7 Wonders of Google Earth

7 Wonders of Google Earth

They may not be quite as astonishing as the seven wonders of the ancient world. And many an armchair explorer will tell you that there are actually far more than seven.

But take a quick trip around the most modern world we know -- the digital orb of Google Earth -- and you'll find a panoply of pixilated wonders left behind by pranksters, artists, Mother Nature and maybe even a Spanish treasure ship.

Some of the discoveries are real, others just projections of the myth-obsessed masses. Regardless, Google Earth has inspired millions to comb through reams of satellite and aerial images to find the extraordinary, quirky, sentimental and, sometimes, just plain old crass.

"The thing about Google Earth is that it's a mirror world on the real world. It puts the whole world at your fingertips," said Frank Taylor, an entrepreneur who launched the popular Google Earth Blog in 2005. "You can be someone who sits at home and goes and explores the entire planet. And I think that has a lot of appeal to a lot of people."

Judging by the number of people who read his blog (about 6 million last year) and are registered users of the Google Earth Community forum (at least 1 million), it seems that Google's revolutionary mapping tool has indeed captured the imaginations of people from all over the world.

"I don't think any of the founders had any idea just how quickly it would grow," said Kate Hurowitz, a Google spokeswoman.

The moment the Google team first realized the potential of their tool, she said, was when disaster relief organizations started to use Google Earth imagery to rescue victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Now, a whole community of Google Earth explorers and bloggers catalogs the latest virtual places of interest, from heart-shaped lakes and capsized cruise ships to unusual-looking houses and buried treasure.

"Places like Japan and Australia -- the chances of ever getting there are slim to none," said James Turnbull, who co-authors another popular blog, Google Sightseeing, from Oxford, England. "Everyone likes to explore the world. It's like exploring without going out of your house."

With his brother, Alex Turnbull, he launched the blog soon after Google Earth launched in 2005. Now, about 410,000 unique visitors check out the site each month for clues about the many curiosities that now populate Google Earth.

ABCNews.com went to the ends of the Google Earth (and Google Maps, too) to explore some of those sites. Here are seven of our favorites.

Firefox Crop Circles

In a bid to generate some PR buzz for the Web browser in 2006, some Firefox fans made a gigantic Firefox logo in a crop field. According to the Google Earth Blog, the project involved significant planning, building of the crop stompers, GPS devices and a helicopter (to capture the aerial photo). This crop circle is one of a large collection of crop circles visible through Google Earth.

Google Earth Prankster Unveils Latest Trick

60-Foot Phallus

In the latest Google Earth prank, using a can of white paint, an English teenager painted a 60-foot phallus on the roof of his parents' home, hoping that the giant image would be seen on Google Earth.

The parents of Rory McInnes, 18, learned about the pornographic mural a year after their son painted it, when a helicopter pilot spotted it from the air and alerted the British newspaper the Sun.

When Andy McInnes, 54, was first told about the painting, he thought it was a joke but Rory soon confessed.

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