The San Blas islands are a beautiful archipelago of mostly pristine Caribbean tropical islands located off the northern coast of Panama. There are hundreds of little islands in this area, many of which are occupied, and managed, by the Kuna Indians. A couple of months ago, we spent three weeks exploring the lovely San Blas islands in our sailboat Tahina as part of our five-year expedition around the world. Unfortunately, Google Earth has had no high resolution imagery for the San Blas islands. So, we had to resort to only charts and guide books to learn about the islands.
While visiting the islands, we had one good day where the winds and weather were perfect for flying our kite to take aerial photos. We were near an island used by sailors who cruise these waters to meet on Monday nights and have barbeques or pot luck dinners and socialize. The island is aptly called “BBQ Island” by cruisers and they even keep the island clean by picking up trash and broken palm fronds on a regular basis. Although all the other islands are a low-resolution blur still in Google Earth, this one little island is now available in ultra-high resolution. If you zoom out, you’ll see BBQ island is just a tiny dot surrounded by blurry low-resolution imagery of some of the larger islands. But, zoom in and you’ll see details like our dinghy on the beach, individual palm fronds on the trees, and even coconuts!
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You can watch a slideshow of photos showing how we took the photos and some sample photos from the kite in the photo album below. We had to walk around the edges of the island to keep the string from getting caught in the trees, and even walk out into the reefs and through the water. Ultimately, we even took the dinghy out with the string to get the kite over the upwind side of the island.
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If you want to see some more details of some of the islands, we made a map of a few of the islands we visited with GPS.
I want to thank David Tryse, who helped me with the kite and took photos of me while I was on the island. And, I want to thank Stewart Long, who did a lot of work to stitch together and process the photos before they were delivered to Google. Stewart is currently involved with Grass Roots Mapping, which is documenting the big oil spill with balloon and kite photography. You can see another example of kite aerial photos taken by the Tahina Expedition of Petite Tabac.
Lastly, and most importantly, I would like to thank Google for supporting our efforts to bring interesting high resolution aerial imagery into Google Earth and sharing it with the world!