Catlin Seaview Survey to Gather New Scientific Data About the World's Great Coral Reefs

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Street View Feature of Google Maps Enables “Virtual Dive” of Great Barrier Reef

Catlin Seaview Survey Map of Great Barrier Reef

The Global Reef Record is a game-changing tool that scientists around the world will have at their fingertips to monitor change in shallow-reef and deep-reef marine environments.

Millions of people worldwide now can explore the Great Barrier Reef virtually in greater depth and detail than ever before, courtesy of the Catlin Seaview Survey, a scientific expedition to study the great coral reefs of the world

Announced today at the Blue Ocean Film Festival here, the survey is sponsored by Catlin Group Limited, an international property and casualty insurer.

Catlin’s partnership with Google Maps will enable people using the Street View Gallery to observe the reef just as divers do. The scientists on site are using a tablet-operated underwater camera that takes 360-degree, geo-located panoramic video.

The specially-designed SVII camera will record up to 50,000 images which, when stitched together, will allow viewers to choose a location along the Great Barrier Reef and experience a viewer-controlled virtual dive.

The project’s chief scientist, Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg from the Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland, said all the scientific data gathered would be made available in a “Global Reef Record” database, which he described as “a game-changing scientific tool.”

Scientists around the world “will be able to monitor change in marine environments now and in the future,” he said. “Those researching any aspect of the reef will be able to study these shallow and deep reef environments from any of the surveys we conduct.”

Hoegh-Guldberg said potential discoveries about coral reefs are endless, adding, “Information on how these endangered ecosystems are responding to climate change is incredibly important, given that almost 25 percent of marine species live in and around coral reefs.”

Jenifer Austin Foulkes, manager of Google’s Oceans program, added, “We are partnering with the Catlin Seaview Survey to make this amazing imagery available to more than one billion monthly users of Google Maps across the world.

“Together we want to make these special underwater locations as accessible to people as the roads and landmarks they explore in Google Maps each day,” she said.

This special collection of underwater imagery highlights areas in the Great Barrier Reef and several other underwater spots in the Philippines and Hawaii.

Audiences attending the Blue Ocean Film Festival here, and audiences online globally, will be able to experience a live night dive via a Google+ Hangout at 10:30 AM PDT on Sept. 26. Anyone who wants to participate should visit: or [

This special collection of underwater imagery highlights areas in the Great Barrier Reef and several other underwater spots in the Philippines and Hawaii. Please visit Google’s Street View Gallery to explore these unique reef locations: Heron Island - Great Barrier Reef, Lady Elliot Island - Great Barrier Reef, Wilson Island - Great Barrier Reef, Molokini Crater – Maui, Hawaii, Hanauma Bay – Oahu, Hawaii and Apo Island – Philippines.

Catlin Seaview Survey Expedition Facts
The Great Barrier Reef survey and further exploration of the Coral Sea will run through December and encompass 20 separate stretches of coral over a distance of 2,300 kilometers.

These include sections of the reef that never have been studied before. The scientists then will travel to selected survey locations in 2013 including Hawaii, the Philippines and Bermuda.

There are two science components to the Catlin Seaview Survey: a Shallow Reef Survey and a Deep Reef Survey:

  •     Shallow Reef Survey: The Shallow Reef Survey will involve scientists using state-of-the-art digital technology to capture approximately 50,000 360-degree panoramic images of the reef that can be linked to create a virtual dive experience. Each image will be geo-located, with automated technologies for rapidly assessing the amount of coral cover and other life forms from locations at 20 separate coral reefs along the entire length of the Great Barrier Reef. This will provide a broad scale baseline for understanding change on coral reefs.
  •     Deep Reef Survey: Using diving robots and other innovative instrument packages, the Catlin Seaview Survey Team will begin to explore deep water reef systems that are very rarely visited by humans, yet may hold some of the secrets of whether or not coral reefs could survive rapid climate change. Using a combination of HD cameras, deep-diving robots and survey equipment, the deep-water component will provide a comprehensive study of the health composition and biodiversity of the deep-water reefs on the Great Barrier Reef. It will also experimentally assess their susceptibility to increased temperatures and ocean acidification, which are byproducts of a changing climate. It’s entirely probable new species will be discovered in these deeper waters.

About Global Change Institute
The Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland, Australia, in collaboration with private and public sector partners, is an independent source of high-impact, game-changing science. The Global Change Institute seeks to advance scientific discovery and identify solutions for meeting the challenges presented by climate change, population change and technological innovation. The Global Change Institute is the science partner in the Catlin Seaview Survey.

About Catlin
Catlin Group Limited is a global specialty property/casualty insurer and reinsurer, writing more than 30 classes of business. Catlin operates worldwide through six underwriting hubs: London/UK, Bermuda, the United States, Asia Pacific, Europe, and Canada. The Catlin Seaview Survey is the fourth scientific expedition it has sponsored following three Catlin Arctic Surveys investigating environmental changes in the Arctic (2009-2011). Catlin believes that insurers must take a leading role in improving our understanding of potential changes to our environment, changes that could affect how risks are managed in the future. Catlin’s contribution is to sponsor independent, impartial research that is freely distributed to the world’s scientific community.

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Robert McEwen
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