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Now You Can Virtually Visit Quttinirpaaq National Park, One of the Most Remote Places on Earth

Google Street Views records the wonders of the northerly jewel

Google Trekker in Quttinirpaaq National Park (Ryan Bray)
smithsonian.com

Quttinirpaaq National Park in the Canadian Territory of Nunavut is that country’s second-largest national park. But chances are slim that you or anyone you know will ever visit: around 50 people per year make it out to the remote park on Ellesmere Island, approximately 600 miles from the North Pole. But now you can visit without investing in mukluks or a polar bear gun. Over the summer, Google Streetview teamed with Parks Canada to hike the park. Recently, GooglStreetview added the remote location to their map, making Quttinirpaaq the northernmost area documented by the project so far, reports CBC News.

Quttinirpaaq is a massive 23,463 square mile swathe of high Arctic landscape including mountains, glaciers and thermal oases. Just getting there is an adventure, requiring a flight to the remote village of Resolute, population 198, before taking a charter flight to the park at 81.4672 north. Even if you had the $10,000 Canadian dollars (or about $8,000 U.S. dollars) for the trip and made it that far, the large distance, iffy weather and lack of roads means you might not get a glimpse of the park’s highlights.

Luckily, Bob Weber at the Canadian Press reports, the Street View hikers had sunny days in July to document the area. Quttinirpaaq National Park manager Emma Upton and a colleague were trained in using and carrying the unique 50-pound Streetview Trekker Camera, which took 360-degree images of the park as they hiked roughly 19 miles over five days, capturing some of the parks highlights, including the eight-story Air Force Glacier, Tanquary Ford and the MacDonald River. The team also collected images of Resolute and Grise Ford, the most northerly settlement in Canada.

The result is a collection of images showing the still, snowy mountains and rugged terrain. Upton tells Weber that the images are a great taste of the area, but its no substitute for the real thing. “It’s a place where we can still find true solitude and we can still experience real silence,” she says. “You can hike for days and you will not see a single jet flying over you. You will hear the wind in your ears and a few birds and the water rushing.”

While Quttinirpaaq is the most northerly park documented to date, it isn’t the only Canadian natural landmark to be featured. Street View and Parks Canada have been working together to document the nation’s parks for a while now and have completed similar projects on the Chilkoot Trail, Kluane National Park and Reserve, Forillon National Park along with many other sites.

Google is also working on a similar project in the United States, combining Street View virtual tours of national parks with high resolution photos, videos and stories of artifacts from locations across the U.S. In fact, the Street View Trekker backpack was first used to document the Grand Canyon.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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