Google Maps visitors can now virtually "walk" along certain reefs through Street View using the same interface for city streets and neighborhoods above sea level. Users can move to different areas of the reef and pan around or zoom in on each one in 360 degrees to spot sea turtles, manta rays, living coral, and even some accompanying divers and snorkelers. The effect is like retracing a scuba dive that has been frozen in time.
To capture these stunning panoramic views, Google partnered with the Catlin Seaview Survey, a project devoted to documenting the ocean reefs using the latest technology. Armed with an SVII camera attached to an undersea vehicle, the team was able to record continuous 360-degree images while drifting through the water. The process results in 50,000 images per area, which link together to form a full panoramic view that can be explored in Google Maps. The SVII is also the world's first underwater, tablet-operated camera, which allows the scientists gathering the images to access various data they've already collected while in the middle of a dive.