People can now explore the awe inspiring landscape of Whakaari (White Island) online using Google Street View.
Whakaari is one of the world's most accessible, continuously active marine volcanoes and now a project between the Whakatane District Council and Google aimed to take that accessibility to a whole new level, by bringing the raw power of the island online.
The project was the first of its kind in New Zealand with Google loaning a 'Trekker' to a third-party organisation to capture street view imagery.
The Google Street View Trekker is an 18kg, 15 camera backpack that takes high-quality 360 degree photos every 2.5 seconds.
A team of local trekkers also set out over summer and captured 35km of the Whakatane District's most iconic walks and landmarks, including the Moutohora Island (Whale Island) sanctuary, a virtual hike on Nga Tapuwae o Toi, and the Ohope Scenic Reserve which is home to a thriving kiwi population.
Other attractions now featuring on Google Street View include the ancient podocarp forest of Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tane conservation park on the Waterfall Loop Track, the spectacular Tarawera Falls, Tauwhare Pa, Warren Cole Walkway, and Port Ohope Wharf.
Local project co-ordinator Whakatane District Council's Richard Parfitt said it had been a great project to be a part of.
"The council worked closely with a number of organisations to get permission and access to the locations. Special thanks go to the Department of Conservation, Ngati Awa, Ngati Whare, Ngati Rangitihi, Halo Whakatane, Whakatane Kiwi Trust, Frontier Helicopters, White Island Tours, Whakaari Management Trust Ltd and the Te Tapatoru a Toi - Joint Management Committee.
"There was some discussion around whether putting footage online would mean people would choose not to do the real thing. Google Street View can't fully replicate the real life experiences. White Island especially - standing on an active volcano, the smells, noise and scale of it is truly something best experienced in person," he said.
Google New Zealand Special Collect Operations lead Matthew Jenke said giving people a taste through Google Street View was a brilliant way to capture their imagination and encouraged them to explore further and travel to New Zealand.
"The Google Street View camera loan programme is bigger than that. Google Maps has over 1 billion monthly active users. People who may never have the opportunity to visit White Island will now be able to see it.
"Through virtual reality teachers around the world are taking their classes on virtual expeditions to amazing places around the world. We're excited to have White Island added to the list of experiences Google Street View provides," he said.
Visit whakatane.com/google-streetview to explore the Whakatane District with Google Street View.