Google Street View’s reach already extends from the streets of Johannesburg to halls of the Palace of Versailles. Now the company is taking its cameras underwater to map Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
No, the idea isn’t to give people directions as they scuba dive. Instead, the project, dubbed the Catlin Seaview Survey, is meant to study the effects of climate change on the reef and provide people everywhere the chance to virtually explore one of the most biologically diverse spots on the globe.
Google, in partnership with the University of Queensland and non-profit environmental group Underwater Earth, will be sending divers out with specially designed SVII cameras that will take 360-degree, geo-located photos every 4-6 seconds. For the deep-water survey, unmanned subs will dive 30-100 meters under the surface armed with high-definition cameras.
While the Catlin Seaview Survey doesn’t kick off until September, users can get a sneak peak of the underwater scenery photographed at six different sites along the 1,429-mile length of the reef. People will eventually be able to view 50,000 panoramas, many taken in areas normally too difficult for tourists and scientists to reach.
The final part of the project involves tracking a total of 50 tiger sharks, green turtles and manta rays with satellite tags to see how increasing temperatures are affecting their migratory patterns. Eventually the coalition hopes to expand the project to other important ocean regions beyond Australia.