It calls itself ‘the city in the forest’ but satellite images show something strange going on in the woods around Bendigo.
And what’s more, it has been going on for a long time.
Google Earth images show more than 100 circular clearings in a large swathe of fenced-off bushland adjoining state forest east of the city.
Zooming in on the clearings reveals that some have metallic structures built in mounds of cleared earth. Others are vacant.
And Google’s recently released satellite imagery timelapse tool Earth Engine shows the clearings and structures have been there since since at least 1984 – as far back as satellite images go.
Since it was released in 2005 Google Earth has fueled an army of armchair sleuths in searches which have supposedly revealed everything from unexcavated pyramids to secret U.S. military bases.
In 2009 Google satellite imagery reportedly revealed a suspicious development in the Burmese jungle thought to be linked to then pariah state's clandestine nuclear program.
So what is the cause of the clearings and structures in Bendigo’s forest? Aliens? Cults? A secret military operation?
Well it turns out the last of those options is not too far from the truth.
A spokesperson from the Department of Defence said the image was of a military site at Longlea – including the 540 hectare Longlea Magazine which was built in 1941 and formerly used for the bulk storage of high explosives, propellants and chemicals.
Defence facilities located at this site include ADF Reserve and Cadet units and elements of the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, the spokesperson said in a statement.
“The Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation provides geospatial information and geospatial intelligence to support the Australian Government and Australian Defence Force,” the statement read.
“Geospatial information is a critical enabler for ADF navigation, targeting and situational awareness.
“Geospatial intelligence results from the exploitation of geospatial information and imagery to answer intelligence questions in support of Australia’s defence and national interests.”
The spokesperson said that the image at the top of this article predominantly displayed the tracks and structures located at the former ammunition depot at Longlea.
“The ammunition and explosive storage facilities are now decommissioned,” the spokesperson said.
“The clearings without structures may be naturally occurring, may have been open-air storage areas, or the site of demolished structures.”