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Who Are Google's Ocean 'Street Views' Really For?

Divers? Explorers? Really bad drivers?

Always wanted to drive from Australia to Hawaii but didn't know the directions? Google has your back, with a new addition to Street View featuring panoramic images of the briny deep.

Know the location of dead-end coral canyons, windshield-splatting triggerfish schools and giant manta rays that you can throw a hitch over for a quick tow with these smashing underwater views of various Pacific Ocean environments: the Great Barrier Reef, sunken hideaways around Hawaii and the sapphire seas of the central Philippines. The imagery will be invaluable to anybody who finds themselves beneath the waves, including really terrible drivers who accidentally steered off a pier. Just make sure your smartphone gets reception at 10 fathoms deep!

For this project, Google teamed up with the Catlin Seaview Survey, an international team of researchers based at the University of Queensland devoted to saving the world's imperiled reefs. As the Seaview folks point out, the world has lost up to half of its reefs in just the past 30 years, partly due to ocean acidification caused by anthropogenic climate change. The team's divers are lugging a 360-degree panoramic camera (the "SVII") through the ocean to create a baseline survey of the current health of reefs, which would be a valuable tool for marine biologists. As it stands today, humans have explored a mere 5 percent of the ocean.

What can you expect to see in these maritime maps? On Google's Lat Long blog, "snorkeling enthusiast" Brian McClendon writes:

Starting today, you can use Google Maps to find a sea turtle swimming among a school of fish, follow a manta ray and experience the reef at sunset—just as I did on my first dive in the Great Barrier Reef last year.... At Apo Island, a volcanic island and marine reserve in the Philippines, you can see an ancient boulder coral, which may be several hundred years old. And in the middle of the Pacific, in Hawaii, you can join snorkelers in Oahu’s Hanauma Bay and drift over the vast coral reef at Maui's Molokini crater.

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