Google Street View is a remarkable way for us to see landmarks around the world we’ll likely never see in person, such as the Amazon rainforest, or hallways of famous art museums around the globe. Now, in a project called the Catlin Seaview Survey, Google users will get a one-of-a-kind virtual diving opportunity: a tour through the Great Barrier Reef.
Thousands of high-definition, 360-degree panoramas will document rarely seen coral reefs, drop-offs, and underwater grasslands in the project starting this September. Aside from the fact that us land-dwellers will have the opportunity to see nature’s wonders without leaving the couch, we’ll also be able to see parts of the reef even the most experienced divers don’t get to see.
Most divers through the Barrier Reef only dive as deep as 20 meters into the water. However, more than 90% of the reef is between 30 and 100 meters. The submersibles will document the unique marine life down there, and aside from providing humans the opportunity to see it, determine whether or not these parts of the reef and ocean are currently under threat due to climate change.
According to Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, chief scientist on the project, two cameras will be submerged. One will be used to replace the other if it runs into difficulties. They will be equipped with four state-of-the-art HD cameras, taking photos every few seconds as they navigate along the 2,300km long reef. They will also collect samples for further study on deepwater ecology and what types of changes are taking place in the ocean.
Some pilot images can currently be seen at Catlin Seaview Survey, but will eventually be posted on Panoramio, Google Earth, and Google Maps through a 360-degree viewer. There will also be a YouTube channel to showcase the images.
“We will seek the global audience’s help in assessing the health and composition of the reef,” said Hoegh-Guldberg. “The public can help us scientists study in close detail the size of the corals and the number of fish, and spot things like coral bleaching and unique breeding habits. Hopefully, virtual diving will raise awareness about climate change.”
Three dives will be performed to conduct surveys on mega fauna, deep water, and shallow reef.
So, do you forsee yourself spending hours virtually diving through the reefs? I can’t wait.