Google Earth, Google Ocean: mysteries of the seafloor are mapped for the first time

• Program expanded to take in vast, unknown depths
• Data will add to awareness of climate change says firm

Since Google Earth launched in 2006 ­millions of people have used its virtual globe to "travel" around the planet without leaving home, climbing a digital version of Mount Everest and even flying into space thanks to the website.

Now the internet company plans to take on one of the last bastions of the unknown: the depths of the ocean.

At a high-profile event in San Francisco, Google is expected to announce the addition of vast amounts of underwater imagery and seabed maps to the Google Earth project.

The move will take Google Earth closer to its aim of creating a complete digital representation of the planet.

The existing site, to which an estimated 400 million people have had access, already includes three-dimensional representations of large cities around the world and includes images from street-level and aerial photo­graphy covering thousands of miles across Britain and elsewhere.

The new additions to the website are expected to include views of the ocean, and portions of the seabed. They will also ­provide detailed environmental data that will enhance information about the effect of climate change on the world's seas and oceans.

To showcase the transformation, the site's chief executive, Eric Schmidt, will introduce dignitaries including the former US vice president and environmental campaigner Al Gore, and the ­veteran ocean­ographer Sylvia Earle, who is an "explorer-in-residence" at National Geographic.

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