Google Ocean is Here!

Google Ocean is here. Sure enough, you can dive down and see bathymetry! I’m still getting used to it, so these are just first impressions from tooling around for 10 minutes:

Looking W along the Vema Fracture Zone

Looking W along the Vema Fracture Zone

It sure is spooky down here. The lighting is obviously unrealistic, which is good (you wouldn’t be able to see this at all if you were in Alvin!). Cool effect with the waves on top.. though the wavelengths would also have to be unrealistic for them to look like this so far away – kind of gives you the impression that the ocean is smaller than it is. The bathymetry is blocky, which illustrates our lack of knowledge of the ocean floor, even in places where people have done a lot of surveys.

Looking up Monterey Canyon

Looking up Monterey Canyon

Placemarks, people? There are very few location labels, etc. visible below the ocean surface, which makes it hard to navigate. Obviously, placemarks are few and far between, since the layers were just rolled out. Here’s hoping that users will develop some good ones. And how do you turn off those damn fake waves? I’d love to replace them with temperature or surafce wave data, drape a bottom sediment type map over this bathymetry, put some water column chemistry or plankton profiles in as placemarks… this could be really cool! Also, this area has even better-surveyed bathymetry than the VFZ… and it’s still blocky compared to the land topography. Just goes to show you.

Monterey Bay from above

Monterey Bay from above

French Polynesia

French Polynesia

Layers with a conservation theme. Much of the material in the default layers has a conservation theme, which makes sense with Google’s push for socially responsible uses of Earth. Given the conservation focus, it might make sense to port Bonnie’s and my marine protected area simulation (to be published any minute now in TIEE) to Google Earth. There are a few science-themed layers (SST, buoy observations) along with expeditions (which?), shipwrecks, and water sports. There could be a lot more science here, but I guess that’s up to us scientists!

A few issues: My placemark images don’t work. Might just be me – I still need to restart. Also, clicking on some placemarks automatically zooms out and to their antipode! For example, clicking on Palmyra Atoll zooms out to… the middle of Africa. Presumably this is to show an overview of marine conservation areas worldwide, but this is confusing. This isn’t Lost – we shouldn’t have to guess where we are.