The story of how Google Earth helped to find a long-lost forest

Back in 2005 Julian Bayliss, a biologist at London’s Kew Gardens, discovered a brand new rainforest that had previously never been studied — and he found it using Google Earth.

mount mabu

According to author Ken Jennings:

Julian Bayliss, a British scientist specializing in plant conservation, was browsing for possible African rainforest sites on Google Earth when he stumbled on aerial photographs of Mount Mabu, a lush peak rising above the savannah of central Mozambique. He was surprised to find 27 square miles of medium-altitude rainforest—the largest in Africa—that, to his knowledge, no one had ever studied.

How could a whole rainforest hide in plain sight for so long? Locals in the area knew about Mount Mabu, of course, but the combination of a lack of roads in the area and a long-running civil war had kept outsiders away. Mount Mabu—the “Google Forest,” as it came to be called—had never been logged. It had never even been mapped.

It’s a fascinating story, as we always tend to assume that the world has been fully explored and tools like Google Earth are simply a way to see it again, but that’s not always the case. I encourage you to read Ken’s fully story to learn more.

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Hannes Botha says:

    South African researchers have long ago beaten the Brits to the “discovery” of Mount Mabu’s unique flora and fauna. See for example “A new species of chameleon (Sauria: Chamaeleonidae: Nadzikambia) from Mount Mabu, central Mozambique”, African Journal of Hepetology, Oct2010, Vol. 59 Issue 2, p157-172.

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