Our new virtual tour tech allows students to experience this famous ship without leaving their classroom.

A picture of the Endeavour ship at sail

The HMB Endeavour under sail

How good are school excursions? The excitement of changing the routine and heading out into the big wide world to learn something new. And yet some of the best exhibitions, museums and attractions are in different cities, states and countries.  Sure you could go to a library or search Google replicas of dinosaurs, tanks or ships – but it’s so static, so boring.

Now, thanks to our technological know-how, students can explore these attractions using an advanced immersive learning environment from their home or classroom. And the first we’ve helped to go digital is a real sight to sea.

Moored on the waterfront of Sydney’s Darling Harbour sits the HMB Endeavour, a replica of the famous ship that Captain James Cook and his botanist mate Joseph Banks sailed to Australia for a bit of a look around.

It was on this voyage that Banks and his counterparts made the first major collection of Australian flora, describing many species new to Western science.

Lucky Sydneysiders can catch a view of the magnificent vessel whenever they please but everyone else is left marooned. The replica is an Australian icon that some children may never get the chance to experience.

Now, we’re not going to rock the boat and say that regular excursions aren’t awesome but our virtual tour technology lets students tour and learn about the HMB Endeavour remotely.

It was all hands on deck with our Data61 team working with the Australian National Maritime Museum to pull this project together.

Fortunately we had just the right researchers who knew the ropes. We’ve developed robotics systems and digital solutions for museums and areas of national significance like the Jenolan Caves in the Blue Mountains.

Once the crew had the lay of the land they hit the deck and came up with a solution.

A picture tables and in the cabin below deck on a ship

Students can tour below deck to see how the sailors lived onboard

Panoramic cameras installed throughout the ship, cleverly hidden as eighteenth century lanterns, allow students to take a live tour of the ship and control what they see as they embark on their educational expedition.

With no risk of falling into Davey Jones’ Locker, a museum educator uses a tablet computer to show students around the vessel and interacts with them as the tour is conducted. The guide can ask the students questions and they can respond instantly making the virtual tour as much like a real school excursion as possible – and you don’t even need your sea legs!

On board the ship, you get a glimpse into the sailor’s life during one of history’s greatest maritime adventures. Until recently, this was only possible by visiting the Endeavour in person.

The virtual visitors can zoom in to explore the specimens that Banks collected, learn about pulley systems and discover how the sailors avoided scurvy by keeping up their vitamins with sauerkraut.

By making the HMB Endeavour available digitally the museum can now offer a rich and real-life learning environment to help children learn about this historically and scientifically significant vessel.

But don’t just take our word for it. These adventurers from Brisbane’s Kenmore High School took the system on its maiden voyage and they thought it was pretty ship shape.

This project was funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Communications and the Arts.

Check out more of our telepresence work on our website.