The caverns and castle of Abrahamstrup in Second Life

Abrahamstrup, September 2019 – click any image for full size

It’s been a while since I’ve last written about Binemust, the Full region held by Biné Rodenberger, a place we’ve oft enjoyed visiting for its landscapes and gardens both above and below the region’s waters. However, we were recently drawn back due to Biné having spent the last few months creating something very new and different for the region, and which she recently opened to the public.

Abrahamstrup as the region is now known, presents a great mountain of an island rising from the sea and topped by the stern walls of a tall, blocky castle keep, sans surrounding curtain walls and courtyards. The island rises steeply from a narrow ring of shingle beach, the rock offers no real means to ascend to the great keep – at least from the outside. How then, to reach it? The About Land description holds a clue:

A Mountain Island – A Labyrinth of Caves – A Castle.

Abrahamstrup, September 2019

And indeed, on the shoreline facing the landing point – located on a deck built out over the water and home to a small shack – is an entrance to a cave or cavern at the foot of the mountain, the board walk connecting deck to shore pointing a crooked finger towards it.

Those arriving are offered an introductory note card that explains more about what to expect, together with a flashlight. Whether the latter is required largely depends on personal choice – and possibly whether visitors opt for the local environment settings or tinker with them viewer-side. During our first visit, I opted to initially go with my preferred viewer-side settings before switching back to the region’s environment. For the pictures shown here, I used ~Clouds Fluffy White Elven Sky, by Stevie Davros, tweaked a little, together with the region’s settings.

Abrahamstrup, September 2019

Crossing to the shore and entering the first cavern gives a hint of the engaging curio of exploration that awaits: a great façade modelled on that of Al Khazneh (The Treasury) at Petra in Jordan faces the cavern entrance, while to one side, glowing flowers suggest a path to the heavy door of the façade. Across the cavern, a large sign suggests people EAT – with places to do so close by –  while another offers the invitation LET’S GET WEIRD.

Pass through the massive wooden door of the façade, and the path plunges downward into the first chamber of a network of caverns and tunnels. Each of these caves – about which I’d prefer not to say too much lest it spoil discovery – offers a certain setting, with those underwater offering a feel for actually being underwater, despite the flaming torches lining the tunnel walls (having the viewer’s Advanced lighting Model enabled  – Preferences → Graphics is strongly recommended during a visit), giving them a wonderful fantasy feel.

Abrahamstrup, September 2019

Along the way through the tunnels is a sign offering the direction to reach the castle, but when exploring for the first time, I recommend ignoring it and going in the other direction. This allows you to visit the rest of the caverns and tunnels first and avoid possibly missing what’s on offer. One of these tunnels may lead you back outside through a narrow cleft sitting above the eastern beach, if so, there are some local points of interest to see before re-entering the tunnels once more.

When you are ready, the ways to the castle can be found within one of the underwater chambers. And yes, I did mean “ways” – there are two teleport options available: a door to the very top of the keep’s central tower (use the pail of flowers and candles through which you emerge onto the roof to make a return), and a mirror that leads into the castle itself.

Abrahamstrup, September 2019

Throughout her time in Second Life, Biné has been a patron of the arts, and this has always been reflected in her region designs, as continues to be the case within Abrahamstrup. In fact, it is the presence of pieces by number of artists within this design that also make me hesitate in revealing too much of what lies within caverns and castle rooms. However, careful exploration will reveal pieces by the likes of Cica Ghost, Haveit Neox – whose alien and telescope found within the main hall of the castle offer something of  a nod towards his Paper Tower (see: A Carnival of Architecture to say farewell to a landmark) -, Bryn Oh and Kilik Lekvoda.

Set off to the north-east corner of the region and sitting on its own black rock island is a further curio: a Russian (Soviet era?) communal swimming pool, apparently broken and battered by time and perhaps tide. Sitting almost like an industrial era left-over, it presents a very different setting to castle and caves, and can be reached via the shoreline beach from the landing point.

Abrahamstrup, September 2019

My one regret with Abrahamstrup is that in order to make room for it, Biné has had to remove most of her marvellous underwater gardens – long a highlight of visits to Binemust. True, for those who plunge below the waves, some elements remain, but the gardens, paths, sunken trees and artistic corners have, for a time, vanished. Nevertheless, the island with its caves and waiting discoveries, together with the high castle keep offer more than enough to keep explorers and photographers happy, making Abrahamstrup a worthy visit.

