Google Maps). Perhaps only the Chinese military knows. That’s who some people speculate is behind not several (40°27’23.66″N, 93°23’7.78″E) [zoom to image] similar mile-wide paintings. A nearby Stonehenge-looking formation (40°27’31.04″N, 93°18’47.21″E) (aee it in Google Maps) [zoom to image] with three jets parked in the middle suggests a possible military purpose to the enterprise. But giant white lines etched into the Earth are not unique to just China. A mysterious pattern of white lines found in Norwich, UK (52.481725, 0.520627) (see it on Google Maps) [zoom to image] has prompted some Fox Mulder fans to say “I want to believe.”
12. Out-of-This-World Art
Instead of working with paint brushes and canvases, some artists use bulldozers and backhoes to create art. In their 1997 desert installation called Desert Breath (27°22’50.10″N, 33°37’54.62″E) (see it on Google Maps), artists Danae Stratou, Alexandra Stratou, and Stella Constantinides created two interlocking spirals that stretch almost 0.25 mile from side to side in the Egyptian desert. The inset images on the left are from DanaeStratou.com and show Desert Breath just after it was completed and before the installation was ravaged by wind, rain, and time.
13. I Heart Google Earth
How does Mother Earth show her love for Google Earth? With heart-shaped islands (43°58’42.70″N, 15°23’0.14″E) (see it on Google Maps) [zoom to image], ponds (52°15’27.48″N, 10°31’17.62″E) (see it on Google Earth) [zoom to image], and botanical enigmas (20°56’15.47″S, 164°39’30.56″E) (see it on Google Maps) [zoom to image], of course. How do mere mortals show their love for Google Earth? We etch our devotion into Mother Earth via heart-shaped designs (48°53’26.45″N, 12°30’36.01″E) (see it on Google Maps) [zoom to image], of which there are plenty.
14. Extremely High Resolution
Since Google Earth debuted in 2005, the satellite images accessible through the mapping software have gotten sharper. Sometimes you can be caught off guard by stunningly crisp images of random things. Here is an image of a park in Sebastopol, California, where people are lounging on the grass and others are lining up for lunch (38°24’40.50″N, 122°50’25.42″W) (see it on Google Maps; to see this image on the resulting map, move the slider bar all the way to the highest magnification, next to the + label). What gives? According to unconfirmed reports, this is a meeting of Foo Camp, an annual hacker conference sponsored by O’Reilly Media. Another seemingly random high-resolution image captures a lonely Land Rover driving through a Moroccan desert (27°56’25.44″N, 12°17’28.15″W) [zoom to image]. Other spectacular high-resolution images, like these pyramids located outside of Cairo, Egypt (29°58’44.64″N, 31° 7’54.60″E) [zoom to image] (See it in Google Earth), don’t leave you wondering, “What’s the story behind this image?”
15. Parched Lips
Eat your heart out, Angelina Jolie. These lips may not be as famous Jolie’s but they’re bigger. This geological find (12°22’13.32″N, 23°19’20.18″E) (see it in Google Earth) is located in Gharb, Darfur, in Sudan. To earthbound locals, the landmass is just another nondescript hill that’s 0.5 mile long. If you ask me, this lady needs to do something about her 5 o’clock shadow.
16. When Things Go Wrong
With Google’s unblinking satellite eye trained on us, it’s bound to capture things as they happen. Here in Frankfurt, Germany, you can spot a house fire (50° 2’16.46″N, 8°14’29.01″E) (see it in Google Maps). Here is another of a car accident and massive traffic snarl (51° 4’47.89″N, 6°59’17.70″E ) [zoom to image] in Germany. Off the coast of Sudan, you get a good view of a Bolivian cargo ferry, the SS Jassim, that ran aground and capsized (19°38’46.58″N, 37°17’42.19″E) [zoom to image].
17. Swastika-Influenced Design
A US Navy barracks on Coronado island, San Diego was built in the design of a swastika by accident and now must be rebuilt to not resemble this symbol.
18. Aircraft Traffic Jam
A strange anomaly indeed. Three planes taking off right behind each other or a graphical error?
Giant Pink Bunny created by a group of artists near Artesina, Italy as seen in Google Maps.
20. Where’s Waldo in Google Maps?
Canadian artist Melanie Coles built a large image of the iconic “Waldo” onto a rooftop at an undisclosed location in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.