Google Earth 5 Released – 3D Ocean and More!

[UPDATED] Today Google has released a major new version of Google Earth – Version 5. Clearly this new release merits moving up to the next version number. It contains a wealth of new data and features and has substantial new interface changes. This is exciting stuff!!

First up, there’s been great anticipation about a rumored ‘Google Ocean‘. Well, Google has met the anticipation of new ocean data – but, they’re not releasing a separate product. It’s all in Google Earth 5. First, we now have 3D bathymetry. Those new blue ocean floor magery is not just a 2D relief map – they are now 3D terrain. Move your mouse over the ocean and you’ll see below sea level elevations (negative numbers). But, the real surprise is when you first start flying towards the ocean and tilt your view. You now see an ocean surface! And, if your graphics card is new enough, you see wave motion on the surface.

The real pleasure comes when you fly under sea surface. You can both see the 3D bathymetry and see the surface above you for a real submarine-like experience!

And, there is a huge amount of new ocean related layers. Under the Layer pane in the lower left you’ll see a new “Ocean” layer folder. The folder contains a number of interesting new layers including material from National Geographic, Cousteau Society, BBC, NOAA, and more. There are locations of shipwrecks, tracks for ocean expeditions, GPS tracks of sea animals, and lots of information about the ocean environment. This was significant enough that Al Gore came to make the announcement. More on all of this in future posts. Especially given my interests in the ocean.
Here’s a video I’ve made showing off the new Ocean features:

But, Google Earth 5 brings us more than the huge new ocean data. Here’s a sample of major new features (each item will have its own post here and I will link to each one as I write them):

  • Historical Imagery – turn back the clock on your current view and see older satellite/aerial imagery
  • Recording Tours – An amazing new way to record tours in Google Earth and share the tours through a KML
  • 3D Mars – That’s right, you now have Google Earth, Sky, and Mars options. Mars has 3D terrain and more!

Watch for more posts about all these new features. This stuff is really cool. I’m only just getting started with all the new stuff. Watch for video demos as well.

[UPDATE: You can also have KML files that go under the ocean! This means you can show where cables go under the sea, or put a 3D model of a sunken ship into the ocean. Very cool!]

[UPDATE: Here’s Google’s post about the new ocean data. Also, here’s the Google Earth Ocean web site (with a video narrated by Sylvia Earle of National Geographics). And, here’s a post about the new Google Mars feature in Google Earth 5.]

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.


  1. Eric Moeller says

    If it is true that you now can have negative elevations in KML than I am one happy camper. As a geologist this means I can now create underground maps….
    And its sooo fast (I guess not many folks are using the new servers yet)

  2. And KMZ files with multiple images work on Macs again. It broke on 4.3 for Macs but is up and going again 🙂

  3. The Shipwrecks layer is a big disappointment, with some laughable errors, like the Yamato being sunk in the Marianas trench south of Guam (1,600 miles from where she was actually sunk) and the Bismarck somehow sunk in the Med. These layers are coming from

  4. I’ve been experimenting with the new version — in the hopes that I’ll be able to support “depth” data in GPS Visualizer — but sadly, it seems that negative elevations in KML files still don’t work. You can specify elevations as “relative to the sea floor” or “clamped to sea floor,” and those tracks will indeed be displayed underwater, but that’s really not very helpful for anyone who wants to use a “depth” parameter.
    Assumably in a future version (maybe even the very near future), they’ll interpret “-100” to mean “100 meters deep” — but it’s not happening today. Tracks with negative elevations are showing up on the sea surface.
    (Also, to Eric Moeller: underground maps might not be possible either. You still can’t move your “camera” into the ground.)

  5. well, it is just the first version, they are probably going to work such bugs out in later versions.

