Shipping Back into Bermuda’s Past

The Bermuda Challenge 100 is a marine heritage science and engineering project which aims to bring some of the Island’s 100+ shipwrecks back to life. Using visualization tools such as 3D immersive environments, the project will create a digital, online atlas of underwater sites for the public to explore through virtual reality. The initial results of this work can be see on the challenge website, where you’ll find long sunken ships rushing out at you from the seabed.

Bermuda is one of the shipwreck capitals of the world and the sunken crafts have become part of the lore of the island. As well as hiding archaeological secrets, the wrecks “have become naturalized components of the benthic ecology – located on the bottom of the ocean – and these unique biological communities function as time capsules for the study of natural systems. Their stories tell of human ambition and courage as well as misadventure and tragedy, and they offer marine scientists new worlds of discovery.”

In collaboration with Bermuda’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources and LookFoundation, UC San Diego faculty, researchers and students will be documenting dozens of Bermuda’s historic shipwrecks and distinct natural habitats in the waters surrounding Bermuda “in order to enhance conservation efforts and open the sites to both real and ‘virtual’ tourism from interested students, researchers and travelers from around the world”.

The inspiration for the project came in 2011 when CISA3 special projects coordinator Dominique Rissolo participated in a seven-day expedition to excavate a small section of the interior of the Mary-Celestia’s bow, finding ‘a small cache of hidden artifacts’ which included a ship’s taffrail log, a hairbrush, shoes, and intact wine, cologne and perfume bottles. “The cologne and the perfume bottles, like the wine, contained a visible air pocket above the liquid inside, suggesting that the contents had possibly remained uncontaminated over the intervening 150 years underwater.”

To find out more about the next wrecks due for digital recreation and exploration, visit http://bermuda100.ucsd.edu/index.php.

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