Why I Love Google Earth

Image from NASA. Source.
About a week ago I discovered Google Earth. That's not entirely true--I've known about it for a couple years and one of my archaeology professors showed us some neat places with it. But I'd never used it myself until I downloaded the free plugin last week and started searching for some of the historical places where my novel is set.

I was absolutely thrilled when I realized that some famous places, like the Karnak temple complex in Luxor, actually pop up away from the satellite map. After some fiddling with the finicky compass settings I was able to virtually walk through the same section of the complex that existed when my characters would have been alive. It isn't extremely realistic-looking--you'll have to consult photos for that--but even so I was pretty impressed by the level of detail. They even included reliefs on the walls.

Naturally I geeked out and spent several hours visiting famous places I thought of, like Vatican City and China's Forbidden City. I was more impressed by what I was able to see there. It was even more realistic than my Egyptian locations.

Google Earth is a great research tool for historical fiction authors who can't afford to fly to the places they write about, or whose chosen settings are difficult or even impossible to reach. Just don't be like me and waste several hours visiting places you'll probably never write about.

Question: Have you ever used Google Earth as a research tool? What do you think about it?

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