Explore underwater wrecks using virtual reality at Heritage Malta’s new online museum

One of probably the most thrilling underwater experiences you’ll be able to have is to discover sunken wrecks within the extensive expanse of the world’s seas and oceans. It’s an enchanting window into our collective previous and a dramatic sight to behold.

Now, you’ll be able to discover ship and airplane wrecks found off the Maltese coast from the consolation of your personal residence.

Underwater Museum Fairey Swordfish

Exploring the Fairey Swordfish airplane wreck just about (c) Heritage Malta

Heritage Malta has just lately opened a free online museum, Underwater Malta, which accommodates detailed, 3D fashions of ship and airplane wrecks that span greater than 2,500 years of historical past.

Making underwater wrecks extra accessible

Museum Director Timmy Gambin hopes the underwater museum will assist make underwater wrecks extra accessible to most of the people:

With over 7000 years of historical past mirrored in its cities and landscapes, Malta has one of many highest concentrations of heritage per sq. kilometer anyplace on the earth. Recent research and discoveries have proven that millennia of maritime exercise have additionally left their mark on the seabed surrounding the Maltese Islands. This underwater cultural heritage is of worldwide significance that goes past native historical past.

The fashions could be rotated 360° with choices to zoom out and in so you’ll be able to discover each nook and cranny. This could be executed in your laptop computer, pill, cell machine, or VR headset.

Creating the 3D fashions

The 3D fashions of the wrecks are created using a course of referred to as photogrammetry, whereby skilled divers seize lots of, typically hundreds, of pictures of the seen components of every wreck. These overlapping pictures are then loaded into specialist software program and transformed into an in depth 3D mannequin.

Recording the Fairey Swordfish wreck using photogrammetry (c) Dave Gration for University of Malta

The 3D diving staff, affectionately dubbed the “3D fairies”, should descend to the depths, typically a number of instances, to {photograph} the wrecks from each angle.

Some are so deep, reminiscent of a 2,700-year-old Phoenician shipwreck (at 110m), that the divers can solely spend quarter-hour at the positioning earlier than beginning their three-hour ascension to the floor to keep away from the possibly harmful penalties of decompression.

John Wood and Kari Hyttinen, who kind a part of the 3D diving staff, mentioned:

Three or 4 years in the past, doing such a dive was very intimidating. Now we’re extra skilled and, having performed tens of dives on the positioning, we additionally know the positioning fairly effectively. That mentioned, some nervousness is at all times there earlier than such dives, however that helps with remaining sharp and centered.

The 3D fashions are uploaded to the online underwater museum together with pictures, movies and extra data on every wreck’s discovery and historic context.

Exploring the wrecks just about

There are some fascinating World War II wrecks to discover. Malta was an necessary Allied base in the course of the battle and was subjected to a vicious wave of bombing assaults between 1940 and 1943.

One sufferer of such an assault was the X-Lighter 127, a flat, barge-like ship utilised by the Allied forces in World War II as a provide vessel to move water and gasoline to ships and submarines.

This specific vessel was moored at Lazzaretto Wharf when she sank following an Axis aerial assault in early March 1942.

x127lighter-3D model

3D mannequin of the X-Lighter 127 (c) Heritage Malta

The wreck has develop into a well-liked dive website as a consequence of its comparatively quick access for much less skilled divers.

One instance of a airplane wreck is the Fairey Swordfish, found in 2017 at 70m. The biplane torpedo bomber, nicknamed “Stringbag” as a consequence of its primary construction, is credited with sinking extra Axis transport tonnage than another plane in the course of the battle.

Fairey Swordfish wreck

Wreck of the Fairey Swordfish (c) John Wood for University of Malta

This specific instance suffered engine failure off the coast of Sliema in 1943 and was compelled to ditch into the ocean. It is certainly one of solely a handful of Fairey Swordfish biplanes that exist right now.

Professor Gambin has plans to increase the online museum in 2020 and 2021:

In the approaching weeks, new wrecks will probably be added making certain that the museum content material stays dynamic and related.

The Virtual Museum: Underwater Malta is a everlasting and free online exhibition.

Visit Underwater Malta

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