Deep blue sea

Express Features
Sep 28, 2012 at 11:45am IST

The search engine giant Google has every reason to rejoice on their 14th birthday which was celebrated on Thursday. It just unveiled Google Street View, an interactive panoramic feature within Google Maps. Now if one wants to see the beauty of Great Barrier Reef of Australia or the waters of Apo Islands in the Philippines or the underwater life of Hawaiian Islands, he/she can do it all by sitting behind their computer screens, tablets and smartphones. Google introduced this so as to create a virtual map of the oceans and for the conservation of coral reefs along with creating a unique opportunity for everyone to see the deep blues up close.

The underwater Street View is a joint project between Google and the Catlin Seaview Survey to study the health of coral reefs. The divers of the survey team have used a specialized SVII camera to capture images of 1080P HD quality which also gives the geolocation information and a compass heading. It can shot images every three seconds while traveling at about 2.5 miles/hour. The camera has so far captured some 15,000 panoramic photos of fish, plants, turtles and other marine critters.

The images were collected over a period of six months by small teams of divers with three cameras on each underwater vehicle.

Another unique feature of the camera is, it is the world's first tablet-operated underwater camera and the scientists are using the Samsung Galaxy tablet to operate the SVIIs.

The first Catlin Seaview Survey expedition on the Great Barrier Reef set off on 16th September 2012 and will run till the end of December. It will visit 20 separate coral reefs along the 2,300km reef on an unprecedented scale and depth range. There are two science components to the Catlin Seaview Survey: a Shallow Reef Survey and a Deep Reef Survey.

The Shallow Reef Survey will involve scientists using state-of-the-art digital technology to capture approximately 50,000 360-degree panoramic images of the reef that can be linked to create a virtual dive experience. The Deep Reef Survey will explore deep water reef systems that are not accessible to humans. It will use diving robots and other innovative instrument packages. Through this survey it will provide a comprehensive study of the health composition and biodiversity of the deep-water reefs.

The ocean collection on Google Street View is now available at maps.google.com/ocean

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