Monday, April 26, 2010

Photo Archeology Using Google Earth


Last week I posted some satellite images using the new Google Earth 'History Feature'. I was wondering exactly where the former Boardwalk Casino was located on the current City Center property. I'm getting more familiar with using Google Earth and wanted to show these slightly better comparison photos than the ones posted last week.

Click image for large view of this 2002 satellite photo. It shows the old Boardwalk Casino and surrounding properties. You'll be able to see the stick-pin markers by looking at the photo in a larger view. The stick-pins show the current location of City Center's driveway, Crystals Mall, the Mandarin Hotel, the front Veer Tower and the area that is now the covered Hawaiian Market Place.

By comparing the 2002 photo against the 2008 photo, you'll be able to see that the former Boardwalk actually occupied the current location of the Mandarin, the current City Center driveway and a bit of the area of the new Crystals Mall.

The center road-island divider makes the best reference marker for seeing the changes .

In the days ahead I'll post some satellite 'progression photos' that chronicle the development of the full City Center project using sat-images from 1965, and from each year from 2002-2008. I've finally been able to locate the sites of the Harmon and Cosmopolitan Hotels, as well as the exact location of the Eiffel Tower, etc.

Don't ask me why I care to know the exact locations of these things or why I care what occupied the spaces before now. I suppose I have an obsessed fixation - because for 13 years I've been trying to figure out the exact locations of the Last Frontier's swimming pool and the Dunes' driveway.

Little-by-little, using aerial photos and Google Earth's History Feature I might be able to quench my curiosity using this process I call "photographic archeology".

To view this photo properly, click on it for a larger view. It was taken from the Dunes Hotel's south-addition and looks south down the Strip (during the late 1970s).

The old Bonanza Hotel is seen at left. Part of Ballys' south-addition is now located on that spot. The current Eiffel Tower and the Arch of Triumph are marked in the former Churchill Downs' shopping center.

The old (1975) Aladdin Tower is seen further down (on left) as is the Marina Hotel (currently the west-wing of the 1993 MGM Grand). The 1975 Tiffany Tower at the Tropicana is seen further down (on left).

The empty lot, across from Tropicana (upper right) is where the Excalibur is now located. I've marked the general area of the current City Center, Crystals' Mall, the Harmon Hotel and Cosmopolitan (on the right) just beyond the former Denny's and the Oasis gas station.

Using Google Earth's History Feature

For me to make any sense out of certain Google satellite photos I first go to Google Earth and type in "Las Vegas Nevada". Google automatically zooms into a view of Las Vegas. I then look for the airport (because its one of the easiest things to recognize) then I zoom into the Strip using the 'plus sign +' on the controls on the top right of every Google Earth view.

You can easily move the photo around in any direction. Then I click on the 'clock icon' which opens up the 'History Feature' (seen at upper left in this photo). I zoom in and find landmarks I recognize (for example, the Paris Hotel's Eiffel Tower). Then I click the 'Thumbtack Icon' and place markers on various locations.

After the 'stick-pin markers' are placed I then move the 'History Slider' backwards (to the left). Most of the years from 2002-2008 are represented, as are the years 1977, 1965 and 1950. The 1950 images are actually more clear than the 1977 images (mainly due to the 1977 views being taken from farther away by a lower resolution satellite camera than the 1950 aerial images).

In this case I first placed markers showing about 17 reference points. The main thing for me was to first locate the Harmon Hotel. From there I could move backwards in time to see what location the Harmon was built upon. During the 'Time Shifting' I keep the camera position in the same location to avoid getting myself confused.

This is the view from 1977. The Tropicana/Aladdin and Dunes golf courses can be seen. The Flamingo Hotel is at mid-bottom and the Dunes is diagonally above it.

The 1965 view of the same portion of The Strip.

1950 aerial-imagery of The Las Vegas Strip. Flamingo is at the bottom. Notice the harsh looking desert-wash that formerly ran directly thru the current area of the New York New York Hotel.

The use of Google's History Feature can be beneficial to geologists, developers and others in lots of ways possibly not yet thought of.

Harmon Hotel Site - Before and After

This is the former view of the Harmon Hotel site as seen in 2004.

2008 view of the Harmon Hotel.

The Future of Googling Earth

Next week I'll show some good satellite views of the entire City Center property.

In the years ahead - Google Earth will likely be providing us with extreme high-definition satellite images, as well as full-motion videos. Whether or not that's a good thing, we'll eventually see.

Imagine ten years from now, being able to look back into a full-motion past to be able to see cars driving and people walking in the years 2015 or 2019. We'll be able to think of a thousand uses for these advancements in computer and satellite technologies.

Quite possibly, during a morning hangover, we'll be able to use Google Earth to answer the age-old question: "Dude, where'd I park my car". Plus, we'll be able to watch our spouse drive to work or spot our kids at the school playground. For good or bad, such things are coming soon.