St. Croix will soon be the first island in the Caribbean with complete coverage on Google Maps, including street view. N2theBlue Scuba Shop Co-Owner Kirk Thompson is nearing the end of an 1,100 mile journey around our island, covering every inch of road and the major hiking trails. This is his final week with the Google camera before it’s mailed back to California. It’s an impressive apparatus featuring 15 cameras and two GPS locators. Thompson is the first person who doesn’t work for Google or the government to be loaned one.
For Thompson, this labor of love started when he bought N2theBlue scuba shop with his business partner Sean Arnold in 2013. After struggling to get the Google Maps pin in the correct location to help visitors find their dive shop, he realized how far St. Croix was behind-the-times when it came to having an accurate digital map. He quickly became a top contributor of corrections for Google Maps in the U.S. Virgin Islands. From that, he was able to secure a camera in the Google Trekker program. The 50-pound trekker camera backpacks can be used to obtain Google street view coverage on foot. To follow, Thompson was sent the rig official Google vehicles use to capture street view coverage, only he had to fashion it four feet lower than normal to avoid low hanging power lines and tree limbs around island. His background with companies like The North Face, combined with a mind for efficiency in the mergers and acquisitions world, made this a perfect task for him.
So why volunteer five hours a day for 28 consecutive days to get your island proper map coverage? Thompson explains his reasoning: First and foremost is safety. Emergency medical services didn’t have a reliable map to get an ambulance to the scene of an accident. Not to mention recovery efforts following a tropical storm or hurricane. Another reason is economic development, as tourism is essential to our island and visitors were struggling to find local businesses. If those customers can easily find our activities and restaurants, they have a positive experience on St. Croix. Then they’re more likely to return to our island and recommend it to friends.
Thompson is proud to be able to capture a digital snapshot of St. Croix just in time for our centennial celebration. Footage of the local environment, such as coastal erosion on our beaches, will be a great reference point for monitoring in conservation efforts. Next on Thompson’s list? Documenting St. Croix’s underwater beauty. The camera is on its way.
Travel + Leisure magazine recently visited St. Croix to document How Google Maps Records Remote Locations. Read the article by Tom Vanderbilt here.
Check out some of the Google Maps footage captured on St. Croix:
As soon as all the St. Croix street view footage is uploaded, looking for the perfect home / condo / land on-island will be significantly easier. Check a listing’s view and surrounding neighborhood with just a few clicks. Google Street View will provide a 360-degree virtual tour of a listing and the area around it. When you’re found your short list, contact Chris and Kerri Hanley, the experts on Virgin Islands real estate. Download their free St. Croix Event Guide to find the perfect time for an extended visit: