By 2030, up to 90 percent of the world’s coral reefs will be under threat from fishing, extraction industries, shipping, warming waters, and ocean acidification. This would be an ecological and economic tragedy. Coral reefs make up only 0.1 percent of the total ocean area, but host 25 percent of the world’s marine life — driving fishing industries, tourism and protecting coastal communities from storms.
In an effort to capture these unique ecosystems, Google has unveiled a new “Street View” series that maps parts of the Great Barrier Reef, an ancient boulder coral in the Philippines, and a coral reef in Maui.
Here’s how Google described the project on its blog:
Today we’re adding the very first underwater panoramic images to Google Maps, the next step in our quest to provide people with the most comprehensive, accurate and usable map of the world. With these vibrant and stunning photos you don’t have to be a scuba diver—or even know how to swim—to explore and experience six of the ocean’s most incredible living coral reefs. Now, anyone can become the next virtual Jacques Cousteau and dive with sea turtles, fish and manta rays in Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii.
We’re partnering with The Catlin Seaview Survey, a major scientific study of the world’s reefs, to make these amazing images available to millions of people through the Street View feature of Google Maps. The Catlin Seaview Survey used a specially designed underwater camera, the SVII, to capture these photos.
This is just the first iteration. But the project may spawn entirely new mapping capabilities that will give people another look at our world’s most precious ecosystems — before it’s too late to view them.
You can find all the maps here. Below is a short video showing the mapping interface and the cameras used: