There’s plenty of talk about Google Maps and iOS 6 right now, but Google has quite literally submerged itself from that chatter for a moment. The search giant has launched a very cool new feature that brings underwater imagery to Maps, allowing users to go virtual diving to the Great Barrier Reef, the Philippines and Hawaii.

I was pretty impressed when Google brought us 360-degree panoramic images of Antarctica recently and, likewise, the introduction of the underwater maps is one of those moments that the Internet was built for – allowing millions of people get a personal taste of some of the world’s most spectacular sights and places.

The service is still in its early days, and relatively limited in terms of the locations that are supported, but you can gaze at the following aquatic wonders, without getting so much as one splash of water on you:

If that wasn’t enough, this video is sure to ‘wet’ your appetite for underwater adventure:

Rather than develop an amphibious Street View car (which would actually be one of the best things ever) Google took a more logic approach to photographing the world’s oceans, partnering with The Catlin Seaview Survey.

The Survey uses a specially designed camera — the SVII — to bring images of the deep to an office, school, home near you. Here it is encountering a manta ray on the Great Barrier Reef:

sv2 Explore the oceans from your computer as Google Maps goes underwater

While it’s unlikely to replace your vacation — I hope! — the feature might just be a source of inspiration for those that are considering diving holidays or in the market for something a little different.

Hit the link below for more details and, of course, the chance to go exploring.

➤ Google Maps: Ocean

Update: Boing Boing has an interesting, in-depth look at the project, which includes an interview with The Catlin Survey – you can go check that out here.

Follow the latest Google news right now at TNW Google.

Headline image via Flickr / SnorkellingDives.com  others via Google