Geolocation is an integral part of information verification. Through geolocation we can learn about the coordinates of important objects or developments such as training camps, movement of armed forces, change in landscape, et cetera. For this purpose we use universally available open satellite maps such as Google Earth, Wikimapia and others.
Functions of Google Earth
After opening the program the Earth will appear on our monitors. “Search” in the upper left corner allows you to find a place/object you are looking for. With a mouse or the panel in the upper right corner you may zoom in or out on a concrete location.
We will discuss main functions of Google Earth needed to identify the place of photo/video shooting, on the example of Mtatsminda Park.
1. Identification of object.
Since a satellite image provides a top view of an object, it often becomes difficult to recognize/identify them. To identify the object, look at its shadow.
2. Street View
The Street View function provides 360 degree view of a particular object, allowing to explore the place and see what it looks like. To do so, with a mouse drag a yellow man on the functions menu in the right upper corner and let go to drop him at the location you are interested in.
If you drop the yellow main at the devil’s wheel in the Mtatsminda Park, the program will provide a panoramic photo of the devil’s wheel. This function helps us examine the place where a visual material was filmed. If a video description says that it was filmed at the devil’s wheel, by using Street View function we can examine the devil’s wheel and compare this place with that shown in the video in order to verify whether the video was really filmed there.
3. Historical Imagery
Google Earth also has the Historical Imagery function which allows to view what places/objects of our interest looked like. To turn on the function, we should move the mouse pointer to the functions menu in the middle and click the button depicting a clock. The timeline will appear from which we can choose the year we are interested in.
This function allows us to observe how a place of our interest looked like at various times and identify the year of construction of a concrete object. This function allows us to track whether a forest has been destroyed in a concrete location, or observe the dynamic of the construction of Russian military checkpoints in the occupied territories, et cetera.
In case of Mtatsminda Park we can see that all earlier imagery date to 2001. By viewing how the appearance of the Park changed over years, we can establish the year of the construction of the Park. The satellite imagery provided below show that the construction of Mtatsminda Park resumed in 2010.
4. Direction and distance between two points
Google Earth also has a function of finding a direction from a concrete point and measuring the distance between two points. This function is much easier and convenient to use via Google Maps which is a Google online program. Write down maps.google.com in the Internet browser and the search will open this program.
Click an icon depicting an arrow on the Google Maps. Then, a window will open up in which you must write the names of those two locations you are interested in. Search will offer routes from point A to point B, as well as the travel time by various means of transport and the distance between the two points.
Google Maps also allows to measure a direct distance between the two points. For this purpose, move the mouse to point A and with its left button click “measure distance” and choose point B on the map with the left click of the mouse. This function will show not a travel distance between points A and B, as it is shown in the picture above, but the direct distance between the two points. (Exercise 1)
With the mouse or the panel on the left you can zoom in on a location you are interested in. For example, Wikimapia allows to identify Tskhinvali and nearby Russian bases.
1. Zoom in on Tskhinvali.
2. Select “military objects” from the “Categories.”
3. Mark a location you are interested in. If it is in the database, Wikimapia will provide photos of this place too. (Case-study 1)