Travel Tuesdays Takes a Vicarious Dip!

Those of you who regularly consult a certain red-green-yellow-blue modern oracle may already have heard:Scuba diver Google just released undersea Street View for a few of the world’s greatest dive sites.

I don’t know about you, but when I heard this last week, I started clapping like a trained seal who values the promise of an anchovy reward head and shoulders above her dignity.

I should explain that I grew up professing to anyone who would listen my designs on marine biologist-hood. My distaste for dissection and terror of lampreys (evil, revoltingly sinuous soul-sucking doomfish, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) caught up to me at age fourteen or so, but I remain a sea creature devotee. And while the nearest body of water with appreciable saline content, the Long Island Sound, is lovely, you’re unlikely on most days to see anything more interesting than a fiddler crab colony there. (Not that I’m knocking fiddler crab colonies! If you’ve ever watched one in full swing, you know that they feature grand drama, high-speed chases, and edge-of-your-seat claw duels.)

In any case, I do a lot of vicarious diving. The BBC’s breathtaking Blue Planet series is second to none in that regard, even if someone on their sound design team did decide that the eldritch denizens of the ocean’s blackest reaches should make 8-bit videogame noises when they move. But while Blue Planet makes up in cinematography and Sir David Attenborough’s voice what it lacks in interactivity, there’s something to be said for the feeling of exploration. So I’m happy to report that Google’s underwater photography delivers admirably on that score.

You can’t “swim” in three dimensions, exactly. (Which I suppose I don’t mind, as there’s some black-hole-related evidence that reality is two-dimensional anyway . . . but I digress.) You’re limited to an underwater “path” along which you can travel back and forth. But you can look in any direction from any point along that path, as well as zoom in as you please, and this is where things get cool. Google picked places teeming with life, and because the interactive environments are photographs rather than static models, things flit in and out of view with each change of panorama. A few of the undersea vignettes follow specific animals—a manta ray, a sea turtle—but all feature the bustle of reef life, stilled and scattered across each shot. You can zoom in as far as the imagery will allow and scan coral crannies for surprises, or take a wider view and gaze up at fish silhouetted against the sea’s glowing surface.

Fish schooling at MolokiniIf you can’t make it to the Great Barrier Reef (or harbor understandable concerns about irukandji jellyfish and the bazillion other Australian creatures possibly invented for the sole purpose of being really scary), Google’s undersea photography provides a thrilling glimpse. Other locations include Molokini, the crescent-shaped remnant of a submerged volcano’s rim off the coast of Maui, which earned a place on my bucket list when I read about it while working on our Little Black Book of Maui and Kaua’i app. (For an interview with Joanne Miller, author of the book and app, see here.) Because if “coral reef sloping from the collapsed crown of an extinct volcano” doesn’t interest me, check for a pulse. In fact, if I start swimming now . . .

I think it's only fair to leave you with the famous Great Barrier Reef photobombing potato cod:

Photo Credits:

First photo: © Shutterstock.com / littlesam

Second photo: © Shutterstock.com / Cuson

Third photo: © Shutterstock.com / Krzysztof Odziomek

Fourth photo: © Shutterstock.com / Greg Amptman's Undersea Discoveries

Fifth photo: © Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com

Sixth photo: © Shutterstock.com / Regien Paassen