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High tech tour for historic boat

By , 13 November 2015

A sailing ship on the ocean.

The Endeavour is a replica of Captain Cook’s ship
Image: John Lancaster

The Australian National Maritime Museum is home to our very own HMB Endeavour. This recreation of Captain Cook’s ship hosts thousands of visitors every year. But there are many more people who aren’t able to pay a visit. So a team from the CSIRO stepped in to help.

Museum visits can done by distance already by using robot tour guides, but a historical boat brings extra challenges. “To prepare for Cook’s expedition, they added an extra deck to the HMB Endeavour,” says scientist Gavin Walker. “The floors are all sloping, and in some places the roof is only 1.2 metres high.”

Instead of building a robot, the team decided to add panoramic cameras to the ship. These cameras look in all directions at once, so people can log in through the internet and look in different directions at the same time. The cameras are camouflaged as lanterns to blend in with the rest of the ship.

The next challenge was getting the information back to shore. The team didn’t want to string ugly cables everywhere, so they looked for a better solution. They first tried another CSIRO innovation, WiFi. “The boat is not very good with WiFi,” says Gavin. “The upper deck is hosed daily with sea water and it blocks the signal.”

Instead, they connected to existing cables. There are electrical cables running throughout the ship to provide power for lights. The cameras were also using these cables for power. The team used Ethernet over Power Devices to send information over the same cables.

From there, everything was smooth sailing. The data is sent to a computer hidden in a replica chest, and then ashore via an optical fibre. Technology solved the challenge to make this famous ship open for virtual visitors.

More information

Technology brings iconic ship to classroom shores
Book a school visit to the HMB Endeavour

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