Google Street View is an amazing tool that allows you to explore vast swathes of the world from the comfort of your own home.
There is a feature of Street View that I don’t believe a lot of people are aware of – the ability to view past street view images. This is a really neat feature that allows you to see just how much things can change over time.
If a place has had a major event happen, or even something smaller like a large tower being constructed, there may be Google Street View images of the area showing what the place looked like before.
On a computer, you can access past street view images if there is a clock icon with a drop down arrow in the top right. Clicking on that will bring up dates and a preview of the view for the location you are in.
In Australia the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 swept through many country towns. The entire feel of these places changed dramatically – and you can see just how much some of them have changed using Google Street view.
You can click around either of these street views using the above links.
A much more dramatic example is the town of Joplin, Missouri in the United States. An EF5 tornado ripped through this town in 2011, completely destroying the town.
In 2011 a major earthquake hit the city of Christchurch in New Zealand. The impact of this disaster is fully captured within Google Street View images.
On a lighter note, it is not just disasters than can create dramatic differences between two separate dates. The view from the base of the newly-constructed One World Trade centre in New York City, now the tallest building in New York, is fully documented.
You can spend hours and hours exploring the world and the recent past with Google Street View. It really is incredible what we have access to – imagine being told fifteen years ago that you would be able to explore major landmarks, cities, virtually any street in the world, right from the comfort of your home!