Feb. 23, 2012 at 2:32 PM ET
Less than a month after Google Ocean drowned our dreams of Atlantis by updating a image that previously showed mysterious grid patterns on the sea floor, the search giant is back with an underwater Street View.
Catlin Seaview Survey, the project's official name, launched Thursday with what New Scientist describes as "an unprecedented photographic tour of Australia's Great Barrier Reef." It is even more ambitious than Google's land version, which provides an eye level view of neighborhoods, parks and other public areas all over the world. This submerged 360 degree photo survey's "aim is to learn as much as possible about the reef's state of health from a panoramic underwater photographic and video survey – and let the rest of us enjoy the reef's untrammelled beauty online."
Sponsored by multinational insurance firm, the Catlin Group (for which the project is named), Google partnered with Australia's University of Queensland in this undertaking, which will post footage online as the surveys move forward.
By necessity, the equipment required is also more sophisticated than the 360 degree cameras used by Google's Street View cars and bicycles, New Scientist reports:
To give deskbound divers a 360-degree view on the web, the camera work is a real challenge, says Richard Vevers, founder of Underwater Earth, the group handling the diving, submarine robots and all camerawork for the survey.
"Issues with water clarity, low light conditions and light distortion underwater called for a very different camera set-up to Street View. The development of the camera has been carried out independently from Google using underwater photography specialists. The result is a very different panoramic camera," says Vevers.
You can get a sneak preview of the project on the Catlin Seaview Survey website, where you can navigate from images taken at Heron Island, a coral cay off the north-east coast of Australia.