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Earlier in the year, Google Maps and the Catlin Seaview Survey began their project to document some of the world’s most beautiful reefs. The goal of the project was two-fold; first to give everyone the chance to experience these underwater marvels in hopes of raising awareness and second to document these fragile ecosystems to see how they change over time. The results were published yesterday on Google Maps to give everyone access to six different spots in the Pacific Ocean: three spots on the Great Barrier Reef, a volcanic crater on Apo Island in the Philippines and two spots in Hawaii. Navigate underwater just like you would in Street View and rotate for a 360º panorama. It can be a little confusing which way you’re going, but that’s a bit what it’s like underwater anyways, so that way you get the full experience without the claustrophobia.

The imagery was produced by the Catlin Seaview Survey, who used a specially designed underwater camera called the SVII, which allows the divers to take 360º panoramic images. The SVII camera was named after Sylvia Earle, an American oceanographer, aquanaut and author. They also have an underwater tablet that lets them survey and manage data while underwater, although sometimes they use it to check their email and update their status. The underwater survey was of course completed to give everyone a chance to be a virtual scuba diver, but more importantly the project documents these reefs and create a comprehensive study of their health and will monitor them for changes due to climate change.

Richard Vevers, Project Director at Catlin, told Boing Boing yesterday, “The biggest problem with the ocean is that it’s out of sight and out of mind for most of us.” Vevers continues, “99% of people have never gone for a dive and never will. One of the biggest issues around conservation is engaging people with the ocean, and this is a powerful way to accomplish that. It is a scientific project to create a baseline for observing how the oceans are changing, but it also creates awareness of why that matters.”

+ Google Maps Underwater

+ Catlin Seaview Survey

Images ©Google Maps and Catlin Seaview Survey