Ben Streissguth getting Trekker ready for the walk around Soos Creek Botanical Garden – photo courtesy of SCBG

by Dianna Marshall

Google Street View is a technology featured in Google Maps and Google Earth that provides panoramic views from positions along many streets in the world. Street View was launched in 2007 in several cities in the United States and has since expanded to include cities and rural areas worldwide as well as major World Heritage sites.

To get Northwest gardens into Street View, Ben Streissguth, of Garden Conservancy Northwest Network (GCNN) and Streissguth Garden in Seattle, put out the call to include the first eight GCNN gardens that volunteered. Fortunately, Linda Hallberg (garden volunteer) jumped at the chance to have Soos Creek Botanical Garden (SCBG) in that list. Ben had trekked in 17 parks in Seattle already and had the stamina and enthusiasm to do more.

Most photography for Street View is done by car, but some is done by large tricycle (for very small streets or lanes), walking, boat, snowmobile, underwater apparatus, and Trekker – the device seen in the photo. In the Faroe Islands they used sheep!

 

The Trekker is a backpack-type device, worn over the shoulders, that weighs 60 pounds and contains all the technology necessary to capture the photos while staying oriented via GPS. The green orb at the top contains 15 cameras and extends well above Ben’s head. The two batteries – large, black, brick-shaped objects near the bottom – keep this amazing device running for 4 hours.

Before Trekking the trails, Ben and I walked the gardens to familiarize him with the layout and verify routes where there was eight feet of clearance above the ground plane. Ben said that he could crawl where needed, but he can’t duck or bend while wearing the Trekker. Fortunately, Jose Alvarado (garden staff member) was already at work along the trail so he followed us around the gardens to make a few judicious clips with his pruners.

After the walk through, it took about 30 minutes to get the machine booted; i.e., fully up and running. Then, Ben made a regular paced walk around the gardens for several hours, non-stop. Something we hadn’t planned for: the day of the trek (5/14/18) it was 88 degrees in Auburn – the hottest day so far this year and truly a challenge for anyone.

Now, we wait for Google to process all the photos. First, their software will take all the concurrent photos (15 shots that make up the 360 degree view at a specific point in time and place) and “stitch” them together. Then, their software has to “stitch” the forward-most shots of that set of photos to the rear-most shots of the next set of photos, thus making a continuous flow along the route. When all this is done (anywhere from 6 to 18 months) SCBG will be on Google maps!

As soon as the unveiling is complete, we will let you know where and how to take a virtual tour of SCBG.

Ed. note: Dianna Marshall is a volunteer at Soos Creek Botanical Garden. This piece originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of SCBG’s Garden Clippings newsletter, and is reprinted with permission here. Streissguth and the Trekker also visited another SoCoCulture member: PowellsWood Garden in Federal Way.

Posted 7/6/2018