A new scientific survey will enable you to take a virtual dive tour along the length of the 1,430 mile Great Barrier Reef, located off the coast of the Australian state of Queensland. The Catlin SeaView Survey will use a variety of high-tech underwater cameras to document the reef up to a depth of 330 feet (100 meters), allowing the public to watch every step of the way.
Across various Google sites, the Catlin SeaView Survey will make freely available all the results of the survey, benefiting the scientific community as well as the public. Through both shallow and deep reef expeditions, the survey hopes to first create a visual baseline of the reef to 30 meters, then document the health and biodiversity composition of the reef at further depths.
Using these two studies, the team plans to help us better understand the impact of climate change on the world's reef systems and asses their susceptibility to future changes. In conjunction with the reef survey, a major animal study will be carried out at the same time. Tagging and tracking of marine life, such as manta rays, tiger sharks, and turtles, will enable scientists to study how these large animals are changing their distributions in response to climate change.
Specially developed cameras, attached to robotic underwater vehicles, plan to capture over 50,000 full 360-degree panoramic photos. The SVII camera takes a 360 degree, geo-located image every 4-6 seconds, while traveling at a speed of 4 km/h.
The images will be stitched together, allowing you to head underwater and navigate your way along the reef. All the panoramic images can be viewed over on the Catlin SeaView Survey website, but will also be made available via Google Earth and Google Maps.
A dedicated YouTube channel will document the progress of the survey team when the official Catlin SeaView Survey kicks off September 2012.