October 6, 2017, by Charlotte Anscombe

The SS Thistlegorm: Bringing the sunken secrets of WWII to the surface

A new website will let people explore one of the world’s most famous diving sites on their phones or home computers thanks to a 3D virtual reality project.

The new website, which launches on Friday 6 October, will give visitors the chance to explore the wreckage of the SS Thistlegorm, a British merchant steam ship sunk by a German bomber in 1941 during WWll off the coast of Egypt.

The website is going live 76 years to the day since the ship sank.

The Thistlegorm Project is part of a wider maritime archaeology study called Presence in the Past, which is a Newton Fund project directed by Dr Jon Henderson, from the Department of Archaeology at the University of Nottingham, in partnership with Ain Shams (Cairo) and Alexandria Universities in Egypt.

The SS Thistlegorm was a merchant navy steam ship, which was carrying supplies to support the allied war effort in Egypt. The ship was carrying a range of provisions, including trains, aircraft parts, trucks and motorbikes, which now lie 32 metres down on the bottom of the Red Sea.
The wreck is widely known in the diving community and is considered one of the best wreck dives in the world but it is hardly known among the general public. Now, 3D reality projects such as this are bringing submerged subjects to the surface, enabling everyone to appreciate what lies on the seabed.

“The thing about underwater sites and the importance of underwater cultural heritage is that the only people who’ve ever seen it are divers,” says Dr Henderson. “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 that people can explore and interact with form the comfort of their own homes.”

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