Throw away the goggles. Underwater Street View for Google Maps has arrived.
Anyone with access to the internet can take a virtual dive through select parts of the Great Barrier Reef.
The Underwater Earth project (funded by insurance company Catlin and University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute) draws its data and images from the Catlin Seaview Survey project which involves expeditions into coral reefs worldwide, to learn more about them and to monitor their health.
The team has already explored the depths surrounding Heron and Lady Elliot Island. By using underwater robots controlled by specially-adapted Samsung Galaxy tablet technology and the latest in camera technology, up to 50, 000 panoramic images of the reefs can be captured and combined to create a navigable sweep.
The expedition is also significant in building our knowledge of the world’s oceans, with a publicly accessible Global Reef Record database. Scientists around the world are then able to keep track of the health of coral reef systems and determine their responses to climate change.
Chief Scientist of the project, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute believes the project is a “game-changing scientific tool that scientists around the world will have at their fingertips”.
“They will be able to monitor change in the marine environment now and in the future,” he said. “Marine scientists researching any aspect of the reef will be able to study these environments from any of the surveys we conduct.”
The expeditions will survey 20 more separate reefs on the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea before heading to overseas locations next year.
The following are current virtual underwater tours:
• Lady Elliot Island, GBR: Dive in – http://goo.gl/kDcLN
• Wilson Island, Great Barrier Reef: Dive in – http://goo.gl/maps/sluiY