Note: visitors must have Payment Information On File to access Abrahamstrup.

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Beaming into New Nerva Station in Second Life

Space Station New Nerva, September 2019 – click any image for full size

We came across Space Station New Nerva by chance during a comb through  the Destination Guide. Designed and built by Bear Thymus, it sits in orbit over the New London Sandbox, and presents an interesting place to both visit and – potentially – for free-form role-play.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is one of the more interesting space station designs I’ve visited of late in Second Life.

The DG description for the station states it presents “homages to all sorts of science fiction fantasy films and television” – for sci-fi buffs, this is certainly true.

Space Station New Nerva, September 2019

Apparently in orbit above a blue world in such a position that the planet’s star seems to be perpetually rising behind it, the station has something of a Star Trek feel to it. The exterior carries an echo of the orbital facilities first seen is Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) and then, inverted, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Not that it is in any way a replica of that facility; rather it contains certain similarities: notably the modules clustered around the central core.

The Trek echoes are evident elsewhere as well: the main ring corridor is reminiscent of those aboard the USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D, although those in the space station are broader and squatter, and marked by windows on one side and potentially hazardous high-energy panels on the other. Then, in the centre of the station and rising through three levels, is a massive power structure pulsating with energy in a manner akin to a warp core.

Space Station New Nerva, September 2019

The landing point is located in the primary docking port section of the station. This offers further hints of assorted sci-fi franchises: a TARDIS offers a link with the ground level (and elsewhere), in the corridor outside is a communications / information tower which although circular, nevertheless offers a reminder of the units located throughout Space 1999’s Moonbase Alpha. Also in the corridor outside the arrival area is a module containing a transporter system to off-region destinations (none of which we tried). Plus, for those who cam out, docked at the airlock is a massive space vehicle that in looks and styling, might have arrived from Babylon 5 (it’s interior is also accessible via the connecting airlock).

Beyond this, exploration is split between two primary levels. the upper provides access to the essentials of the station: the medical centre, the Mission Control centre (which, I admit, I was hoping to see labelled “Main Mission”!), hydroponics, a social area and – of course – the detention centre. Each of these facilities is offered within a single module affixed to the station’s main ring, or a trio of modules linked to the ring via a central corridor. The level of the station is completed by a series of inward-pointing corridors that cross-connect the ring, passing around the central power core in the process.

Space Station New Nerva, September 2019

Below this primary ring, and reached by a series of turbo-elevators, is a central lounge area that connects with crew accommodation spaces. These are compact – just a single room encapsulating working, sleeping and hygiene space and a single couch for seating; not a lot of comfort for a hard working crew. However, it is likely the hardest working among the crew don’t really need much in the way of personal space or amenities, as they are anthropomorphic driods that might have stepped out of the pages of a Star Wars novel.

Quite what role-play might be undertaken here is entirely open – there are all the common sci-fi hints (including the body in a Star Trek: The Next Generation uniform, who brings a twist to the hoary old joke about red shirts, and a figure in Imperial robes), but really, it is down to those who opt to use the station to determine the style of play that occurs, and whether it might b based on a popular sci-fi franchise.

Space Station New Nerva, September 2019

Nicely conceived and put together, Space Station New Nerva might not be “two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night”, nor is it “a place of commerce and diplomacy for a quarter of a million humans and aliens”. However, it does provide space enough for adventure and intrigue amongst a small group of like-minded friends. Or, for those wishing to visit and photograph a place that is a little more out-of-this-world as a destination – and the opportunity to hop to other locations for exploration, including the console room of a TARDIS, complete with Cloister Bell chiming ominously, it could be worth a shuttle-ride!

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A Breath of Nature in Second Life

Breath of Nature, September 2019 – click any picture for full size

At the end of August 2019, we dropped into Breath of Nature on the suggestion of Shawn Shakespeare. A homestead region designed by JurisJo, it is a curious region that comes pretty much in two parts.

