Top 5 Ways to Pimp your Google Earth

by Peter Etnoyer


There’s a lot of anticipation surrounding the Google Ocean project, but so far, we’re all still waiting. Meanwhile, applications are bubbling up through the blogosphere like methane though a cold seep. Ogle Earth and Just Magic have great summaries of available data.

Here, I list the Top Five Ways to Pimp your Google Earth so you can make your digital cyber-globe the deepest ride on the block in a snap.

Five hot new deep-sea interfaces are available in Google Earth (GE) format (a .kml or .kmz file) to pimp your ride in Google’s oceans, including shipwrecks, Alvin submersible dives, and seafloor images. Two other cool web-based applications are also ripe for assimilation, but not yet ready for prime time. Many scientific institutions haven’t made the transition to GE. But those that have are making a beautiful difference.

Google Ocean Apps (.kmz files):

1. Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
– National Geographic leaps forward into the Age of Digital Geography. This awesome .kmz file combines maps, videos, narrative, and
commentary by world class photographer Davie Doubilet into a revolutionary interactive online map on Google Earth. I’ll bet it looks good on an Android cell phone. But will I ever know?

2. Geographic names
– This is a must have accessory. A fundamental neccessity. Thanks
to General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans at BODC, you can now put your finger on the D’Artagnon Canyon (not kidding) and the Mathematician
Seamounts (Euclid, Pascal, and Laplace). Dates go wild for this stuff.

3. Next, you can use Alvin submersible dives to illustrate your next deep-sea mission. The .kml file will let you
pinpoint each of nearly 5000 deep-sea dives around the world. Very sophisticated. This and
other files are hosted by digital Mecca MGDS. You can explore.

4. Georeferenced seafloor images will help to bring those coordinates to life with exciting shots of crinoids, sea stars, and giant isopods, among others, from the Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory collection.

5. Shipwrecks – To wrap it up the top reason to pimp your Google Ocean has got to be the doubloons, baby. The doubloons. We’re not talkin’ Benjamins. We’re talking
sunken treasure. Look for gold among 1000+ European shipwrecks off the coast of France in the hot-links over at Just Magic. Its just sitting there waiting for you.

But that’s not all.

Hot stuff not ready to Google (not .kmz files):

1. Seamount Catalog
If there was ever a Google Ocean match made in heaven it would be the GEBCO
underwater place names file and the Seamount Catalog over at the
Seamount Biogeosciences Network. But alas, SBN is not ready to shake hands with Google Earth. Might
even be a step down for this cutting-edge geophysical data network…

2. Japanese Deep Seafloor Image Database
-Japanese science agency JAMSTEC maintains a photodatabase of
more than 250,000 from the Shinkai, Dolphin 3k, and Kaiko submersibles. But its not georeferenced. What’s up with that? C’mon JAMSTEC, what are you waiting for? Pimp my ride.

Image above from Seamount Catalog at

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