Papahanaumokuakea: Marine debris now viewable

January 31st, 2014
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A Hawaiian monk seal basking in the sun, as well as marine debris, can now be viewed on Google Maps. Photo by NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries.

A Hawaiian monk seal basking in the sun can be viewed as part of Google Maps. Photo by NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries.

Alas, now we can see marine debris at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, up close, without setting foot on shore (which you need permission from the government to do).

Google Maps has now captured the first 360-degree panoramic images from five new locations within the marine monument, which are sometimes referred to as the Northwestern Hawaiian islands. The announcement was actually made earlier this month, at the start of the new year.

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You can virtually visit Tern Island and East Island at the French Frigate Shoals, Laysan Island, Lisianski Island and Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

It's the link to Laysan Island that gives you a peek of a Hawaiian monk seal (hello) plus the marine debris, pieces of broken down plastic that you can see scattered along the sand and vegetation. One image captures what looks like a plastic, laundry basket – now how did that get washed ashore of one of the isolated islands on Earth?

You also get a glimpse of birds, mostly on the Tern Island link, and a Hawaiian sea turtle at the Pearl and Hermes Atoll link.

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