St Helena on Google Street View
St Helena Island is being put on the map thanks to a Google Street View project. Part of the larger Google Maps and Earth applications, Google Street View will allow internet users anywhere in the world the opportunity to look around St Helena as if they were here.
There are a few contributors, but the majority of panoramic images have been submitted by Kyle Williamson from Pennsylvania, USA. Kyle arrived on island in June and began taking photos. We chatted to him about the project and his impressions of St Helena.
Why did you decide to increase St Helena’s presence on Google Street View?
My main thought in trying to do the Google Street View project was to give people who are not on St Helena a glimpse into life on the island. It is my hope that these images will give people the chance to explore the island from anywhere, and to get a better view of the unique culture and landscape of St Helena. Having travelled here twice before, I had become friends with many people on the island. We discussed many topics with people, and frequently found that locals have family off island. It was also my hope that these images will be a way for St Helenians who are away to be able to view their home, to reconnect with the island and see what it is like now.
Did you already have an idea of what you wanted the world to see through your images?
In 2008 I came to St Helena to do a photography project for the Museum called the St Helena Images Project. The goal of that project was to create a point in time and record life on the island before the airport (then slated to be completed in 2010). During that project I took over 12,000 photographs which are now part of the Museum’s collection. By coming back this time with the Google Street View camera it was my hope to capture more up to date images, and to be able to leverage the Google platform to provide the world with a way of seeing St Helena. These images will provide people with a virtual tour of the island, and hopefully spur some people to visit and others to reconnect with their home. I uploaded about 3,300 images, about 1,000 while on St Helena, and the remainder took about 10 hours to upload once we returned to the United States.
What devices did you use to capture St Helena?
Google loaned me a Samsung Gear 360o camera. The camera worked with my iPhone and the Google Street View app. The app is a free download from Google and can be used on any smart phone. You can even take 360 photos with your smart phone camera and there are instructions with the app that would allow anyone to upload their images to the internet. 360o images are a great way to allow people from “away” to explore a new environment in a virtual way.
What was your favourite part of this project?
My favourite part of this project, and of visiting St Helena in general, is meeting people, and talking with them. This project allowed me, and my son, to travel around to all parts of the island and in all cases we were met by people who were friendly and curious about what we were doing. We got to have conversations with people about the project, about what people are doing on the island, and about St Helena in general as we went around. It is always a wonderful experience to meet people and to hear their stories, to learn from them and this project allowed us to do that.
What is your favourite location on St Helena?
I can’t say that I have a favourite location on St Helena. As an artist, and photographer, I find that there is such visual variety on the island that I am amazed as I walk around every corner. However, all photography and art aside though, I would have to say being in my friends’ houses, and volunteering at SHAPE are my favourite places to be on St Helena.
Was there anything you really wanted to do that you didn’t get a chance to do on your previous visits?
This was actually our third visit having come previously in 2008 and 2013 and yes there are things we still haven’t had a chance to see or do. Because of my work schedule we have never been here when the whale sharks arrive so I would like to see them sometime in the future. Also, we still have not made it to Lot’s Wife’s Ponds. I’d like to go sailing, and diving, but we hope to come back and get to see everyone again, and to explore more of the island.
How many Post Box Walks did you cross off your list?
I have done 10 of the Post Box walks, but unfortunately not all of them were able to be photographed with the Street View camera due to technical and time constraints.
We have enjoyed spending time with everyone on St Helena, which is why we keep coming back. It is truly an amazing place with wonderful people that we are amazed to call our friends. We hope to come back as soon as we can.