Google Earth has become a standard tool for TV journalists — who can use it to zoom in from a satellite view of the Earth to global hotspots. It's dramatic TV. But Google Earth has scores of more sophisticated uses for environmental journalists exploring the condition of the nation's landscape.
Now journalists can use it to explore the ocean deeps without wetsuit or submersible. Google Earth has added an oceans layer. Click it on and you can see the areas of the Gulf of Mexico where oil and gas are being drilled ... the new mid-Pacific marine areas that President Bush added as national monuments ... the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden ... or the Marianas Trench — deeper than any human has gone.
Andy Revkin of the New York Times describes the tool, and how it was inspired by oceanographer Sylvia Earle, in a Feb. 2, 2009, piece.
It may be a sign of a new open-information paradigm at Google, which has come under fire for restricting information flow to users in China.
One clue: Google recently quietly depixellated the residence of the Vice President at the Naval Observatory in Washington, DC. Under VP Cheney, Google had blurred the image on Google Earth — presumably at the request of the occupant of that "undisclosed location." Newly installed VP Joe Biden seems to have less to hide.
- "Google Earth Fills Its Watery Gaps,"  New York Times, Feb. 2, 2009, by Andrew C. Revkin.
- Google Earth  (includes free download).
- "Cheney's Veil Lifted on Vice President's Residence,"  Valleywag, Jan. 26, 2009, by Owen Thomas.