What’s Google Maps hiding?

The image below is from Google Maps.

Notice the blur in the middle? I didn’t put it there – Google did. Click on this link to check for yourself.

Then scroll out a bit, using the controls of the left of the screen. Notice anything else?

Blurred Google Satellite Map Russia

Yep – the blurred out area is in the Russian Far East.

Anyone got any ideas about what’s been airbrushed out?

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27 Responses

  1. Tim Newman’s house?

  2. Lyndon says:

    Abramovich’s dacha (looks to be in the middle of Chukotka)? Or the secret Chelsea training facility?

  3. Tim Newman says:

    My guess would be a radar station or missile interceptor. But the access looks pretty poor, although most places are hard to access out this end.

  4. Aleks says:

    66°16’0″N 179°13’40″E

    MS Live Search is unblurred and shows nuffink:
    http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&cp=66.262158~179.229584&style=h&lvl=12&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000

  5. Lyndon says:

    My guess would be a radar station or missile interceptor.

    I had a similar thought as well. It is pretty close to Alaska…

    Interesting thing about Google Maps – at least one capital city (Chisinau) is not available in hi-res, but then there are some rather more remote locations (e.g., Akhalkalaki, Georgia) which are available in hi-res.

    Perhaps the people at Google Maps are making a political statement – Chisinau is not visible in hi-res, but Tiraspol is (you can see the shadow of the Lenin statue here); on the other hand, Sukhumi and Tskhinvali are not, and Stepanakert is not (though Shusha is). So perhaps in addition to the “Kosovo precedent,” the Russians might try to introduce a “Google Maps principle” to the resolution of the frozen conflicts. On the other hand, based on that principle (hi-res Google Map available = legitimately independent), Aslan Abashidze would still be running things in Ajara, so perhaps its an idea that’s already been overtaken by events.

    Obscure jokes aside (and with apologies for the level of obscurity, which I realize is high), I think those situations just have to do with the availability of satellite imagery, rather than anything nefarious – the Google maps images are not updated very often at all.

    This is all unrelated to the intentional blurring, of course, which is quite interesting. The only place that’s been intentionally blurred in the US that I know of – and it’s become legendary, so everyone else probably knows of this, too – is Dick Cheney’s residence.

  6. kurotome says:

    Go to http://local.live.com/ and check out the same exact spot as is shown in the Google Maps image. Guess what? You can’t. That MS site uses a single image of the world from Russia to Alaska and it seems they’ve cleverly excised the vertical slice that contains that burred image. So, what it is becomes far more intriguing.

  7. Andy says:

    MS Live Search is unblurred and shows nuffink

    Although, interestingly, if you scroll in a couple of notches on the Live Search image, you’ll see that the southern part of that mini-mountain range has been covered over with a duplicate image of the land slightly to the West.

    Yahoo maps, on the other hand, have just opted for a big black box over the area.

  8. ReluctantMuscovite says:

    As my employer does not allow me to download any software, and as I have no computer at home, I can’t try this myself. But, I used to have this tool, and it’s amazing:

    http://worldwind.arc.nasa.gov/

    Maybe you can find the spot with that?

    Let me know.

  9. Tim Newman says:

    The only place that’s been intentionally blurred in the US that I know of – and it’s become legendary, so everyone else probably knows of this, too – is Dick Cheney’s residence.

    I believe this is not because Dick Cheney’s residence is worthy of blurring, but because his residence is situated on a military base.

  10. Lyndon says:

    I believe this is not because Dick Cheney’s residence is worthy of blurring, but because his residence is situated on a military base.

    It’s on the grounds of the US Naval Observatory, which is right in downtown DC (I drive by it all the time) and is not really a military base. Other DC-area military or military-type installations (e.g., the CIA offices at Langley and the Pentagon) are not blurred, nor is the White House or the Capitol (although the latter was apparently blurred at some earlier date).

    I’m not sure about other military bases, but a quick google search through some discussion boards filled with people who seem to be preoccupied with this (not that I’m one to talk) suggests that the only installations that are blurred are ones where the stuff that goes on there is utterly secret (as opposed to your regular old navy yard or air base). So, as much as I hate to admit it, I think the blurry spot in DC is all about Cheney. I suppose there could be some sort of air defense system there – but how would it be more in need of concealment than the systems presumably protecting the other places I’ve mentioned?

