The National Marine Sanctuary System protects more than 600,000 square miles of the oceans and the Great Lakes, and now the group has shared four virtual tours of sanctuary sites.
The program, called Sanctuaries 360°, was released last week to celebrate World Oceans Month. Virtual reality tours give landlubbers a glimpse into the protected waters off the coast of southern California, Hawaii, the Florida Keys and Michigan. The clips are all about three to four minutes long, and can be watched with a virtual reality headset, on a computer or a mobile device. In each video, a narrator describes the view, directing your attention to the wildlife and unique scenery.
On a computer, you can explore your virtual surroundings with the arrows in the top left corner of the screen, use the arrow keys on your keyboard, or click and drag the video in the direction you want to look. And on a mobile device, be sure to open the video in the YouTube mobile application for the full experience. There, you can look around by moving your device or by pressing and dragging your finger across the screen in the direction you want to look.
Channel Islands Sea Lion
In this 360 degree video, drift through a kelp forest while a playful sea lion swims circles around a small group of divers. The video tour takes you under a natural arch off the coast of Santa Barbara island that was formed over millions of years. You need to move quickly to keep an eye on the sea lion. Meanwhile, the narrator directs viewers to appreciate the bright orange garibaldi, California’s state marine fish, swimming above red sea fans, red and black urchins, and orange cup corals.
Hawaii’s Sharks, Turtles and Whales
This dive highlights the importance of sea turtles, sharks and whales in native Hawaiian culture. During the dive, sea turtles—honu in Hawaiian—relax, swim nearby and enjoy a visit to butterfly fish and other reef fish that eat the algae off of their shells. White-tipped reef sharks frequently swim below the divers. As the video explains, sharks are crucial apex predators on coral reefs.
D.M. Wilson Shipwreck in Lake Huron
The National Marine Sanctuary System isn’t limited to the ocean. In this tour, divers swim through the shipwreck of the D.M. Wilson, a freighter that sunk in Lake Huron’s “shipwreck alley” in 1894 while carrying coal to Milwaukee. The ship sprung a leak and sank just north of Thunder Bay Island. No lives were lost, and parts of the ship from several timbers to the anchor-hoisting windlass remain preserved under the Great Lake.
Coral Restoration in Florida
Coral reefs in the Florida Keys face many challenges, including from disease, human activity and climate change. In this video, join a group of divers who aim to help reefs recover by carefully growing resilient coral in sun-filled underwater nurseries. When the corals are six to nine months old, divers transplant them to wild reefs. The video emphasizes that these activities should only be performed with permits. But when diverse, healthy corals are brought to recovering reefs, they can spur lasting new growth.