The haunting beauty of Rummu in Second Life

Rummu; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr
Rummu – click any image for full size

The start of a new year brings with it the opening of a new region design by Serene Footman and Jade Koltai, and once again they present a vision of a place few of us may ever get to see in the physical world. Rightly renowned for their work in reproducing Furillen (read here), Khodovarikha (read here), La Digue du Braek (read here), Isle of May (read here) and Black Bayou Lake (read here), they now present a setting with deep historical and cultural meaning, harkening back to the era of the Soviet Union: the Rummu quarry, located in Estonia.

Called simply Rummu in Second Life, the region completely captures the heart and soul of Rummu quarry and some of its surroundings. beautifully encapsulating them within the confines of a 256 square metre setting.

It was the location of a quarry from the 1930s until the early 1990s. More notoriously, Rummu was the site of a Soviet prison, whose inmates formed the majority of the quarry’s workforce … Rummu quarry was essentially a labour camp in which prisoners were forced to work and to endure brutal treatment from guards who barely spoke their language.

After Rummu prison was closed, the quarry ceased operating. The site was flooded and another remarkable story began. The prison itself now lay hidden beneath a lake that slowly became a well-known Estonian beauty spot, drawing many visitors who wanted to swim and dive in its crystal clear waters. In summer, this place resembles a city beach, packed with bathers.

– Serene Footman, discussing Rummu

Rummu; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr

It is as this modern beauty spot (still used today, despite bathing and swimming in the quarry having been banned) that Jade and Serene have recreated Rummu, and they’ve done so with remarkable detail.

In the physical world, the quarry sits within a heavily wood region and is immediately identified by a massive spoil tip from the quarry excavations, which forms a man-made table mountain rising above what is now the meandering lake. Sitting close to the spoil tip are a number of building shells, some rising directly out of the flood waters filling the quarry, others sitting on the shoreline, all now battered and broken since the quarry’s closure in the 1990s, and the natural flooding of the quarry pit that followed (the prisons themselves – Rummu and Murru prison, which Serene references in his own write-up about the location, – actually continued to operate through until 2012, after being merged into one in 2001, and then with the nearby Harku women’s prison in 2004).

Rummu; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr

All of this is wonderfully recreated within the Rummu build, right down to the rills and channels created by water that flows down the flanks of the spoil tip as a result of regional rainfall, and the low, sandy-like spaces where Estonians come to enjoy the summer Sun between dips in the deep waters. Also captured within the build is the fact that rather than merely standing as derelict shells or as diving platforms for daring leaps into the waters below, the buildings also became the home of an impromptu outdoor art gallery, their walls home to large fresco-like paintings and graffiti.

Nor is the build restricted to reproducing what lies above the waters; when the quarry naturally flooded after work within it ceased (the quarry had to be continuously pumped during its operational life in order to prevent it filling up with water), many of the buildings it contained, together with equipment, ended up underwater.

Rummu; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr

These drowned remains give the physical world Rummu prison something of an eerie, ethereal feel, as they can often be seen from above the surface. And it is these submerged buildings and other reminders of the quarry’s past that have also in part been reproduced within Serene’s and Jade’s build. Somewhat hidden from any overhead view when using the default windlight, they lie within a haze that gives a great sense of the real quarry’s depth, looming into view much as they would to divers braving the waters of Estonia’s Rummu.

As Serene notes, almost all the LI for the region is used up; ergo there is no public rezzing available – but there are a lot of places to sit and enjoy the surroundings – including a dive platform that appears to have been drawn from this video of the quarry, and which again adds to the overall setting. There are also a number of interactive elements to be found as well, including two places where you can dive, a zip line slide and a pedal boat rezzer.

Rummu; Inara Pey, December 2018, on Flickr

But why pick on a place that once harbours such human misery? I think Serene explains it perfectly:

We were drawn to the place by its contrasts: between past and present, between what lies above and below the water, between freedom and captivity, between beauty and brutality. We also liked Rummu’s bohemian vibe: there is something carefree and illicit in the way that visitors use it, painting murals on the walls of the buildings one can see, and staging impromptu parties and music events.

– Serene Footman, discussing Rummu

To give you a flavour of Rummu as it appears today, and just how carefully Serene and Jade have recreated it, I’ll leave you with a short video of the quarry. Do remember that the setting will not in in-world forever, so a visit is strongly recommended, and photos can be shared on the Rummu Flickr group.

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