Oliver (Olly) Hicks set out from Tasmania last month in his rowboat to become the first person to row across the world on his own.His rowboat, The Flying Carrot, bears the Virgin logo, because Virgin is the primary sponsor. It also sports a smaller Google logo, because Google wanted to help out.
Using Google's services, not to mention Virgin's money, Olly is able to share his journey with the world.
For Google, Olly's paddle around the world represents an opportunity to plug the cloud, which is to say Web-based services. (Olly already has too many real clouds to deal with; the South Pacific weather has been fighting against his progress recently.)
Complementing Olly's weatherized laptop and satellite Internet connection, several Google services provide a way for Olly to share what he's doing and to interact with his online audience.
Expeditions these days are social affairs, given the right equipment.
"All of the tools that he needed seemed to fit perfectly with what we had," explained Jonathan Rochelle, a Google Earth product manager.
Google Earth, recently updated to display ocean terrain, shows Olly's halting progress over the past three weeks.
"When you see the tracking of his progress on Google Earth, it really makes you feel like you're part of the journey," said Rochelle.
Blogger provides a platform for Olly to publish posts about his experience.
YouTube hosts his videos; Picasa hosts his pictures.
Google Friend Connect makes communicating more social, while Google Moderator makes it easier for Olly to field incoming questions. And Google Analytics makes measuring online traffic easier.
The ability to keep in touch with supporters of his journey clearly buoys Olly's spirits. But he acknowledges the limits of the cloud, too.
As he explained in a post he made Tuesday, "I spent a few hours making a video update this afternoon only to find it was going to take 6 hours to upload it on our satellite link -- to send a 1-minute video!"
That's the cloud for you: useful, but not always what you need.