Since Google Maps launched way back in 2005, people have been able to explore parts of the world that they could never see before. But some areas and objects are not available to view because Google has blocked them out.
Anyone can request for their property can be blurred, but some spots are pixelated for seemingly no reason. Entire islands and cities have been obscured without the residents even knowing about it. Read on to learn about the most mysterious places that Google Maps has censored.
A Mountain In The Himalayas
At least 45 mountains make up the Himalayas. Many of them stretch over 25,000 feet, and few people can climb them. But only one peak, Kangtega, has been blacked out on Google Earth.
Also called The Snow Saddle, Kangtega rises 22,251 feet into the air. It is one of the smaller mountains in the range, but people don't know why it has been censored. Some believe that it may be a glitch in the system.
A Mysterious Remote Russian Island
Jeannette Island, a remote Russian island in the East Siberian Sea, cannot be seen through Google Maps. A black smudge conceals... whatever sits there. Since this blurred image was discovered in 2008, people have theorized what could be on the island.
The most popular theory is that Jeannette Island contains a military base, which Google frequently blurs out. Others have pointed out that this doesn't look like Google's average blur. Instead of being a mass of pixels, it's a giant black smudge. What could be there?
KFC's Colonel Sanders
Google Earth has blurred Colonel Sanders' face on every KFC around the world. As many know, Google conceals peoples' faces on street view to protect their privacy. Google employees don't do this manually; instead, the company's facial recognition technology took care of blurring the Colonel's face.
Google automatically detects faces to blur them out. Because Colonel Sanders' face is on KFC signs, he is covered up as well. The program will also blur the faces of statues and some art pieces. However, KFC said that they would "be happy for his face to be shown."
Two Houses, For Seemingly No Apparent Reason
Since 2009, two houses in Stockton-on-Tees, England, have been blurred out. Why? Nobody seems to know the cause of the blurred image. Even the residents of these homes have expressed confusion. "I've been in this house since 2000, but I have no idea why you can't see it," said resident Jane Allison.
Google will cover specific homes, cars, locations upon request from the owner. But neither owner asked for the blur. Did someone else request it? Did the camera catch nudity through an open window?
Russia's Secret City
In 1986, the Russian government revealed that over one million citizens lived in "secret cities." These cities — also called closed cities — may have been near secret military bases or research centers. A mysterious town blurred out on Google Earth may be one of them.
In the eastern Siberian tundra, an area is entirely blurred from Google maps. The nearest city is Egvekinot, Russia. No one knows why this area has been removed, but one journalist suspected that it could be a missile interceptor or a radar station.
A Canadian Lake — But Only Certain Spots
If you search through Canada on Google Earth, don't be surprised if you run into censorship. In the Inuit nation of Nunangat, there is a large body of water called Baker Lake. Random parts of this lake are entirely blacked out on Google.
The lake has been subject to controversy over the past several decades. Conspiracy theorists have proposed extraterrestrial activity in the area. Some believe that Baker Lake houses sites of nuclear missiles, while others think that the satellite may have glitched.
France's Secret Government Technology
If you head to southeastern France on Google maps, you'll see an enormous block of blurred pixels. This is a nuclear power plant called the Marcoule Nuclear Site. Along with containing two tritium-producing nuclear reactors, Marcoule is also one of France's top nuclear research centers.
Because researchers at Marcoule don't want to reveal their research, Google has blurred it out. It wasn't always covered. After the French contacted Google, employees blurred Marcoule and another nuclear site, AREVA La Hague.
The Amsterdam Royal Palace
Although you can see Buckingham Palace on Google Maps, you won't have as much luck in the Netherlands. Several buildings owned by the Dutch royal family have been censored. These include the Koninklijk Paleis (the royal residence), the royal stables, and the Huis ten Bosch.
Rather than blocking out the entire area, Google has effaced some details. Parts of a roof or gate will appear fuzzier than the surrounding area. Nobody knows why these specific areas have been pixelated.
The Image Of Portlaoise Prison Has Been Replaced
Portlaoise Prison is a maximum-security prison in County Laois, Ireland. If you head there on Google Maps, it will look untouched at first. But upon closer inspection, not all the colors match. Internet users have discovered that the image is an older model of Portlaoise Prison, not the current layout.
So why did Google replace the image of Portlaoise Prison? The jail is known to house some of Ireland's most vicious criminals. Perhaps Google replaced the image so that no one could plan an escape.
A National Park In Chile
Tantauco National Park is a wildlife reserve in Chile that spans 456 square miles. Although tourists can explore the park's many hiking trails, it is blurred on Google Maps. When online users discovered this, it raised some eyebrows.
One reason could be that Tantauco park is privately owned. But many other privately-owned areas are not blurred, and the park is open to tourists. No one truly knows why Tantauco's owner decided to conceal the area.
An Entire City In The Philippines
Valencia City, also called Valencia, is one of the largest cities in the Bukidnon province of the Philippines. Over 190,000 people live in Valencia, but the entire town is blurred on Google Maps. The reason why remains unknown.
According to a common rumor, Valencia houses a top-secret missile defense program. To hide its secrets, the Filipino government decided to pixelate the entire city. But this hasn't been proven. Other theories suggest a glitch, a mistake, or paranormal activity.
An Island That Once Tested Nukes
French Polynesia offers many scenic islands that people can tour on Google Earth. But one island, Moruroa, has been censored. Residents are not allowed to visit Moruroa because of its long history with nuclear testing.
From 1966 to 1996, the French government tested nuclear technology on Moruroa. However, other atomic sites on Google Maps haven't been blurred. Some people believe that the work on Moruroa remains top-secret, which is why it is still pixelated online.
