Uncovering secrets of the Mississippi

Uncovering secrets of the Mississippi
A wheat field is inundated with floodwater May 12, 2011 near Vicksburg, Mississippi.
PHOTO: AFP

A rowing crew is mapping one of Earth's longest rivers for Google Street View

Google's Street View camera rigs have been up Mount Everest and to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Just about any part of the world, it seems, can be seen from the perspective of Google's little yellow Pegman figure, just as though you were there yourself.

But one of Earth's longest rivers has, until now, been an exception.

Jordan Hanssen is changing that - leading a small group of university graduates down the Mississippi river in rowboats for 100 days, equipped with one of the same big, round, multicamera units Google has used to shoot countless locales the world over.

"If you're an American, you have a connection with the Mississippi river, even if you don't know it," says Hanssen.

The Mississippi river runs for over 3,700 kilometres, stretching from nearly the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico.

It's part of the fourth longest river system in the world.

At its widest point, it reaches 11 miles wide. It's also home to 260 species of fish - 25 per cent of all fish species in North America.

It's woven into the fabric of American culture and history: the writings of Mark Twain, the conquest of the west, the industry it has enabled, and the battles won and lost there.

The Mississippi and its tributaries have shaped - and continue to shape - Americans' relationship with their land.

Nowadays, the river provides water to more than 18 million people, transportation for 500 million tonnes of goods, and enables $400 billion (£327 billion) of recreation, industry, and agriculture.

Hanssen has the adventuring experience to pull off the Google Street View project. In 2006, he was one of a team of four to row across the Atlantic Ocean, winning the first North Atlantic Rowing Race in 71 days.

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