Posted by: Cody Coyote | May 10, 2010

Goggle Earth blackout ! Cody disappeared

I don’t know about you , but perhaps I have grown way too dependent on Google and its cornucopia of digital services.  I say this because one of my keystone Google apps has suddenly —and quite literally —gone dark. At least below 10,000 feet.  The amazing Google Earth application that uses high resolution satellite images combined with spaceborne radar elevation data and a host of standard mapping tools  to allow us all to fly anywhere on Earth has somehow thrown Cody Wyoming into darkness. Utterly black darkness. If you have Google Earth  ( you should; it’s free) you can see for yourself.  Just navigate to a point above Cody  in 3D Terrain mode ( 44.5 latitude , – 109.2 longitude , or search by name)  , where you can see the whole town from east to west , thus and so :

Cody WY sat view full

This is the GoogleEarth view of Cody from an Eye Altitude of 30,000 feet looking straight down.  The yellow map tack is my studio location at 15th and Beck Avenue near downtown. The airport is at lower right, Wal-mart is the ittle white rectangle at the left. This image was taken by the satellite last July 9, 2009.

Now , zoom in. Fly down to an Eye Altitude of about 8200 feet, and this is what you see.  I turned on Streets  so you have some bearings:

PlanetCody - fade to black

That , ladies and gentleman is the Big Problem.

Google has blacked out Cody below a certain altitude. Pretty much just Cody , too, although this same issue occurs out across the Badlands of the Big Horn Basin in sporadic instances. ( 38 miles ESE of Cody and 17 miles SW of Greybull  near the pueblo of Otto is another zone of darkness. There’s also an abundance of  really weird purple sagebrush out there, too, but that’s for another day. This Blackout  does not occur to Powell or Ralston or Greybull or any other nearby community.  Just around Cody. This happened maybe 5-6 weeks ago, in late March or so. The entire town of Cody and immediate surrounds come under this Black Shadow where the underlying satellite imagery fades to black. I cannot explain Why ; just What.

Even weirder, you need only go a couple miles west of Cody and the problem goes away . Like up in the Shoshone Canyon, 4 miles from my studio. There you will find the boundary between where normal satellite imagery and the blackout is very sharply defined. You can even see some symptoms of the imagery breaking down , fracturing into polygons or fractals.  Here’s the view looking down on the high bridge in the middle of Shoshone Canyon:

Cody Blackout-fracture boundary

The left side of this image is normal . The right side is descending into darkness at an Eye Altitude of  9365 feet. Look at the disintegration to the upper right of the bridge. Bizarreness.

Whatever is causing this problem , it’s with Google. I’ve verified this is not a Mac or PC issue, nor is it related to internet service providers be they cable or DSL. It’s agnostic to the User and wholly the blame of Google’s imagery or its servers.  Trust me, they have been notified of the problem . I have spent hours on the blogs and Google Earth forums , and have concluded these sorts of blackouts are  extremely rare. They are in fact unheard of where high resolution imagery recently existed at all. Except for Cody Wyoming.

By using Google Earth’s time travel feature, you can revert to an earlier imagery base of Cody and the problem goes away. The previous satellite image of Cody was taken in July of 2006 , some 4 years ago. It’s fine . ( See below ).  The blackout only occurs with the newer image swath done last summer.  Here’s that previous imagery from summer 2006. The astute among you will notice immediately that Canal Park up by the Rec Center ( at bottom of image) was still barren of grass and foliage :

Planet Cody in summer 2006

This Cody Blackout situation is very annoying to me. I use Google Earth a lot. I was looking forward to the new satellite imagery  to keep track of changes and progress in my hometown, at street level with good resolution. New construction , new subdivisions, developments, better Street View, generally just up to date imagery. Now I guess we wait for Google to fix this. Don’t hold your breath. At least I didn’t link in the Rolling Stones’ classic  rumba “Paint It Black” to help underscore this wretched mess.  But I could have…

There are really only two possible explanations for the Blackout. The first , and most likely , is a data processing glitch. Most folk have no idea how complicated it is to merge so many streams of disparate data into one coherent tight image  that agrees with itself . It’s a Modern Miracle we have this capability at all, on your very own personal computer desktop. Just a few years ago this kind of integrated satellite and field data would’ve been highly classified stuff  invoking National Security issues if used or abused, and brought the spooks   ‘a running . Today, I can peer into North Korea , Cuba , Area 51 , Meeteetse , and pretty much everywhere else without so much as a wince. So much planet out there; so little time.  ( By the way , Google Earth also can take you to the Moon and Mars . Now that‘s armchair travel!)

For those of you who exhibit some paranoia, the second explanation is more sinister Cody is being intentionally CENSOREDBig Dick Cheney used to get away with this sort of behavior, by fiat , when he was the Veep. He had his residence in  Washington D.C. at Number One Observatory Circle on the grounds of the vaunted US Naval Observatory overlooking Massachusetts Avenue  totally blurred out of Google Earth. His mansion disappeared. So did his somewhat more modest digs on the banks of the Snake River west of Jackson , Wyoming, his official residence for official purposes ( buying those really cheap Wyoming resident fishing licenses). Dunno about his Casper house or his new mansion on the eastern shore of Maryland, nor do I care.

I sincerely doubt that anyone in Cody has the political clout to demand Google obliterate the imagery below 10,000 feet.  Not even Al Simpson. Do we have a world class tyrant or geopolitical scapegoat living in Cody under the Witness Protection Program ? How the hell would I know.  I’m just a citizen scientist griping about my favorite magical earth resources application going Ga-Ga. It’s insulting to me that it’s happened right here, right now— my own home town  that’s gone over to the Dark side .


Yes, I have grown too dependent on Google and its wonderful magic stuff. I’m only asking  the gods of Silicon Valley to shed some light on this, literally and figuratively.

I can’t spy on my neighbors like I used to.



  1. I noticed this problem and wrote it off as Google’s upgrading the image from a July 2006 to a current July 2009 image.

    So yes it must be Google’s problem.

    PS. First thought they were hiding the Trout honey holes on me. 😉


  2. Sunday May 15

    Cody Wyoming has left Google’s shadow and rejoined the daylit world, in full sun.

    The Blackout issue was fixed in recent days

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