Memories of the Amazon

Friday, July 25, 2008 at 5:00 PM

Last month a group of Googlers traveled to the Brazil at the invitation of Chief Almir Surui and the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) to lead a series of workshops for members of his tribe and others who are interested in using technology to protect the Amazon rainforest. Technically we were the trainers, but the trip was an incredible learning experience for all of us. I hope you'll read the account of our trip we just posted on the Google Earth Outreach website, but there were more great stories and memories than could fit in one place. So I've asked some of my fellow Googlers to share some of their favorite moments here, starting with mine:

Fun with Gigapan

Gigapan is my favorite new toy, and made a great addition to this trip. With it you can create ultra-high resolution panoramas (up to 5000 megapixels!) that can be viewed on the web, or in Google Earth (look in the 'Gallery' Layer). Created by the Global Connection Project (a collaboration between NASA and Carnegie Mellon University), Gigapan is a powerful tool for promoting cultural exchange. Several units were donated to the Surui people and ACT so that they can document and share indigenous and Amazonian life with the world. While in the village of Lapetanha I mounted my digital camera on the robotic unit and took three panoramas of the village. If you explore the one embedded below, you can see some Googlers having lunch under a traditional thatched shelter, and others playing 'tag' with the Surui kids.



From Marcelo Quintella, Product Manager, Google Brazil:

"Seeing the Amazon from the plane is an amazing experience. It is incredible how the the forest does not start gradually. It's like a wall: on one side you have farms and city, and suddenly the forest is there, dense with trees. I think the forest used to start gradually, but with deforestation we only see this "wall effect."

From Mark Aubin, Software Engineer, Google Earth:
"Seeing two Amazonian Indians from opposite sides of the Amazon meet and embrace for the first time was a powerful moment for me. They communicated easily with smiles and embraces, but speaking proved quite challenging. Wuta (left), a cartographer for ACT Suriname, speaks Tiriyó. Chief Almir's father, Maribop Surui (right), speaks Tupi-Monde, the native language of the Surui. As Maribop spoke, Almir translated to Portuguese, then Vasco would translate to English, and then Skappie, Wuta's Surinamese colleague, would finally speak Tiriyó to Wuta. Despite this game of 'telephone' I could see from their faces that they shared a common bond that goes very deep." (Photo courtesy of Andrea Ribeiro)

From Amit Sood, Google Europe:
"As our training session started off, I scanned the room to gauge the students' levels of knowledge. It was clear that some students are more comfortable than others. A few minutes into the session I noticed a group of four women sitting quietly, staring at their monitors and not participating in the training exercises. I investigated, and learned that they were not familiar with the mouse or the other strange equipment that is such an everyday part of my life. A fellow instructor, Eduardo, focused his attention on them while I continued the training. At the end of the day I witnessed something that made me feel both proud and sad: all four women were chatting away on the Internet, searching, moving the mice as if it were something they had always known. Smiles all around, no sense of apprehension: The Net had found four more addicts."

There were no cameras around to capture that particular moment, but here is a nice one of Amit during the training (and me, on the far right):

If I've piqued your interest and you want to learn more, Rebecca Moore, Manager of Google Earth Outreach, has posted her thoughts about the trip on the Official Google Blog.