Okay, "armchair explorers," are you ready to tour the biggest swath of the ocean floor ever mapped? Well now you can thanks to Google Earth and Columbia University.
Based on data collected over 20 years from Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Google Earth allows you to explore half the area of the ocean floor that has ever been mapped. That's roughly 5% of the total area, a segment bigger than North America.
A post on the Lamont-Doherty Observatory site lets us know how they obtained all this data:
The imagery is the result of hundreds of cruises by scientific research vessels from many institutions traveling roughly 3 million miles across the oceans over the past two decades. To create the new maps, the team combined multi-beam sonar measurements into Lamont-Doherty’s Global Multi-Resolution Topography system. This same database feeds the recently released EarthObserver, Lamont’s global scientific mapping application for iPads and other mobile devices. The ocean synthesis was begun in the early 2000s, with funding from the National Science Foundation. It is ongoing, with the team continually adding new data. While most of the data assembled so far has come from U.S. institutions, many foreign institutions hold troves of mapping data, which the team hopes to tap in the future.
Google Earth is truly some awesome technology and this demonstration of its capabilities is impressive, as usual. Google Earth recently let users explore sports stadiums and arenas from around the world. Google Earth currently has data on the Moon, Mars and Constellations as well.
The first video below explores some interesting ocean floor spots, such as the Lamont Seamounts and the Mendocino Ridge, the site of major plate shifts. California State University also provided some data of the Cordell Bank and the Gulf of the Farallones near California. And the University of Hawaii provided synthesis of the Hawaiian Islands.
The "Deep Sea Vents" video combines the new mapping data with info about hydrothermal vents. It also shows the deepest volcanic eruption ever - the Wast Mata volcano off the coast of Fiji.
Enjoy, science geeks!