So, it turns out that not everyone is thrilled about the new Google Earth, which includes underwater representations of the world’s oceans. Professional treasure hunters are actually quite worried.

People and companies that make their living finding shipwrecks and extracting treasure are worried that any schmo with a motorboat will be able to pinpoint shipwrecks using Google Earth and then wreak havoc on sites that are archeologically sensitive and have historic importance — and just as important, sites that they want to get the treasure from.

“This could open up a Pandora’s box of plunder and claim jumping,” said Guy “Sandy” Burnette, a Florida-based attorney who represents shipwreck hunters.

Monday, I wrote about the new Google Earth and David Sandwell, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography geophysicist who built the seafloor map that the program’s ocean simulations are built on. I received several e-mails after the story — one told me to contact Burnette if I wanted an interesting take on the story.

Burnette gave me the number of Greg Brooks, owner of Portland, Maine-based Sub-Sea Research. Brooks said he is plenty worried about the new Google Earth. The old version had a database of shipwrecks, but the locations given in the database were quite a ways off, he said.

“But with this underwater one, it seems like they will have more accurate locations,” Brooks said. “And if you can actually have underwater views of it — that is a concern.”


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