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VR Tour Takes You Up Close With The Shipwreck Of A 17th-Century Dutch Smuggler


High-resolution 3D scans now allow us to explore the remains of this unfortunate vessel.

360 years ago, a Dutch smuggler ship called the “Melckmeyd” (“Milkmaid”) was traveling illegally up the coast of Iceland when it was caught in the middle of a ferocious storm that would end up sending the craft to the bottom of the North Atlantic. In 1992, the ship was rediscovered by local divers Erlendur Guðmundsson and Sævar Árnason and in 1993, a team of maritime archeologists conducted a preliminary investigation of the site.

In 2016, the University of Iceland and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands collaborated on a joint operation to continue research on the wreck. Lead by Kevin Martin, a Ph.D. student in archaeology at the University of Iceland and fellow maritime archaeologist, a team of researchers went to work conducting a high-resolution 3D scan of the entire shipwreck, capturing every minute detail of the abandoned vessel.

Using the data captured during those expeditions, researchers were able to reconstruct the Melckmeyd as a highly-accurate 3D model, allowing anyone to step into VR and travel to hallowed site, minus the need for a diver license. Developer by Martin’s co-author John McCarthy, a researcher with the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences at Flinders University, the three-minute experience puts you in the wetsuit of a diver as you and a team of fellow researchers travel past the sunken ship from bow to stern. As you look around the environment and soak it all in, keep a look-out for one of the many informational pop-ups identifying key portions of the destroyed vessel. 

VR Tour Takes You Up Close With The Shipwreck Of A 17th-Century Dutch Smuggler 1
Image Credit: John McCarthy

“This approach maximizes the sense of immersion in the underwater environment and replicates as closely as possible the experience of diving for the non-diver,” said the team during a conference presentation according to LiveScience.

Originally only available for viewing at the Reykjavik Maritime Museum in Reykjavik, Iceland, the 3D immersive tour is now available free on VR headsets via the YouTube VR app. For an extra-strong sense of submechanophobia, be sure to crank that resolution up to maximum and switch on 3D. Those without headsets view the action straight from their smartphones and rotate their device to view the environment.

VR Tour Takes You Up Close With The Shipwreck Of A 17th-Century Dutch Smuggler 2
Image Credit: John McCarthy

“There are something like 6 million divers in the world, so less than 0.1 percent of the world’s population ever gets access to these sites,” says Jon Henderson, a marine archaeologist responsible for the largest photogrammetry survey ever conducted on an underwater shipwreck; aka the Thistlegorm Project. “But we’re now at the point where we’ve got technology where we can reconstruct them in photo-realistic detail, and we can now create models that people can explore and interact with on their mobile phones or in their homes.”

Feature Image Credit: John McCarthy

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