Street View backpack cams take on winter in Canada's Iqaluit

Trekker cameras go for a freezing stroll in the capital of Nunavut, home to igloos and polar bears.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read
Nunavut cartographer Chris Kalluk walks Iqaluit with a Trekker camera backpack. Google

Google is getting more serious about mapping Canada's north, deploying photographers in winter to map the city of Iqaluit.

As temperatures hit a chilly 8 degrees, walkers equipped with Google's Trekker backpack cameras fanned out across Nunavut's capital, located along Frobisher Bay on Baffin Island.

The effort to image the city of 6,700 marks the first use of the Trekkers in the Canadian north. It's prohibitively expensive to send vehicles there, and some roads are difficult in winter, or nonexistent in summer.

Last summer, Google Maps visited Nunavut's Cambridge Bay, which can only be reached by plane or boat, but the Iqaluit mapping is the team's first venture into an Arctic climate in winter.

"I'll pass sled dogs tied up outside houses, yapping in anticipation of their next trip," Chris Kullen, a Nunavut resident who is walking Iqaluit with a Trekker, writes in a Google blog post.

"And I may stop to check out an igloo, built by Inuit craftsmen using methods passed down over a millennia."

Community members will have a say in what goes in the maps in "MapUp workshops" held at the Iqaluit library. Software for the mapping system can now be used with Inuktitut, an Inuit language.

The mapping effort has been divided into 20 hikes. Some will only go partway down local trails, such as one path from the bay that stretches over 90 miles.

Iqaluit is far from Canada's major cities, but local leaders hope Street View maps will boost business and other links by increasing Iqaluit's visibility.

"There's a saying we have in the north: unless you're the lead sled dog, the view is pretty much the same," Kalluk writes.

"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."