What lies beneath: virtual and augmented reality techniques for maritime heritage

Robert Stone

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Recent developments in the fields of Virtual and Augmented Reality technologies offer radically new and affordable solutions for those wishing to exploit Digital Heritage techniques for wrecksite survey, computer reconstruction and subsequent interpretation by observers and specialists from all walks of life. A collaborative project undertaken between 2006 and 2008 with Plymouth’s National Marine Aquarium was the stimulus for the maritime heritage projects to be described in this presentation. The result of this collaboration was a Virtual Reality reconstruction of the wreck of the ex-RN Leander Class Frigate Scylla, enabling users to “dive” on the wreck, in effect controlling a simulated ROV. A subsequent exercise utilised more advanced, particle-based underwater rendering effects to demonstrate the use of Virtual Reality in training manned submersible pilots to plan for their final approach to a disabled nuclear submarine. More recently, the University of Birmingham’s Human Interface Technologies Team has been developing further maritime heritage demonstrations with the aim of showing how, with the appropriate blend of technologies, it is possible to engage with subject matter experts – from historians to divers – to deliver rich, educational, interactive digital heritage “experiences”, capable of being exploited online, in museums or other fixed locations and even in situ – at or in the vicinity of the wrecksite. The chapter describes a number of recent successful examples of this process, including the HMS Amethyst (1957), the A7 submarine (1914), the Anne (1690) and the Maria (1774) and the UK’s first underwater habitat, the GLAUCUS (1965).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnderwater worlds
Subtitle of host publicationsubmerged visions in science and culture
EditorsWill Abberley
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
Number of pages30
ISBN (Print)9781527513938
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Underwater Worlds throws open a new area in the emerging field of “blue” environmental humanities by exploring how subaqueous environments have been imagined and represented across cultures and media. The collection pursues this theme through various disciplinary perspectives and methodologies, including history, literary and film criticism, myth studies, legal studies and the history of art. The essays suggest that, since the nineteenth century, technologies of underwater exploration have generated novel sensory experiences that have destabilized conventional modes of representation and influenced new aesthetic forms from fiction and television to virtual reality. The collection also examines how representations of underwater environments have reflected and critiqued humans’ relationships with marine ecology and life-forms. It reflects on the deeper cultural and symbolic resonances of mythical figures such as mermaids, sea monsters and the ghosts of drowned seafarers. The contributions further reveal myriad political, ideological, gendered and racial dimensions of representing underwater environments.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Computer Science


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