Out of sight, brought to mind

How can we show people the rich variety of wildlife and the dramatic landscapes hidden in Scotland’s seas? How do we help people to gain a better understanding of an area’s special features and how they interact with each other?

For years these have been recurring questions for our marine team. Owen McGrath from our Coastal & Marine team explains how a children’s TV programme became a source of inspiration in developing Scotland’s first series of virtual dives.

We discovered Octonauts in 2010. Parents were marveling at the amount their young children were learning about the world’s seas and oceans from watching this animated TV programme. Having watched a few episodes, we started thinking about the potential for computer animation to help us in our quest to show Scotland the wonderful life and landscapes out of sight in our own seas.

Northern sea fans and sponge community

Northern sea fan community

By early 2011 we had completed a pilot project to produce an interactive virtual dive using a mixture of computer animation, real survey data, photos and video clips. The pilot focused on Loch Sunart Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which is now also a Marine Protected Area (MPA).

The feedback we received was very positive and constructive, both from the independent market testing carried out and from people who contacted us subsequently. Technology moves at a pace so we decided to have another go in 2013, to take advantage of advances in affordable computer animation and incorporate lessons learned and feedback from the pilot project.

Feeding minke whale

Feeding minke whale

This time we focused on the Small Isles, also now an MPA and the Sound of Barra, a candidate SAC: we used 3D bathymetric data collected from surveys to reproduce as accurately as possible the seabed and geology at the sites; we included aerial video footage to put the locations into perspective; and we added narration to help us convey more information about the sites’ special features and ecology.

We are pretty pleased with the results, which we think give a realistic impression of the world beneath the sea at these sites and some of the wonderful plants and animals that live there.

Fan mussels

Fan mussels

What we’d really like to know now though is what you think! Do these virtual dives help you to share some of our passion for the hidden world in Scotland’s seas?

All three virtual dives are available on our Scotland’s seas interactive webpage. You can let us know your thoughts via Twitter, or by commenting on our Facebook page.

This entry was posted in Marine, Nature in art, Protected Areas and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.