Historical Satellite Imagery in Google Earth 5

2:23 pm PHT

Google Earth 5 was released last February 2 via a much-hyped launch event at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. The special feature that was unveiled (to no one’s surprise because of the many clues released prior to the event) is the arrival of Google Ocean, which lets users explore the world’s oceans in 3D. What was unexpected were the three other major features added: Google Mars, easy KML tour recording, and—the one I’m most interested in—historical imagery.

I am a self-confessed roof-surfer and I’ve spent countless hours examining and viewing the satellite imagery available in Google Earth and Google Maps. In fact, I’ve turned this “hobby” into Vista Pinas, which is by far my most successful blog. So it’s really no surprise that I’m quite excited with the historical satellite imagery available (for free!) from Google Earth. It’s just so nice to see how things looked like a few years ago. At the very least, it makes comparing places so much easier, unlike before.

So let me share some nice sights around Metro Manila as seen from these historical satellite photographs. In the process, I’ll also explain some technical things I’ve learned.

Bonifacio Global City

First up is Bonifacio Global City, which I believe is the area that has seen the most drastic changes in the Metro. There are three substantial satellite images available right now for this business district: April 2004, April 2006 and March 2007. (There’s an image for February 2007, but it’s not much different from the March 2007 photo.)

 Satellite imagery of Bonifacio Global City from 2004, 2006, and 2007 showing drastic development.

The 2004 imagery shows the original circle-based road plan of Bonifacio Global City. The 2006 photo depicts the deconstruction of these circular roads, the ongoing construction of Serendra, and the foundations of Bonifacio High Street. In the 2007 imagery, we can see High Street practically complete and more finished buildings in Serendra.

I’d like to point out that the 2004 imagery is the one that you can see right now by default in Google Earth and Google Maps. This imagery forms part of the composite DigitalGlobe CitySphere imagery of Metro Manila that Google added back in October 2006. Despite the presence of newer imagery, Google apparently decided not to replace the CitySphere image. Well, I guess it’s because the CitySphere imagery is of a very high quality and has been orthorectified (stretched and positioned correctly) with great accuracy. This is at the expense of recentness—the image is almost five years old!

Google’s choice of using the 2004 composite in its default satellite imagery layer leads to some possibly unintended consequences that I’ll elaborate in a future post. But to give you a clue, it has something to do with Google Map Maker. Update (March 31): I’ve now written that post.

SM Mall of Asia

 Satellite imagery of SM Mall of Asia from 2004 and March 2007.

For SM Mall of Asia, we can see the mall in its initial construction state as of 2004 (with only the north and south wings in progress) and its essentially completed state in 2007. The Entertainment Mall underwent a recent expansion southwards and this is not visible yet in Google Earth.

The 2004 imagery, also part of the DigitalGlobe CitySphere image, can only be seen in the default layer and is not present in the historical imagery collection. Google apparently does not have the original photo from which this part of Metro Manila composite image was obtained.

There’s actually an additional 2006 historical imagery but it had clouds covering most of the mall. I actually remember this imagery as one of the first ever set of satellite imagery released by Google covering the Metro Manila area. It’s the satellite photograph that had the Makati CBD, of all places, covered by clouds, marring the elation felt by many when Metro Manila finally had high-resolution satellite imagery.

Eastwood City and Frontera Verde

 Satellite imagery of Eastwood City from April 2004 and February 2007.

Eastwood City has historical imagery from April 2004 and February 2007. The 2004 photo is also part of the CitySphere composite. We can see in the 2004 imagery that the central parking lot is in the process of being demolished while in the 2007 imagery, we can see the completion of a few condominium towers and the massive development at the former parking lot. You can even see the white tent covering the Eastwood Central Plaza, though not yet the roofing for the al fresco dining areas of the restaurants along Citywalk 1.

 Satellite imagery of Frontera Verde from April 2004, April 2006 and February 2007.

Frontera Verde in Pasig, known for the tiangge shops of Tiendesitas, has three historical images: the usual April 2004 photo, and the photos taken in April 2006 and February 2007. In the 2004 imagery, we can see an essentially empty lot. The 2006 image shows a complete Tiendesitas, the three major roads, and the Silver City Automall and SM Supercenter Pasig under construction. Visible in the 2007 photo is the addition of a minor L-shaped road, the completed Automall and SM Pasig, and more construction at the northern portions.

World Light Expo 2007

Finally, what’s good about the historical imagery collection is that it may capture temporary stuff. Things like the extravagant World Light Expo that was opened to the public in early 2007. This spectacle, which I’ve never been to, is now luckily immortalized as a historical image in Google Earth.

 Satellite imagery of the World Light Expo 2007.

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