In what could possibly be the biggest technological announcement since the moon landing, Google will today reveal the launch of underwater Street View for Google Maps.
This means that for the first time in human history, anyone with an internet connection will be able to take a virtual dive on selected sites on the Great Barrier Reef.
The Underwater Earth project uses data and imagery from the ground-breaking Catlin Seaview Survey project – a series of expeditions aiming to explore and survey the health of coral reefs worldwide.
Based at the underwater research station on Heron Island, the team has surveyed and captured the underwater environments of Heron and Lady Elliot Island and are currently anchored on the northern reefs of the Coral Sea.
Diver with Samsung Galaxy tablet broadcasting live from the Great Barrier Reef.
Armed with cutting-edge cameras and underwater robots controlled by specially designed Samsung Galaxy tablets, the team are able to capture up to 50,000 panoramic underwater images and stitch them together into a navigable “reef view” panorama.
As well as enabling the casual punter to go for a virtual dive and learn more about the marine environment, the expedition will also make a significant contribution to our knowledge of the world’s oceans through a publicly available Global Reef Record database.
This database will enable scientists worldwide to monitor the health of coral reef systems worldwide and their response to climate change.
The first Catlin Seaview expedition launched on September 16 this year with 20 separate reefs on the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea scheduled for surveying before the team moves on to overseas locations in 2013.
The project is funded by international insurance company Catlin and University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute.
Experience it yourself
While the expedition crew are hard at work studying our fragile reef systems, you can take an underwater tour of some the most stunning locations of the Great Barrier Reef right now. Check out:
Hangout with the seaview team live on the reef
The Catlin Seaview Survey team broadcasted an underwater live chat on Google Hangouts during the launch on Thursday September 27 at 3:30am AEST. If you missed it, you can watch the recorded night dive here (watch out for turtles towards the end).
Keep updated with fresh images from the survey every week through the Catlin Seaview Survey website and Google Plus profile. For holiday inspiration and other exclusive content from Underwater Earth connect with Queensland on Facebook and Twitter.