Cornhub is a rather curious region, one which apparently changes perhaps more regularly than other public regions (designer Mya Milena notes of the region, “we change themes like socks”!). At the time of writing this piece, it offers a look into one aspect of modern-day mythology: that of flying saucers and alien visitations.
We were dawn to the region after seeing Ricco Saenz’s pictures of Cornhub on Twitter (and you can read about his explorations here). But if I’m honest, they didn’t entirely prepare us for what we found: this iteration of Cornhub is quirky, unexpected, different and, well, strange, with the flying saucers just a part of the story. However, it is the one I’ll start with, as it is perhaps the most obvious.
Sitting in the midst of this desert landscape is a crater out of which rises the crashed hull of a flying saucer, bodies of “greys” lying on the cracked ground where they were either thrown during impact or staggered to on escaping before collapsing. A second flying saucer is circling above, wobbling in its flight in the way such vehicles tend to do in those old 50s sci-fi B-movies.
A sign by the roadside that passes the crash site points the way to the “UFO Crash Site Roswell, New Mexico”. So, whether this crash is intended to represent that so-called incident is debatable. Certainly, other signs in the area suggest this is might actually be the legendary (in alien conspiracy theory circles) “Area 51” (officially, the Homey Airport or Groom Lake in the middle of the Nevada Test and Training Range) – which is roughly 900 miles from Roswell.
For those perhaps unfamiliar with the Roswell incident of mid-1947, it was triggered when a special high-altitude balloon being used by the (then) US Army Air Force in a top-secret endeavour came down some 75 miles from the town of Roswell. That secret endeavour was Project Mogul, an attempt to detect the sound waves generated by Soviet atomic bomb tests using special equipment suspended from high-altitude balloons.
Due to the sensitive nature of Project Mogul, various official statements were made about the nature of the crash were contradictory or simply didn’t match the facts (one USAAF report referred to the crash being a “weather balloon”, although the Project Mogul balloons were very different beasts). The event occurred just two weeks after aviator Kenneth Arnold made his famous report of seeing nine “saucer-like” flying objects near Mount Rainier, Washington State, so when a report was issued that a “disc” (albeit one apparently small enough to be held in the hands) had been recovered at the crash site, the press briefly went wild with speculation – something which, 30 years after the fact, resulted in Roswell becoming infamous as an alleged “UFO crash site”.
Whether you chose to see the Cornhub flying saucer crash as being a play on the so-called Roswell UFO incident is up to you. For my part, I found myself leaning more towards the road sign with its arrow being more a passing reference to Roswell, and the setting within the region far more of a play on the whole mystique of “Area 51” and its place in both “UFO / Alien visitation” mythology and some science fiction films.
There are certainly enough clues for the latter being the case: the Area 51 signs, the military vehicles parked close by, and the spacesuited figures of humans also scattered about the crash site. The latter in particular take on more of a sci-fi meme: the suits carry the NASA logo and look to be modelled on modern US EVA spacesuits. However, they also appear to have been ineffective in projecting those wearing them from something undoubtedly nasty in the immediate vicinity of the crash.
North of the crash site is what might be the edge of a town, one which might be taken as Roswell if one goes in that direction, or perhaps some little hamlet on the edge of the Nevada Test and Training Range. It offers a curious mix of buildings: there’s a very 50’s style diner and drive-in diner sitting alongside an 80s video game arcade, while SL table-top games can be found in the parking lot. Meanwhile, just across the road, there’s a concrete tower block that might at first appear to be a military-style structure (and thus suggestive again of “Area 51”), but which is in fact an apartment building, a trailer park (travelling UFOlogists?) located in the car park at its base.
Elsewhere, back towards the middle of the region, sitting between the flying saucer crash site and the region’s landing point, the top of the Statue of Liberty’s head rises from the dried sands, almost in a nod to the Planet of the Apes franchise and adding a further twist to the setting. Meanwhile, and off to the south where it stands alone, is the warehouse-like bulk of a television recording studio, apparently the home of “Cornhub’s Blind Date”.
Eclectic, unusual, overlooked by a Hollywood-echoing hillside sign spelling out the region’s name, and with a pot-pourri of ideas, Cornhub in this current iteration makes for an undoubtedly a strange – but also curiously photogenic. But remember, it might not be around too long, so should you want to visit, it might be best to do so sooner rather than later!
I’m re-tracing the flight of Apollo 11 in my Space Sunday articles – part 1, published to coincide with the launch of Apollo 11 is available now, and part 2, covering the Moon landing and the return to Earth will follow on the weekend of the landing. But you can also celebrate the audacious achievement of Apollo 11 in-world in both Second Life and Sansar (and, I’m sure, in other virtual worlds as well – but I am focusing on SL and Sansar here, as it is in these worlds that I spend my time nowadays).
Note: there are likely to be more Apollo 11 celebrations than recorded here. These are simply two I’ve enjoyed visiting.
International Spaceflight Museum
Where better to immerse yourself in all things space than the International Spaceflight Museum? Covering two regions, and with the likes of NASA’s (slightly ageing) Jet Propulsion Laboratory region adjoining or close by, the ISM allows you to take a walk through the history of international space-faring achievements, see the massive launch vehicles, re-visit missions both crewed and automated, travel the solar system, and take a glimpse of things to come.
ISM features several elements related to the Project Apollo and its precursor Project Gemini programme; for example, in the shadow of the Rocket Ring sit models of an Apollo Lunar Module (also known as the Lunar Excursion Module or LEM) and the combined Command and Service Modules (the former the capsule in which most of the Apollo crews flew to the Moon and in which all returned to Earth, the latter the power and propulsion system for the Command Module). These include cutaway schematics and other information.
However, located on the ISM’s Spaceport Bravo region, and in the lee of the mighty Saturn V lunch vehicle that carried every crewed Apollo lunar mission on its way to the Moon, is a display dedicated to Apollo 11 (as also seen at the SL16B celebrations in June 2019). It features a combined model of the Command and Service Module and a model of the Command Module itself that allows visitors a peek inside.
Close the this display is a model of the LRV – the Lunar Roving Vehicle, or “Moon buggy”. While this did not fly to the Moon until the Apollo J-class missions (15 through 17), it still stands as a reminder of the technical abilities of the Apollo programme.
And if you want to get a feel for how truly massive the Saturn V rocket really was, then hop up onto the Mobile Launcher behind the Apollo 11 display.
Sitting atop a crawler / transporter the Mobile Launcher comprises the massive slate-grey launch platform base and the massive Launch Umbilical Tower (LUT) that included all of the service arms required to support the rocket (nine in all) with fuel, power, and direct access. The most famous of these arms lay close to the top of the tower as it stood in attendance beside a Saturn V. This arm held the White Room – the room where the astronauts, assisted by pad technicians, boarded their Apollo Command Module. Sadly, the White Room doesn’t form a part of the ISM’s Saturn V Launcher model – but you can climb the stairs all the way up to the swing arm on which it sat, and in doing so gain an appreciation for the size of the rocket next to it.
Headline Apollo Exhibit
Headline Apollo is a pop-up exhibition by Diamond Marchant taking place at the Beckridge Gallery curated by Emerald Marchant in Bellisseria. It takes as its theme a look at Apollo 11 from the perspective of a north Texas newspaper, the Fort Worth Star Telegram. In doing so, it offers a unique perspective on the mission – which was as we know, managed out of the Manned Spacecraft Centre (later renamed the Johnson Space Centre), located further south, near the Texas state capital, Houston.
Given the size of the Bellisseria Homes, they make for a cosy gallery space, but this actually makes Headline Apollo more of an intimate visit. A guide note card is available both at the entrance to the galley and in the foyer (and which includes copies of some of the images seen in the exhibition). The exhibition itself is broadly split in two: to the left of the entrance foyer the launch and the flight to the Moon, to the right, the surface mission and return to Earth.
What makes this exhibition engaging is that Apollo 11 and the Apollo lunar missions as a whole, tend to be remembered in a way that frame them on their own. There might be some ruminations on major events of the time – such as the Vietnam War -, but by-and-large they are presented in something of a bubble. Headline Apollo, however, with its reproductions of front pages and columns from the Fort Worth Star Telegram frames the story of the mission alongside that of daily life in Forth Worth and America as a whole.
For example, sitting alongside the reports of Apollo 11 are those of a more infamous event that took place in 1969, one that would become known as the Chappaquiddick incident, which involved the death of a young woman in a car driven by Edward Kennedy, the youngest brother of John F. Kennedy, who had started America on its journey to the Moon in 1961.
This story, and the more local ones appearing on the reproduced pages of the newspaper put the Apollo 11 mission is something of a different perspective. We’re reminded that for all its faults and weaknesses, humankind can raise itself up, seek to achieve something better, and the bravery of just three men in a tin can can unite us all in a hope for a better tomorrow.
Complete with archival NASA photos an cover pieces from the likes of Time and Life magazines, Headline Apollo offers a departure from the more usual Apollo retrospectives and will be open to visitors through until July 28th, 2019.
Sansar may be anathema to some Second Life users, but if you have the hardware to enjoy it – and remember you can with a suitable PC and without the need for a VR headset – then frankly, there is no better way within a publicly accessible virtual world to celebrate Apollo 11 and the entire Apollo lunar endeavour than by visiting the Apollo Museum ant Tranquillity Base.
The Apollo Museum
The Apollo Museum remains one of the highlights of Sansar (if first wrote about it back in 2017). Developed by Sansar Studios, Loot Interactive and NASA, it reproduces the main hall of the Apollo/Saturn V Centre at the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida, to offer visitors a fully interactive guide to the Apollo programme.
Here you can walk the length of a Apollo Saturn V launch vehicle, from the exhaust bells of its five mighty F-1 engines to the tip of the Launch Abort System tower. Along the way, and set out on time-line, you can re-trace the journey of Aldrin, Armstrong and Collins from the launch of Apollo 11 through to its splashdown 8 days later.
This is done by walking up the left side of the Saturn V, where exquisite models (the Earth and Moon not being to scale admittedly) and photos mark the significant stages of the the mission as they unfolded, culminating in Apollo 11’s arrival at the Moon and Armstrong and Aldrin’s descent to the Moon’s surface. The story then resumes on the other side of the Saturn V’s nose, with the two men ascending back to orbit to link-up with Collins in the Command and Service Module, before charting the trio’s return to Earth and splashdown.
With interactive disks available that play audio relevant audio recordings from the mission, it’s a marvellous way to understand the mission, even if I do have a small quibble with the Lunar Module’s legs being shown unfolded during the flight to the Moon (this was actually only the case with Apollo 13, when the LM was being used as a lifeboat).
Beyond this, on the upper sections of the gallery, are sections devoted to all of the Apollo crewed flights, from the tragedy of Apollo 1 through the triumph of Apollo 11 to the near-disaster of Apollo 13, and thence to the the sounding bell of Apollo 17. These also include interactive panels that will play audio when an avatar stands on them, and are bracketed by a complete model of an Apollo Lunar Module (also referred to as the Lunar Excursion Module, or LEM) and a model of the Apollo 13 Command and Service Module showing the damaged and exposed part of the latter after it had been crippled by an explosion within a liquid oxygen tank.
From a large disk under the Saturn V’s Launch Abort System tower, visitors can jump to Tranquillity Base, the landing area for Apollo 11.
Also by Sansar Studios / Loot Interactive and NASA, Tranquillity Base reproduces the Apollo 11 Lunar Module as it sat on the Moon whilst Armstrong and Aldrin were on the lunar surface. This is a more static display when compared to the Apollo Museum, dominated by the Lunar Module and an overhead display which, when correctly aligned, provides insight into the surface equipment placed out on the lunar surface around the LM.
Visiting the individual elements will trigger playback of audio elements relevant to the science packages, whilst closer to the LM Armstrong’s famous statement on setting foot on the Moon’s surface can be heard.
And if you want to know how small the Earth looks from the surface of the Moon, be sure to tilt your camera up and around.
As noted above, there are doubtless numerous other Apollo 11 celebrations – be they exhibits, parties or something else – across SL and other virtual worlds. But these are the ones I wanted to start here during this historic week. I hope you’ll take the time to drop-in and visits them.
In keeping Zuma’s previous designs I’ve written about, this (fae forest) maintains the fantasy element with its touch of whimsy, but it also has something of a darker tone as well. This latter aspect is somewhat apparent on arrival: the default windlight casts a hazy blanket across the region, causing distant trees to look a little ghost-like, an effect enhanced by the stardust that in places drifts on the wind.
Sitting as a humped island rising from the sea, the region has a distinct north-west to south-east orientation. Towards its centre there rises a vertically-walled table of rock, its broad plateau, complete with taller pillars and curtains of rock that in places rise above it, resembles a great, natural fortress; its castle-like look further enhanced by the ring of water that surrounds it like a natural moat.
The land spreading to the west and east around this great plateau undulates gently and carries with it a feeling of being windswept and exposed. It is largely home to scrub grass, some of if providing grazing for sheep, while a few trees sit further around its eastward arc, the horizon of which is broken by the blocky form of a stone-built chapel. The grassland also sweeps around to the west and south, where it washes against the dark shadow of woodland – but more of that anon.
The great plateau is accessed through a set of stone-cut steps that face the landing point across the grasslands. Like the plateau, the steps are on a massive scale – each of them practically needs a staircase of its own to climb it. They provide the single point of entry to the table-top of rock from the lands below, as if again suggesting this is a place of natural fortification.
However, the top of the plateau is not in any way given over to ideas of war or defence. Instead, it offers the clearest reflection of previous iterations of (fae forest). Richly wooded, it offers a lot to discover in what is a glorious garden sitting beneath boughs draped in lights and between which shafts of sunlight fall around a central giant gazebo. Nevertheless, the echoes of castles persist: on the south side of the gazebo more huge steps cut their way up through another great up-thrust of rock that rises like a giant natural motte to the lower plateau’s bailey, albeit one lacking defensive walls around its top.
Beyond the plateau’s bulk the landscape takes a different turn. Great columns of rock cover the south-eastern side of the region, looking for all the world like some giant’s hammer has been used to randomly pound each of them into the ground. Just to west the of these great stone blocks stands the dark woodland mentioned above, a place where rain falls and mist creeps between shadowy tree trunks.
Here the region takes on something of a darker tone, not only because of the mist and rain and dark hue to the trees, but because of what lies amidst the tall trees. A ramshackle cabin raised on stout wooden legs and looking for all the world like it should be sitting within some dank, dark corner of a bayou crouches on one side of the path. Beneath it, and somewhat ominously, baby dolls have been strung up, while facing it from the other side of the path is a strange oversized display cabinet in which hang more dolls, these ones perhaps best described as Chucky’s distance cousins, watched over by a distinctly nervous-looking cat (one of Cica Ghost’s creations).
The wood with its strange tableaux can come as an odd turn for the region to take, standing as it does in opposition to the more fairy-tale heights of the plateau above and behind it. However, it also adds to the overall atmosphere of the setting, adding to its uniqueness.
This uniqueness is further increased by the oddities scattered across the region: an aero engine here, offshore ring of standing stones there, sculptures rising in unexpected places, high and low, and more – there’s even a troll hiding within the arms of denuded trees.
Atmospheric, slightly haunting, but definitely photogenic, this version of (fae forest) perhaps offers a slightly different face to the world than previous builds, but it remains evocative and utterly worthwhile in visiting.
We were led to ][Octopussy][ goes Cuba on the recommendation of Shawn and Max, discovering in the process a sun-drenched tropical island with a lot to offer visitors.
A joint design by FleurLaRosa and WillkinThos, this homestead region is adult rated and does embrace nudity and adult activities – providing the clearly stated rules are followed; but this should in no way put people off paying it a visit, as there is a lot to appreciate.
This is very much a place of two halves, visually. There is the tall, rocky plateau of the island, and the low-lying beaches stretching out to the west and curling around to the south. The former is home to the main landing point, sitting towards the centre of the region, and a gaily-painted village location that sits above it. The village, with its 50’s style cars and bright colours is obviously intended to evoke the Cuban feel suggested by the region’s title.
There might be a tendency to make allusions to James Bond given the region’s name, and certainly, the British spy has been to Cuba and other tropical locations, and in places the Octopus logo found the island kind-of offers suggestions of an inverted SPECTRE symbol. But really, any alignment of the region with Bond is purely in the imagination. Instead, this is a place for photography, fun and music.
