Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Exploring Undersea with Google Earth

Google Earth is a wonderful tool for exploring the Earth. Since version 5.0, even underwater photos and deep-sea videos have a sense a place, because Google Earth can georeference these images to real topographic and hydrographic data. This is a powerful tool for outreach and education because the software literally provides a window on the deep.

Consider the recent Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill event. Anyone interested in the seafloor communities thriving within the vicinity of the spill need only to load the 'Explore the Ocean' layer produced by Sylvia Earle's Mission Blue for Google Earth to witness the fish and corals in the environments surrounding the wellhead site.

The same technology could be used proactively to highlight the potential impacts of unregulated tailings disposal from say, Ramu Nickel Mine in Papua New Guinea, if only we had video of those deep-reef communities. Perhaps this could help.

One excellent example of the narrative utility of Google Earth for deep-sea exploration is here below by NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. The creators mix a slick narrative tour with a geography lesson and live video from the incredible INDEX-SATAL Mission in 2010. The effect is a good one, with good integration of seafloor topography data and 3D buildings on land. Nice work, NOAA-OER. Happy Christmas!


  1. Visit www.SEAlliance.org Sylvia Earle's foundation for more on the Ocean layer in Google Earth and the Hope Spots which include the Gulf of Mexico

  2. here's the link: http://www.thesealliance.org/