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Google’s Underwater Street View – No Streets, Lots of Awesome

By now, everyone knows what Google’s “Street View” is – a mapping project that has taken 360-degree photographs of a large portion of the roads in much of the world, from a street-level perspective. Many are even familiar with the “Google Cars” that drive around with tons of equipment mounted to their roofs in order to facilitate the Street Views photography and satellite imaging cooperative they have built.

So when Google uses the term “Street View” in conjunction with its latest project, it’s purely a a marketing term so that people will understand the idea. Since, where Google has gone this time, no streets have gone before. Unless they stumbled on Atlantis, but that’s not very likely.

Street Views, but underwater

So the same Street View that Google Maps has for surface mapping is now going to become available under the oceans as well. Google sponsored and equipped a team of underwater photography experts at the Caitlin Seaview Survey. The team then spent time in the oceans around some of the planet’s most beautiful and endangered underwater areas: Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii.

The idea is to bring some of the world’s most beautiful underwater landscapes to.. well, the world. Since the oceans are generally an afterthought to the majority of the world’s population of humans, Google’s idea is to bring it to us. Scientifically, the panoramic photography will also serve as a marker or base point (since it is accompanied by precise GPS coordinates and time stamps) to observe changes over time.

Google plans to map more areas soon, but the three they’ve done have gone live. Just Google “Australian sea”, “Hawaii ocean” or “Philippines sea” and you’ll see the street-level option where they’ve mapped so far. You can also search for the specific sites already mapped and online, which include the Great Barrier Reef.

How it was done

The images were collected over six months’ time by teams of divers from Caitlin. Each team has three cameras on their underwater vehicles, which capture images every four seconds. These are then stitched into 360-degree panoramas.

One of the cameras used is the new SVII, which is the world’s first tablet-based underwater camera utilizing the Samsung Galaxy.

The teams were on two to four day expeditions, diving and recording almost constantly. The survey of the Great Barrier Reef is ongoing and will continue until the end of the year as the team there plans to visit at least 20 separate reefs along the chain, including sections that have never been seen or studied because they’re less accessible or at greater depths than others.

Further expeditions are already planned for next year to include more of the Philippines and Bermuda as well as more off the coasts of Hawaii. These all include reef surveys that are scientific in nature and meant to be shared openly with the academic community for marine experts to use, helping to broaden the understanding of the health of reefs and the biologically diverse life that surrounds them.

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