Google completes the picture of the world by adding into its popular software the oceans, which cover more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. Ocean in Google Earth will let users dive below the surface of the water to examine wildlife, mountains and shipwrecks in this murky world. To help users understand what they are looking at, Google has assembled a coalition of more than 80 organisations, including the National Geographic Society, BBC and the Marine Conservation Society, to provide images, video and analysis in regularly-updated “layers” of information added to Google’s basic mapping technology. Users will be able to track the movements of animals in the sea, view marine protected areas and even keep up to date on which fish species are good choices if you want to eat sustainably in a particular region of the world. “With this latest version of Google Earth, you can not only zoom into whatever part of our planet’s surface you wish to examine in closer detail, you can now dive into the world’s oceans that cover almost three quarters of the planet and discover new wonders that had not been accessible in previous versions of this magical experience,” said the former American vice-president, Al Gore, at the launch of the new version of Google Earth in San Fransisco. Eric Schmidt, the chief executive of Google, said: “In discussions about climate change, the world’s oceans are often overlooked despite being an integral part of the issue. About one third of the carbon dioxide that we emit into the atmosphere ends up in the oceans. Furthermore, biodiversity loss in our oceans in the next 20-30 years will be roughly equivalent to losing an entire Amazon rainforest, but this goes unnoticed because we can’t see it. This is why today’s launch of Google Earth 5.0 is so important – it gives us an opportunity to change everyone’s perspective.” Arctic explorer Pen Hadow said the launch of Ocean in Google Earth was a watershed. “There’s been a complete disconnect between our land-based lives and the oceans,” he said. “What this service is doing is engaging everybody in a better understanding of how oceans work, what they are, how they work and what the dangers are for all of us. “I’m passionate about what’s going on in the Arctic ocean and its sea ice cover and few people know about what’s happening up there. This brings about a fusion of information organised in a way that we can all understand.” Hadow’s team at the Catlin Arctic Survey has developed an expedition layer for Google Earth, where users can track his progress in an upcoming trek to measure the thinning ice of the Arctic. Scientists have also been contributing layers of information, including sea-surface temperatures, bathymetric data and images culled from research expeditions. “We detect an insatiable demand for information about the oceans,” said Ed Hill, the director of the National Oceanography Centre at Southampton University. “It is a great initial contact point for people interested in the sea for them to then go on to gain a deeper understanding of the oceans. There are many areas where we know much less about the sea floor than the surface of distant planets such as Mars.” National Geographic’s explorer-in-residence, Sylvia Earle, advised Google on its new software. “I cannot imagine a more effective way to inspire awareness and caring for the blue heart of the planet than the new Ocean in Google Earth. For the first time, everyone from curious kids to serious researchers can see the world, the whole world, with new eyes. “In a stroke, Google Earth brings life and character to the blue part of the planet, and makes obvious the many ways land, water, atmosphere and living systems connect. Many ‘aha!’ moments are sure to come as people discover new patterns, new correlations and countless personal discoveries while vicariously diving into the waters of the world.” Google Earth has introduced 21 layers of data from various organisations that provide information about specific ocean sites. Explore the Ocean – 11 of the best known regions of the world – have an extra layer of detail. These are Bermuda, the Galápagos Islands, the Great Barrier Reef, the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, the Hawaiian islands, the Mediterranean Sea, Monterey Bay, the Arctic, the Patagonian Shelf, the Antarctic and the Western Indian Ocean.
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