Investigate America’s Stunning Marine Sanctuaries Without Getting Wet

The United States is home to many underwater gems: the haunting shipwrecks of Thunder Bay, the colorful corals of Gray’s Reef, the barnacle-covered statue of Christ in the Florida Keys.

For most Americans, however, these sights are out of reach. Though half of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of a coast, merely a tiny fraction — fewer than 5 percent, according to some industry estimations — actively dive or snorkel.

But thanks to an online project spearheaded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, everyone can now experience these underwater wonders in vivid detail. Diving knowledge isn’t required and you won’t even get wet; all you need is a smartphone, tablet or computer.

The Ocean Agency/ XL Catlin Seaview Survey The “Christ of the Abyss” statue is located in the Key Largo Dry Docks Sanctuary Preservation Area of Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. In addition to attracting numerous invertebrates that have attached to its surface, giving it a colorful living texture, this nine-foot bronze statue is a popular destination for snorkelers and divers.

The Virtual Dive Gallery, launched earlier this month, allows users to explore U.S. national marine sanctuaries online. There are currently 360 -degree, virtual reality images of five sanctuaries available: the ship graveyard of Thunder Bay in Lake Huron, the Florida Keys, Gray’s Reef in Georgia, Flower Garden Banks in the Gulf of Mexico, and the coral reefs around American Samoa. A virtual reality headset isn’t necessary to enjoy the images, but induces the experience all the more true to life.

” We can put a window to the ocean in the palm of someone’s hand and let them explore the underwater world and national marine sanctuaries through that window ,” Mitchell Tartt, chief of the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries’ Conservation Science Division, told The Verge this week of the VR gallery.

NOAA On Aug. 9, 1865, the steamer Pewabic was headed for Cleveland with a loading of passengers, copper and miscellaneous shipment when it collided with another ship. The force of the collision left a massive hole in Pewabic’s side and the wooden steamer sank in less than four minutes. Many of its passengers went down with the ship, attaining the incident one of the most tragic loss in Great Lakes maritime history. The shipwreck now rests 165 feet underwater.
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