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Catlin backs Great Barrier Reef survey

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Bermuda-based re/insurer Catlin is partnering with Google to back a pioneering ocean survey that aims to document the health of corals in the Great Barrier Reef and capture underwater vistas that will be shared online.

The Catlin Seaview Survey was officially launched at the World Oceans Summit in Singapore earlier today. A special camera will capture thousands of 360-degree underwater panoramas, some from as deep as 300 feet. When stitched together, the images will allow people to choose a location, dip underwater and go for a virtual dive at all of the locations visited by the expedition.

Google is collaborating with the survey and is working on a new feature on Panoramio (which links photos to locations), so that the 360-degree panorama images can be uploaded and made available to millions of people worldwide. This will eventually mean that roughly 50,000 panoramas from the Survey will be accessible on Google Earth and Google Maps.

The project will also have a dedicated YouTube channel and the ability to broadcast Hangouts on air, which allows people to watch live streams of the expedition team from the ocean floor.

“We are sponsoring the Catlin Seaview Survey so that experts obtain objective scientific data they require to make more reliable conclusions about the impact of climate and environmental changes on our oceans and our planet as a whole,” said Stephen Catlin, founder and CEO of Catlin Group Ltd.

“The results will be broadcast on a scale never attempted before, so it is an exciting time for science. We’re proud to be part of the team leading this pioneering project.

“As an insurer, Catlin offers our clients protection against many types of risks, so it is natural that we should lead the way in sponsoring research to discover the risks of tomorrow.”

It’s not the first time Catlin has sponsored a project focused on the environment. The Catlin Arctic Survey studied the health of the northern polar region over the past three years.

Chief scientist for the project, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the Global Change institute at The University of Queensland, said that the scientific data gathered during the project will strengthen the understanding about how climate change and other environmental changes are likely to affect ocean ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef.

He stressed that the visual nature of the project will also help bridge the gap between scientific knowledge and public awareness. “The Catlin Seaview Survey comprises a series of studies which will reveal to the public one of the last frontiers on Earth: the oceans,” he said.

“For the first time in history, we have the technology available to broadcast the findings and expedition through Google. Millions of people will be able to experience the life, the science and the magic that exists under the surface of our oceans. This project is very exciting.”

The survey will study corals, fish and many other organisms at 20 sites across the entire length of the 2,300km Great Barrier Reef, off Australia’s Queensland coast.

A total of 50 animals will be tracked with satellite tags that continuously monitor their geographic position, temperature and depth. This data can then be compared against oceanographic data to get a better understanding of the animal’s behaviour and migrational responses to the warming of the oceans.

Expedition: A diver with the Catlin Seaview Survey 360-degree camera
Expedition: The view from the Catlin Seaview Survey 360-degree camera

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Published February 23, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 23, 2012 at 8:07 am)

Catlin backs Great Barrier Reef survey

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