Google will expose a lot more folks to Alaska's famous Katmai National Park "bear cams" thanks to an arrangent with the nature organization Explore.org. Google Earth has created a Story on its new Voyager platform that describes the region and lets you watch all five views. Those include the underwater "snorkel" and waterfall cams that show the talented bears plucking salmon out of Brooks River or catching them in mid-jump.
The bear cams went viral a few years ago because of the real life stories playing out, including one around a cub that died of an illness and a large male that killed a rival to get his food cache. The latter story first horrified many users, but eventually "they were using words like 'power' and 'strength' and 'survival' and 'tenacity,' " Roy Wood, the man behind the cameras for Katmai National Park, told The Awl in 2014.
The cams are still available on Explore.org, but the Voyager story will help expose them to a lot more viewers and provide some valuable context. That includes map flyovers showing the precise camera locations and blurbs describing the spots and explaining which bear activities go on there.
At the moment, bears are coming out of a long hibernation, so you can easily spot them hunting salmon. I tuned in to the Brooks Falls camera and sure enough, there was what appears to be a pregnant female that caught and devoured two salmon in a row, and another in a calm pool under a rock ledge, waiting to pounce.
"Google and Explore.org share the values of showcasing nature's treasures in its 'purest' form possible," said Explore.org founder Charles Annenberg on Medium. " 'Replacing fear with trust' has also been a cornerstone value of Explore.org because it is the only way humanity will stop making the mistakes of its past."
If you tune in long enough, you might catch something even more interesting, like bear sex, fights, or animal kills. Explore.org also offers views of wild belugas, polar bears, bald eagles, elephants hippos and more.