  6. I can draw polygons with negative altitude, using
    (used squiggly brackets to avoid being taken as html)
    … they render correctly under teh surface, just that they disappear once you (the camera) dive under.
    (so it looks like there are a few bugs but should be fixed soon)

  7. Barry, I’m not seeing it. I just tried to plot the following two polygons:
    {coordinates}-130,45,-1000 -130.1,45.1,-1000 -130.2,45.2,-1000 -130.1,45.4,-1000 -130,45,-1000 {/coordinates}
    {coordinates}-130,45,0 -130.1,45.1,0 -130.2,45.2,0 -130.1,45.4,0 -130,45,0 {/coordinates}
    That’s two triangles, with identical latitudes and longitudes, one at -1000m and one at 0m. They’re both rendering on the sea surface.
    (By the way, does anyone else find the new “tilt” controls completely unusable?)

  8. I’ve also noticed they improved the touring function, adding (finally!) a collision detector, so all your tours in mountainous areas will play out fine now.

  9. Adam, are you on a Mac?
    It seems there some issues (Stefan on ogleearth reported it too), that cant get underwater easily.
    I just copied your data into a placemark:
    and it works. As I say it shows underwater – but you have to move around quite a bit to see that it is under the surface, the lack of detail make it hard to judge.
    But the major (and acknowledged) bug is it disappears as soon as the view dives underwater, hopefully that will be fixed soon.
    The controls seem to be the same as in 4.3, and drew lots of critism there too, unfortunatly they completely changed the methodoly. I asked for more user-centric control, but unfortunalty didnt like the implementation in the end. Frankly I’ve given up using the onscreen or keyboard contols, the 3D-navigator is much easier.

  10. i have no problems getting underwater with my macbook pro… maybe it’s because the macbook does not have a GFX-card??? only the macbook pro does… the imac has a GFX-card as well…
    the question might be if a macbook was used???

  11. Yes, Barry, I’m on a Mac (MacBook Pro); I guess that’s one part of the problem. (Another part of the problem is that apparently I was putting my “absolute” tag in the wrong place!) I now see what you’re talking about: yes, my two triangles are at different altitudes, but the “waves” are like a holographic illusion and certainly not rendering as if they’re on the surface.
    (As for the controls, I don’t think I ever downloaded GE 4.3, so this uncontrollable swivelly widget is new to me. I do fine using the middle button of my mouse, but with just my laptop’s trackpad, it’s a lost cause.)

  12. The new animated waves are nice enough to look at, but I find them to be a bit of a bother. Does that animation take up processing power? I’m finding it easier to just turn them off by unchecking view/water surface.

  13. I don’t know if it is an error but I can fly underwater. Try the flying mode and dive into the sea. It’s a more comfortable way of exploring the underwater terrain.

  14. Water Surface doesn’t work for me.
    I ticked water surface in view and I ticked Oceans in Layers but ıt didn’t work..
    I removed tick from water surface and anythis didn’t change.
    ticked or none ticked, it always same
    Why it doesn’t work?
    Can you help me?

  15. Little bugs…
    I found some big trenchs in New York’s harbor.
    Here is the location of one of those trenchs :
    lat 40.694884° lon -74.017398°

