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Google 'Street View' Goes Underwater to Map Out Florida Keys [VIDEO]

Aug 14, 2014 11:42 AM EDT

Google's Street View mapping technology is diving underwater off the Florida Keys to provide scientists with 360-degree sights of coral reefs and other underwater wonders.

US government researchers are experimenting with specialized fisheye lenses this week, hoping to apply "street view" mapping techniques to aid in research and management plans in marine sanctuaries across the country.

About 400,000 images have been produced so far of reefs off Australia and in the Caribbean, and now for the first time this technology will be applied to US waters. Some of these panoramic images will be available online this week, including their own section in Google Maps, giving the public a glimpse into marine ecosystems that are normally costly and difficult to explore.

"This allows people who can't get underwater to understand what we mean by putting up a special preservation area around this particular spot," Mitchell Tartt, chief of the conservation science division at the NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, told The Associated Press.

The 143-pound cameras utilize the same technology that's used to produce Google Street View images of neighborhoods around the United States. Only in this case, instead of being parked on a car on dry land, scuba divers will guide these triple-lens cameras with small motors during hour-long dives.

These cameras can capture images over an area up to 20 times larger than what traditional underwater cameras can do, also while recording GPS data.

Researchers believe this detailed underwater street view will point out the successes and failures of past coral restoration efforts, Uncover California reported. Officials say that it may also help scientists in studying the effects of warming ocean temperatures, pollution and hurricanes on reefs in the Florida Keys.

The cameras and training in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary are funded by global insurance company Catlin and Google as a sponsor.

[Credit: Google Maps]

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