Google Earth Mysteries is a series currently in development where we investigate strange phenomena in satellite imagery.
DEEP IN THE SAHARA, far from any towns, roads, or other signs of life, is a row of markings in the sand. There are dozens of them stretching for miles in a straight line in central Algeria, each consisting of a central point surrounded by a circle of 12 nodes, like numbers on a clock. And when we started making this video, no one seemed to know what they were.
We first saw the circles back in September 2021, after finding a Reddit post on r/WhatIsThis with coordinates asking what the circles could be. With just two upvotes and two commenters, it wasn’t exactly a lively discussion. But seeing the circles themselves on Google Earth was fascinating: They were eerily perfect in their shape and regularity, but so deeply isolated in the desert. We were hooked on finding an answer.
So we decided to make a video out of trying to solve the mystery, no matter where it took us. We documented every step of the process — from Zoom calls and web browser screen recordings to vlogs and field shoots — to show the reporting process from the inside out. And when we maxed out what we could learn on the internet, we handed over this story to a team in Algeria to take it all the way.
Producer & Editor: Christophe Haubursin
Local Producer: Samir Abchiche
Researcher: Melissa Hirsch
Animators: Matt Dunne, Dion Lee, Christophe Haubursin
Story Editor: Bridgett Henwood
Art Director: Dion Lee
Second Camera & Sound Engineer: Abdelati Ben Medjbari
Archaeologists: Farid Ighilahriz, Segueni Bilel
Local Guide: Belhadj Slimani
Driver: Ben Bahane Omar
Assistant: Aziz Bencherouda
Translator: Driss Merabtene