Armchair archaeologists are being given the chance to explore a second world war shipwreck online in 3D virtual reality.
The Thistlegorm Project documents the wreckage of SS Thistlegorm, a British merchant steam ship sunk by a German bomber in 1941 off the coast of Egypt.
The ship, which was carrying provisions including aircraft parts, trucks and motorbikes, now lies 32 metres (105ft) below the surface of the Red Sea, and the site is considered one of the best wreck dives in the world.
Photographic surveys captured 24,307 high-resolution images recording the ship’s outer shell, internal decks and cabins and its rich cargo.
The survey allowed the team behind the project to reconstruct what is left of the Thistlegorm on the sea bed and create 3D models of exactly how the wreck appears. In addition, 360-degree video allows people to experience what it is like to dive at the site.
The project is part of a wider maritime archaeology study, Presence in the Past, by the University of Nottingham in partnership with Ain Shams and Alexandria universities in Egypt.
Jon Henderson, of Nottingham University’s School of Archaeology, said: “The thing about underwater sites and the importance of underwater cultural heritage is that the only people who’ve ever seen it are divers. However, we are now at a point where we have the technology to reconstruct these sites.
“We can survey them in photo-realistic detail and we can create models that people can explore and interact with from the comfort of their own homes.”
He added: “Nine men died on the SS Thistlegorm – five Royal Navy gunners and four merchant sailors – just a small part of the 35,000 out of 135,000 merchant navy sailors that gave their lives during the war.
“In the merchant navy, one in four men did not come back – that’s the highest proportion of all the fighting forces. We owe it to the memory of these brave men to record and preserve their legacy.”
Source: The Guardian