Coral Reef: Underwater Sample Imagery
Photo: Catlin Seaview Survey

Google's 'Seaview' underwater project will get underway in September 2012. The search engine giant is set to embark on a new adventure project - capturing 360 degree underwater footage of Australia's Great Barrier Reef in partnership with insurance firm Catlin Group and non-profit Underwater Earth.

The exotic project aims at studying the health of flora and fauna underwater that harbours the Great Barrier Reef. The Catlin Seaview survey is a part science and part public project, which enables the general public to relish the underwater beauty comprising amazing views of coral reefs, colourful fish, coral forests, sea snakes, and rare turtles, besides historic sunken ships that could reveal key insights into the untold mysteries of legendary tales such as Titanic.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef: Ocean-life
Photo: Catlin Seaview Survey

When the project does kick off in September, the research engineers have proposed the survey to take off at 20 points, which extends along the 2,300 Km stretch of the Great Barrier Reef. The specialised Catlin Seaview survey camera will be equipped with a depth range of zero to 100 metres and can capture thousands of 360-degree underwater panoramas. In other words, thousands of underwater views would be shot at different angles and then stitched together to give it a 3-D view.

360 Panorama Camera Prototype with Extreme Fish-Eye lens
Photo: Catlin Seaview Survey

The underwater project not only allows the general public to savour the exotic beauty of underwater life forms, but also help scientists to learn more about the health of the reef to better develop programmes and tools for preservation.

"For the first time in history, we have the technology available to broadcast the findings of an 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," said the survey's chief scientist, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg to New Scientist.

Besides, the environment experts are keen on determining how climate change is affecting the Coral Reef life-forms and ecosystems.

The project with potential public interest will rope in official YouTube channel for live web streaming of various underwater survey sites, according to Sky News.

The recorded footage may then be uploaded to online photo-sharing websites such as Panoramio for millions to see worldwide. The complete footage of the survey accounts to roughly 50,000 panoramas, which will be accessible through Google Earth and Google Maps.

Coral Reef: Underwater Sample Imagery
Photo: Catlin Seaview Survey

"Issues with water clarity, low light conditions and light distortion underwater called for a very different camera set-up to Street View. The development of the camera has been carried out independently from Google using underwater photography specialists. The result is a very different panoramic camera," Richard Vevers, founder of Underwater Earth told New Scientist.

Up to four specialised SLR cameras with extreme fish-eye lenses would be integrated into a single unit to provide 360 degree view of the footage captured in panorama mode.

"We are also already looking into a 360-degree panoramic video version of the camera, however due to the extremely high volume of data that this involves, further developments are needed in technology before this information could be made accessible online," says Vevers on New Scientist.

The survey data will also find use in determining the reef damage caused by ship groundings, cyclones, bleachings and pollution events. Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks Authority is keen on monitoring such damage with the surveying equipment.

In the near future, the Catlin research team proposes to serve the public interest by unearthing more information about marine life, coral polyps and other reef structures, besides aiding educational aspect.

Watch the amazing video depicting a glimpse of underwater beauty with Google's Seaview project:


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