Authored by Jon Mercer in Internet
Published on 02-06-2009
When the engineers behind Google Earth first set out to make a searchable online replica of the planet, they were unable to complete the project because of the fact that two thirds of the planet are covered in water. On the popular internet program, the parts of the Earth covered in water appear as either blue or blank spots.
At first the programmers of Google Earth built all of their programming from an elevation of zero up, ignoring the oceans altogether. John Hanke, the internet genius behind Google Earth, first invented a simpler program called Keyhole, which was quickly acquired by Google and expanded to become what is now known as Google Earth.
“We had this arbitrary distinction that if it was below sea level it didn’t count,” recalled Hanke. Before they could simulate the creation of oceans, this oversight had to be fixed. According to officials at Google, the new version of Google Earth will be available for free download at earth.google.com this week. In the new and improved version, you can click a function called Touring which lets you create narrated, illustrated tours, on land or above and below the surface of oceans. The feature describes what you are seeing much in the same way as if you were hiking or scuba diving with a guide.
Mr. Hanke has received an award from the National Geographic Society for his work in building the software that led to Google Earth. The Google engineers say that the site remains committed to mapping out all regions of the earth and especially the oceans. The site is also a place where kids and grown-ups alike can explore the planet in a way never before possible; it is considered one of the most remarkable research and learning tools available on the internet.
By choosing among the approximately twenty buttons that hold archives of information, or “layers”, visitors to the Google Earth site can read logs of oceanographic expeditions, see old film clips, and check daily Navy maps of sea temperatures and conditions, just to name a few of the many resources available.
The replicated seas now have detailed topography, which describes the features of both the deep sea and the continental shelves at a given location. Both of these are areas where there has been little quality information available in the past.
But with only five percent of the ocean floor mapped out in any detail, and only one percent of the oceans protected, the executives at Google and marine scientists who helped build the digital oceans are hoping to encourage more public support for marine exploration and conservation.