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Take a virtual scuba dive of the most beautiful marine sanctuaries

National Marine Sanctuaries photo of dive
These virtual dives give people 'an immersive 360 view' of 'the amazing habitats, animals, and cultural resources' in several nationally protected marine ecosystems.

There comes a time in every coronavirus (COVID-19) quarantiner’s life when they discover that they can no longer scroll through Tiger King memes or consider baking sourdough bread. And when that time comes, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Virtual Dives feature is here to remind you that there still is, in fact, a world beyond your phone—even if you have to use your phone to get there right now (and even if “getting there” requires some imagination). We’re all trying our best!

The NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries first launched its virtual scuba dives in 2017.

Right now, you can take a video dive with the sea lions living in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, or virtually explore 360-degree, interactive tableaus of the national sanctuaries in the Florida Keys, American Samoa, Flower Garden Banks, Gray’s Reef, Monterey Bay, the Olympic Coast, Stellwagen Bank, and Thunder Bay.

Each habitat offers a handful of explorations of some of their most notable attractions. There’s the Metridium wall off of Tatoosh Island in Washington, tunicates in Monterey Bay, and the barrel sponge in Flower Garden Bank #2. (Also, isn’t it amazing that you can now know what a Metridium wall, tunicates, and a barrel sponge are?)

You can also see, firsthand, the devastating effects that climate change has wrought on many of these habitats, like the coral bleaching in Flower Garden Banks and American Samoa. Or roam around the exquisitely terrifying shipwrecks in Thunder Bay, the Florida Keys, and Stellwagen Bank. This thing called “Christ of the Abyss” will haunt our dreams for the absolute rest of our lives.

Here’s how you can get to virtual scuba diving: Just use your smartphone or computer to view the videos on the National Marine Sanctuaries website. If you have a virtual reality headset or goggles, you can join an extra-immersive experience, but neither is necessary. Make sure you click on a panorama to get a full 360-degree view of your marine world.

Happy exploring!

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