The western two-thirds of the land present a low-lying pastoral setting, partially split into two smaller islands alongside of the “mainland” area. To the north of the region stands a curtain wall of rock from which waterfalls drop, one set into a pool that feed outwards to the west and south, giving rise to the first of the two smaller islands.

Breath of Nature, September 2019

Home to horses and sheep and offering one of several places to dance, this island is otherwise devoid of major signs of human habitation. However, it sits close to the second small island although the two are not directly connected. Instead, moving between them is by way of two bridges and one of a number of tracks the cross the bulk of the land.

Walking this path presents a picturesque view of the thatched cottage and windmill occupying the second island. Flat except for a single hill on which sits a lone tree, the island presents the cottage and windmill in a picturesque setting as they reside in the long grass. Together, cottage and mill look north over the rest of the land and offer a farm-like feel, and across the water, the open fields and tracks add to this, as do the cattle, sheep, pick-up truck and wagon that can be found there.

Breath of Nature, September 2019

The eastern, and smaller side of the region is far more tropical in looks. Sitting a short distance from the main landing point, it presents a beach setting, complete with tiki huts, a freshwater swimming pool and more places to sit or dance. It is also split into two by a sandy-bottomed stream that flows outwards from the second set of waterfalls that drop from the high curtain wall of cliffs. Crossed by a single wooden bridge, the stream allows the north side of the beach forms a sandy headland running out from the lee of the cliffs and capped by one of the region’s two lighthouses.

This tropical setting is very different to the rest of the region; it is as if by merely stepping through the gap in the cliffs that separate the two, one is striding across the world, for temperate to tropical, the archway standing over the path connecting them being a portal of transfer.

Breath of Nature, September 2019

I admit that the tropical element of the region, with its golden sands, tiki huts and palm trees sat a little oddly to me during our visits. Not that there are any significant issues with the landscaping or design; just that of the two sides of the region, I instinctively felt more at home in the more temperate side, amidst the grasses and tracks, whilst wandering between the stone-built watermill – long since converted into a luxury home –  and the cottage and windmills, and following the tracks to see where they might lead.

But whether your presence is for idyllic countryside scenes that might have slipped out of a Constable painting or for the sandy delights of a tropical haven, Breath of Nature offers the chance to enjoy both. And with plenty of places available through to either to sit and relax or enjoy a dance, it has plenty to offer visitors who drop in.

Breath of Nature, September 2019

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The Island That Is Not There in Second Life

The Island That Is Not There, September 2019 – click and image for full size

We were drawn to The Island That Is Not There simply because of the region’s name. A Homestead designed by Franz Markstein, it presents a rugged island setting with a mix of influences that give the region a strangely eclectic, but flowing look and feel.

Second star to the right and straight on till morning, this is the way to the island that is not there.

– Franz Markstein, describing The Island That Is Not There

The Island That Is Not There, September 2019

It is a place without obvious paths and no roads, but with a definite east-west orientation, the eastern side a high table of rock, backed in part by a natural curtain wall. The ruins of a once great chapel sit here, and before them, a mix of shop, houses and cabins sitting on the first rocky steps that descend down to the western beaches.

More houses are scattered around, most with a Mediterranean slant, although the setting doesn’t have the usual trappings of a Mediterranean location, but projects something of a feel for a rugged Scottish isle. A bubbling brook splashes down from the eastern uplands to the western coast. It rises without warning at the head of a gully – presumably there is a underground wellspring – and bounces and splashes its way between rocks and over rapids, gurgling as it goes, until it passes under a hump-backed bridge to drop to the sea alongside a small beach.

The Island That Is Not There, September 2019

Boats sit offshore, mainly of the sailing or rowing varieties. Some of the latter offer places to sit and pose, while the former – surprisingly – are also open for people to sit and stand aboard, offering unusual (for a public setting) opportunities for photographs – as does the biplane passing overhead.

One of the rowing boats is not merely for posing in, however. It forms a rezzer and a way to reach the outlying islands. One of these offering a little summerhouse / getaway, with seating, art and a distressed piano that can also be found within the walls of the ruined chapel (amidst other bric-a-brac). The second island is set aside of events, with a DJ station and grassy dance area which, during my return visit for photos, was hosting a set. Sadly, there are no rezzrs for a return row to the main island, so flying is the order of the day.

