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Google Street View leaves land to map Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

It’s been along a great many roads, inside parks and even buildings. For its latest project, however, Google Street View is leaving dry land and going underwater  to help map Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

In collaboration with the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute and the Underwater Earth organization, the Catlin Seaview Survey aims to study the composition and health of the famous reef in unprecedented detail.

A special camera (pictured below) will travel to a depth of 100 meters, mapping the reef in an effort to learn more about how the changing climate and other environmental changes affect the reef and other similar ecosystems.

The aim is to stitch together and upload around 50,000 360-degree panorama images to the web and make them accessible through Google Earth and Google Maps. Visitors to the websites will be able to go for a virtual dive at any of the locations visited by the expedition, and all without getting wet — unless you’re one of those people who likes to use their laptop in the bath, that is.

Leading the project is the University of Queensland’s Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg.

“The visual nature of the project will help bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and public awareness,” Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said. “The Catlin Seaview Survey comprises a series of studies which will reveal to the public one of the last frontiers on Earth: the oceans.”

Besides detailed documentation of the reef, a total of 50 sea creatures will also be photographed, including tiger sharks, green turtles and manta rays. Some of the images will be shot by Emmy award-winning cinematographer and shark researcher Richard Fitzpatrick, so we should be in for a real treat once the underwater views are uploaded.

Referring to the collaboration with Google, Hoegh-Guldberg said, “Millions of people will be able to experience the life, the science and the magic that exists under the surface of our oceans. This project is very exciting.”

The project begins in September this year.

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