For many people the hit computer game Minecraft is just something that the kids play with – or a pleasant way to pass a spare hour or two – but not for the hardcore fans who spend weeks recreating real cities and fictional worlds. Martin O’Leary, a glaciologist from Swansea University, has just joined their ranks, creating a scale model of Antarctica using Minecraft software.
His model replicates Antarctica at a scale of 1:1000, and although locations such as research bases are too small to be reproduced at that size, many of the most famous and popular landmarks are included. O’Leary has a few favourites of his own, in particular the Beardmore Glacier, which he loves because: “It’s one of the world’s largest valley glaciers, and it was the route that Shackleton and Scott took to pass through the Transantarctic Mountains on their way to the South Pole. When you stand at the bottom you can really appreciate the scale of the journey they undertook.”
We’re not sure we understand every technical detail behind O’Leary’s project, but here are the basics: he took data from a British Antarctica Survey project, and fed it into a Minecraft map editing program, allowing the world to be as accurate as possible. This was not without it’s difficulties, the major problem being space – initially there just wasn’t room on O’Leary’s computer memory to hold all of the data.
Now that it’s finished, it’s open to the public, and anybody with a copy of the game can head over to his website for information on how to access his world and start exploring! We expect that a simple look at the breathtaking scale of Antarctica’s icy world, and the chance to wander around it – in a sense – could be enough to inspire a lot of people to want to visit for real. When launching the virtual Antarctica, players find themselves standing at the point which Rothera Station occupies in the real world – the main British research base in Antarctica, and the place that many real world explorers often start out at.
It’s an incredible feat, and a real testament to the majesty of the Antarctic environment, although we’re sure that O’Leary would be the first to agree with us when we say that it could never quite match the irresistible beauty of the real place.