Google Maps To Add Ocean Shots To Its Repertoire

  • Over 50,000 underwater panoramas to be shot
  • Will be a dedicated YouTube channel
  • Dive robots will explore depths

The Catlin Seaview Survey, which launches in Singapore on the 23 February,marks the launch ofa scientific expedition that aims to carry out the first comprehensive study to document and reveal the composition and health of coral reefs on the Great Barrier Reef across a depth of 0-100m.

The Catlin Seaview Survey camera, developed for the expedition, will capture thousands of 360-degree underwater panoramas which, when stitched together, will allow people to choose a location, dip underwater and go for a virtual dive at all of the locations visited by the expedition.

Google is collaborating with the Catlin Seaview Survey and is working on a new feature on Panoramio (which links photos to locations), so that the 360-degree panorama images can be uploaded and made available to millions of people worldwide. This will eventually mean that roughly 50,000 panoramas from the Survey will be accessible on Google Earth andGoogle Maps.The project will also have a dedicated YouTube channel and the ability to broadcast Hangouts on air, which allows people to watch live streams of the expedition team from the ocean floor.

The Catlin Seaview Survey will include a shallow reef survey, a deep reef survey and a mega-fauna survey, which combined will provide a baseline assessment of the composition, biodiversity and wellbeing of the Reef. The expedition will launch on the Great Barrier Reef in September 2012.

The shallow reef survey will use a custom-designed underwater vehicle with a 360-degree camera to generate imagery of the reef. In collaboration with The University of Queensland, this will be assessed using image recognition software to enable a rapid visual census of corals, fish and many other organisms at 20 sites across the entire length of the 2,300km Great Barrier Reef. This will provide a broad-scale baseline for understanding climate change on coral reefs.

Using diving robots, the deep-water survey will explore the reef at depths of 30-100 metres, of which little is known, yet may hold some of the secrets of whether or not the coral reefs will survive rapid climate change. Using a combination of HD cameras, deep diving robots and survey equipment, the deep-water component will provide a comprehensive study of the health, composition and biodiversity of the deep-water reefs.

The mega-fauna survey team, led by Emmy award-winning cinematographer and shark researcher Richard Fitzpatrick,will study the migratory behaviour of tiger sharks, green turtles and manta rays in response to increasing seawater temperatures. A total of 50 animals will be tracked with satellite tags that continuously monitor their geographic position, temperature and depth. This data can then be compared against oceanographic data to get a better understanding of the animal’s behaviour and migrational responses to the warming of the oceans.