The latter is catered for at several points around the island, but perhaps most obviously in the underground ][ Octopussy ][ Lounge. This can be found through the tunnel to one side of the landing point, and has is unique visual appeal. This makes imaginative use of the [Original] the Spa – Black edition by Abiss to provide an underground club space designed to give the feeling of being underwater; large screens around the walls present videos of fish swimming among rocks and coral, and the floor of the dance floor is, in part, glass sitting over coral and water through which more fish swim.
A set of steps connect the landing point with the broad western beach, which offers plenty of space to sit and relax in the sun, as well as broad walks extending out over the shallows to reed-covered sand bars. These are home to both birds and waterfowl, and offer more places to relax and enjoy company or the scenery. One of these board walks extends well out to the north-west, offering visitors the chance to gain an off-shore view of the island – although it conveniently connects to the local rum bar should anyone get thirsty! For the more active, the board walk from the south beach connects to a wooden dance floor complete with line dancing options.
Two paths from the landing point lead up to the little village, the longer of them passing a little shrine and a place to sit before arriving at the village square. This offers another place where music and dancing can be enjoyed, or for those who prefer, the opportunity to enjoy the local outdoor bar. A smaller square off the north-east corner of the village plaza provides access to a sunny, cliff-edge terrace, a wide path cut between the rocks inviting exploration.
This path reveals it actually runs along the far side of a box canyon that quickly opens up, in part separating the north side of the island’s uplands from the village. Water flows outward from the bottom of the canyon and a rope suspension bridge offers a means of crossing it from the north-east corner of the village. Follow the path as it slopes gently downwards and it’ll take you to a little log bridge spanning the canyon’s water just before it tumbles over high falls. The path then leads back to the landing point (but don’t miss the little look-out point!), making for a nice loop around the upper reaches of the island.
][Octopussy][ goes Cuba is a region rich in detail, including the support sound scape, and which also has its own sense of fun – including the late Stan Lee enjoying a twirl on one of the dance floors! His presence, and that of others dancing and static figures also help to add a little depth to the island, making it feel occupied even if you’re a lone explorer.
All told, an attractive region with much to offer visitors and nicely photogenic; whilst exploring, keep an eye out for the little gift envelopes waiting to be found.
In passing suggestions for regions to visit, Miro Collas recently reminded me that it has been almost four years to the day since I last wrote about Cooper Creek Wilderness and the public regions of Sailor’s Cove Rain Forest (see A walk in the wilderness in Second Life). We’ve been back numerous times, both by boat and by air, and have noted various changes to the regions – notably the rise of Mount Cooper, the massive mountain that dominates the southern end of the estate, which I’ve yet to write about. So Miro’s reminder served as a reason for us to hop back for a visit that could include Mount Cooper and give a reason for me to write an updated post.
Now, to be clear, there are a lot of places to explore within the Rain Forest, and they can be reached via direct teleport or by flying / boating. For this article, and to match the flavour of my original piece, I’m setting out a possible tour using the latter – aircraft and boat -, but SLurls are also provided for those preferring the more direct means of travel.
For those flying in, the Rain Forest Airfield (formerly the Sailors Cove South (SCS) airfield) is the initial destination to head for. In 2015, this was a fairly small affair, with the runway running east-west. It’s since been expanded, with a north-south runway (although approach and take-off should be from / to the north, given the bulk of Mount Cooper looming so close. With revised helipads, a seaplane ramp and a fair amount of parking, the new airstrip offers more space – but is still only suitable for light aircraft.
From here, explorers can switch to kayak – there is a rezzer to the east of the airfield, just beyond the Get The Freight Out terminal. The rezzer pier sits close to a channel that cuts northwards through Frasier Island and Cerrado to Cooper Creek Wilderness, or offers a route south to Mount Cooper (which, if you prefer, can also be reached by ferry).
Should you head north along the water channel, keep in mind that both Frasier Island and Cerrado have private residences on the west banks of the main north-south channel cutting through them. There is also a large private residence on the north side of Cerrado as well, sitting just across the water from the Fishers Island Yacht Club, which is open to the public.
As well as being navigable via kayak, both Cerrado and Cooper Creek Wilderness each have a series of raised board walks and winding wooden paths running through the trees, over the water and climbing up the higher reaches of land. These offer plenty of opportunities for exploration on foot (there are other numerous kayak rezzing points, should you wish to resume your explorations on the water).
