Antler Arch 360

A screenshot from the Antler Arch 360 snapshot includes buttons that users can click on to get more information about the site. Users can get a 360-degree view of the riverfront spot, with the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center behind them. Courtesy of Explore Fairbanks

A couple of years ago, Explore Fairbanks decided to start a 360-degree video project. The technology for making immersive videos was fairly new, and staff thought it would be a good way to show off the area, according to Amy Geiger, director of communications for Explore Fairbanks.

“We started with the aurora and the midnight sun because they are our signature in Fairbanks,” she said. 

This spring, as the coronavirus spread and shut down travel, Geiger said they realized there would be more armchair travelers than actual visitors for awhile and that the 360-degree videos would be a good way to “virtually transport” people to the region. So they went out and added a few more iconic Alaska scenes to their offerings, including embedded links with further information.

The videos include a sled dog ride through a snowy forest, a float down the Chena River on a perfect Fairbanks summer day, and a panorama from Murphy Dome. In addition, they have posted 360-degree photographs from Eagle Summit, where the sun doesn’t set on summer solstice; an aurora display; and the antler arch and other sites in downtown Fairbanks. Watchers can scroll around in the videos and photographs on their phone or computer, look up, look down, look closely and get fully immersed in the experience. 

“We were trying to capture the different types of online visual experiences people could have,” Geiger said. “We had some excellent videos. We just refined them into a place where we thought they were good enough to share with the public on our YouTube and website.”

Explore Fairbanks is also highlighting a seasonal change on its website, switching from its aurora tracker, which predicts northern lights viewing in six locations, to its midnight sun tracker on April 22. The tracker calculates the number of daylight hours, including civil twilight, in Fairbanks, Coldfoot and Utqiagvik. For instance, Fairbanks has 24 hours of light for 70 straight days. The tracker allows users to change the calendar and location and see the radical shifts in light throughout the year.

Geiger said they want armchair travelers to imagine that they are here and to see the wide-open spaces, low-density, nature-infused places that they may want to visit later. 

“Sure, it might not be the same as being here, but it’s the next best thing while you wait to visit Fairbanks when the time is right.”

You can find the 360 videos and photographs at https://www.explorefairbanks.com/explore-the-area/360/

Contact staff writer Julie Stricker at 459-7532.