The Island That Is Not There, September 2019

Building on so rugged a setting can cause one or two issues. While mesh can easily be moulded into uneven rocky forms, it’s not so easy to shape when it comes to grasses and flowers. This can result in expanses of grass appearing to float in the air when the rock in which it was placed drops away. It also means that buildings without deep footings can end up with gaps between them and the ground beneath them. Some of this is evident here; one or two of the buildings and walls could perhaps do with settling a little more, or have “foundations” set beneath them.

There are also one or two elements of the landscape – notably along the western beach and the waterfalls of the brook – that perhaps need tidying up and gaps eliminated, but really none of these issues spoil exploration or photography. For the latter, adjusting the sun position or changing your local windlight can overcome the odd awkward gap or strangely-placed shadow. This is fortunate, because there really is much to appreciate about the overall design.

The Island That Is Not There, September 2019

Finished with a rich sound scape, and with plenty to see, The Island That Is Not There makes for a pleasing visit. Should people wish to tarry, there are enough places to sit without feeling crowded. Ideal under a range of windlight settings, it also offers plenty of opportunities for landscape and avatar photography.

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Dancing in the Moonlight in Second Life

Hotel California – Dancing in the Moonlight, September 2019

I make no apologies for returning to Hotel California, the homestead region held by Schmexysbuddy just a month after my last visit (see: A touch of HollyWeird in Second Life); the designs he creates each month are amongst the most imaginative and eye-catching within Second Life, consistently offering environments that straddle the line between landscape and art.

For September, Schmexysbuddy present Dancing in the Moonlight, which is – for me – captivating in the rich juxtaposition of ideas and content, bringing together as it does art, sci-fi, a sense of dark humour, fantasy, dream and nightmare, all with what might be a very subtle underscore of an ecological warning. It is born out of suggestions from his partner, Racey, that served as the fertile ground on which the design grew. It’s also a place in which you can actually become a part of the setting and art.

This is a place that is genuinely hard to describe and which my images fail to do justice. Caught under a sky heavy with cloud that appears to form a roiling inverted sea-scape as it rolls overhead, the land is a uniform grey and pockmarked with impact craters, many of which are scudded and partially filled with wind-blown dust. Together they present the first enigma of the setting: are we on a Earth or on the Moon?

Hotel California – Dancing in the Moonlight, September 2019

This quandry is added to by the bay that cuts into the land, the foamed see passing under a great wrought iron bridge under which a submarine is passing, its twin grounded on the shores of the bay close by. This suggests a place on Earth – or at least a world with air and water. Yet, space suited figures can be seen near the shoreline of the bay. A further enigma comes in the form of a metal galleon drifting overhead, sails unfurled and stubby wings extended from its hull…

And that’s just the start of things. To the east of the region sits the brooding bulk of some form of structure that looks like it would be perfectly at home on the Moon or crouched on an asteroid (even with the advertising boards rising from its roof). It sets something of a tone in keeping with the space-suited figures and more such figures, these in red suits – albeit  without their support back packs gathered close by.

Hotel California – Dancing in the Moonlight, September 2019

Also close by is a network of pipe-like corridors snake over the ground and into the air, some fully enclosing the walkways within, others are open to the environment. All can be explored as they twist and turn, while further elements hang suspended in the sky or partially buried below. In this, the network offers something of a faint and static echo of A Petrovsky Flux (long since sadly gone of SL, but which you can read about here and here (2014) and here (2016)).  However, it is not the most obvious nod towards artistic expression in the region.

This comes in the form of the many sculptures by Mistero Hifeng that are scattered across and over the landscape. These are hard to miss, a fair number of them having been greatly scaled up. The manner in which these sculptures are mixed with the rest of the setting gives Dancing in the Moonlight something of a dream-like feeling. By this, I mean not so much that it is a dream (although it might well be), but rather it is a tapestry of imagines that are left at the edges of consciousness upon waking from a sleep marked by dreams; the kind of mental flashes we get when trying to recall the dreams. And if you are seeking the dreamer of these dreams, perhaps a look up at the flying galleon might yield a clue…

