Google Maps

Google team maps Arctic town with Inuit expert's help

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 01 April, 2013, 4:34am

It has charted the world's highest peaks, the ocean floor, the Amazon rainforest and even provided a glimpse into the hermit state of North Korea. But Google's mission to map the world has steered clear of the inhospitable Arctic.

Now, however, the search-engine firm is embarking on what might be the most significant update to centuries of polar cartography - and one it hopes will foster a better understanding of life on the permafrost for millions of internet users.

Google has flown a small team to Iqaluit, the largest town in the Canadian territory of Nunavut, armed with their warmest winter gear, a stack of laptop computers and a 18kg backpack-mounted telescopic camera.

Helped by an Inuit mapping expert, and stalked by curious locals, the team spent four days trudging through the terrain and collecting the images and information that will give the isolated community on the tundra of Baffin Island what urbanites across the globe now take for granted.

The town of 7,000 people will go on display via Google's popular Street View application in July.

Unlike more populous and accessible parts of the world, which have been mapped using a camera mounted on a car roof, the Iqaluit project had mappers hiking the town's snow-packed roads and traversing little-known trails, some of which are made of ice and disappear in the brief summer months.

The team also cut a path along part of a 15km cul-de-sac known as the Road to Nowhere, despite warnings about the risk from polar bears and other wildlife.

"I'm hoping that … we'll look back and see a very different map of Canada's north," said project leader Aaron Brindle.