London: Now, explore the world of beautiful reefs at a click of a button as Google has added the corals to their maps for the first time.
Panoramic images of several coral reefs have been added to Google's Street View service in its maps, allowing users to navigate their way around the sites.
Australia's Great Barrier Reef near Heron Island, Lady Elliot Island and Wilson Island, as well as Hawaii's Hanauma Bay and Molokini Crater and the Philippines Apo Island are among the locations added to the service.
The material was gathered by the Catlin Seaview Survey - a project studying the health of the reefs, including the impact of global warming, the 'BBC News' reported.
The effort would help scientists analyse ecosystems and raise general awareness, the programme's director said.
It could also be a publicity coup for Google at a time of growing competition, the report said.
Google has previously offered computer-generated views of the sea floor terrain, but this is the first time it has incorporated underwater photographs into its mapping product.
"We want to be a comprehensive source for imagery that lets anyone explore anywhere," Jenifer Foulkes, Google's ocean programme manager, said.
"This is just the next step to take users underwater and give them the experience of an area that most people have been to - seeing sea turtles, seeing manta rays, crazy pencil urchins and beautiful fish," Foulkes said.
While Google's engineers provided technical support to the project, the actual photography and stitching together of the images was carried out by a scientists funded by the Catlin Group, a Bermuda-based insurance firm.
They developed a submersible fitted with three wide-angle lenses designed to take high resolution images in low light conditions.
The equipment took a 24-megapixel photograph from each lens once every four seconds to provide 360-degree views, as the rig moved over the reef at about 2-3km/h.
First Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012, 16:41