Return to the Abyss: science in Second Life

The Abyss Observatory's main facilities at Farwell
The Abyss Observatory’s main facilities at Farwell

January 8th, 2016: Update: as per the comment below from Yan, SLurls for the observatory’s facilities have changed, and the article hand images have been updated to reflect this.

In May 2015, I wrote about the The Abyss Observatory, a collaborative project formulated by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and involving the support of a number of organisations including the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Open University in the UK.

At the time I wrote that piece, it appeared that a good part of the Observatory’s operations in Second Life would be going off-line in June. fortunately, rather than this being the case, the team behind the Observatory have been busy relocating the exhibits and also taking the opportunity to renew many of them, and they’re now once more moving forward in their work of fostering a greater understanding of the world around us.

Weather balloons rise from the atmospheric research facility at the Abyss Observatory, with the Calypso and Okeanos Explorer moored bat the foot of the island
Weather balloons rise from the atmospheric research facility at The Abyss Observatory, with the RV Calypso and Okeanos Explorer moored bat the foot of the island

“Since the closing of Second Earth 3 in June 2015, we have been working on five new areas,” Abyss co-founder Yan Lauria informed me during a recent visit to the Observatory’s new hub at Farwell. “We now have installations at Farwell, Jabara Land Atlantis, STEM Island and Lily, although some parts are still under construction.”

The re-working of the Abyss facilities has also led to increased collaboration with other science and eduction groups and organisations in Second Life, and also to expand a presence in OpenSim as well.Supporting the venture from the physical world are the National Institute of Education, Singapore and The Science Circle.

Yan, who is also a lecturer at The Science Circle in Second Life, as well as working at JAMSTEC, went on,”We continue to develop Earth, Ocean and Life science exhibits and cross-disciplinary collaboration in SL and JOGrid with TUIS, JAMSTEC, NIE, UIW, The Science Circle and other organisations,”

Underwater at the Abyss Observatory, visitors can learn about deep submersibles like the Treste (left) and JAMSTEC's Shinkai 6500 (right)
Underwater at The Abyss Observatory, visitors can learn about deep submersibles like the Triseste (left) and JAMSTEC’s Shinkai 6500 (right)

Most of the exhibits from the earlier iterations of the Abyss Observatory have now been placed in new locations across the five regions, and a new cross-navigation teleport system has been implemented to ease movement between the different locations and exhibits. These are largely centred on the  Observatory’s land at Farwell, which is perhaps the best place to start any planned tour or visit.

It is at Farwell that those new to The Abyss Observatory can gain a general introduction to it and the purposes behind it, visit several of the main exhibition locations, including the Sunken City Excavation by Kichimaru Haystack, the Cetological Museum by Dugong Janu, Jacques Cousteau’s Calypso and the NOAA Okeanos Explorer (and you can read about the latter’s studies in the physical world as well). And that’s just the start of things.

The Tet
The Tektite Habitat also now resides at The Abyss Observatory’s facilities at Farwell

The travel system on Farwell’s shore will take you down to one of two further undersea exhibit areas, the Dophin Promenade, where you can see the unique Tektite Habitat, which in 1969 / 70 was the centre of research into reef ecosystems and human physiology studies related to both saturation diving and possible long-duration space missions. Simply wait for the travel sphere to arrive when you stand at the entrance to the system, then step inside and let it carry you down to the promenade, where you can walk through the glass tunnel to the travel system at the far end.

Just offshore from the island on the east side of Farwell is a further underwater exhibit, reached via elevator. Here you can wander glass observation tunnels on two levels, the lower of which take you into the world of deep diving exploration, and the likes of craft such as the bathyscaphe Triseste, which in 1960, descended the Challenger Deep within the Mariana Trench, to reach a record maximum depth of some 10,911 metres (35,797 ft).

