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Video: Explore the sea floor with Google Earth

Video: Explore the sea floor with Google Earth

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Go where no human has gone, to a place less well mapped than the moon: the ocean floor.

Most of us know what the surface of the moon looks like, but would be hard-pressed to conjure a ready image of the sea floor. Well, now you can explore it in greater detail than ever before on Google Earth.

In honor of World Oceans Day on June 8th, Google Earth and Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory teamed up to double the amount of ocean floor you can see from your computer. This means you can now explore the topography of an underwater area larger than North America.

But the ocean is so vast that this still represents only 5% of the entire sea floor.

Exploring the ocean floor this way, you can see volcanic ridges, lofty peaks, wide plains and deep valleys and known underwater wonders such as the Hudson Canyon off New York City, the Wini Seamount near Hawaii and the 10,000-foot-high Mendocino Ridge off the West Coast.

This new video by Google offers a tour.

The improved imagery compiles the sonar measurements from hundreds of scientific research cruises traveling three million miles over the past 20 years. The vessels came from institutions such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of Hawaii, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and of course, Columbia.

While Google Earth had already featured some of the sea floor, this new project sharpens the resolution from 1 kilometer square to 100 meters square. Users can also select "ground level view" to get a closer look, as in this photo of the Kane Fracture Zone in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge:

If you're interested in even greater detail, you can download this plug-in, the Columbia Ocean Terrain Synthesis.

Photos: Lamont-Doherty/GMRT

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Laura Shin

Features Editor

Laura Shin has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times, and is currently a contributor at Forbes. Previously, she worked at Newsweek, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and LearnVest. She holds degrees from Stanford University and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure