No ticket needed: Google Street View takes you on a tour of post-apocalyptic Battleship Island


posted Friday, June 28, 2013 at 5:15 PM EST

You've seen it from the air, and now your chance to tour the legendary, post-apocalyptic Battleship Island on foot has arrived. But wait! Put your suitcase down, because you'll be visiting from the comfort of your own living room, courtesy of the ever-inquisitive folks at Google.

Battleship Island -- also known by the Japanese nickname Gunkanjima, and more properly, as Hashima -- is a tiny island located just a short ferry ride from the coastal city of Nagasaki, and since the last inhabitant left some 40 years ago, its numerous high-rise buildings have been left to decay. As nature has eagerly reclaimed its property, the island has gradually become the microcosm of a world after mankind.

Post-apocalyptic Battleship Island -- inspiration for the villain's lair in hit Bond movie Skyfall -- is the latest addition to Google's popular Street View tool.

Battleship Island sprung to fame on the Internet a few years ago after it was donated by then-owner Mitsubishi Group to the local government. A number of Japanese journalists and bloggers were invited to the island for a tour, and one very rare photo opportunity. Their images rippled across the blogosphere, quickly spreading beyond Japan and putting Hashima on the global stage. That fame has only grown after the villain's lair in Skyfall -- the latest installment of the British blockbuster Bond film series -- was based on the derelict island.

If you're anything like us, you've probably added a visit to Battleship Island to your bucket list for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see what our world would be like were mankind to vanish overnight. The island was once one of the most densely-populated places on the planet, and few places on Eath give quite the same sense of how quickly Mother Nature can resume her reign once the influence of humanity has exited, stage left.

A Google employee criss-crossed Battleship Island with a backpack-mounted Street View camera setup. The entire ferry ride to the island is also documented.

Although public tours of Battleship Island are now possible, they're strictly limited by both weather and capacity. Even if you're lucky enough to score a spot on a ferry tour, your access is restricted to a small portion at one end of the island's industrial area, due both to the dangerous nature of the aging buildings and an understandable desire to preserve the island for the future.

The folks at Google were clearly as intrigued by Battleship Island, and they jumped at a chance few of us will ever get: a full tour of both the residential and industrial areas. And Google being the dominant force in the online mapping business, they took along some cool gear, including their backpack-mounted Street View cameras.

The invition has arrived: Japan's eerie Battleship Island awaits your exploration.

The cameras started rolling on the way out to Battleship Island, and captured almost the entire ferry trip -- including a complete circumnavigation of the island -- before stepping ashore. There, Google's staff criss-crossed the island, capturing every detail for your street-viewing pleasure.

The process is documented in the video below, and the Street View footage is available for browsing on the recently-overhauled Google Maps. (If you prefer, you can also visit using the original Google Maps design, which allows you to drag-and-drop the Street View pointer around the map.)

Google Japan has released this promo video showing how it captured Street View data on Battleship Island.

Can't get enough of Battleship Island? (It's okay, nor can we -- and we're keeping it on the bucket list, if anybody in Japan cares to tender an invitation!) Take a look at our earlier article to see an aerial tour of the island shot with a hexacopter-mounted Sony Action Cam. And if you're a Street View fan, you can also vicariously visit the world's tallest building courtesy of Google.