Oceans cover 71 percent of our planet. Each of these seven oceans has a name, shipping routes, and resident wildlife, so they might not seem that mysterious. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, however, a shocking 95 percent of the ocean is unexplored. While we may have flown over it or zipped quickly over its waves, the fact remains that the most interesting parts of the ocean–its deepest waters and floor–remain unseen by human eyes. Google Maps aims to change all that.
A few months ago, EarthTechling reported that Google maps was launching a feature that would make it possible to tour some of America’s most breathtaking Natural Parks without leaving your couch. Now it seems Google wants to bring that same level of no-effort access to the ocean floor.
The underwater “Streetview” maps are part of Google’s partnership with the Caitlin Seaview Survey, an unprecedented series of scientific expeditions that will record and reveal the world’s oceans and reefs like never before. Using specially-designed 360-degree panoramic cameras, diving expeditions were deployed to record Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and other iconic ocean locations. Over 50,000 images were taken and then stitched together to create the continuous images we’ve come to know and love from Google Maps.
“For the public at large, the Catlin Seaview Survey will bring unprecedented accessibility to our oceans through ‘virtual diving’,” reads the project’s official website. “Just as you might navigate on dry land with Google’s Street View on your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone, now you can drop a pin into the ocean, dive in and explore hundreds of km of the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea.”
Scientists say the new underwater footage will be invaluable to educating people about the ocean, and tracking changes that occur over time. With climate change a looming threat to ocean health, monitoring the world’s coral reefs has become imperative, and the latest Google Maps could be key to mitigating the damage.