Google is helping turn the Christmas Island in the next Galapagos Island

Christmas Island is a small territory of Australia located in the Indian Ocean. (Zinni-Online) (Credit: iStock)


Forty-five million Christmas Island red crabs are on the move for their once a year migration to breed and thus to the Indian Ocean settlement that still calls Australia home, despite sitting just 350 km south of Java.

It was the 2001 Tampa crisis that forever linked Christmas Island with boat people, but now the Australian outpost is desperate to shed this image and rebrand itself as Australia and the Galapagos Islands with Google playing a big hand.

The parks of Australia, in collaboration with the internet giant to map the migration of David Attenborough once described as one of the most amazing sights” for Google Maps Street View.

The images used for Street View, a part of the undertaking of the Google Maps app, which will allow users to virtually experience the migration and the island.

Enter Dr Alasdair Grigg, Parks Australia and resident island expert.

((Mlenny. Credit: iStock))

Dr Grigg will spend more than 30 hours lugging around a 20kg tractor (a portable camera unit) through the more remote parts of the island during the mapping process. The tractor itself is equipped with a collar 15 fixed focal length camera that take photos every 2.5 seconds.

Google’s software combines the exposures together, adjusting and correcting colors, brightness, and other variables to create the final 360-degree views and on 13 of December, the capture of the crabs “spectacular” spawning.

Dr Grigg said: “the Island of Christmas is not on the radar of most travelers … we hope that people can get a taste of the migrant by the Tractor — and are inspired to appreciate the natural values of the island.”

Chairman of the Christmas Island Tourism Association Lisa Preston goes further to add — it is to be hoped that the international exposure will boost tourism in the figures of the current “500 or so” who visit the island each year.



And this in turn stimulates the economy.

The island’s phosphate mining and the immigration related activities will sustain the island’s economy for an indefinite period of time. Currently, the mine employs just over 100 people (approximately 30 people were fired in the last month) and the detention centre is due to close in June.

Ms Preston said: “Our national park is our greatest tourist asset … you will not find something like the Christmas Island anywhere else in the world — and who better than Google to help us get the message out.”

Miranda Schooneveldt spokeswoman for the Parks of Australia said virtual tours would inspire not only the rest of the world — but also Australians — to visit the region.

“We want to share the uniqueness and beauty of the island with everyone, if we share this message, this also helps in the preservation and Google also understand and respect this message.”

“And let’s be honest what a great island.”

Of those who the flight to Christmas Island, Perth, Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur, the most usually have a single purpose.

Diving, birds … and of course the crabs.

Camilla Ibrahim, of Google Australia & New Zealand, said: “The Street View experience is about making places more accessible, and inspiring people to appreciate our unique fauna and flora … so good that they do to special places, such as Christmas Island.”

Google’s virtual tour starts from Uluru earlier this year — complete with rock-drawings, and interactive videos with traditional Aboriginal music and dance reached an audience of 400 million euros, according to the Parks of Australia.

It is yet to be seen if the Christmas Island will capture the same attention, but as tech companies chase potential advertising revenue from location-focused sales — Google continues on its journey to the remote parts of the world, with conservation of an important message.

* The reporter travelled as a guest of Google

Fast Facts

1. Approximately 45 million crabs live on Christmas Island — the only place in the world where they are found.

2. Migration starts in the beginning of the wet season (usually October to December) and is dependent on the phase of the moon and the resulting tides.

3. You can not eat red crabs.

4. Park staff have built walls and plastic fencing along the roads to funnel crabs to junctions, tunnels and a bridge.

5. Many locals carry a rake in their car to a safe path on the roads.

6. A single female can brood up to 100,000 eggs.

7. Crabs can’t swim, but they go for a swim to keep themselves cool.

8. Eggs hatch as soon as they hit the water and when ts happens looks like black ink is released into the sea.

9. The sound of millions of crabs along the bottom of the forest sounds like the drumming of the rain on a tin roof.

10. Streets are closed off on the island, while migration is happening and to protect the crabs.

This story was previously published in the

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