Trekker takes on Canada’s Arctic Winter

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | 9:05 AM

Labels:

Editor’s Note: Today's guest author is Chris Kalluk, a resident of the Nunavut territory and mapping expert at Nunavut Tunngavik, the nonprofit organization we’re working with to collect imagery and build more comprehensive maps of the Canadian Arctic. 

There’s a saying we have in the north: unless you’re the lead sled dog, the view is pretty much the same. Today, I’m wearing a Street View Trekker - a backpack outfitted with a camera system - and walking the streets of Iqaluit, ready to explore Canada’s incredible Arctic and putting you at the front of the pack.

Here, in the capital of Canada’s Arctic territory of Nunavut, the average temperature is below freezing eight months of the year. The roads are covered in snow, the bay is frozen and polar bear sightings are a frequent occurrence. Winter up here is a way of life. And the only way to truly understand it is to see it for yourself.

Chris Kalluk, Nunavut resident, hiking the streets of Iqaluit with the Trekker

This is the first Trekker expedition in Canada for Google Maps. I’m wearing the backpack to collect Street View imagery as I walk to the shore of Frobisher Bay, where the wind is the strongest and you can see the tide piling up mountains of sea ice. On the way I’ll pass sled dogs tied up outside houses, yapping in anticipation of their next trip. And I may stop to check out an igloo, built by Inuit craftsmen using methods passed down over a millennia.

As part of its commitment to build a comprehensive and accurate map of Canada’s north, Google visited my home, Cambridge Bay, last August and published imagery of the trip that fall. But this visit to Iqaluit marks the first time the Google Maps team has ventured into an Arctic climate during the winter months, where average temperatures can dip below -30°C [-25°F].

Raleigh Seamster, Project Lead for Google Maps, surveys Iqaluit while collecting Street View imagery with the Trekker

At the end of the day, when it’s time to warm up, our community will gather around two dozen computers at the local library to conduct a MapUp workshop. I’ll work with Iqaluit’s elders, local business owners, political leaders and high school students to show them how we can use Google Map Maker to add the streets, shops and points of interest - those places that make Iqaluit home - to Google Maps.

Hiking Iqaluit with the Trekker and working as a community to make the map more complete offers us a unique opportunity to share our people’s land and culture with the rest of the world. And, in just a few months, when the Street View panoramas become available on Google Maps, you’ll have a chance to virtually walk these snowy streets for yourself. I like to think of it as our chance to give you the lead sled dog’s view.