You can now swim with the whales without getting wet, thanks to Google's new Street View tours of the ocean's depths.
As described in a new blog posted Thursday, Google has posted new Street View imagery of more than 40 underwater spots around the world, including the American Samoa in the South Pacific Ocean and Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, as well as deep sea dives in Bali, the Bahamas and the Great Barrier Reef. The views reveal the beauty of whales, fish and other creatures under the sea as well as corral reefs, shipwrecks and other areas to explore.
The new images are a change of pace for Google, which usually keeps its Street View tours above the water. But the virtual tours are more than just a guide to marvel at the wonders under the sea. Posted in time for World Oceans Day on June 8, the images are also a way to focus on the harm being done to our oceans and the attempts to preserve the undersea world.
"Home to the majority of life on Earth, the ocean acts as its life support system, controlling everything from our weather and rainfall to the oxygen we breathe," Google said in its blog. "Yet despite the ocean's vital importance, the ocean is changing at a rapid rate due to climate change, pollution, and overfishing, making it one of the most serious environmental issues we face today."
To foster a greater awareness of the sea, Google created the images in partnership with the XL Catlin Seaview Survey, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the Chagos Conservation Trust, all of which are dedicated to studying the oceans and educating people about the hazards they face.
"Mapping the ocean is key to preserving it, Google said. "Each image in Google Maps is a GPS-located digital record of these underwater and coastal environments, which can be used as a baseline to monitor change over time."
As one example cited, the Great Barrier Reef faces such threats as an increase in storms and rising water temperatures, causing the reefs to bleach white. The imagery collected and displayed by Google can track the ongoing color changes to the reefs.
As with all Street View images, you can zoom in or out and move the cursor in any direction to get a panoramic view of your subject. Some of the most fascinating images give us up-close views of the magnificent creatures that call the ocean their home. One image shows us a sea turtle swimming near the Solomon Islands. Another brings us to a humpback whale in the Cook Islands. A third image offers a peek at great white sharks in Australia. And a fourth shows us a huge sunfish (Mola mola) swimming in Bali.
Ultimately, Google plans to publish more Street View images of the ocean's depths as a way for people to explore it and understand the changes that the undersea world is undergoing and will undergo over the coming years.