Google Earth Dives Deeper, Expands Ocean Feature

Google Earth begins to fill in the blue part of the planet.

April 8, 2010, 10:02 AM

April 8, 2010— -- Google Earth wants you to take a plunge into the planet's oceans.

The search giant's popular mapping tool, which has done an admirable job charting the planet's land masses, announced this week that it's upping its attention on the "blue part."

While it launched Ocean in Google Earth last year, yesterday Google said the ocean layer would be part of the default set of annotations easily accessible to all Google Earth users. That means once you open up Google Earth, all you have to do is navigate over to the oceans and zoom in.

Once you click on one of hundreds of placemarks, a box pops up with video, pictures and text describing the mysteries of the planet's oceans.

"We worked with more than 100 partners to begin to fill in the "blue" part of the planet, adding hundreds of placemarks in more than 20 ocean layers," John Hanke, vice president of product management for Google Geo, wrote Wednesday on the company's official blog. "Today, the layer will become part of the default set of annotations seen by all Earth users."

"Although a humble step given the dearth of information available about these vast expanses of geography, we are happy to take one more step to make the oceans a first-class part of Google Earth and to give them at least a starter portion of the thick soup of photos and places that describe the land part of the planet," he added.

To give the oceans – which comprise about 70 percent of the planet - more of a digital presence online, Google partnered with National Geographic, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

One of its key partners was the Mission Blue Foundation, which aims to create a series of marine protected areas called "Hope Spots." You can visit those areas and others by flying around Google Earth. has gone to the ends of Google Earth (and Maps) to explore some of these sights left behind by Google staffers, artists, Mother Nature and a few pranksters as well.

Here are a few other favorites.

Not content to have become one of the most powerful information sources on this planet, engineers at Google recently conquered the Moon.

To mark the 40th anniversary this year of Apollo 11, Google's engineers partnered with NASA to add a new layer to their popular -- and free -- mapping program, Google Earth.

They inserted a detailed map of the lunar surface, as imaged by U.S. satellites. It becomes especially rich in material at the six sites where U.S. astronauts landed between 1969 and 1972, and where various robotic probes touched down in advance of Apollo.

To use it, one has to download the newest version of Google Earth, found HERE. It is separate from (and more detailed than) the lunar maps already found on the Google Web site; those have been there for about four years.

"I believe that this educational tool is a critical step into the future, a way to both develop the dreams of young people globally, and inspire new audacious goals," wrote Anousheh Ansari, the sponsor of the Ansari X Prize, and the first woman to travel in orbit as a space "tourist," on Google's blog.

"Finally, outer space doesn't seem so far away anymore."

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