  11. Lyndon says:

    Oh, and back on the topic of this post, one year-and-a-half-old discussion that I found mentioned a similar hole in Alaska and (down in the comments) the very same hole that was the subject of Andy’s original post. But some of the other “holes” mentioned in that discussion don’t seem to be holes anymore. All very mysterious. Not for us to know, I guess.

  12. ReluctantMuscovite says:

    what a dumb thing to do, blurring images because the site is secret. That’s like putting up a big, fat red arrow with TOP SECRET STUFF DON’T LOOK HERE IGNORE WHAT YOU SAW. I once saw a movie (stupid action movie) with the line: he’s so secret, the word secret doesn’t even light up when you find his name in the database.

    Now, that’s secret.

  13. Tim Newman says:

    Lyndon,

    Fair enough, I stand corrected. I was just repeating what I’d read in a blog comment somewhere.

    What’s interesting about the piece Andy has put up is that the submarine bases in Kamchatka and Severomorsk are not blurred out, yet this little piece is. Maybe it’s Putin’s wallet?

  14. GER O'BRIEN says:

    Putins wages and tax returns are periodically posted in the Russian media. I think he earns about $100,000 a year flat -that’s his wage. Which means that blur is Tim Newsman wallet presumably)

  15. Bob says:

    Take a look at this “lake”:
    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ie=UTF8&z=10&ll=66.266856,179.25087&spn=0.219983,0.933838&t=k&om=1
    Doesn’t it look like the north shore has been sliced vertically? Maybe a nuclear test?

  16. Tim Newman says:

    I think he earns about $100,000 a year flat -that’s his wage. ,/em>

    I’m sure that his take-home pay taking into account all sources is considerably higher than this. Hence he needs to leave his wallet hidden in the far east until his term is up.

  17. Mr. Munoz says:

    I found this image via Yahoo Maps and they cover with a rectangle as well.

    http://maps.yahoo.com/index.php#mvt=s&trf=0&lon=179.230614&lat=66.26202&mag=7

  18. Joshua Foust says:

    Google and the CIA share commercial satellites. Rather, the CIA pays imaging companies to canvass an area, then after 18-24 months the companies sell them to Google. That’s why the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan is at 1m resolution, while upstate New York is at 100m resolution.

    It’s possible an intelligence agency is worried about something at this site, so they asked the imaging companies to blur it out. I mean, that can go both directions, right?

  19. GER O'BRIEN says:

    When I said flat I mean thats his basic take home pay without any extras, bonuses, expenses etc. Of course he never has to buy anything either I daresay.

    Which means it could still be your wallet Tim) Why would Putin leave it in the Far East -its more your area than his)

  20. Andy says:

    Someone has just published an entry on Wikipedia, listing all of the blurred out spots on Google Maps.

    Seems like this is the only one they’ve found in Russia – so far…

  21. Rebecca says:

    Interestingly, the waterways of the Avonmouth around Bristol appear to be blurred too.

  22. Aleks says:

    http://www.tageo.com/index.php?show=search

    Put in the name & country and it gives you the coordinates.

    It’s pretty good at find even the smallest places…

  23. Tom says:

    Ok… Here’s the eal story…

    It took some time after 9/11, but the sourtce images were altered to obstruct views of facilities that might become targets of people wishing to do them harm. Those sites include, but are not limited to the White House, the Naval Observatory (Vice Presidential residence), ALL of the Congressional office buildings, and key strategic military institutions – that does not mean military bases, but those bases which are handling sensitive material, or are particularly threatened. One example would be St. Ignoe’s in Southern Maryland – once a radar research facility and auxillary airfield for the Navy, and nowa testing site for new RPV’s.

    Blurring out sattelite – and hi-res aerial photo’s (hi-res are usually older, B&W, and taken from an aircraft), has been done for years. But, after the press started pointing out that the images were available to everyone, the agency who controls those images, the Geological Survey, quickly blurred out those sites.

    Cheney has a hiding place inside D.C., and there has been much speculation where it is. I don’t want to know where his rabbit hole is – I just want him to get lost! But, I CAN tell you it isn’t in Ft Reno Park, or at the reservoir there.

  24. Brad Smith says: