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Glass-bottom boats are boats with windows below the waterline which allow passengers to see clearly into the water. When people view the water from above, they often experience optical distortions which make it hard to see, and they can have difficulty seeing into the depths. With a glass-bottom boat, this distortion is eliminated, providing very crisp, clear visibility and an extended range of visibility. These boats are most commonly used in tourism applications.
Some glass-bottom boats literally have a glass bottom, while others have glass panels and view ports. Riding in such a boat is kind of like being in a giant diving mask, except that people stay dry, and they do not have to pay attention to safety concerns while they enjoy the undersea sights, allowing them to focus on what they are seeing. Glass-bottom boats can be used in oceans, rivers, and lakes, and they come in a range of sizes for different applications.
Glass-bottom boat tours are available for people who want to see shipwrecks, reefs, and other underwater features without diving. They can be an excellent alternative to diving or snorkeling for people with disabilities or people who lack professional diving training, and they also allow people to socialize while they view interesting objects beneath the surface of the water.
Some conservation organizations use glass-bottom boats to raise public awareness about conservation issues and as tools for public education. Groups of school children, for example, might be taken out on boats so that they can view the natural environment with minimal barriers, to stress the importance of environmental conservation. Glass-bottom boats used for environmental awareness may drift between diseased or dead reefs, healthy reefs, and reefs undergoing environmental remediation so that people can clearly see the difference between a healthy, vibrant reef and one which has been damaged.
Researchers can also use glass-bottom boats for certain types of work, although many prefer getting into the water in a diving suit with appropriate gear. Glass-bottom boats can also be useful for giving quick tours of environmental sites of interest to people representing organizations which may provide funding or assistance. Rather than bundling executives into wetsuits and taking them into the water, researchers can use a glass-bottomed boat to show people what they are doing or what they would like to do, and the excursion may be used as a public relations opportunity to promote a cause and its sponsors.