A new ocean exploration project will use Google tools to help you take a dip in some of the world's most beautiful marine locations, without leaving your chair.
Launched at the World Oceans Summit, the Catlin Seaview Survey plans to document the Great Barrier Reef, and other worldwide reef locations at a later stage, in greater detail than ever before. A specially designed camera (the SVII) takes 360-degree panoramic images every four to six seconds. It travels through the water at 4 kilometres per hour, then geotags and stitches together the images for viewing on Google Earth and Google Maps — a bit like an underwater Street View.
It's not a traditional design for an underwater camera. As the team documents on its blog, "to improve the fluid dynamics of the camera when travelling underwater the design team have taken inspiration from the natural design of sharks and other marine life". The camera consists of four SLRs with extreme fish-eye lenses to capture the panoramic images.
The project aims to promote awareness of the state of the ocean, and investigate how climate change is likely to affect the Great Barrier Reef.
The expedition launches in earnest in September 2012, consisting of three surveys; one of the shallow reef with the 360-degree camera, a deep water survey using robots and survey equipment with HD cameras, and a mega-fauna survey led by cinematographer and shark researcher Richard Fitzpatrick. See some of the current panoramas in action at the Seaview Survey website.