California Coastal Records Project – Malibu, California - Atlas Obscura
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Malibu, California

California Coastal Records Project

View the California coastline (and the home of Barbara Streisand) inch by inch with stunning, government-sanctioned aerial photography. 

Editor’s Note: While California Coastal Records Project is a website, and not an actual place, we are making an exception to the rule and have allowed it to remain in the compendium due to its geographical significance and its unique usefulness in regard to armchair travel.

Are you itching to discover new and exciting places but stuck at your computer? The California Coastal Records Project answers just that dilemma – not to mention its role as a years-long effort to document and preserve the California coast.

In 1997 Gabrielle and Kenneth Adelman volunteered the use of their helicopter to the Sierra Club. The goal was to photographically document the destruction of San Simeon Point due to overzealous development.

The project was successful and led to the idea of photographing the entire California Coastline, inch by inch, from the vantage point of the helicopter. The purpose was to have a record of “before” and “after” to document environmental and man-made damage of the coastline.

The beauty of this online database for armchair travelers is that it gives an opportunity to view areas of the coast that are inaccessible to mere mortals. It also gives urban explorers a way to find new locations to explore at a later date. For example, when you open the homepage the search box says Point Reyes Lighthouse; simply click the “go there” button and it opens a larger picture of the location.

Users can choose to continue down the coast one picture at a time or choose a location to go directly to. It’s a lot of fun to go picture by picture, because you never know what you will find or which picture will lead to a detailed hunt for information about the place. The database is so massive that it would be possible to spend days virtually traveling the coast.

In fact, the photos are so detailed that Barbara Streisand complained that the photo of her cliffside backyard was intrusive, and in a lawsuit that became media fodder for snarky journalists, insisted the project remove her home from the survey. She lost the fight to have it removed, and not only does the picture remain, it was ruled that her lawsuit was frivolous and she was ordered to pay the website $177,107. 54 in legal fees and court costs.