  16. Wow! This is really cool! I can’t wait to go to the Bahamas. Thanks for the post.

  17. First impressions on Windows XP, surely incomplete.
    The Ocean feature is really awesome. Same for Mars, very very cool. A lot of the new placemarks are pretty unreliable, way incomplete and error-ridden (such as the aforementioned shipwrecks in way wrong locations), but then, they’ve always been.
    The rendering speed has been generally enhanced. Info boxes pop up nearly immediately when clicking on an icon/placemark, much faster than before. Overlay images, especially coming from network links, show up quicker as well.
    The way that placemarks and labels slightly wobble for a second upon activation enhances their useability, they simply are more apparent. Small change but big improvement.
    The Ruler now also shows a “Heading” readout, very nice little feature.
    Clicking an icon on the map jumps to the corresponding layer entry in the sidebar (it used to do that before, but only for custom network links). Worse, it expands the whole subtree to go to that very entry. After a while of using GE, you end up with basically all sidebar trees fully expanded. The sidebar was a terrible mess before already, now it’s near unuseable. Just awful. What I’d much prefer is if I could right-click any icon or placemark in the main view and from there choose to temporarily or permanently hide/disable that whole respective layer. I’m amazed that GE, while being such a mature product otherwise, still has such simple ergonomics issues.
    Drawing order of overlapping image overlays seems to be disregarded. If you have an image overlay “under” another one, then disable the first and reenable it, it is drawn “over” the second.
    There seem to be changes to the rendering and/or graphics driver interfacing that break some things or at least cause glitches. Custom image overlays show me sort of a “funny” edge around them where the outermost pixels seem to replicate to give the overlay an expanded border. If this is supposed to be a new feature of some sort and not a bug, then I haven’t figured it out yet and wish I could turn it off. It makes overlays useless.
    There seem to be issues with icon sizes (noticable e.g. with the USGS “realtime quakes” network link – the quake dots should be different sizes depending on magnitude, but here they all are the what seems to be the maximum size). Something either changed or broke there.
    Something changed with the way HTML is handled. I’ve created a bunch of simple image placemarks for webcams. With “push” cam feeds, these used to animate/refresh as fast as the remote cam/server could handle it. They no longer do that, all I get in any case is a static image in the placemark pop-up.
    Like/Dislike, summing up:
    I like some of the new features, but some the ergonomic changes and new bugs and glitches are so bad that I’m pretty close to installing the previous version again. The new stuff doesn’t warrant dealing with the bad for me.

  18. Another rather unacceptable thing:
    I usually use the standalone download package to install the whole thing, not the 500kb online installer. I haven’t found the full package yet (I hope that option isn’t gone), so this time I used the small installer. After which I found it had installed a “Google Updater” service into XP, auto-starting via the Scheduler and running in the background. I do not appreciate that kind of intrusion at all. If I wanted a foreign app running in the background, as a service even and after messing with the Windows Scheduler, I’d actually choose to have it (or, rather, not). In any case I’d like to be informed of its installation, what it does, and why. This stuff is not going to happen here, period.

  19. Might want to make a note that the terrain layer has to be on to see the water surface and fly under the ocean. Took me a bit to figure that out.

  20. alpca: then your GFX-card is too old/not powerful enough!

  21. Marty Jaynes says

    I had hoped I could see underwater tours of the ocean and sea life for my grandchildren. Very disapointed with the results. Very hard to navigate or use. Glad I only downloaded the free version and didn’t waste my money. Sorry


  23. One area that still needs work are the large freshwater bodies … especially Lake Baikal and the Great Lakes.
    Also you can’t dive under the Great Salt Lake or the Aral Sea or the Dead Sea …
    When will they release Google Lake!! (lol)

  24. I am on Mac (Macbook pro) and nothing happens when I tick the water surface option. Of course I cannot go underwater. My Macbook is less than one year old, I have troubles to think that this is already too old… Was anyone with the same problem able to solve it?

  25. Well I can answer myself and it might be useful for other people. To see the surface and go underwater you need to have the “terrain” layer ticked (last layer on the bottom left of your screen).

  26. My google ocean worked fine when I installed it and now I cannot see under water or ocean animation nor 3D stuff, just statistic images too. And I have an awesome GForce video card with 512 mb.

  27. Not only I can’t get the 3D ocean thing even with a gd vid card now I uninstalled the software n tryied to get it again n it won’t download! :'(

  28. Frederic: yeah, if the terrain box isn’t checked it’s not possible to do above nor below ground 3D stuff.. besides 3D buildings…

  29. Viva Google Earth…..

  30. I am an ocean modeler, and think Google Ocean is great, but many of us need more vertical exaggeration than the present 3X limit of GE. Most oceanographers plot ocean properties (temperature, salinity, phytoplankton, etc.) with a very different aspect ratio than the real world. Looked at from afar, the real ocean is very flat! Hence anyone looking at temperature patterns vs depth across the Pacific (or even across a continental shelf) needs to see the vertical scale exaggerated by a factor of 100 or more. Is there a reason that GE is limited to 3X exaggeration, and can this be increased? It would *vastly* increase its potential for display of ocean data.

