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HMS Royal Oak Shipwreck

Holoxica Ltd, the 3D holographic imaging specialist, has unveiled a hologram based on sonar images of the iconic  HMS Royal Oak, the first battle ship sunk in the second world war, which lies on the seabed in Scapa Flow – the UK’s chief Naval Base throughout the two world wars.

ADUS UK Ltd was commissioned to provide sonar images of the Royal Oak shipwreck by the Salvage & Marine Operations unit, of the UK Ministry of Defense, in 2006. The Royal Oak, a Revenge-class battleship of the British Royal Navy, was the first battleship sunk in the Second World War. She was torpedoed by a German U-47 submarine on October 14, 1939, and lost 833 of her crew. Her sinking was particularly tragic as she was anchored in a port with strong natural and artificial defenses and was carrying over 100 Boy Seamen, each under eighteen years old. She sank very quickly, within thirty-one minutes of the initial torpedo strike, which severely hampered any rescue efforts.

ADUS UK Ltd specializes in underwater archaeology and multibeam sonar imaging. Holoxica utilized a 3D model of the wreck and seafloor, which was generated with ADUS’ multi-beam system and visualized by Chris Rowland at the School of Media Arts and Imaging, University of Dundee. Instead of the traditional side scan sonar, which allows for 2 dimensional visualization, ADUS utilizes multibeam sonar scanning systems which provide depth data of the seabed. This additional dimension allows for the creation of three dimensional digital terrain models (DTM’s).

Holoxica faced unique challenges in this project, as it is the first company to use sonar scans to create a 3D digital hologram. The scan contains over 1.1 million points in three-dimensional space. After initially attempting to join up the dots to generate surfaces, it became apparent that the more accurate way to utilize the information would be to use the data as presented and augment it with some simple scaling and processing operations to ensure the integrity of the picture. Some tricky manual features were also included to provide for occlusion in an effort to prevent the viewer seeing through the points to the other sides.

HMS Royal Oak from Holoxica on Vimeo.

Through coupling the extreme accuracy of the scanning technology with pioneering 3D rendering, Holoxica has produced a hologram that is a true representation of the current state of the HMS Royal Oak, accurate to within c.10cm. Building on military visualisation technology, Holoxica created this hologram as a ‘lie-flat’ image. ‘Lie flat’ holograms are laid horizontally and illuminated by a single spot light directly from above. Thus, it is possible to rotate the HMS Royal Oak or walk 360 degrees around it. This expansion in Holoxica’s technology will create immediate benefit for all of its customers. Through this project, Holoxica has gained the ability to offer a new format to customers in medicine and architecture who often have a need for lie-flat images.


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  1. Pingback: Frontiers Magazine | Royal Oak hologram donated to Orkney Museum

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