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Google Maps underwater 'Street View' of Galapagos to appear this year

The Google Maps team has been collecting panoramic Street View imagery of the Galapagos Islands, including Underwater Street View photography, and has said that this rich new visual content will be made available on Google Maps later this year.

The unique biodiversity of the islands inspired Charles Darwin to devise his theory of evolution following a visit to the Galapagos aboard the HMSBeagle in 1832. Now administered by Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are threatened by invasive species, Google wrote in a blog post, making the documentation of island wildlife and plant life more important than ever.

The search giant teamed up with the Ecuadorean government, the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), the Galapagos National Parks Directorate (GNPD), and the Catlin Seaview Survey to collect panoramic imagery of the islands, Google said.

Above-ground photography was captured using the Google Street View Trekker. The Catlin Seaview Survey team, which is also partnering with Google Ocean on a years-long project to photograph endangered coral reefs, used the three SVII cameras on its diver-operated, motorised underwater scooter to take panoramic photographs of the coastal shelf.

"Our 10-day adventure in the Galapagos was full of hiking, boating, and diving around the islands (in hot and humid conditions) to capture 360-degree images of the unique wildlife and geological features of the islands with the Trekker," said Raleigh Seamster, project lead for Google Maps.

"We captured imagery from 10 locations that were hand-selected by CDF and GNPD. We walked past giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies, navigated through steep trails and lava fields, and picked our way down the crater of an active volcano called Sierra Negra."

The above-ground and underwater imagery captured during the expedition will be used by CDF, GNPD, the Catlin Sea Survey, and other scientists "to study and preserve the islands' unique biodiversity," Seamster said.

"We truly believe that in order to protect these Galapagos Islands, we must understand them. As they say, 'a picture is worth a thousand words.' We hope this Street View imagery not only advances the important scientific research, but also inspires you to learn more about this special place," he said.