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Google Earth dives under the sea

Google Earth dives under the sea

Google has lifted the lid on its first major upgrade to its global mapping software, Google Earth.

Google Ocean expands this map to include large swathes of the ocean floor and abyssal plain.

Users can dive beneath a dynamic water surface to explore the 3D sea floor terrain.

The map also includes 20 content layers, containing information from the world's leading scientists, researchers, and ocean explorers.

Al Gore was at the launch event in San Francisco which, Google hopes, will take its mapping software a step closer to total coverage of the entire globe.

You can dive into the world's ocean that covers almost three-quarters of the planet

Al Gore

In a statement, Mr Gore said that the update would make Google Earth a "magical experience".

"You can not only zoom into whatever part of our planet's surface you wish to examine in closer detail, you can now dive into the world's ocean that covers almost three-quarters of the planet and discover new wonders that had not been accessible in previous versions."

Approximately 70% of the world's surface is covered by water, which contains nearly 80% of all life - yet less than 5% of it has actually been explored.

Google Ocean aims to let users visit some of the more interesting locations, including underwater volcanoes, as well as running videos on marine life, shipwrecks and clips of favourite surf and dive spots.

Conservation organisations hope the tool will improve awareness of issues facing undersea life.

"With this, everybody can see the unbelievable beauty of our marine life and how incredibly threatened it is," said Carl Gustaf Lundin, head of the global marine programme at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"We hope this major technological innovation will get the public more involved in marine conservation and encourage governments and businesses to stop driving ocean species to extinction."

Coloured worlds

The new features were developed in close collaboration with oceanographer Sylvia Earle and an advisory council of more than 25 ocean advocates and scientists.

Sylvia Earle, the National Geographic Society's explorer in residence, said the new features would bring the blue planet to life.

"I cannot imagine a more effective way to inspire awareness and caring for the blue heart of the planet than the new ocean in Google Earth.

"For the first time, everyone from curious kids to serious researchers can see the world, the whole world, with new eyes," she added.

There are also updates on the terrestrial side, including GPS tracking, virtual time travel (where users can observe changes in satellite images, such as the 2006 World Cup stadium or the desertification of Africa's Lake Chad) and narrated tours of imagery and content in Google Earth.

There are also updates to the Mars 3D section, so if users have had enough of the blue planet, they can always look at the red one.

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