Remember when Google first came out with 3D maps on Google Earth? It was amazing to see everything close up when you zoomed in, and everyone was looking for their street to find their house or car. Now Google has taken it a step further to allow you a close-up view of the ocean – underwater.

Google maps goes underwater

 What You Can Do With It

You can get a detailed view of wondrous places like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef or Hanauma Bay off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii. Google Maps provide a panoramic view to give you stunning images of places you may never see otherwise. Plus, you can still use the easy to navigate controls to find your way around. The scenes can be navigated the same way you would the roads on a street map; you can also zoom in and out and toggle to view the entire area.

Divers used a special camera, the SVII, as they swam along the reefs to record footage of 6 locations at this point. Plans are in the works to add more this year and swim to new locations in 2013. To find out where these images are located, you just have to go into Google Maps into street view and move out into the ocean. If you are not zoomed almost all of the way in, you won’t see them. To locate them, look for orange circles in the ocean.

Three of the locations are off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef: Wilson Island, Heron Island, and Lady Elliot Island. Besides Hanauma Bay in Hawaii, you can also see the Molokini crater, while Apo Island in the Philippines also provides stunning views.

The Benefits

The ocean has largely been an undiscovered place on Earth that few people had ever seen and most people never really understand. Google Maps is giving users a chance to get to know the ocean and see the beauty as it really looks.  Kids in school can do moe than just read about it; with Google Maps, they can see the ocean, which will make learning more fun.

It might rub a little salt in Apple’s wound with the serious problems it is facing since it decided to drop Google Maps for its own application. While it’s working out its system, Google is exploring new worlds.

[Image via Google]