Google Maps dives underwater for panoramic ocean views

Users can feel like ocean divers, trailing sea turtles and exploring a coral reef

Want to follow a sea turtle swimming amid a school of fish near the Great Barrier Reef? Now you can get a sense of it without getting your feet wet.

Google on Tuesday announced that the company has added its first underwater panoramic images to Google Maps. The service now offers 360-degree views of what are generally considered to be six of the world's most beautiful underwater vistas, including Apo Island in the Philippines and the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

The new panoramic underwater views are accessible in the Street View feature of Google Maps.

"With these vibrant and stunning photos you don't have to be a scuba diver -- or even know how to swim -- to explore and experience six of the ocean's most incredible living coral reefs," wrote Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps and Earth, in a blog post. "Now, anyone can become the next virtual Jacques Cousteau and dive with sea turtles, fish and manta rays in Australia, the Philippines and Hawaii."

McClendon said Google teamed up with the Catlin Seaview Survey, program based in Australia that is exploring the world's ocean reefs.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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