Has Google Photographed a Wood Ape?

Written by Jordan Horstman Tuesday, 20 January 2015

By Jordan Horstman

In a world that seems increasingly smaller, understandably people believe that there is nothing left to discover. These same people remain completely unsurprised when some new breathtaking technological advancement comes and goes with the daily news. One reason for this feeling that we “know it all” is the fact that we carry around the complete works of humanity’s knowledge on a device we mainly use to take and share pictures of our food, allowing us to think to ourselves: “If I want to know something I’ll just Google it.” Why, with all of this information available, isn’t there some reliable research and evidence of the wood ape handed to me? Why haven’t there been any recent photographs or footage upon which we can rely? Why doesn’t Google have any photographs of a “bigfoot?” Maybe they already do and they simply don’t realize it.

In 2001, Google sponsored a project at Stanford University called The Stanford CityBlock Project (Levoy, 2004). We all now know this technology as “Street View.” In June 2012, Google announced it had captured images of roads spanning over 5 million miles for Street View. Although this did bring up privacy concerns and controversy in many peoples’ minds it also brought up the question, “What other unintended photographs might they have captured?” Perhaps, the one most concerned over a breach of privacy might be our as-of-yet-unlisted anthropoid friend, the wood ape.

The North American Wood Ape Conservancy (NAWAC) has listed hundreds of reported wood ape sightings. Roughly 35-40 percent of these reports result from ostensible encounters submitted by motorists. The odds seem to stand that if you are not a hunter or a hiker, your best bet of seeing a wood ape is to buckle up and get on the road! Not all of us have the time or resources to place a 360-degree camera on top of our vehicles and go driving around East Texas all day, but Google does.

Now I’m not suggesting some cartoonish conspiracy theory that Google has knowingly documented wood apes and chooses to keep it a secret in some nonsensical plot to fulfill “The Prophecy”; however, it does seem that if so many have stumbled upon a road-crossing ape, that the biggest search engine giant in existence—with over 20 petabytes of Street View data (1 petabyte= 1 quadrillion bytes)—just might have driven past an ape at some point. One thing is certain: If the people of Google knew they had clear images of such a creature, it is likely they would have told us by now. Can you imagine the smile on Google marketers’ faces upon learning their search engine service just found “Bigfoot”? If anyone could make a buck off discovering a wood ape, a “search engine” could make, well, whatever a petabyte is in US dollars.

Google attempts to blur out a “face” in a tree.

So what is the likelihood Google has files out there with clear photos of a wood ape? What are the odds that if you go online right now and start scrolling through a remote road and twist the camera out into the woods that you might see a strange face looking back at you? Well let’s look at the numbers. Using 1995 data, Americans drive about 13,476 miles per year (US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, n.d.) There were a little over 320 million people in America as 2014 drew to a close (U.S. Census Bureau, Select a Date section, 2015). That means a bit over 4.2 billion miles driven in the United States a year. That’s a lot of road time. Suddenly Google’s 5 million documented miles seem pretty miniscule. The thing is, just like normal drivers, Google revisits locations it has already documented for new updates. According to Google, there are Street View cars documenting 20 different counties at any one time. The time Google has spent in remote areas that could possibly yield an ape photo unfortunately remains unknown.


Personally, considering the large amount of motorists who have reported sightings compared to the total catalogue of reports (hunters, campers, etc.), I think there is perhaps a chance that Google does have photos of a wood ape or two.

There is an untold amount of sightings that go unreported. No one sees or reports the wood ape that walks across the road right after their car passes because they don’t see it. No one reports the wood ape standing on the side of the road that you miss while distracted (yet another reason not to text and drive folks), and no one reports the wood ape that they saw out of the corner of their eye about which they didn’t give a second thought. Three-hundred-sixty-degree cameras always pay attention and they are completely objective. They look every which way, and they are not embarrassed to tell someone what they saw. Cameras are honest, and Street View’s camera takes a whole lot of photos.

In order to protect individuals’ privacy, Google has created an automatic filter that blurs out faces, license plates, and other personal information. I think it’s likely that if any wood ape were caught by the photo lens, their faces would be blurred out too. That’s unfortunate, but the important part is the technology. If Google can program Street View to seek out and take action when it detects faces and license plates, then it certainly seems possible it would seek out other traits. Perhaps Google could create a filter to seek out seemingly large hair-covered figures. Google’s lasers detect distance and scale in order to construct three dimensional models of cities as their vehicles drive by. Perhaps these data could even help prove distance and scale of any interesting findings. Surely Google could come up with a filter to reduce the number of potential ape images down to a reasonable scale that individuals could then sift through.

One problem remains: Even if Google was able to produce and provide clear and stunning images of a wood ape, there would be no way to definitively prove them to be 100 percent authentic. Skeptics would still dismiss the photos as hoaxed and the species would remain unlisted. So what is the value? There is still an unknown, but large, amount of value that could come from photos like these. I believe we could learn so much about wood ape morphology, range, travel habits, etc. We’ll never know what Street View’s archive can reveal until the fine people of Google set out and take a good look themselves. Otherwise, we may all be doomed to call this new species the “Yahoosquatch.”


Levoy, M. (2004). The Stanford CityBlock Project: multi-perspective panoramas of city blocks. Retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://graphics.stan…ects/cityblock/

U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. (n.d.). Personal Mobility (chap. 1). Retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://www.fhwa.dot….9cpr/chap01.pdf

U.S. Census Bureau. (2014). U.S. and world population clock. Retrieved January 10, 2015, from http://www.census.gov/popclock/

Jordan Horstman is a Graphic Designer based in Round Rock, Texas.

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