Google Earth oceans revealed



Great Barrier Reef on Google Oceans

The Great Barrier Reef as seen on the new Ocean in Google Earth program.

Credit: Google

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SAN FRANCISCO: Online search powerhouse Google has launched a new service that brings the depths of the world's oceans to the comfort of users' homes.

The Ocean in Google Earth feature allows users to virtually dive beneath the water surface, explore 3D underwater terrain and browse ocean-related content contributed by marine scientists.

Nearly four years after Google Earth enabled users to zoom in to view streets, and later explore galaxies in the sky, the latest version of the software allows virtual travelers to cross miles of uncharted territory underwater.

Ocean in Google Earth was unveiled formally at the San Francisco Academy of Sciences by former vice-president Al Gore, acclaimed oceanographer Sylvia Earle and Google executives.

"With this version of Google Earth... you can now dive into the world's oceans that cover almost three quarters of the planet and discover new wonders," said Gore, a champion in the battle against climate change.

Gore pointed out a history feature at Google Earth that lets people see how parts of the planet are changing over time, often due to human influences.

"This is an extremely powerful educational tool," Gore said. "My hope is that people around the world will use Google Earth to see for themselves the reality of the climate crisis."

Google Earth users can click icons on sea maps to see video of creatures that thrive in those locations. Internet surfers can opt to swim virtually undersea as though they are sharks, dolphins or turtles.

Lighthearted beginnings

Ocean was inspired in part by a teasing comment Earle made to Google Maps and Earth director John Hanke.

Earle was at an event when she praised the California firm's online mapping service but suggested it be called "Google Dirt" because it ignored the 70 percent of the planet covered by water, Hanke recounted.

"Talk about a dream coming true," Earle said as she stood behind an aquarium lectern and demonstrated Ocean on a large wall screen.

"They compressed what it took me 50 years to understand, that the world is really blue. People talk about the world being green, but without the blue there wouldn't be any green."

Google Earth users will be able to record videos of undersea adventures, overlay their own voices or sound tracks, and then share them with friends, according to Hanke.

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