26 September 2012 by Luke McCormick
Google has unveiled plans to photograph parts of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.
From today users of the Google Earth application can navigate virtual dives of the World Heritage marine park from the comfort of a desktop computer.
The project to map the reef is part of Caitlin Seaview Survey. Scientists equipped with special underwater cameras will spend the next three years compiling a visual record of the world's reefs that will accessible by users of Google Maps.
Material already gathered and released today explore locations around Heron Island, Lady Elliot Island and Wilson Island, as well as Hawaii's Hanauma Bay and Molokini Crater and the Philippines' Apo Island.
By the end of the year the scientists will have completed surveys on 20 sections of the Great Barrier Reef alone.
Project founder and director Richard Vevers said the images would open up the reef to the world.
"99.95 per cent of people can't scuba dive, it allows so many people to access the oceans for the very first time,'' he said
"We have a team in the Coral Sea at the moment doing three 2km surveys a day.
"It's very much a critical time for reefs and we want to cover as much as we can in the next two to three years to create a global record.''