March 16, 2014

Taking Google Earth beyond the “dirt”

Posted by Dr. Laura Guertin

In 2006, oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle had a conversation with the Google Earth and Maps director that set our Google views on an exciting path forward.  Dr. Earle stated (in her words from a blog post): “You should call Google Earth ‘Google Dirt’. What about the ¾ of the planet that is blue?”  Zip forward to February 2009, when Google launched Ocean in Google Earth which now allows us to explore underwater (National Geographic News article).

Zip forward again to 2014, where the scientific and educational information about our oceans continues to expand via Google platforms.  For those of that teach oceanography, we now have the opportunity to have students explore through portals such as:

Mission Blue Explore the Ocean Community Map (LINK)

Mission Blue is a global initiative of the Sylvia Earle Alliance, a 501c3 organization, which was formed in response to Sylvia Earle’s 2009 TED Prize wish. Dr. Earle urged people “to use all means at your disposal — films, expeditions, the web, new submarines — to create a campaign to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas; Hope Spots large enough to save and restore the blue heart of the planet.” Currently, the Mission Blue community includes 85+ respected ocean conservation groups and like-minded organizations — from large multinational companies down to individual scientific teams doing important research.

GEBCO World Ocean Bathymetry (LINK)

Bathymetry of the world’s ocean floor in the form of a shaded relief colour map based upon the GEBCO_08 Grid, version 20100927, a global bathymetric grid with 30 arc-second spacing ( Undersea feature names are from the Gazetteer of GEBCO:s Sub-Committee on Undersea Feature Names (SCUFN).

And of course, there is Google Maps – Street View – Oceans (LINK), which gets the viewer on the ocean floor to see everything to coral reefs to a newly-added shipwreck in Bermuda.  I appreciate how all three of these can be viewed in a “maps” view with the option to download as a KML and open in Google Earth.

If you want to keep on top of the new additions to the oceans, you may want to follow the Google Ocean Program on Google+.  Now, it is time to grab the wetsuit and start exploring!