Virtual reality will transport people to our historic bases
UKAHT will bring our heritage to more people through Immersive Antarctica with our exciting VR project.
This year, UKAHT celebrates its 30th anniversary. For three decades, we have had the privilege to conserve Antarctica’s unique heritage, share the continent’s ever-evolving stories and inspire others to see and experience Antarctica through innovative technology, art and culture.
Antarctica is a dynamic and ever-changing environment. As an organisation, we are constantly updating and reassessing our role so that we can safeguard and preserve the legacy of British endeavour in Antarctica alongside that evolution. One way to do this is through digital technology.
The original scene and the VR reconstruction inside Stonington Island Hut (Credit: Neil Marsden/UKAHT)
Virtual reality (VR) gives us the opportunity to bring our heritage sites to life for people across the world. Virtual and immersive technologies will allow us to animate these incredible places and share stories and the experiences of those who were there for a whole new generation.
Inside Stonington Island Hut, 2018 (Credit: UKAHT)
Immersive Antarctica (IA) is a new and exciting undertaking for UKAHT. It brings together technology, storytelling, archival records and data collected from our bases to make Antarctica accessible in new ways. People will be able to experience our bases – 9,000 miles away and 80 years ago – from the comfort of their own homes.
UKAHT have been working with Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) and ARU Storylab since 2022 to make this project a reality, and the project has been funded by Innovate UK.
The Immersive Antarctica showreel (Credit: ARU Storylab/UKAHT)
In 2018, our team supported by the mapping department of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), began capturing data from our Antarctic bases, laser scans and photographs that support the conservation team’s work in the forthcoming seasons as well as data that can be used to reconstruct the bases digitally to make them available to the public.
Through the IA programme, we have virtually rebuilt key areas of Base E, Stonington Island, to an approximation of its condition in 1965 using photographs for reference and a little bit of artistic licence to recreate the base as it was when it was an active site. It was a time when the base was busy with surveying and science, and home to overwintering FIDS (Falkland Island Dependency Survey – the precursor to BAS) and multiple teams of sledge dogs. We selected this year to align with data taken from the archives and from the British Oral History Project (BOHP).
The production process (Credit: ARU Storylab/UKAHT)
This world is built to be explored using virtual reality. As the player moves through the world, they hear first-hand about life on base at Stonington and events off-base from FIDs staffers Neil Marsden and John Tait, who generously contributed their testimony to the BOHP records. We hope this experience helps to bring to life the history of Antarctica and that it will be the first of many such projects to bring Antarctica that little bit closer.
A special thank you
The VR project received great public support in the spring from volunteers who took part in online focus groups run by Dubit and we are excited to announce that the VR will also be undergoing public testing through the autumn.
Immersive Antarctica is a collaborative project (Credit: ARU Storylab/UKAHT)
We’d also like to make known our collaborative project with Education Scotland supported by the Association of Independent Museums (AIM). We have been creating geography learning packs designed for the Scottish curriculum from the same archival material as the VR experience to encourage young people to learn more about this rare and unique location. The lesson packs and the VR complement one another and we plan to make these resources public later in the year to encourage everyone to engage with Antarctic heritage.
The Immersive Antarctica project has been generously supported by Capturing Reality, Education Scotland, AIM and, most recently, the Charles Hayward Foundation, as well as our partners ARU and BAS. UKAHT would like to extend the greatest of thanks to all contributors.
The journey home (Credit: ARU Storylab/UKAHT)
Contributors to this Innovate UK-sponsored Knowledge Training Partnership project were:
- Lesley Johnston, Research Associate, UK Antarctic Heritage Trust & StoryLab (ARU)
- Camilla Nichol, CEO, UK Antarctic Heritage Trust
- Dr Fabrizio Galeazzi, Associate Professor in Heritage and Creative Technologies, StoryLab (ARU)
- Christopher Nightingale, Research Assistant and Creative Programmer, StoryLab (ARU)
- Mete Polat, 3D Art Intern, StoryLab (ARU)
- Alex Sole-Leris, Film & Media Intern, StoryLab (ARU)
- Marta Zmidzinska, Research Assistant, StoryLab (ARU)
- Professor Lynn Martin, Support Academic, Faculty of Business and Law (ARU)
- Ieuan Hopkins, Archive Supervisor, British Antarctic Survey
- Dr Shreepali Patel
- Dr Lisa Lin
- Dr Senir Dinar
Additional thanks to members of the UKAHT IA advisory board:
- Anne Fletcher
- Daniela De Angeli
- Drew Baker
- Lee Probert
- Michael Danks
- Pippa Bostock
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