Posted by: thewideblueyonder | November 8, 2008

Google Earth Adds Underwater Ocean Element

Written by Meg Hamill
Published on October 27th, 2008

Geared towards raising awareness of endangered ocean habitats, a new online tool allows viewers an in-depth peek at underwater reefs around the world.

Google Earth has taken us up and out into the universe, and now they are taking us down and under the surface of the sea. The new Google Earth ‘layer’ will allow people to experience a ‘virtual dive’ under the water at sensitive ocean areas all around the world.

With a click of the mouse, viewers will be able to access video streams, photo galleries, conservation strategies and local stories specific to that spot.  Conservationists working in partnership with Google Inc. unveiled the new technology at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) world congress in Barcelona.

It seems as though right now the underwater Google plugin is only available for Windows, but I imagine a Mac version won’t be far behind.

Google Earth project manager Steve Miller said:  “We sat down and said ‘let’s open this up, let people around the world who might be passionate about their (marine protected area), who might be passionate about the water in their backyard, let them contribute to this.’”

According to Google Earth, a main goal of the project is to bring hard science to the general public’s attention in an interesting and entertaining way.  By providing images and information about these critical areas, Google is hoping to raise global awareness about the current threats facing our world’s oceans.

Currently there are about 4,500 ocean areas around the world that have been designated as protected areas. This designation means that bans or restrictions on fishing and other commercial and recreational activities have protected local marine life.  Not all 4,500 areas are accessible through Google Earth.

The IUCN also launched an online web portal this year called Protect Planet Ocean, where viewers can find information on the critical importance of protected marine environments.

At the same IUCN conference, National Geographic revealed their WildCam Belize Reef project, a live underwater video feed of a coral reef off the coast of Belize.  WildCam Belize is the latest addition to National Geographic’s WildCam project that offers streaming live footage of animals and habitats around the world.

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