Normally in Google Street View, clicking on the arrow takes you forward or backward. Not this time.
Clicking on the image of skydivers standing outside the sky blue plane takes you with them into the aircraft, up to 16,500 feet above scenic Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand, and then down, down, down to the bright green grass below.
Well, hey, that wasn't so scary.
The world's first Google Street View skydiving experience was created through a collaboration between certified photographer Alex Mather and the local skydiving company Skydive Abel Tasman. Mather reached out to the company because they have the best views in the country, Skydive Abel Tasman's marketing manager David Bonham-Carter told me. While skydiving there, you can see three national parks, the ocean, the mountains and both of New Zealand's main islands.
Mather and the skydiving company team spent several days last month working on the project. First, Mather captured views from the ground using a high-end DSLR camera and wide-angle lenses. Then he stitched them together with images taken from different altitudes during the jump to simulate a skydiving experience, Bonham-Carter explained.
"The process for the Street View of the actual skydive is top secret," he said. "If it was easy, someone else would have already done it."
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Businesses that request to be featured on the interactive map usually pay a fee to a Google-certified photographer. Bonham-Carter said that Mather asked them to donate his fee from Skydive Abel Tasman to recovery efforts for Kaikoura, a town devastated by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake last November.
Besides doing good, the team produced a novel experience. There was something exhilarating about clicking through the images and seeing the earth come closer and closer. OK, so perhaps I even uttered an exclamation as I got near the ground. Only thing missing was a photo of someone giving the camera a high five at the end.
When I asked Bonham-Carter about their goals for viewers, he said, "We hope they gain a perspective of our beautiful Nelson Tasman region, and a little taste of what skydiving is all about."