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New critter webcam: hot undersea action!

October 20, 2008 |  7:05 pm

Eagleray

Armchair adventurers with high-speed Internet have a new window into the natural world. National Geographic has added an underwater WildCam to its portfolio that includes Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana and others that allow viewers to watch the activities of grizzlies, polar bears and other charismatic megafauna.

The new camera pans the undersea world 66 feet below the surface at Glover's Reef, a World Heritage Site on the barrier reef off the Central American country of Belize. Think of it as one of those video fish tanks, but the fish are real. Web watchers can see wild marine life swim past in real time -- at least during daylight hours. The reef has crystal-clear waters, colorful reef fish and the hypnotic sashaying of sea fans and soft corals.

Glover's Reef is also designated a marine reserve -- a special place to be highlighted by Google's long-anticipated rollout of interactive views of protected areas and other ocean mapping as part of Google Earth.

"Both of these are two new, really cool tools that will make the oceans much more widely accessible," said Jane Lubchenco, a marine ecologist at Oregon State University. The idea is to help people appreciate these special places, she said, so they'll want to preserve them. And in this case, you don't need to get certified for scuba diving or even get wet.

-- Kenneth R. Weiss

Photo: Spotted eagle ray cruising by barrier reef in Belize. Credit: Corey Jaskolski, National Geographic Society

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