Hotel California – Dancing in the Moonlight, September 2019

But the dreams are perhaps not all pleasant; there is a hint of nightmare here as well. When examined, the NASA astronauts are revealed to be dead; their helmet visors smashed and their skulls devoid of flesh, tissue or muscle. Their cosmonaut colleagues across the bay are no better off, and the nightmare’s edge is increased with them by the presence something loosely resembling the space jockey from the Alien franchise – except where its chest should lie burst open, it instead offers a bed…

It is with the astronaut figures that the ecological message might creep into the setting. This is a place with an atmosphere, with all the familiarities of Earth So why would the people here be confined to space suits? Could it be the dream formed a warning of what could come of humanity’s excesses, with the statues standing as monuments to humanity’s lost creativity? I leave that to visitors to ruminate.

Hotel California – Dancing in the Moonlight, September 2019

What is without doubt is the sheer striking uniqueness of Dancing in the Moonlight, a place that is gloriously imagined, marvellously photogenic and quit mystifying in its presentation. It is absolutely not something to be missed. Oh, and that being a part of the scene I mentioned? Just accept the request to animate your avatar on arrival – and make sure your AO is turned off (you can move around while the animations play).

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A Summerland visit in Second Life

Summerland, August 2019 – click any image for full size

Late in August we visited – on the recommendation of Miro Collas – we visited Iniquity Constantine’s Homestead region of Summerland. At the time of our visit, Ini described the region as “an idyllic garden where the spirit may rest and rejuvenate,” offering a mix of “pagan, ritual, mythology, mythic … magic, runes, druid, nature, elemental, [and] familiars” in its elements.

These elements are apparent as soon as visitors arrive in the region: the landing point sits within a barn converted into a Wiccan / pagan centre where psychic readings are on offer, and the trappings of Wiccan and magical supplies and symbols are much in evidence.

Summerland, August 2019

Outside, a deck extends over coastal waters under a late summer sky as seagulls wheel around in search of a fishy meal. The deck offers place to sit and appreciate the view across the rest of the region and the surrounding (off-sim) hills. This view reveals that the region forms a semi-circle of small islands that form a horseshoe around what is – given the foaming waters – a shallow bay sitting over a broad shelf of rock.

One its western end, this horseshoe bay is watched over by the tall red finger of a lighthouse; at its eastern extent, it is mirrored by a set of horseshoe waterfalls that tumble from the cliffs of the highest island in the curved chain. It is these falls, visible through the haze that draw visitors around the side of the landing point barn to where a wooden bridge offers the way to the next island in the series.

Summerland, August 2019

Here lie the first ruins with pagan / druid elements: ancient statues, a broken henge of shaped stones around a hewn alter and reach via a stone arch. Beyond it, a second bridge connects to the tall island, the exploration of which can be split into two parts. Just across the bridge, a set of stone steps climb up the grassy shoulder of the island, while just to the left, through a gap in a broken wooden fence, a ladder offers the first part of a way down to where a shingle beach sits at the base of the island, presenting a path to a little beach house sitting on another deck built out over the waters.

At the top of the stone steps, the upper plateau of the island presents a hazy mix of the pastoral and the pagan / ancient. Horses graze on the long grass, shaded by the island’s woodlands, trees that help hide and disguise the ruins scattered beneath their boughs. These take several forms, including those of a chapel and a much more recent glass-and-metal pavilion that has been turned into a place of meditation.

Summerland, August 2019

A path winds across the grassy table of the island, offering a means to see most of the sights whilst pointing the way to where a rocky route drops down to another bridge and also an almost-cave or cavern. As well as providing a means to reach the last two islands in the chain, the low-lying grassy headland provides the means to reach a modern and comfortable orangery – a further place for visitors to sit and rest during a visit to the region.

The two remaining islands offer a further mix of trees, ruins and places to sit and rest or in meditation, all within the region’s sound scape that is, perhaps a little too dominated by the thunder of waterfalls. There is also a little roughness to some of the landscaping with floating bushes and candles here and there, together with some slight alpha issues (sadly common and often unavoidable when combining foliage and off-sim elements), but nothing that excessively gets in the way of appreciating the beauty of the setting, and which certainly don’t interfere with opportunities for photography. Images captured may be shared through the region’s Flickr group.

Summerland, August 2019

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