Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Flying Polish Hare of Google Street View

The Google Street View Birding Facebook Group is still going strong, nearly two years after its creation. It's pretty amazing. My goofy little procrastination side-project now has more than 4,300 members (most all of them much better at finding birds than I ever was), and has tracked down a simply incredible 1226 different bird species. It's a supportive and kind group of folks and I couldn't be prouder.

A line of discussion began in the group after Linda L. posted a screenshot of some caribou crossing the road in Finland - In all these miles of driving and recording by the Street View car, had it ever hit anything? Street View Roadkill? In theory you'd be able to see the entire story: a poor creature running into the road in front of the car and then left on the road out the other side. I had never seen anything, had others?

Well, yes, in fact. Group superstar Aaron Polichar recalled at least one likely incident which made the tabloid rounds in July 2019 and was brought to our attention by Oswaldo Zuniga: the sad saga of the Polish Flying Hare.

It's a sad saga because, although we can't be absolutely certain, it seems unlikely that this beautiful European Hare survived being struck by the Google Street View car and launched way, way into the air. At least it went with style. RIP.

Just as I figured, the constant recording of the Street View car allows us to reconstruct a sort of flip-book of the last incredible moments of this creature.

We're on a road called the Biala Droga, south of Krakow, Poland. The Street View car is cruising down the road -- and I do mean cruising - I wish I could mathematize the actual speed but it appears to be going much faster than I expected Street View cars to be able to travel -- and in the distance a hare appears running down another road.

First shot here.

The next click forward for the car and the hare is still coming down the road, into harm's way.

The hare has only moved a couple feet forward while the car has traveled, what, 40 feet? It's hauling, and the rabbit is right in the path. The next few panels are a little rough, because though you can't see the car itself, you can see the hare being struck.

Okay now so reversing to the back of the car, the poor animal continues to apparently bounce along near the top of the car and its camera tower. It's definitely moving upward, but it's unclear whether it's hitting anything else. That's its head facing outward in this image.

Next comes the incredible image. The hare has continued upward and is captured in what appears to be mid-leap, composed and graceful looking for all the world like its bounding to the moon.

The creature can be seen again as the Street View car continues on its path. Here, the hare is further off the road, still very high, and flailing.

The car continues and the hare keep falling. It's visible here, from further down the road, in a righted position still, what, ten feet in the air? Below the treeline and above the tree in the foreground.

Finally, it lands in the field, on its back. The grace is gone, and the sad reality of human destruction is all that's left.

It's sad, but an incredible sequence. There's no way of knowing what happened to the hare but it seems doubtful that the poor thing could have survived an impact like that, despite the hare looking fairly composed in some of the shots. Still, you never know. The Flying Polish Hare of Street View may have gotten back up, dusted itself off, and had one hell of a story to tell.

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