Macquarie Island station goes virtual

David and Madeleine Rayward in tussock grass on Macquarie Island.
David (left) and Madeleine Rayward (front right) from Sky Avenue Photography and Design on Macquarie Island, working on the first 360 degree tour of the islandís research station to assist the design and construction of a new station. (Photo: Chris Roulston)
Madeleine in wet weather on Macquarie Island.

Macquarie Island research station was captured in 360 degree virtual reality in March, to assist station redevelopment and provide a historical record of the current buildings.

Australian Antarctic Division Macquarie Island Modernisation Project Manager, Adrian Young, travelled to the sub-Antarctic island for two weeks, with a team from Tasmanian business Sky Avenue Photography and Design.

Mr Young said the photographic team took 360 degree images from inside and outside the station and surrounding environment, and stitched these together to provide a virtual tour of the site.

“The tour will help the Australian Antarctic Division and the future Managing Contractor to prepare for the design and construction phase of the project, as well as the decommissioning of the current station buildings,” Mr Young said.

“As access is limited, the virtual tour will be a valuable tool to help the Managing Contractor design the new station and understand how the existing facility operates.”

The footage will also give the designers an understanding of the dynamic environmental conditions experienced on the island, especially those in which construction materials will need to be unloaded from the ship, transported to and on the island, and stored.

“We have to transport everything from the Aurora Australis to shore using LARCs [amphibious vehicles] or helicopters, often in challenging weather conditions. This will help them gain an understanding of how cargo operations are undertaken on the island,” Mr Young said.

Over eight days, in between episodes of rain, wind and snow, Sky Avenue father-daughter team, David and Madeleine Rayward, used DSLR cameras with fish eye lenses to capture thousands of images of the site, and a small drone to provide aerial views.

Once stitched together, the images appear similar to those in Google Street View.

“The 360 degree imagery is superimposed on an aerial image, so you can see a clear view of the site and little hotspots for each building or location that you can click on,” Mr Rayward said.

“When you click on a building it opens up and you can look around inside. There’s also a navigation menu system for each building that directs you to different areas, like the kitchen or a scientific lab. You can also follow arrows around the floor or across the ground outside.

Mr Rayward said the pair took about 1350 photos to create 90 000 web files for the virtual tour.

The tour will be viewable on mobile phones and desktop computers, as well as through virtual reality headsets.

Wendy Pyper
Australian Antarctic Division