Google is today adding its first underwater panoramic images to Google Maps, allowing users to take a virtual dive at six of the world's most dramatic coral reefs.
By teaming up with the Caitlin Seaview Survey, the company's planning to add up to 50,000 high-definition panoramic images of the Great Barrier Reef, along with other reefs in Hawaii, the Philippines and Bermuda.
Dives at three Australian locations have been completed so far, with many more planned.
"Starting today, you can use Google Maps to find a sea turtle swimming among a school of fish, follow a manta ray and experience the reef at sunset — just as I did on my first dive in the Great Barrier Reef last year," says Brian McClendon, VP of Google Maps and Earth.
"At Apo Island, a volcanic island and marine reserve in the Philippines, you can see an ancient boulder coral, which may be several hundred years old. And in the middle of the Pacific, in Hawaii, you can join snorkelers in Oahu’s Hanauma Bay and drift over the vast coral reef at Maui's Molokini crater."
The images have been taken with the Caitlin Seaview Survey's tablet-controlled SVII camera, which snaps 360-degree images every three seconds while traveling at around 4kmh.
A geo-location and camera direction is also recorded for each image, meaning it’s possible to retake the photograph at a later date from the exact same camera position.
The images will be available through Google Maps, as well as on a dedicated YouTube channel, Google+ and photosharing website Panoramio.