A Yard Of Orange Trees In Spain
On Google Maps, the coastal town of Almería, Spain, looks relatively normal. That's until you see one giant square of pixels. This area is called Patio de Los Naranjos, or "Yard of Orange Trees." In it, there's a government office and a courthouse.
But when Google Maps users visit this area, they will only see pixels. According to the most popular theory, the government concealed Patio de Los Naranjos for national security. But tourists can easily walk into the area--so what's the truth?
A Random Field Of Grass In An Oil Refinery
Hungary contains many oil refineries, but only one is concealed by Google Earth. Százhalombatta Oil Refinery asked Google to remove its grounds from satellite images. Why? Nobody knows. Other oil refineries in the region are not blurred.
What is stranger is that Százhalombatta is not pixelated. It is covered with a green block. Along with buildings, Google covered fields of grass with nothing on top of them. This has piqued the curiosity of internet users, but no one has found an explanation.
Islands That Are Home To 50,000 Residents
In the Atlantic Ocean, 18 volcanic islands line the archipelago of Denmark. These are the Faroe Islands. Over 50,000 people live there, and the islands hold historic WWII sites and cultural landmarks. But for some reason, Google Earth has blurred the area.
Unlike other places that are blurred, the Faroe Islands don't house anything secretive. Australian journalists suspect that it could do with fishing rights. No other explanation has arisen for why the Faroe Islands are concealed.
A Nuclear Air Base In The Netherlands
To the average viewer, the Volkel Air Base in North Brabant, Netherlands, seems like a standard military base. But former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers says otherwise. According to him, Volkel contains 22 American nuclear bombs. Some are rumored to be four times the strength of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.
Perhaps that's why the Volkel Air Base is effaced on Google Earth. The military likely does not want people to know how to get into their base.
Cornell University's Power Plant
As an American Ivy League school, Cornell University receives over 45,000 applications every year. Prospective students may want to tour the campus on Google Maps. But one building is censored; it is the university's power plant on Dryden Road.
The power plant provides central heating for Cornell. Students and staff believe that it is blurred out for security reasons. If you visit the university in person, you can see the site, but you likely won't be allowed inside.
Babylon City holds some of the most treasured historical artifacts in Iraq. The area was once the capital city of Mesopotamia, and its ruins contain hints of Akkadian and Roman culture. So why is part of the city blurred out on Google Maps?
Although some people believe that it is disrespectful to cover a historic city, others believe that the area's history may be why it's blurred out. Babylon has not been fully excavated, so Google may want to prevent people from digging online.
Random Spots In The Siberian Tundra
In 2012, a Reddit user discovered that a seemingly random spot in Siberia is covered by a brown smudge. Discussion began about a possible military base or ICBM. As other internet users began looking, they found that several different areas of the tundra had been pixelated.
No one knows why these areas have been concealed. We know that some are Russia's "closed cities" that the Soviet government kept a secret for decades. Others are not cities, though. What lies beneath the blur?
A Research Center Surrounded By Conspiracies
The High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP for short, is a research station on the Washington-Oregon border. It is funded by the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). But its contents have remained a secret.
HAARP has been concealed by Google Maps. Conspiracy theorists have pitched many explanations for HAARP, including controlling the weather, UFO studies, and a nuclear test site. Even after HAARP closed in 2014, the site remains censored on Google Maps.
A Dam In South Carolina
On South Carolina's Lake Keowee lies Keowee Dam. The dam provides hydroelectric power, and it also cools water for the Oconee Nuclear Station nearby. For some reason, Google Maps has concealed it.
Some people believe that Oconee Nuclear Station creates chemical weapons, and that's why the dam has been censored. But if that were the case, the nuclear site would be blurred, not the dam. Why is Keowee Dam not available to Google Maps users?
One Ranch In The Mojave Desert
In California's Mojave Desert, around two miles southwest of Maturango Peak, is Junction Ranch. Not much is known about this ranch other than that the American Navy funds it. If you go on Google Maps to find out more, you'll see that Junction Ranch has been censored.
Because of its secretive nature, Junction Ranch has been the topic of many conspiracy theories. Strangely, the layout of Junction Ranch can be easily found online, so why would Google need to hide it?
All Of North Korea And South Korea
North Korea is known for being a secretive country. So it may not surprise people that Google Maps conceals much of the country. If you visit the country on Google, you'll see a 2D map of streets and highways. But if you hop onto the 3D view, it's all a blur.
Oddly enough, you can't use Google Maps in South Korea, either. The country's government worries that North Korea will use Google Maps against them. If you plan on visiting South Korea, you'll need another mapping system.
The White House
When Google Maps launched in 2005, it concealed the American White House. But if you log on today, it will no longer be censored. Look closer. You may notice that some patches appear blurry or out-of-focus. This is an intentional design from Google.
To show the White House, Google had to disguise the new layout of the building. They spliced in older images to cover one-sixth of the building. For instance, the National World War II memorial, which is now completed, still appears under construction.
A Single Air Strip In Japan
At first glance, the Minami Torishima Airport appears regular on Google Maps. Minami Torishima is a single-runway airport that runs across one small island in Japan. Because the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force runs it, it is censored on Google.
Compared to other Google censorships, the blur on Minami Torishima seems subtle. The island has been whited out. The airstrip has been entirely blurred through over-saturation. However, you can still see most of the layout through the white details.
A Sunken Car In A Florida Lake
In 2019, a resident of Moon Bay Circle, Florida, was flying his drone around the neighborhood. When he spotted a sunken car in a lake, he contacted the police. The vehicle contained the remains of 40-year-old William Moldt, who had been missing since 1997.
Unknown to the police, the sunken car has appeared on Google Maps since 2007. But since the case unfolded, Google censored the image. Police still don't know how Moldt ended up in the vehicle.