Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

National Parks and Google, nature like you’ve never seen it before

A project carried out by the Network of National Parks of the USA. and the Google Arts & Culture Institute invites you on a virtual journey with which to delve into the varied American nature without leaving home.

Through 360º photos and videos, we can get to know the rangers of the Kenai Fjords, Hawai’i Volcanoes, Carlsbad Caverns, Bryce Canyon, and Dry Tortugas national parks. Passing through ice, fire, caves, pinnacles, and seabed.

The United States has national parks to give and give away. There are already 62 protected spaces under this denomination, and they are spread across 29 of the 50 states that make up the North American country. From the mythical Yellowstone inaugurating the list of national parks in 1872 to the one of White Sands, the last to arrive when it was incorporated in December 2019, the awareness for preservation has not further grown. And now, although you cannot go to visit them, through Google Arts & Culture, you have the opportunity to peek at some of them without leaving home. 

The enormous extension of the American territory allows you to enjoy a very diverse diversity of ecosystems, and therefore very different national parks from each other. From the joint work of the Network of National Parks of the USA. And from the Google Institute of Culture ‘The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks’ is born, an experience in which you only need a screen and a good Internet connection to know five of them in a particular and virtual way: the Kenai Fjords, the Hawai’i Volcanoes, the Carlsbad Caverns, the Bryce Canyon, and the Dry Tortugas. All different from each other.

These virtual tours that Google Arts & Culture makes available to us are cared for and developed with care. Thanks to the 360º photos and videos, entering them will be like visiting the national parks on your own feet, accompanied by their rangers, enjoying their explanations, set by the sounds of nature and being able to access new information with which to get to know first hand all its details. An excellent way to open your mouth until, one day, you are lucky enough to be able to visit them in person.

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

We begin this journey into the American wilderness by traveling to Alaska, to the Kenai Fjords. It was declared a National Park in December 1980 and had 38 glaciers and beautiful fjords. We start strong, walking directly on one of its glaciers dressed in ice axes and crampons. They will be necessary when we go down some of the ice crevices. You can see how the ice has disappeared in recent years and how the tongue of the glacier has receded at a worrying rate. All this will be before we get on a kayak and start rowing among icebergs, watching the ice break off the glaciers and the humpback whales jumping out of the water. If it’s that spectacular through a screen, imagine yourself.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

We make a radical change, and from the ice, we go to the fire. We travel to Hawaii to see the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which has been recognized as such since August 1916 and protects the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, two of the most active in the world. This is a journey back in time, to when the earth bubbled and formed from lava. The welcome of the ranger who accompanies us receives us in one of the youngest places on the planet, always in constant change. We start in a rain forest, which puts the contrasting green, and immediately afterward, we enter a lava tube, where we know its formation before moving to the cliffs. The main course awaits us next to the Kīlauea caldera, at sunset, from where you can see the lava shine and take a helicopter to fly over the crater. Explanatory videos and environmental audios become essential to understand the magnitude and power of the place.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico

We jumped to New Mexico to go underground. The National Park Carlsbad CavernsIt was declared as such in May 1930 and had a network of 117 caves, the longest reaching 190 km in length. Over our heads will be the Chihuahuan Desert and Rattlesnake Springs. We went down almost 230 meters deep, to a place formed millions of years ago, and which was not discovered until about 120 years ago when a massive cloud of bats that came out of the earth made us notice it. This place is home to some 400,000 bats, and here you can learn about them, how they live, and how they orient themselves in the dark. You can go down to the room known as the ‘Big Room,’ which at 1,200 meters long is the largest underground chamber in North America. You will learn about formations and textures and descend to galleries where the only light will be that of the front of your helmet. 

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utha

Now we go to Utha to get up close to one of the most famous national parks in the United States: Bryce Canyon. The land is known for the red of its rocks. Bryce Canyon was declared a National Park in February 1928 and is a kind of geological amphitheater made up of hundreds of sandstone pinnacles molded by erosion. We start from one of its most visited viewpoints, the Sunset Point, to observe the sky in the dark of the night. It is time to learn about galaxies, planets, and constellations. At dawn, you can go deeper into the formation of the pinnacles and hear in detail the sounds of the park. The aerial views are breathtaking, and that is something that you will not be able to appreciate visiting it in person. To finish, the rangers of the park invite you to descend on horseback through the canyon to see some of its corners. 

Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida

And we arrived in Florida, which since October 1992 is known as Dry Tortugas National Park. We are on an island in the far west of the Florida Keys, where Fort Jefferson still remains, a vast defensive complex from the Civil War era. But the fort is only 1% of the park, what interests us is the remaining 99%: the crystalline waters that surround it. It is time to adjust the mask, put on the regulator, and launch yourself to know its seabed. We are going to follow its diving rangers, with whom we are going to tour the reef to learn about corals, until we reach the Windjammer wreck, today full of marine life. Once on the surface, and from the fort itself, it is time to learn some history and learn about the importance of Fort Jefferson. Since you are in such a place, do not miss the opportunity to listen in detail to the conversations between fish and corals.

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