Google's Street View maps 'Polar Bear Capital of the World'
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, February 27, 2014 10:20AM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 27, 2014 11:49AM EST
Google is bringing the world to Churchill, Man. and providing street views of the northern community to celebrate International Polar Bear Day.
The company's street view camera was mounted onto a specially designed buggy late last fall to capture views of the tundra outside of Churchill, which is known as the polar bear capital of the world.
Google teamed up with Polar Bears International to take the images, in an effort to bring attention to the impact climate change is having on the region.
Leah Knickerbocker, assistant director of PBI, said that with the rise in global temperatures there's been a decrease in the sea ice in the area. A loss of sea ice threatens the bears, resulting in reduced access to food and a decrease of available denning areas.
"Polar bears rely on sea ice for their survival. They use it to access their main food source and in some cases they use it to den," Knickerbocker said in a video posted to YouTube. "At Polar Bears International our mission is to save the polar bear by saving its sea ice habitat."
In the images captured by Google, bears can be seen wandering around the shores of Hudson Bay, interacting with members of the PBI team, sleeping in the sun and sparring with each other.
Krista Wright, executive director of PBI, said the scene of the two bears sparring is her personal favourite.
"You get a sense of how these animals interact with one another and you also have the opportunity to see their size and the power," she said. She added that the Google footage will help researchers understand the impact of climate change on the region.
"This kind of information is absolutely critical if we are to understand and communicate the impact of climate change on this sensitive ecosystem," she said.
In conjunction with International Polar Bear Day, PBI is asking everyone to take part in their "Thermostat Challenge."
The Thermostat Challenge urges participants to turn their thermostats down a few degrees on Thursday to show that they are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Participants are also asked to consider keeping their thermostat adjusted every day, along with insulating their homes to further conserve energy.
BJ Kirschhoffer, PBI director of field operations, said that it was important that people be able to see the bears in their natural habitat to understand how they might be able to help.
"People down south can reduce their carbon emissions, can reduce their footprint and that in turn will save the sea ice," he said in the YouTube video. "Bringing it all together visually for people to explore themselves is key, and I think Google Maps and street view will allow people to freely wander out here as if they're truly here."
This isn't the first time Google Street View has ventured up to Canada's North. In 2012, it released street views of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.
With files from The Canadian Press