Underwater Google Street View takes in the Galapagos Islands

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Underwater 360-degree imagery recorded off the coast of the Galapagos Islands is to be made available later this year on Google Maps as part of its Street View collection.

The underwater survey was conducted by the Catlin Seaview Survey as part of a joint pilot project between the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), the Galapagos National Park Service (GNPS) and Google.

This new survey will allow scientists to see the underwater world of these islands online in 360-degree imagery.

The Catlin Seaview Survey has conducted similar surveys in the Great Barrier Reef, with the images available via Google Street View.

The images were recorded on Catlin’s Seaview SVII camera, a specially designed underwater camera. The camera captures 360-degree images every 3 seconds while traveling at a speed of approximately 4km/h. Images are then stitched together and published online, allowing viewers to self-navigate a virtual dive.

For each image captured, a geo-location and camera direction is also recorded, meaning it’s possible to retake the photograph at a later date from the exact same camera position as the original.

The images and data collected at the Galapagos Islands will aid CDF and GNPS monitor any recovery of coral reefs devastated by coral bleaching in 1982 and 1998 following El Nino events. The expedition uncovered signs of healthy corals in an area that has not been visited by scientists since the bleaching event of 1998. As a result of this pilot project, a future research project is proposed to investigate further this promising recovery process.

Commenting on the collection of imagery, Google’s project lead Raleigh Seamster said: ‘Our goal is to build the most comprehensive and accurate map, complete with imagery from the world’s most remote places, including the Galapagos Islands. Using our Street View Trekker we captured images of blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises and more on land. But we knew this collection would not be complete without imagery of the fascinating underwater environment that surrounds the islands. Thanks to the Catlin Seaview Survey, we’re thrilled to make 360-degree imagery of marine habitats available on Google Maps in the months to come.’

The main purpose of the Catlin Seaview Survey is to significantly expand the data available to scientists about corals. The information gathered will create a baseline to enable future studies and will become openly accessible in the Catlin Global Reef Record.

Using its specially developed camera technology and remotely operated vehicles, the Catlin Seaview Survey is capturing hundreds of thousands of images of coral reefs worldwide – all of which are under threat from climate change.

The first survey completed by the Catlin Seaview Survey was along the Great Barrier Reef in late 2012, where the team completed transects at 32 locations along the 2,300 kilometres of the reef.

Future efforts in 2013 will focus on important reefs in the Americas, including the Caribbean.

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