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NOAA Launches Virtual Tours of America’s Marine Sanctuaries

NOAA just made it a lot easier to explore their national marine sanctuaries without obtaining a scuba license. This month, the administration unveiled a virtual dives gallery that allows anyone with a web connection to tour some of the most impressive underwater sites in U.S. jurisdiction.

The online tool showcases the waters of five locations. Users can examine sights that include Tafeu Cove off America Samoa, the barrel sponges of Flower Garden Banks, the coral colonies of Gray’s Reef, the Christ of the Abyss statue off the Florida Keys, and the shipwrecks at the bed of Thunder Bay in Lake Huron.

Diver photographs Christ of the Abyss statue in Key Largo.
Sebastian Carlosena, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Fish and coral at Gray's Reef.
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The 360-degree scenes were stitched together from photos captured by professional divers, and can be viewed with or without VR headsets. "Shooting these images is all about balance," Phil Hartmeyer, a maritime archaeologist at Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, said in a statement. "Each virtual dive you see is the result of the camera's settings, diver positioning, and subject framing all being in perfect equilibrium."

NOAA plans to continue building the dives gallery, eventually adding photography from the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale, Monterey Bay, Stellwagen Bank, Channel Islands, and Olympic Coast marine sanctuaries, as well as the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National, to the collection.

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Even in Real Time, the Northern Lights Look Like a Beautiful Timelapse Video
iStock
iStock

Nothing compares to seeing the Northern Lights in person, but this video shared by The Kid Should See This is a pretty decent substitute. Though it may look like a timelapse, the footage hasn’t been altered or sped up at all. The undulating green lights you see below are what the aurora borealis looks like in real time.

Astro-photographer Kwon O Chul captured the footage of the meteorological phenomenon in Canada’s Northwest Territories in March 2013. The setting, the Aurora Village in Yellowknife, is a popular destination for tourists coming to see the Northern Lights up close. In the video, you can see how the camp’s glowing teepees complement the colorful ribbon of lights above.

Even if you plan your Northern Lights sightseeing trip perfectly, it’s impossible to guarantee that you’ll get a clear view of the aurora borealis on any given night, since factors like solar activity and weather conditions affect the light show’s visibility. But if you want to know what to expect when the lights are at their peak, take a look at the clip below.

You can check out more of Kwon O Chul's photography on Facebook.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

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Animals
Watch Christmas Island’s Annual Crab Migration on Google Street View
Google
Google

Every year, the 45 million or so red crabs on the remote Australian territory of Christmas Island migrate en masse from their forest burrows down to the ocean to mate, and so the female crabs can release their eggs into the sea to hatch. The migration starts during the fall, and the number of crabs on the beach often peaks in December. This year, you don’t have to be on Christmas Island to witness the spectacular crustacean event, as New Atlas reports. You can see it on Google Street View.

Watching the sheer density of crabs scuttling across roads, boardwalks, and beaches is a rare visual treat. According to the Google blog, this year’s crabtacular finale is forecasted for December 16, and Parks Australia crab expert Alasdair Grigg will be there with the Street View Trekker to capture it. That is likely to be the day when crab populations on the beaches will be at their peak, giving you the best view of the action.

Crabs scuttle across the forest floor while a man with a Google Street View Trekker walks behind them.
Google

Google Street View is already a repository for a number of armchair travel experiences. You can digitally explore remote locations in Antarctica, recreations of ancient cities, and even the International Space Station. You can essentially see the whole world without ever logging off your computer.

Sadly, because Street View isn’t live, you won’t be able to see the migration as it happens. The image collection won’t be available until sometime in early 2018. But it’ll be worth the wait, we promise. For a sneak preview, watch Parks Australia’s video of the 2012 event here.

[h/t New Atlas]

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