Google may have mapped the world, but there are some places that remain hidden or obscured from view. Having said that, though, some previously obscured places can now be discerned plain as day. So, with all this in mind, here’s a look at ten places that can’t be seen on Google Maps, and ten others which have now been made visible.
10. Zaragoza Air Base
The northern Spanish city of Zaragoza is the capital of a wider province of the same name. Home to over 700,000 people, Zaragoza is among the most populated cities in the European Union, ranked at number 32. Naturally, then, the place is connected by an airport, which is situated approximately ten miles away.
Zaragoza Airport, however, serves as much more than a civilian and cargo transportation hub. In fact, Spain’s air force also has a base there, which perhaps explains why it’s blurred out on Google Maps. And given that the area surrounding this spot is captured in such sharp relief, we can presume this distortion was no accident.
If you were to look at Israel, the Golan Heights or Palestine on any internet maps, you’d note that the images are of poor quality. This is the case on Bing, Mapquest and, of course, Google. But how is it that so much land could have been neglected by these services?
Well, it turns out that the poor imagery has come about on purpose. You see, an American law has been put in place which controls the quality of satellite pictures of Israel that can be publicly circulated. This is known as the Kyl–Bingaman Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act of 1997.
8. Thessaloniki Airport
The capital of Greek Macedonia, Thessaloniki is also one of the biggest cities in Greece as a whole. In fact, only the capital Athens is actually larger. So, given the prominence of Thessaloniki, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s connected to the rest of the world by an international airport.
This airport, however, has its secrets. That’s to say, if you look at the facility using Google’s satellite imaging services, you’ll see that it’s all blurry. And if you’re wondering why, it might be a safe guess to suggest that it has something to do with the military presence in the area.
7. South Sandwich Islands
More than 800 miles from the Falkland Islands, a series of tiny isles lie isolated in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. These are known as South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and they are collectively considered to be a British Overseas Territory. If you look specifically for the South Sandwich Islands on Google Maps, however, you will encounter a problem.
The South Sandwich Islands are extremely secluded. And that, perhaps, is why Google Maps has been unable to illustrate them accurately. You see, Google imagery of the isles shows them to be in different positions to where they actually are in reality. In fact, the map is off by about a mile, in parts.
6. Rikers Island
Say you happened to be sailing down New York’s East River. At some point in the middle of The Bronx and Queens, you’d end up hitting a particular dot of land. This is Rikers Island, and so you’d better not linger. After all, this place hosts possibly New York City’s most famed prison.
If you felt like exploring the place, then, you’d probably be better off studying it from a bird’s-eye view. But there’s a problem with this plan, too. You see, parts of the island are distorted from Google Maps’ satellite imagery. Presumably, this is to inhibit anyone who might be trying to plan a jailbreak.
5. Area near Mount Kailash
In Tibet, a certain mountain stands at more than 21,700 foot high. This is Mount Kailash, and it’s a site of utmost religious importance. In fact, members of several major faiths think of the landform as being sacred. This is the case for followers of Hinduism, Bon, Jainism and Buddhism.
Mount Kailash lies not far from the sources of a number of Asia’s most significant rivers, including the Indus and the Karnali, which links up with the Ganges. Yet if you look at the area on Google Maps, you’ll see a large section nearby which is completely blank. And it’s not completely clear why this is the case.
It’s widely believed that the ancient city of Babylon was once the most significant urban center on Earth. For some 1,200 years beginning in the 18th century B.C., the city acted as the capital of the Mesopotamian kingdom of Babylonia. It’s thought that it may actually have been the first settlement in history to host more than 200,000 inhabitants.
Nowadays, the remnants of Babylon can be seen in modern Iraq, specifically in a city called Hillah. However, you’d actually have to go there in person to explore the ruins, as Babylon doesn’t show up clearly on Google Maps. While the exact reasons for this are shrouded in uncertainty, rumors of a nearby military installation persist.
3. The Faroe Islands
Situated more or less equidistantly between Iceland and Norway, the Faroe Islands are actually officially a part of Denmark. Having said that, they do retain a degree of autonomy over their own affairs. The territory encompasses 779 isles and skerries, but only 18 of these are considered to be significant.
For a time, all the isles of the Faroe Islands were distorted on Google Maps. Things have since been cleared up, though, and the place is largely clearly distinguished now. That is, except for a pair of the territory’s smaller isles. Indeed, both Svínoy and Fugloy are still blurry to this day.
2. El Ejido’s mysterious square
The Spanish province of Almería is widely considered to be a center of agriculture. Cutting-edge farming techniques are utilized in the region, with greenhouses a common site dotted throughout. A place here called El Ejido stands out in particular as a spot known for its agricultural practices and methods.
El Ejido is also known, however, for a square area which is strangely blurred out of Google Maps. Around this square, roadways, buildings and plant life can be made out, but the square itself is completely out of focus. It’s not clear why this is the case, but there have been whispers that the site holds a helipad.
1. Moruroa Atoll
In the southern part of the Pacific Ocean, the ring-shaped Moruroa atoll is situated. This place is in the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia, about 780 miles away from Tahiti. There’s no doubt that Moruroa is secluded from the rest of the world. And for that reason, the atoll has been exposed to extreme experiments.
Over a 30-year period beginning in 1966, France tested its nuclear weapons on Moruroa. According to reports, something like 175 tests or more were undertaken in that time. One would have to presume that that’s the reason for certain sections of the island being difficult to see on Google Maps.
