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article imageGoogle Earth update removes 'Atlantis' grid pattern

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By JohnThomas Didymus     Feb 6, 2012 in Technology
Google Earth, in its latest bathymetry update, has removed a gridlike pattern that appeared in the previous version of its Google Ocean program. The pattern had sparked rumors that the legendary underwater city of Atlantis had been discovered.
When in 2009, Google Earth users noticed a large gridlike pattern in Google Ocean's bathymetry imagery of the seafloor that looked like the layout of a great underwater city, rumors spread quickly online that Atlantis had been found. But Google reacted, saying the pattern was not Atlantis but overlapping datasets. According to Fox News, the gridlike structure is a data artifact from the sonar method oceanographers use to map the seafloor. But because the gridlike pattern could not be immediately removed, it remained there for those who wished to believe it was the layout of the city of Atlantis to study.
Fox News explains oceanographers used sonar, or sound waves, that are bounced off the seafloor to give information about the underwater terrain. When several of the data generated are compiled they may overlap, creating the gridlike patterns people mistook for Atlantis.
Google Earth Blog reports Google has announced it is celebrating the third anniversary of Google Earth by releasing an update of Google Ocean with improved imagery of the Earth's seafloor. According to Google Earth Blog, the new update "does quite a lot to help clean up stray artifacts and images visible in the ocean. A great example of that is Guam,...the deepest trench in the world. Another noteworthy change is that 'Atlantis' is now gone. A few years ago some people thought they had found the lost city of Atlantis, but it turned out to simply be sonar tracks from a ship. While that was a reasonable and accurate explanation, the sonar tracks were still pretty ugly on the surface of the ocean. They're now cleaned up as part of this update and the area looks as clear as it should."
Guam trench and the Marianas Trench  the deepest trench in the world
Guam trench and the Marianas Trench, the deepest trench in the world
Google Earth
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The new Google Ocean is, in short, a clearer and more accurate picture of the Earth's underwater terrain. The new imagery, according to Daily Mail, was obtained by "spacecraft measurements of bumps and dips in the ocean surface." According to Fox News, the "program now has 15 percent of its seafloor image taken from shipboard soundings at a 0.6-mile (1 km) resolution. Previous versions took only 10 percent of seafloor imaging from sonar soundings and the rest from extrapolations by scientists using satellite data."
Google created the new bathymetry update in collaboration with Scripps Institute of Oceanography , the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA), the U.S. Navy, MGA and GEBCE. According to David Sandewell, a Scripps geophysicist, "The original version of Google Ocean was a newly developed prototype map that had high resolution but also contained thousands of blunders related to the original archived ship data. UCSD undergraduate students spent the past three years identifying and correcting the blunders as well as adding all the multibeam echosounder data archived at the National Geophysical Data Center in Boulder, Colorado."
Atlantis
Atlantis is a mythical island first mentioned by the Greek philosopher Plato in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias, about 360 BC. According to Plato, Atlantis was a sea power located "in front of the Pillars of Hercules." It conquered much of Western Europe and Africa 9,000 years before the time of Solon, but then it failed in an attempt to conquer Athens, and sank into the ocean, according to Plato, "in a single day and night of misfortune".
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