By James Woodford
At lunchtime on Friday, with the click of a mouse on Google Street View, the entire world will be able to see what lies beneath the surface of 10 of Sydney’s most iconic marine locations.
The Catlin Seaview Survey, a collaboration between an array of global partners including the University of Queensland, Google, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the insurance giant, Catlin, will officially launch public access to the underwater version of Street View in Sydney.
The announcement of this new program will be made at the World Parks Congress, currently taking place in Sydney.
The Sydney locations include Bondi Beach, Manly, Chowder Bay inside Sydney Harbour, Shark Point at Maroubra and North and South Head at the entrance to the Harbour.
Users will simply search for locations on Google Maps and then select a diver symbol, which will take viewers beneath the surface to 360 degree panoramic views of those locations. Those spots can then be navigated in the same way as Street View.
It is a major shift for this Seaview project, which until now has focused on coral reefs.
The Sydney locations follow on from over 150 kilometres of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), across 32 reefs, spread over 2,300 kilometres of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. There are already 110,000 shots in panoramic view along the GBR.
The IUCN’s marine vice chair for the World Commission on Protected Areas, Dan Laffoley, said he had pushed for an underwater view of Sydney’s marine environment to coincide with the World Parks Congress to highlight Australia’s marine environment.
“The challenge we have had,” said Laffoley, “is how do we better protect and manage the ocean if people can’t see it. If you can’t see it, you can’t understand why you should care. We need to do the science in compelling new ways.
“We hope that Australia will come out with some bold decisions and wise solutions to how best to manage marine areas. The time is now and the world is looking to Australia to continue its tradition of leadership.”
Richard Vevers, the project director with the Seaview Survey, said the program being launched at the Congress is the “most comprehensive visual survey that’s ever been conducted of the Harbour”.
He said that Google have wanted to create the ultimate map of Earth but until the Seaview Project 71% of the planet was unavailable to Street View. That is now changing.
UTS marine biologist Professor David Booth welcomed the program and said it could revolutionise the way people viewed the ocean and would perhaps lead to a greater understanding of why marine parks are needed.
“As much as we say what a magnificent harbour we have got, people just think of its surface and what is around its shores,” said Booth.
“They can’t see below. I would like to see these images rolled out more widely so they become a focus for stewardship by local communities and a way of monitoring degradation.”