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

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

360 years ago, a Dutch smuggler ship named the “Melckmeyd” (“Milkmaid”) was traveling illegally up the coast of Iceland when it was caught in the middle of a ferocious storm that would send the craft to the bottom of the North Atlantic. In 1992, the ship was rediscovered by local divers Erlendur Guðmundsson and Sævar Árnason; that following year 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 a 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 a highly-accurate 3D model of the Melckmeyd, allowing anyone to step into VR and travel to the hallowed site, regardless of their professional diving experience or lack thereof. 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 professional diver as you and a team of fellow researchers swim just inches away from the sunken ship. For additional information on the wreckage and its history, the experience features a series of informational pop-ups identifying key portions of the destroyed vessel. 

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 the 3D. Those without headsets can view the action straight from their smartphones.

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 fellow 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

About the Scout

Former Writer (Kyle Melnick)

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