NOAA has released a series of virtual dives to keep stay-at-homers entertained, educated and interested in the undersea world even when everybody’s stuck on the couch. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration takes viewers deep into national marine sanctuaries, revealing sights non-divers have likely never seen.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos
two divers observing underwater life

The creators used 360-degree images to show off corals, sea creatures and the undersea habitat. You can virtually visit these sanctuaries on your personal computer or smartphone. For more fun, pair your device with virtual reality goggles or a headset.

Sanctuaries available for VR visits include American Samoa, the Florida Keys, Flower Garden Banks off Galveston, Texas, Gray’s Reef in Georgia, Monterey Bay, the Olympic Coast in Washington state, Stellwagen Bank in Maine and Thunder Bay in Michigan. Each sanctuary offers a handful of dives to choose from featuring different types of sea life. A sea lion-focused dive was filmed in California’s Channel Islands.

clown fish underwater

The virtual dives feature something for a wide variety of interests. You can get up close to a huge barrel sponge at Flower Gardens, or watch marine invertebrates called tunicates duke it out with orange cup corals in a turf war for the rocky substrate of Washington’s Tatoosh Island. Those more intrigued by human drama can check out the remains of the Paul Palmer, a coal schooner built in 1902 that now lies atop Stellwagen Bank. Maybe it shouldn’t have started that final voyage on Friday the 13th, 1913.

These 360-degree photos allow visitors to view spots within sanctuaries from every angle, almost as if you were turning your head to see what’s over yonder. Divers with special cameras take the underwater photos, which are then edited together. NOAA plans to add to the gallery as divers take more shots. This collaboration between NOAA and the Ocean Agency, a nonprofit ad agency that focuses on the sea, will open underwater doors for parents suddenly thrust into the role of home school teachers.


Images via Pexels