Google Maps: Street View Team Goes to Arctic, Polar Bears Photographed

March 7, 2014 Updated: July 18, 2015

Google Street View operators traveled to the Arctic region to capture polar bears on camera.

Published on Google Maps’ website, the company took photos of scenery in northern Manitoba near the Hudson Bay.

“The Street View project lets viewers explore the tundra and see the polar bear migration, no matter where they live,” Krista Wright, the executive director of the conservation nonprofit Polar Bears International (PBI), told LiveScience.

The Google Maps team went to Churchill and its tundra in October 2013, capturing panoramic views of polar bears and their habitats.

One of the reasons for the projects is to capture the habitat before it disappears, the PBI said, due to climate change.

“You can journey through the polar bear’s world and see the bears in their natural habitat,” said Wright. “You can see imagery of sparring bears – this behavior that we see with male bears where they stand up on their hind legs and kind of play fight. And there are images of a mom nursing a cub. But the project goes beyond cuddly—the Street View images also provide us with baseline information on this fragile and changing landscape.”

A Popular Science reporter went along with Google in Churchill. 

“The bear keeps moving and so do we, along a trail that’s headed in roughly the same direction. [Polar Bears International field director B.J.] Kirschhoffer accelerates to a blistering 11 miles per hour—raft speed,” the Popular Science article reads.

“I put my hand on the wall for balance as I try to keep binoculars focused on the polar bear, now picking its way around a low pond. The bear switches direction, and then again, as it tests the icy surface. It lies down for several minutes by some willows. Kirschhoffer idles the vehicle to assess the situation. If there was an award for the slowest-motion chase scene, I think, this would win it.”

The project can be viewed on Google’s website.