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Google Oceans (waves and beaches)

February 03 2009 | Jim's Blog,
by Jim

I was up at Google yesterday for the launch of Google Earth 5.0.

The application is groundbreaking and very worthy of your time and curiosity.

Surfrider Foundation was one of the partners involved the launch, having provided a small amount of input into the grand vision behind Google Earth. Specifically, we participated in some of the dialog behind the ocean portion of this endeavor.

The back story to this recent release is worth sharing. Approximately three years ago two people were on a conference panel together: Sylvia Earle and John Hanke. Sylvia Earle is one of the most renowned ocean explorers of our times, and an Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic. John is the founder of Keyhole, which later became Google Earth. As was shared yesterday... John gave a presentation and Sylvia was next up.  She marveled at what Google had accomplished with this technology and how it gives people a vehicle to better understand our world... but that perhaps he should have called it "Google Dirt" rather than "Google Earth," as it didn't really address the more than 70% of the earth that our oceans make up. John took the comment seriously, and three years later they stood on stage again to unveil the latest version which includes the oceans.

Google Earth is a visualization tool to increase understanding about our planet. It starts out with a view like this.



As you decrease the distance on the right hand slider you get closer to the surface. Words and markers start to materialize. Here is a closer look at the Caribbean.



As you continue to zoom down you see more detail on the land and ocean. More markers and their respective detail also starts to materialize. Below we're seeing the Caicos in detail.



You can delve down to the surface layer of our planet and, in many cases, get still more detail. In New York City you can look at the architecture and urban landscape. Here in the Caicos a person can access interactive features... and see what coral reef spawning looks like.



I strongly encourage you to check out Google Earth, the newest release can be accessed here (it's a download).

As we think about understanding global warming, offshore drilling, beach access, water quality issues, and plastics in our oceans... all these can be mapped on Google Earth. More importantly we can use Google Earth to tell the stories around those areas.

Below is an application we've built on the web-based (no download), Google maps. The idea is simple, where are beaches and what are the characteristics of those beaches? Do they have restrooms, is there parking, are they fee-based, do they have lifeguards, etc.? This is a wiki application which means that it's built by people like you, locals with local knowledge. Check that out here.

Surfrider Foundation exists for the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches. One of the things I've found out since I've been here is that many people don't really understand what is happening with those natural resources. These are simply two more tools that help us engage people and give them an onramp to participate in our mission.

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