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Google Ocean unveiled

USA: Expanding its Google Earth software, Google has unveiled an aquatic component, Google Ocean that the company said “aims to turn everyone into Jacques Cousteau.” The new feature, rolled out at a news conference at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park attended by famed oceanographers and former Vice President Al Gore, combined satellite imagery, underwater photographs, video and scientific data to allow users to see 3-D images of the ocean floor, along with key features such as the location of ship wrecks and coral reefs.

Marine scientists predicted that the free software will become an important new tool in expanding the public’s understanding of the oceans and the environmental challenges facing them. They also said it would be widely embraced by scientists, who are expected to embed massive amounts of data onto the maps.

“Not just sober scientists but the whole world can use this as a way to know the whole world,” said oceanographer Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. “It took a long time for me to be able to see a turtle underwater, now any little kid can do it,” Earle said.

Google assembled the new software after meeting last year with many of the world’s top marine scientists. The final product, an automatic download with latest version of Google Earth 5.0, also includes 20 massive data sets including photos and video of marine animals, the boundaries of the world’s marine protected areas, dead zones, daily sea surface temperature changes and arctic sea ice.

The primary information to create the images came from the U.S. Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

During the news conference, Gore, a Google board member, talked about his visit to Glacier National Park in the 1990s. While Google Earth images zoomed in on Grinnell Glacier, Gore noted how much it has melted in the past two decades. The new software also features historic information that shows the glacier’s size shrinking since 1991.