Google Maps Street View has some interesting pictures, but did you know that you can use it to explore the ocean as well? Google has made an effort to document the Great Barrier Reef of Australia using the same technology that has been used to let people see many of the world's streets. So far over 90 miles of the reef have been surveyed since the project began in 2012 and its success has spread to Google Maps charting reefs in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.
The coral reefs that are alive today are one of the most diverse, yet one of the most fragile ecosystems in the world. They are living creatures that provide access to fisheries and amazing sights, but they are also incredibly fragile. This ecosystem has been one of the first to show detrimental effects to the trends of global warming, but many people don't realize this. By incorporating Street View into the world's oceans, the goal is to raise awareness of the health of the world's coral reefs.
The colors of the coral reef come from algae that co-exists with the reef itself. It's part of the digestive system and allows the reef to funnel energy directly from the sunlight. The issue that reefs face is that they are very susceptible to stress. If too much stress exists for the reef, they will expel the algae, causing a process called “bleaching.” If the algae aren't allowed to come back, then the reef will eventually die.
By charting coral reefs now, scientists can better track the life of a coral reef, know more of the negative impacts that may cause stress to it, and provide it with a better chance for life. It takes thousands of years for a coral reef to develop, but it can die in just weeks. That's why the Google Maps project is so important
There are a treasure trove of images to be found in the over 150k that have been taken so far. Users of Google Maps can get a Street View of a manta ray, view a sunset at the Great Barrier Reef, or see a sea turtle that is having a nice swim along with a huge school of fish. The Galapagos Islands have some remarkable images of sea lions playing and turtles swimming alongside the reef
One of the most fascinating views, however, is the Underwater Museum of Isla Mujeres. This seafloor location is just off of the coast of Cancun and incorporates PH neutral sculptures that are the home to sea life. A Volkswagen Beetle an an entire population of human statues compose over 500 different concrete statues that can be toured from the comfort of one's home computer.
As the world begins to expand its knowledge in many areas, we are finding that what lies in the oceans underwater is still a great unexplored frontier. Thanks to Google Maps Street View, everyone can be on the front lines of this incredible exploration opportunity.