Although you can get a 360 degree view of almost any street in the world, the oceans are still relatively unknown to us. Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOGL) (NASDAQ:GOOG), Catlin Insurance and the U.S. government have recently announced their intention to change that.

Google street view for sea

Scientists will be diving down to the reefs of the Florida Keys, using Google Street View technology to map them. In partnership with Catlin’s Seaview Survey and Global Reef Record, teams using Google cameras will be capturing thousands of images of an inaccessible and mysterious world.

“This allows people who can’t get underwater to understand what we mean by putting up a special preservation area around this particular spot,” Mitchell Tartt, chief of the conservation science division at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, told The Associated Press.

Google Street View: A worldwide project

Using the basketball-shaped, triple-lens cameras, scuba divers are able to capture panoramic views 20 times larger than what has been previously available. Instead of being placed on top of cars, as they are when taking photos for Google Street View, the underwater cameras are pushed around by the divers, helped by a small, on-board motor.

A selection of images from the Florida Keys will be available online as of next week, and the project has already snapped around 400,000 images of the reefs off Australia and the Caribbean. After Florida, the project will move on to Southeast Asia. The scientists want to capture as many images and supporting data as they can, until a worldwide ocean view collection is completed.

Greater significance

Armchair scuba divers will soon be able to revel in their ability to dive the Great Barrier Reef without struggling into a neoprene suit. While this is obviously a major advance for humankind, the real significance of the project lies in increasing our knowledge of the world beneath the waves.

By mapping the reefs, the project should allow us great insight into the effects of pollution, global warming and hurricanes on reefs around the world.

Caitlin’s Global Record will store the images until Google Oceans is ready to be released to the public.