Dive in to explore Mantis Reef, Wishbone Reef, and many other reefs across Asia Pacific

Editors note: This post is the first in a series of guest entries by members of the XL Catlin Seaview Survey team, a group dedicated to recording and revealing the world’s coral reefs in high-resolution, 360-degree panoramic imagery. These posts will take you behind the scenes of the project and introduce you to the people taking these images.

Australia and Asia Pacific is home to some of the world’s top marine biodiversity hotspots. To celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8, we’ve worked with Google to launch our largest ever collection of underwater imagery on Google Maps, featuring 360-degree virtual dives from 20 reefs across the region, including the Philippines, Indonesia, the Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands, Australia and American Samoa.
Come take a closer look at how we carry out these underwater surveys by going behind-the-scenes on our dive at Indonesia’s Bunaken National Park, the heart of the Coral Triangle. Often called the “underwater Amazon,” the Coral Triangle is a 5.7 million square kilometer area that spans from the Philippines in the north, down to Indonesia and as far as the Solomon Islands in the east. This giant triangle is also home to 76% of known coral species and over 3,000 species of fish.
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The SVII camera system surveys the remarkable reefscapes of the Coral Triangle (c) Catlin Seaview Survey
Every dive begins with getting our divers rigged up and the 60kg camera off our research boat Makarena and into the water. The SVII is a revolutionary camera system that creates high-resolution 360-degree images of the underwater environment using technology similar to Google Street View. By attaching SVII to an underwater scooter, we can cover distances of up to two kilometers in a single dive, taking about 3,000 images each time. We’ve also added instruments to this camera set-up, including a depth transponder (altimeter) so that we can read the altitude of the camera from the sea floor, which allows us to gather standardized scientific information at a volume and scale which was previously unattainable to the marine science community. Untitled:Users:ben:Desktop:Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 8.48.26 AM.png
Deploying the SVII camera in the waters off Manado (c) Catlin Seaview Survey
We’ve seen large schools with hundreds of reef fish such as butterfly fish (Chaedotontidae spp) or red toothed triggerfish (Odonus niger) cascade down the healthy reef slope. On this particular day, we were lucky enough to be greeted by a dolphin and a free swimming banded sea snake cruising along of one Bunaken Islands’ epic undersea walls.
XL Catlin Seaview divers explore underwater marine life at Bunaken Islands

You can now also explore new locations on the Great Barrier Reef including Mantis Reef and Wishbone Reef. This new imagery joins other Australian imagery including underwater Sydney Harbour and more Great Barrier Reef imagery.

While we could easily spend all day amongst the depths and colors of the Coral Triangle’s reefs, we try to complete our expeditions as early as possible to get started on downloading and processing the images. We’ll tell you more about the data we gather from these 360-degree photos in upcoming posts, but for now, we hope this new underwater imagery available on the XL Catlin Global Reef Record will give anyone with an Internet connection the ability to immerse themselves in stunning coral reefs like never before.

Posted by Dominic Bryant, XL Catlin Oceans Scholar and PhD Candidate at the Global Change Institute at The University of Queensland