  31. Cool technology Google Earth. I just found a new site with a new way of communication with Google Earth:
    What do you think about it?

  32. I can’t see water surface or dive underwater.

  33. NASA’s WorldWind has had planets – not just Mars, but all planets – for years, but GE adds one blurry view of one planet and suddenly it’s world news.
    Then again, WorldWind has always had a more, shall we say, refined target audience.

  34. ernie williams says

    I down loaded earth 5.0. No promts as to what to do

  35. so how do you get into the “fly” mode anyway

  36. Interesting story to post
    Using Google Earth, a Los Angeles-based musician named Nathan Smith thinks he’s found a lost treasure ship that sank somewhere north of Corpus Christi during a hurricane in 1822.,2933,491007,00.html

  37. I have a Garmin Oregon 400T GPS and i want to download tracks from it to Google Earth V5, how can I do it – can anyone help please?

  38. I can’t fly under water either, nor can I see the 3-D buildings in the cities I know have them. I have Terrain layer checked, along with the obvious, 3-D and Ocean. I wish somebody could help!

  39. How do I turn off the water surface temperature application? I want my old blue ocean back so I can see barrier islands and other coastline details..THis is very frustrating

  40. this is the most interesting program that I have seen. I only wish that my dad could have seen this. He passed away three years agor at 93.

  41. Francesco says

    do you think it would be possible to have masks that enable to see how land shape would have been with a sealevel lower than the actual one? I was just trying to sea whether there was some quick alternative to gis for these sort of task. It would be great if you could reply me

  42. .....................-.------------- says

    Please i need help!!!the waves dont move please help i click terreno button and nothing help shi….t!!!

  43. decker decker says

    I have the same concerns as poster Markus and would appreciate a bit more comment… the app running in the background (auto updater and ???). The initial cry of google, “do no harm” has seemed to experience a bit of an integrity slip. Assisting with china and others to block/censor the net and assisting u.s gov’t with same. Add in the control they (google) seek over information (ie: book archive project) is not very becoming to “do no harm”… sometimes I get nervously scared, but then I just eat some gmo grains, gargle with my daily dose of fluoride, eat some steroided chemical injected restained flesh and well… I feel just fine….F.I.N.E….. freaked out. insecure. neurotic. emotional.

  44. Its perfect working for me love it.

  45. I’m another person who would like the “Ocean” feature to apply to lakes. Start with the largest and work down to smaller. I’d like to know what’s under the Great Salt Lake (I live near there.) So many huge lakes around the globe, I realize you can’t include them all but, someday?(would be
    would be nice, great, appreciated.)
    From, ME, one lonely little speck of opinion on this big, blue marble in space – remember?

  46. Ours is a Consulting Computer Company for a Maritime Agency. We would like to get into tracking ships all over the world. Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency is a Nigerian incorporation and a member of IMO. Our company is verifiable through them. I’ve been to some sites that show you where a ship is. We are desirous to work with you as partner on real time locating of ships. How do we go about it. Do we need to develop software? Please reply as soon as possible so that we can get back to our client who is waiting patiently to know the workability.

  47. I have been using Google Earth 5.0 for quite sometime it is great but one day recently I used the water temperature feature and now it will not shut off. Please Help, Thank You!

  48. Why can I not see below the surface? I thought we were going to be able to do that. Is there something special I need to be doing?

  49. Google earth is available on the iPhone, will this new version also be available or only on the box in my office?

  50. I think the flight simulator on Google Earth is one of the best features. However this could be improved 100% by adding sound. Is there any chance of this happening ?

  51. Hello – I was looking for the titanic wreck but could not find it… It only showed us the sand at the bottom of the ocean on the EXCACT spot the Titanic should be

  52. Love to see the titanic wreck

  53. Current, in-house created KMLs and KMZs will not autolaunch when double-clicked in the new Google Earth version 5. Is there a setting that needs to be changed? Please advise.

  54. There is no real terrain or depth model for the ocean in Google Earth. You can’t get in a submarine and in essence fly through the water and explore ocean canyons yet.

PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.