Google’s Virtual Underwater Dives Give Stunning Views of Coral Reefs

Not everyone can visit Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in person — but now you can go for a virtual tour from the comfort of your computer screen with Google Maps’ Street View.

The ocean collection, which was unveiled last week, includes fascinating 360-degree panoramas made from thousands of photos of the Great Barrier Reef, as well as views of five other amazing underwater spots — and their marine life residents — from Australia, Hawaii and the Philippines. It’s Google’s first underwater imagery, and they can be found on both Google Maps and Google Earth. (You can take a peek in the gallery below.)

Mapping the Great Barrier Reef

A diver uses a special camera to photograph the Great Barrier Reef.
Diving In

Google launched its first ocean Street View-like maps last week, and half of the first six sites are in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Here, a diver uses a specially designed  camera to capture imagery of Lady Elliott Island within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Great Barrier Reef Blenny Fish
Scuba-Diver's Eye View of Fish

A blenny fish gets its closeup at the Holmes Reef in Australia.

A panorama image of the Great Barrier reef shows a school of fish.
Heron Island

This panorama image shows the Heron Bommie, a favorite dive for many explorers of the Great Barrier Reef.

Great Barrier Reef Christmas Trees
Marine Life

In addition to the panoramas, the Catlin Seaview Survey's team also got beautiful images of the marine life in the Great Barrier Reef, like these Christmas tree worms.

A sea turtle in the Great Barrier Reef.
Sea Turtle

You can go for a virtual swim with the sea turtles in the reef's Heron Island.

A sea turtle swims with a school of fish in the Great Barrier Reef.
Swimming With the Fishes

Rays of sun shine through the water on a sea turtle and a school of fish in the Heron Island area of the reef.

An above water view from the Great Barrier Reef.
Lady Elliott Island

A look at Lady Elliott Island from the water, in the Great Barrier Reef.

Google’s partner, Catlin Seaview Survey, took 50,000 shallow-reef pictures using a specially designed SVII camera in a series of underwater expeditions. The maps also offer a deep-reef view, which has gorgeous images of areas that are rarely visited by people, captured using diving robots.

"This will allow the 99.9 percent of the population who have never been diving to go on a virtual dive for the first time," the survey’s project director, Richard Vevers, told NBC News.

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