After having already surveyed ancient ruins and Arctic villages, Google's Street View team has now expanded their reach to the world's oceans. This week, the company added its first underwater panoramic images to Google Maps, giving users an intimate glimpse at coral reefs along the coasts of Australia, Hawaii, and the Philippines.

Google gathered its underwater imagery as part of an ongoing collaboration with the Catlin Seaview Survey, a research initiative devoted to studying the world's coral reefs. The team of marine biologists collected their 360-degree photographs of the Great Barrier Reef with an SVII underwater camera equipped with three wide-angle lenses. The camera took one 24-megapixel photograph with each lens every four seconds, with the rig moving along at about two miles per hour. The resulting images of sea turtles, exotic fish, and other wildlife are now available for viewing here.

In addition to the Great Barrier Reef, Google has photographed Hanauma Bay and Molokini Crater in Hawaii, as well as reefs off Apo Island in the Philippines. The company also plans to add underwater images from the waters around Bermuda, and hopes that its latest initiative could pay dividends for scientists and web users, alike.

"It's about creating a global reef record - something that has been missing and something that is very much needed. We simply don't have historical records to monitor change on a broad scale," project director Richard Vevers told the BBC. "Scientists from around the world will now be able to study reefs remotely and very clearly see how they are changing."