Ever wanted to follow in the footsteps of Antarctica's greatest explorers and scientific pioneers from the comfort of a computer? Wait no longer!
The map is based on the data from Bedmap-2, a major international project to map Antarctica’s topography below the ice sheet. It brings together decades of international survey data acquired by planes, satellites, ships and dog-drawn sleds.
The Australian Antarctic Division and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) played a major role in collecting some of this data through aerial radar surveys flown out of Casey Station (through the ICECAP project), and through the Antarctica’s Gamburtsev Province project (AGAP) in 2008-09. The information obtained by this project is essential for understanding how the Antarctic ice sheet will respond to climate change.
It’s also fun to explore. The 27-million points of data have been cleverly converted into a Minecraft map by glaciologist and Minecraft enthusiast, Martin O’Leary, and it is free to download.
The horizontal scale is 1:1000 (each block is roughly equivalent to one kilometre). The vertical scale is 1:100 (each block is equivalent to about 100 metres in depth). That makes your explorer a giant, at about 750 metres tall!
You’ll need a copy of Minecraft, which can be purchased direct from minecraft.net.
A link to the map file is below. The file must be unzipped and saved in the correct location on your computer.
On Apple Macintosh computers, this location is ~/Library/Application Support/minecraft/saves.
On Windows, it’s C:\Users\<your username>\AppData\Roaming\minecraft\saves.
Below are the co-ordinates for some interesting and scientifically significant sites in Antarctica, along with some suggestions for further reading. To teleport to a location in Minecraft, press ‘t’ and enter ‘/tp’ followed by the coordinates of the location. If you find any interesting locations, email them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Totten Glacier /tp 5600 80 4450
How Australian scientists discovered hidden ocean pathways under East Antarctica’s largest glacier
Larsen C Ice Shelf /tp 989.5 80 2045.5
Read about new research showing the huge Larsen C ice shelf could be the verge of collapse
Law Dome /tp 5698.5 93 4327.5
What can a 1200 metre ice core from Law Dome in Antarctica tell us about Australia’s climate?
Mount Erebus /tp 3636 104 4661
Find out more about Antarctica’s only active volcano
Casey Station /tp 5781.5 80 4251.5
Read all about life on Australia’s Casey Station
Mawson Station /tp 5526.5 80 2210.5
Read about life at Australia’s Mawson Station
Davis Station /tp 5636.5 80 2855.5
Read about life at Australia’s Davis Station
South Pole /tp 3335 108 3333
About as far south as you can get!
The mod runs on top of Forge Universal, and instructions for downloading and installing it are available at the Rancraft Wiki.
It also includes a few species that we couldn’t find in any of the biology textbooks. Ninja penguins??
On his web page, the map’s creator, Martin O’Leary has identified some issues to be aware of.
– The map stops completely at 60°S; if you go north past this you’ll fall off the edge of the world.
– The sun passes directly overhead, wherever you are on the map. In reality, at the south pole, the sun never gets more than 23° above the horizon.
– Ice crystals are generally hexagonal, not cubic. In order to form cubes, we need temperatures below around -100°C (-150°F), but the lowest recorded temperature in Antarctica was -89°C (-128°F) at Vostok in 1983.
– The map is generated at 1:1000 scale, so no animals appear. In reality, the Antarctic coastline is home to a variety of species of birds and pinnipeds.
– Under Article 7 of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, all mining is prohibited in Antarctica.