Google Earth Takes On Fourth Dimension

Our Guest Blogger, Lisa Zyga, is a science writer who is interested in many areas of science and technology, including the impact of science on society. She is excited about exploring new inventions in science, medicine, and space, and inspiring and fascinating readers interested in the creative frontier of science with the readers of Here's her article:

* * * * *

How will 15,000 creatures add their voices to your online map?

Wild Sanctuary, a company based in Glen Ellen, California, is teaming up with Google to provide data it has collected over the past 40 years for Google Earth, one of the most comprehensive new interactive online maps.

Specifically, Wild Sanctuary has a database of more than 3500 hours of animal sounds from 15,000 different species. The company has recently developed software to embed each audio file into its relevant location on the map.

This contribution will add another dimension of reality to Google Earth's visual imagery of thousands of locations around the globe, especially in exotic places such as rainforests and artic tundra.

Besides listening to what places sounds like today, users will also be able to travel back in time and compare today's sounds with past sounds. Unfortunately, this comparison reveals some of the rapid changes and losses in animal populations, which are often due to human intervention.

Bernie Krause, owner of Wild Sanctuary, hopes to allow people to enjoy the sounds on faraway continents that many will never visit in person. At the same time, realizing the loss of this beautiful but fragile part of our world as it becomes less diverse is striking. Krause says that 40% of the voices he's recorded since 1968 now no longer exist.

From listening to the sounds on Wild Sanctuary's Web site, you can appreciate the high quality technology used to capture one of nature's most primitive and elusive features. However, in accordance with the open spirit of the Internet, another company called Freesound is developing a program that will enable all users to contribute sound files to accompany locations.

In addition to recording natural sounds, Krause also has a classical music background, and has produced albums in both areas, which are available at On May 29, the day Krause will demonstrate his Google Earth sounds software, 26 sounds will also be available on the site, with more to follow.

I'll bet that back in 1968, Krause (or anyone) would have never believed his start-up project of collecting animal sounds would one day become a part of a billion-dollar company and used by people around the world. I think this is a pretty cool example of the integration of nature, art and technology.

Lisa Zyga
Guest Blogger

May 18, 2007
by Anonymous Jerry Park (not verified)

Sounds were collected for "Jurassic Park"

Years ago, staff of the "Jurassic Park" movie supposedly went out hunting for sounds of animals to use in the movie--attempting to create what various dinosaurs MIGHT have sounded like.  Guess they never heard of Wild Sanctuary or its data base.