10. The White House
As the home of the American president, the White House is naturally subject to rigorous security measures. Windows of the premises are said to be bulletproof, alarms are rigged throughout the complex, and security personnel roam around. But despite all this, we can now actually look at the building on Google Maps.
When Google initially rolled out its satellite imaging services, the White House was completely covered up. And really, it isn’t all too surprising that this was the case. Yet as 2006 got under way, it seems that this censorship was lifted. Nowadays, we’re free to digitally mooch around the place from a bird’s-eye view.
9. Number One Observatory Circle
As the home of a sitting U.S. vice president, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Number One Observatory Circle is subjected to strict security measures similar to those in force at the White House. Just like the president’s abode, One Observatory Circle was once obscured in Google’s satellite imagery. And it actually stayed this way for much longer.
During Dick Cheney’s tenure as vice president, One Observatory Circle was impossible to make out with any clarity on Google Maps. But according to website Gawker, things were cleared up in the middle of January 2009. And so, with that, we can now make the massive residence out without much trouble.
8. Noordeinde Palace
For a time, numerous important places dotted around the Netherlands were once heavily obscured on Google Maps. In addition to military facilities and governmental buildings, certain places associated with the Dutch royal family were also blurred out. Noordeinde Palace was just one such example of a place subjected to this sort of censorship.
Located in The Hague, Noordeinde Palace is an official palace of the Dutch royals. And perhaps that’s why the place, amongst many others in the Netherlands, was censored until 2013. That year, though, a law was altered in the country and these locations were made more clear on Google Maps.
7. High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program
The High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program – more concisely known by its acronym H.A.A.R.P. – was set up to study parts of the Earth’s atmosphere. The Alaska-based initiative is financed by a number of important American entities. These include the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the U.S. Navy and the Air Force.
H.A.A.R.P. has captured the attention of conspiracy theorists. In their minds, you see, the program is utilized in order to manipulate environmental conditions. And such a stance was surely encouraged by claims that the area housing the program was censored on Google Maps. Nowadays, however, the place can be seen quite clearly.
6. The Capitol Building
The Capitol Building is obviously an important location within Washington D.C. and the United States more broadly. After all, Congress is housed there. For this reason, perhaps, the site was once blurred out on Google Maps, just like other significant buildings in the U.S. capital such as the White House and One Observatory Circle.
According to The Washington Post newspaper, the Capitol Building was once completely censored on Google Maps. Then in 2007 an old image of the location was inserted into the service. Yet thankfully, a more up-to-date picture is now in place for people to pore over from the comfort of their homes.
5. Malaga Airport
Malaga Airport sees more traffic than any other within the Spanish province of Andalucía. In fact, it’s among the four most hectic airports in all of Spain, behind those serving Madrid, Barcelona and Palma. Yet for some time, it was nonetheless obscured from view for the would-be digitally curious keen to check it out via Google’s satellite imagery.
Back in 2012 certain sections of Malaga Airport were concealed on Google Maps by a sort of black layer. Nowadays, however, the airport can be distinguished quite clearly. It’s not certain why it was initially hidden. And to add to the mystery, it seems that the busier airport in Madrid had never been censored.
4. Fort Drum Military Base
Somewhere in New York State’s Jefferson County, there is a large military base which serves a variety of purposes. Encompassing more than 107,000 acres of space, this is Fort Drum. A large number of soldiers can be supported here, with a little under 80,000 passing through for training each year.
There have been suggestions that Fort Drum used to be obscured on Google Maps, which wouldn’t be all that surprising, given its purposes. Having said that, there’s no explicit indication that the censorship was all that stringent. It may simply have been that the quality of satellite images of the place happened to be poor. In any case, the base can now be seen quite clearly.
3. The Elmira Correctional Facility
Often referred to by its nickname of “The Hill,” Elmira is a prison in New York’s Chemung County. It first opened back in 1876, operating as the Elmira Reformatory. At the start of the 1970s, however, its name was officially changed to the Elmira Correctional and Reception Center.
Supposedly owing to fears that satellite imagery of Elmira could aid in jailbreaks, the place was once presented in poor quality on Google Maps. After all, clearer images would perhaps prove useful in a helicopter getaway. However, authorities have seemingly reassessed whether this is actually a major concern. Now, then, the place can be seen more distinctly.
2. Volkel Air Base
The Volkel Air Base is located in the province of North Brabant in the south of the Netherlands. Here, the country’s air force is present. A pair of runways cut through the base, each measuring a little under 10,000 feet in length. They’re both able to deal with airplanes of varying sizes.
Volkel Air Base was once hidden on Google Maps, and it’s not hard to see why. You see, American nuclear weapons are stored here. This first came to light back in 2010, but was officially confirmed by a former Dutch leader three years later. Yet still, in 2016 the base was cleared up on Maps.
1. The resting place of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il
At one time, North Korea showed up merely as a featureless shape on Google Maps. But in 2013 a Google update finally made some distinguishable characteristics of the country plain for internet users to see. Finally, roads, buildings and public transport stops were able to be seen. But that’s not all.
The first and second heads of North Korea – Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il respectively – were both laid to rest in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace. And with the 2013 Google revisions, this site became clear to see via satellite imagery. In essence, the notoriously secretive nation had now become a little easier to explore.