Nothing says summer like a nice relaxing walk on the beach, right? For Gregg Matthews and Chris Officer, the relaxing summer pastime carries a little more weight – say, 40 pounds more.
The two men were approached by the Florida tourism organization Visit Florida and asked to collect images of the Florida coastline for Google Maps. The duo have spent their summer trekking over 200 miles, from the Alabama-Florida border to the Florida Panhandle beaches and soon to the Atlantic coast; Matthews and Officer switch off carrying a 40-pound backpack bearing 15 cameras that reach over their heads. The cameras shoot every two and a half seconds to capture the span of Florida’s beaches. Photos are uploaded to a camera hard drive once taken, and at the end of the project Google will pay $1,000 to the state of Florida to obtain the imagery.
Indeed, beaches are a tremendous draw of Florida tourism, and tourism is the state’s top industry. Visit Florida and Google Maps have partnered up with the goal of obtaining photographic information on all 825 miles of beach, with the help of Matthews and Officer and, eventually, another team that will take over to split the job. The visual maps will ideally offer a twofold experience: on one hand, Visit Florida hopes people will see the beaches online and be enticed to visit the locales in person; on the other hand, Matthews and Officer understand that the maps may offer something of a virtual getaway for people who may never be able to visit Florida.
Matthews and Officer have been walking the beach for about three weeks, each clocking in at around seven and a half miles per day. Visit Florida is paying the walkers $27 per mile for their services, although expenses like outside transportation and accommodations are up to the walkers. But the men are finding their experience worthwhile – they are exercising, enjoying the beach, and getting to photograph the remote islands and beautiful mansions to be displayed on Google, likely sometime next spring.
‘‘It is pretty ground breaking. It is really cool to know that our work is going to contribute to people being able to see different beaches all over the world,’’ Officer said.
So even when the summer season is over, fear not – the shoreline will soon be coming to you.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi