Discoveries on Google Maps

Published 10:28 pm Friday, September 20, 2019

With satellite images covering almost every corner of the earth, you can find some interesting things on Google Maps.

Every so often, I like to do a Google search for “Google Maps” — very self-referential — and just see what kind of news stories can pop up.

I happened to do that last week, and I came upon a story about a man who went missing in Florida in 1997. Nobody knew where William Moldt was until recently, when someone who lived near a pond in a West Palm Beach suburb was looking at their house on Google Maps and saw something suspicious.

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They could see the outline of a car in the pond. One nearby resident used his drone to confirm there was a car in the pond and contacted police. When police pulled the car from the pond, they found Moldt’s skeletal remains inside. It’s suspected he drove into the pond by accident after leaving a party all those years ago.

A lot of Google Maps stories aren’t quite so tragic. There’s the quirky things captured on Google Street View, like a cat mugging for the camera; the odd juxtapositions that happen when an older Street View image and a newer image are just a click apart; and the things people who have privacy fences used to think were private.

Google Maps’ satellite view allows the fascination of looking out the airplane window but without the cost of buying a ticket. I have used it to research for upcoming vacations and even used it to confirm facts I was already pretty sure of to put in the paper.

As someone who has a close friend who is blind, I was particularly interested in a story that came out last week about a new “smart cane” that will use Google Maps to help people who are blind or have low vision to navigate unfamiliar territory. It’s a very important development to help visually impaired people be more independent and travel the world more, and I’m thankful to Google Maps for that.

But beyond its more idealistic uses and even its practicality, browsing Google Maps has always just been fun for me, especially when looking at Suffolk. I’ve discovered tiny airstrips in rural areas and followed the development of the city through satellite photos. (“Hmm, this image must be more than X years old, because X is there now…”)

Have you ever found something cool, interesting or mysterious when browsing Suffolk on Google Maps? Let me know by sending me an email and telling me about it. I think it would make a neat story, but I truly hope it doesn’t uncover anything tragic like the case of Mr. Moldt.