Internet surfers are to get the chance to go 'virtual diving' as part of a scientific survey of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
The Catlin Seaview Survey http://www.catlin.com/ aims to study the reef and its wildlife from sea level to more than 300ft below the surface, in a bid to gather data which it is hoped will increase understanding of the impact of climate change on the oceans.
A special camera will capture thousands of 360 degree panoramas that will allow people across the world to pick a location and see the underwater landscape along the reef off Australia's east coast.
Around 50,000 survey panoramas will be accessible on Google Earth and Google Maps, while the project will also have a dedicated YouTube channel for sub-sea live webstreams.
The Great Barrier Reef http://indepth.news.sky.com/InDepth/topic/Great_Barrier_Reef is the world's largest structure composed of living organisms and is visible from space.
The survey, starting in September, will examine the shallow reef, taking images and using image recognition software to make a rapid census of fish, corals and other creatures at 20 sites along the reef.
A deep-water survey using robots at depths of 100-300ft aims to examine the health, wildlife and make-up of the reef in order to get a better idea of how climate change may affect deep water corals.
Fifty tiger sharks, green turtles and manta rays are being fitted with satellite tags to help monitor their location, temperature and depth.
University of Queensland http://www.uq.edu.au/ Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, project chief scientist, said: “The Catlin Seaview Survey comprises a series of studies which will reveal to the public one of the last frontiers on Earth: the oceans.
“For the first time in history, we have the technology available to broadcast the findings and expedition through Google.
“Millions of people will be able to experience the life, the science and the magic that exists under the surface of our oceans.”