Long plane journeys are far from being interesting or fun. There are only so many films you can watch, attempts to sleep you can make, and disaster scenarios you can picture before boredom sets in and you decide to turn on that little TV map to see where in the world you are. You don’t really get much from looking at the map other than a vague understanding of where you are geographically and – even if you’re lucky enough to have secured the window seat – looking out at the clouds won’t tell you much more about what’s below you. Unless you have some good in-flight WiFi, Google isn’t going to be able to help you either.
This is especially frustrating when you’re flying over places you’d love to know more about. Shane Loeffler clearly felt the same because he’s developed an app with funding from the National Science Foundation that gives users a detailed guide of where exactly they’re flying over. Called Flyover Country, the app shows interactive geologic maps with points of interest of the area below you using information drawn from various geological and paleontological databases such as Macrostrat.org, Neotomadb.org, Paleobiodb.org, Wikipedia articles, offline base maps, and your phone’s GPS which is a passive system and not against airline electronics restrictions.
The best thing about the app is that it works offline; all you have to do before your flight is type in your current location and your destination so that the app can gather up and download the information relevant to your flight path, save it for offline mode, and then read it on your journey. It’d be much more interesting travel experience to look out of your window at an area of land and read that dinosaur bones have been discovered there.
The app isn’t limited to flights, either; if you’re on a car journey or out on a hike simply change your trip mode in the app and it will be able to provide narrower and more detailed data. The download pages for the app are calling for more data source suggestions, so we imagine they’re going to expand the breadth and depth of the information they provide. It would be interesting to see things like seismological data alongside the already interesting geological and paleontological information.
Main Image © iStock/Paolo Cipriani