There are numerous places to be found whilst exploring the walks and waters of the rain forest – from the obvious places such as the Yacht Club (another kayak rezzing point sitting just across the east side channel), or The Alchemis coffee bar or the Butterfly House, and so on. The best place to find out more about the sights is from the sign at the Cooper Creek Wilderness landing point. When touched, this will offer you a note card detailing many of the attractions, all the way down to Mount Cooper.
If you do head south to Mount Cooper, I recommend avoiding the marina-style mooring sitting on the far side of the channel from Frasier Island, and instead turn south-east to make for the smaller pier sitting by a sandy shelf on the far side of the great gorge cut into the side of Mount Cooper. From here, you can follow the trails up the side of the mountain on foot or via horseback (terrain allowing, if you are using a rezzed horse – wearable horses are fair better, if you have one) and enjoy the open air.
A point to note with Mount Cooper – as with other parts of the rain forest regions as noted above – is that as well as being a public park, it is also home to a number of private residences – the first of which can be encountered when following the trail up from the horse rezzer. So while exploring, do keep people’s privacy in mind.
The paths up the mountain are a mix of grassy trail, rock-based path or stony trail (the latter of which can cause rezzed horses some problems). The also offer multiple routes of exploration, so I strongly recommend you give Mount Cooper plenty of time for a visit, as there is far more to see than may at first appear to be the case.
In particular, keep an eye out for the numerous entrances to the network of tunnels and caverns running through the heart of the mountain. These offer surprises of their own, including the opportunity to take a wet bungee jump (which can also be reached via a rocky path up from the marina). And when you’ve done with that, a swim through the underwater tunnel might reveal more.
All of the above really just scratches the surface of the Cooper Creek Wilderness and Mount Cooper. As destinations, both deserve a decent amount of time to explore – possibly over more than one visit. Both present their own points of interest, with zip line rides, walks, places to sit, and so on, and each obviously offers its own opportunities for photography.
Elvira Kytori has a reputation for producing visually engaging and photogenic regions, and her designs are places we’ve always enjoyed visiting. So it was with pleasure that we made a return to Autumn Trace (formally Fall Trace), having last dropped in to write about it back at the end of 2016 (see Resting in Fall Trace in Second Life).
To be honest, the intervening time has not seen much (if anything) in the way of change in the physical design of the region. Still sitting under a cloud scudded autumn sky with the sun low on the horizon, this is a region that, once rendered, imbues a feeling of tranquillity well in keeping with the its official name. The low sun casts a soft glow across the region and lights the far horizon as if ringing Autumn Trace in a warm embrace.
Completely low-lying, this is very much a water region, the fact that it is presented as a marshland rather than the (perhaps) more usual swamplands seen in Second Life adding a further level of attraction in making a visit. It is also, as a part of the White Dunes Estate, a partially residential region; the houseboat and other houses in the region are available for rent (or may be rented), so some care is required to avoid trespassing onto private property.
The landing point sits towards the middle of the region, within a small shack. From here a board walk leads out over the water and reeds, forming an open U that runs south and east before turning north to end at a small motorboat presenting a place for visitors to sit and enjoy the view. Along the way, the path passes a couple of the rentals, and also other public rest places – including a little raft out on the water, while a shorter branch of the board walk offers access to where a rowing boat also awaits people wishing to enjoy a place to sit and cuddle.
Eastwards, and overlooked by a watchtower that can be reached via another wooden path, the region is open and wild; south and west is an arc of private rentals, the shallow channel of water between them and the inner part of the region forming a natural buffer against trespass. However, it is not the rentals that hold the attention here; it is the wildfowl and birds.
Across the region one can spot pelicans, herons, geese, cormorants, and egrets, while overhead crows and an eagle circle and small birds can be spotted throughout. Also to be found are deer and beaver and possibly one or two critters we missed. All of these add additional depth to photography within the region, offering plenty of opportunities to capture the local “characters”.
All of this means that Autumn Trace remains an ideal destination for a relaxing visit, one which – as the heat of summer takes its toll across many parts of the northern hemisphere, perhaps offers a sense of cooler climes and a break from feeling as if you’re slowly broiling in the heat.
With thanks to Miro Colas for the reminder to pay Autumn Trace another blogging visit.