Google Street Views is featuring underwater attractions to celebrate World Oceans Day today, June 8. Points of interest around the world shown in the new ocean views include the waters of Cozumel Mexico, the Liberty Wreck off the coast of Bali, and the Great Barrier Reef, among many other locales.
World Oceans Day is designed to raise awareness of the environmental challenges facing the global ocean. The search engine and technology company Google modified its Street View system to show attractions underneath the surface of the 71 percent of the planet covered in water.
The XL Catlin Seaview Survey, a program designed to create a record of the current state of coral reefs around the globe, provided many of the 360-degree images used in the Google ocean views.
Environmentalists involved in that survey estimate that 40 percent of coral reefs have disappeared over the last three years due to climate change, pollution, and damage caused by fishing. They predict that as many as 500 million people worldwide could be negatively impacted by the loss of these reefs.
"Each image in Google Maps is a GPS-located digital record of these underwater and coastal environments, which can be used as a baseline to monitor change over time. This comprehensive record of coral reefs showcases the beauty of these ecosystems and highlights the threats they face," Jenifer Austin and Brian Sullivan of the Google Ocean Program said.
A wide range of marine lifeforms are seen in the underwater views, including humpback whales, great white sharks, giant sunfish and sea turtles. In some regions, it is possible to click on the map to "swim along" with the creatures, in much the same way that users would "walk down a road" in normal street view.
Shipwrecks are also visible in the new underwater images, including the SS Antilla, the third-largest such wreck in the Caribbean. The vessel was launched in 1939, and scuttled off the coast of Aruba the following year. The Antilla was designed and built to transport goods between the Caribbean and Germany just as World War II was catching fire in Europe. The vessel traveled to Galveston, Texas, on its maiden voyage in August 1939 when the captain received a pair of coded messages directing the vessel to leave main shipping lanes, alter the identity of the ship, and return directly home to Germany. The Nazi invasion of Poland was launched less than a week later, on Sept. 1.
"World Oceans Day, held every June 8th, is the United Nations-recognized day of ocean celebration and action. People all over our blue planet organize celebrations - which can be a huge event in your community, a special announcement, or anything in between - to support action to protect the ocean. This year, the theme is 'Healthy oceans, healthy planet,' and we're making a special effort to stop plastic pollution," World Oceans Day reported on its Web site.
The group challenges visitors to take its Better Bag Challenge and refuse to take any plastic bags for the coming year, and instead use only reusable bags. "Plastic trash is choking our ocean, and 80 percent of it comes from land," the site says. "We can do better!"
Here's a view of workers gathering the 360-degree views used in the XL Catlin Seaview Surveys of coral reefs, and quantifying the data.