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Seaview Survey Brings Street View to the Great Barrier Reef

Google has already extended the range of their all-seeing Street View eyes to the Amazonian rainforest and the inside of buildings. That’s all well and good, but you might wonder how long the world will have to wait until they can get Street View below the ocean waves. The answer is September 2012, and it will be coming courtesy of the Catlin Seaview Survey of the Great Barrier Reef.

T0 obtain their images, the Catlin team mounted a cluster of cameras to the front of a custom-made motorized ocean “scooter.” The arrangement is similar to that of the Google street view cars, which have a large camera mast above each vehicle. Using the Google Maps platform, the visitors will be able to browse the reef much as they would local streets. In advance of the survey, the group has already made several dive sites available on their website.

Once the survey begins in earnest this September, the group plans to have extensive imagery available as well as a megafauna survey of the reef — which would include sharks, manta rays, and sea turtles. They also plan to share more videos through YouTube and Google+ Hangouts.

On the scientific front, the team says that the entire survey will serve as a baseline to learn more about the effects of climate change on the complex reef ecosystem. It also hopes to provide a snapshot from which physical damage with reefs — like from a run-in with a boat — might be better discerned.

While the current view isn’t as seamless as Google Street View, the views are simply spectacular. Tiny fish flit past the camera, occasionally a larger creature looms into sight, and there’s already one shipwreck in the available images. Once the survey wraps up, we can only expect that there will be even more amazing pictures for us to wander through.

(Catlin Seaview Survey via New Scientist)

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