Video: Divers filming the 360 degree video (Credit: thethistlegormproject.com)
Nottingham experts have produced ultra HD 360 degree videos of one of the Second World War’s most famous dive sites.
The SS Thistlegorm was hit by a German bomber on October 6 1941, and lies on the bed of the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt.
On the 76th anniversary of the sinking on Friday (October 6), ‘The Thistlegorm Project’ was launched to the public.
The project aims to let visitors fully explore the dive site through 3D virtual reality.
Dr Jon Henderson, from the School of Archaeology at the University of Nottingham, directs the research.
Video: The launch trailer for the project (Credit: thethistlegormproject.com)
He said: “This is an important part of Britain’s and Egypt’s shared heritage and a monument to the herculean efforts of the Merchant Navy during the Second World War.
“Nine men died on the SS Thistlegorm, five Royal Navy gunners and four merchant sailors, just a small part of the Merchant Navy sailors that gave their lives during the war.
“In the Merchant Navy, one in four men did not come back – that’s the highest proportion of all the fighting forces.
“We owe to the memory of these brave men to record and preserve their legacy.”
Dr Henderson thinks it’s important to bring the history of the vessel to a wider audience.
He said: “The thing about underwater sites and the importance of underwater cultural heritage is that the only people who have ever seen it are divers.
“However we are now at a point where we have the technology to reconstruct these sites.
“We can survey them in photo realistic detail and we can create models people can explore and interact with from the comfort of their own homes.”
Dr Henderson described the SS Thistlegorm as an ‘amazing resource’ but it has been having its problems.
He said: “It’s a remarkable snapshot from history as it’s got all this material from the Second World War sitting on it, so there is a lot to learn from the wreck.
“As it’s a really popular diving site, there is a problem with the amount of divers on the site at the moment because it’s not policed or managed.
“Aside from looting, the main issue we have is a lot of the dive boats that go out there are actually mooring onto the wreck itself because there is nowhere else to go.
“Dive boats weighing 50 and 60 tonnes are tying ropes directly to the vessel – this isn’t such a problem for the parts of the vessel which are quite strong, but equally we have seen some boats tying onto more fragile areas including the guns, bridges and railings.”
The underwater project was one of the first to utilise 360 degree video.
Dr Henderson said: “This was one of the most exciting things because with 360 degree video, we can now do guided tours around the wreck so you can experience what it’s like to dive it.
“For me, the video is a big step forward as it recreates that.
“You can get the impression of swimming over it and through the internal parts of the wreck.”