The One Earth interactive exhibit deserves a visit in its own right
The Only One Earth interactive exhibit deserves a visit in its own right

For those who prefer, the navigation system – which comprises a series of clickable image boards which supply SLurls to their destinations in chat  – will take you up into the sky to the aforementioned Cetological Museum, the Underwater World and Submarine Design Project, and the visually stunning and informative Only One Earth interactive exhibit – which in itself is worth a visit, quite apart from the rest of the Observatory’s offerings.  The navigation boards also provide access to the Abyss exhibits at Shamash, Jabara Land Atlantis, STEM Island and Lily, all of which are worth the time to visit and explore.

A further attractive element with The Abyss Observatory is the collaborative and cross-supportive nature of many of the facilities on offer, which refer to resources and information provided by other groups within SL and those external to the platform.

In terms of the former, perhaps the clearest example is that of the Abyss Gateway to Thinking, established at The Science Circle and alongside the facilities belonging to The Science Circle. Here one can find teleport boards providing access to a huge range of facilities and centres right across SL, encompassing education, mathematics, physics, astronomy, space exploration, chemistry and biology, the environment and ecology, history and archaeology, and art. Should you visit, make sure you also take time to explore The Science Circle as well, which I’ll have more to say bout in a separate article in the future.

The Gateway to Thinking facility at Shamash offers a gateway to a host of sicence, education and art facilities and installations within Second Life
The Gateway to Thinking facility at The Science Circle offers a gateway to a host of science, education and art facilities and installations within Second Life

With the Chaos and Supercomputing exhibit and the Jules Verne Museum at Lily, which includes the Abyss model of Nemo’s Nautilus as originally depicted by Alphonse de Neuville and Édouard Riou in  illustrated versions of  Vingt Mille Lieues Sous Les Mers: Tour Du Monde Sous-marin (“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas: An Underwater Tour of the World”), The Abyss Observatory offers a fascinating series of exhibits and installations within Second Life. 

The value of these installations, topically, in terms of education and information and as a part of SL’s history, cannot be over-emphasised. As such, I’m more than pleased to see that the project has been able to continue within Second Life. My thanks go to Yan for his time, and congratulations to the Abyss team as a whole.

Deep Ocean Exploration Jabara Land Atlantis
Deep Ocean Exploration  Jabara Land Atlantis

SLurl Details

6 thoughts on “Return to the Abyss: science in Second Life

  1. Thank you, Inara.
    We can visualize own idea by ourself in current SL without professional CG designers. Once visualized, we can collaborate cross-disciplinary and worldwide in SL. OpenSim is even creator’s heaven than SL on static displays due to less limitation of size and link-set, but SL has advantage on creators and appreciators relation and lots of user generated contens.
    We can restart own museum if we lost own region, but we can’t if we lost collaborators. I lost four of my important collaborators who were banned in a half year. All of them contributed to SL very much for a long time. I can’t help but think LL becomes crazy!


    1. It is hard when people are banned – particularly when the reasons for the ban remain unknown. I honestly think the work your team is doing is extraordinary. The rebuilt / renewed facilities make for an engaging visit, and I’m looking forward to making many more and watching as thing develop and to visiting your operations on OpenSim. Thank you for keeping me informed of progress!


  2. About Aley Resident (= Arcadia Asylum), detail situations are discribed at my topic of “Friends of Arcadia Asylum” of Google+
    About Trill Zapatero, I can happily contact her on FB and you can hear from her directly. STEM Island (University of the Incarnate Word) already accept to re-install of full version of Trill’s Afghanistan Museum, Trill submitted a tiket to LL, then LL demands her passport, but she don’t want to give a private company any identification. She is advised it’s not safe.
    I’m sorry if this post is not suit for your blog.


  3. Hi Inara, same SLURLs are changed by region name change.

    Shamash Facilities (Rated: General) ->The Science Circle Facilities (Rated: General)
    •Gateway to Thinking ->

    •Chaos and Supercomputing -> moved to Farwell ->

    •Undersea Cafe Bar ->


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