Long-lost Son Uses Incredible Memory and Google Earth to Find Birth Mother 25 Years Later

It's easy to find your way home in video games. You get mini-maps, helpful characters and the occasional glowing arrow to help you when you get lost. But when Saroo Brierly wound up 1520 km from his childhood home 25 years ago he didn't have any of that.

What he did have more than two decades later was Google Earth. Using that technology and a nearly superhuman memory for the places he'd been as a kid, he accomplished something that seems impossible: finding his childhood home. An amazing account on the BBC describes how Saroo eventually found the birth mother who'd given up hope of ever seeing her son alive again.

In 1985, Saroo was five years old and tagging along with a brother who worked on trains in his native India. After a long night, he took what was meant to be a quick nap on a train, only to find himself thousands of miles away from his native Khandwa when he woke up. Far from home in an era before cellphones and e-mail, Saroo spent time begging on the streets of Calcutta until he was taken in by an orphanage. He later was adopted by a Tasmanian family but still burned with the memories and images of his lost hometown.

He used Google Earth's image search and some basic "train travels east at X miles per hour" math to drill down to a few likely locations and eventually wound back where his family used to live. From there, friendly neighbors brought Saroo and his mother together, in what must've been a heartbreaking reunion. The next time you curse at the level design of an FPS, take a minute and think about how good you have it.

Little boy lost finds his mother using Google Earth [BBC]