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Google Maps has shown off its latest enhancement — a series of underwater panoramas in select places around the globe.
Announced on Tuesday, the underwater vistas comprise six sites of marine interest: Wilson Island, Heron Island and Lady Elliot Island in Australia's Great Barrier Reef; Hawaii's Hanauma Bay and Molokini crater; and the volcanic reserve of Apo Island in the Philippines.
"With these vibrant and stunning photos you don't have to be a scuba diver — or even know how to swim — to explore and experience six of the ocean's most incredible living coral reefs," Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps and Earth, said in a blog post.
Above, a turtle is captured off Heron Island in Australia.
Google teamed up with the Catlin Seaview Survey, which is sponsored by the UK-based insurer Catlin Group, to produce the new images.
The Survey used its custom-built SVII camera to photograph the 360° panoramas, which capture turtles, fish and manta rays in their natural environment. The camera, one of only two in the world, takes pictures every three seconds while travelling at around 4kph. The resulting images are stitched together digitally. The underwater panoramas will eventually comprise 50,000 images, according to the Survey.
Users can zoom in on the ocean views, although you can't yet 'walk' around, unlike in Google Street View.
Above, divers bob in the sea above Molokini Crater in Hawaii, a partially submerged volcanic crater and popular diving spot.
Above, the camera bobs just below of the surface of the sea at Wilson Island in Australia.
Data gathered from the dives will go into a public database called the Global Reef Record, according to the Catlin Seaview Survey. "The Global Reef Record is a game-changing scientific tool that scientists around the world will have at their fingertips. They will be able to monitor change in marine environments now and in the future," Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the project's lead scientist, said in a statement.