Google Street View Offers Up Arctic Images

Freelance Technology Reporter for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

Google Street View operatives have donned their wooly mitts and headed into the remote Canadian Arctic

Google continues to push the boundaries of where its Street View project can take images, and now it offers a look at the tiny hamlet of Cambridge Bay in Canada’s Arctic.

The project is being undertaken to continue to build the most comprehensive and accurate map of Canada’s Arctic, according to an 22 August Google Lat Long Blog post about the effort by Karin Tuxen-Bettman of Google Earth’s Outreach team.

Arctic Circle

Cambridge Bay is deep in the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut in Canada’s Arctic, “surrounded by an intricate lacework of tundra, waterways and breaking ice,” wrote Tuxen-Bettman. “High above the Arctic circle, it’s a place reachable only by plane or boat. Zoom in on the map [of the area on Google Maps], and this isolated village of 1,500 people appears as only a handful of streets, with names like Omingmak (“musk ox”) Street and Tigiganiak (“fox”) Road.”

That isolation and wonder is what brought Google Street View to explore the area.

“There are 4,000 years’ worth of stories waiting to be told” in the Cambridge bay area,” wrote Tuxen-Bettman. “We’re setting out on an ambitious mission to tell some of those stories and to build the most comprehensive map of the region to date. It is the furthest north the Google Maps Street View team has travelled in Canada, and our first visit to Nunavut.”

The effort to photograph Cambridge Bay is involving residents who are using Google’s mapping tools and Street View imaging equipment to capture images of the area, according to Google. That includes efforts like a community mapping event “where village elders, local mapping experts and teenagers from the nearby high school gathered around a dozen Chromebooks and used Map Maker to add new roads, rivers and lakes to the Google Map of Cambridge Bay and Canada’s North,” wrote Tuxen-Bettman. They also added a hospital, daycare facilities, a nine-hole golf course, a territorial park and the remnants of an ancient Dorset stone longhouse which pre-dates Inuit culture, she wrote.

To gather more photos, a specially-equipped Google Street View trike is being pedaled around the gravel roads of the hamlet so that volunteers can collect additional images, according to Google.

Cambridge Bay is located on the southeast coast of Victoria Island at the western end of Queen Maud Gulf where it narrows into Dease Strait, according to the Nunavut Tourism Website. The town is the largest stop for passenger and research vessels traversing the Northwest Passage, with a population of about 1,600 people.

Maps Expansion

Google Maps has been busy with lots of other Street View image additions recently.

Powerful new Street View images tracking the rebuilding of New Orleans following the devastation of 2005’s Hurricane Katrina were announced 14 August, while images creating a “virtual tour” of NASA’s historic Kennedy Space Center were unveiled 2 August.

The growing Google Street View collection also includes panoramic views of notable places around the globe, including Historic Italy, California National Parks, and highlights of must-see sites in the United States, Poland, Israel, Russia and the magnificent Swiss Alps.

Google’s Street View program has been a source of controversy since it first started more than five years ago. As part of the program, Google cars have been sent around the world to take photographs in order to create street-level views of communities, which then can be accessed by Google users.

In July, Google again drew the ire of British officials over its Street View program, this time after admitting that it had not deleted all the personal information collected by the cars in England and other countries, as required under a 2010 agreement.

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