Google maps Nunavut, Canada hamlet by tricycle

Karen Tuxen-Bettman is the project leader for Google Street View's first foray into Nunavut. (CBC)Company’s staff pedals Street View cameras around Cambridge Bay

Google Street View has ventured the farthest north it has ever been in Canada as it undertakes mapping of the community of Cambridge Bay in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of  Nunavut, this week.

Google said the community is also one of the most remote locations it has ever visited.

This is the first time the service has come to Nunavut, where internet access is only available via satellite instead of a fibre optic link. There is no 3G or 4G service in the territory.

The territory’s telecommunications infrastructure is also somewhat vulnerable.

Last year, a technical problem with Telesat’s Anik F2 satellite cut off long-distance phone service and internet service to all of Nunavut and some communities in the Northwest Territories and Yukon for 12 hours. Planes were also grounded in Nunavut as weather information could not be communicated between communities.

Karen Tuxen-Bettman, the project leader, said they will use a tricycle equipped with seven cameras pointing in different directions and pedal the hamlet’s dirt roads.

“As the biker pedals along it snaps images periodically and when taken together it forms a 360 degree panorama or a bubble,” she said.

“This tricycle has never been above the 60th degree parallel. It’s very unique bringing this equipment to the Arctic.”

Google’s visit to Cambridge Bay also coincides with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s stop in the community Wednesday as part of his annual northern tour. He met with Google officials as well as community members.

“It’s like inviting people to our home”Google will use this tricycle equipped with seven cameras pointing in different directions to pedal the dirt roads of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. (CBC)

Harry Maksagak of Cambridge Bay said he hopes Street View will dispel incorrect ideas of Arctic communities.

“There’s life up here; there’s activity happening up here,” he said. “This will certainly make people realize that there are communities that are way up there and they’re doing exactly what we’re doing.”

Chris Kulluk, a cartographer from the community, invited Google Street View to the North.

“For us, it’s like inviting people to our home, and also when there’s people abroad from Cambridge Bay or Nunavut in the future they can show their friends what their home looks like and what their house is like.”

With the help of local elders, cultural locations such as the old Catholic stone church will be mapped.

The street views of Cambridge Bay are expected to be online in a few months. Google says it will be travelling to another community in Nunavut next year, but didn’t say exactly where it would go.

Google Street View isn’t new to the North; it is available in Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories and Whitehorse, the capital of Canada’s northwestern Yukon territory. Both cities are above the 60th parallel. Google has also brought the service to the town of Inuvik, Northwest Territories.

Street View is also available along the Alaska Highway in Yukon and Alaska.

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