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Google Maps goes deep with panoramic underwater maps

As the new Apple Maps app is deep-sixing iPhone users, Google is mapping out a new feature that puts Google Maps in a league of its own. More like 20,000 leagues, actually.

Google has added a set of underwater Street View maps to Google Maps and Google Earth, taking users deep beneath the sea to explore dynamic and navigable panoramic maps of the wonders below sea level. These underwater Google maps are available for six different locations offering some of the world's most notable beautiful coral reefs.

Google announced their new underwater Street View maps in a company blog post Tuesday. This comes just days after Apple's new Maps for iOS 6 has been widely criticized for poor directions and comically inaccurate imagery.

"Today we’re adding the very first underwater panoramic images to Google Maps, the next step in our quest to provide people with the most comprehensive, accurate and usable map of the world," Google Maps VP Brian McClendon wrote in the blog post. "We’re partnering with The Catlin Seaview Survey, a major scientific study of the world’s reefs, to make these amazing images available to millions of people through the Street View feature of Google Maps."

The value of these underwater Google Maps isn't really monetary, as you cannot find a Starbucks or Thai food restaurant along the underwater coral reef of Australia. The value of these maps is their underscoring of Google's light-years-ahead advantages in map and locational applications. Google Maps started including ocean topography in 2009, and is now expanding into providing a photo-realistic look at that ocean topography. Maybe someday they'll photograph the entire ocean floor of the Earth with those Google self-driving cars.

The underwater Street View maps is to be seen as a "collection" rather than an underwater map of the entire planet. There are twelve underwater panoramas available to view. These include Apo Island in the Philippines, Hawaii's Hanauma Bay in Oahu and the Molokini Crater in Maui, and Australia's Heron Island and Wilson Island.

Why would you need maps of underwater places where you'll probably never go? "99% of people have never gone for a dive and never will," Catlin Project director Richard Vevers told BoingBoing. "One of the biggest issues around conservation is engaging people with the ocean, and this is a powerful way to accomplish that. It is a scientific project to create a baseline for observing how the oceans are changing, but it also creates awareness of why that matters."

Plus, it also just helps to remind people that Google Maps is blowing Apple Maps out of the water.