Filming under water: life in Antarctica in 360° Virtual Reality

Ever wondered what life looks like under the ice in Antarctica? A research team from the University of Helsinki will for the first time document an entire research expedition in 360 degree Virtual Reality so that the general public can get a glimpse of what scientists actually do.

Apart from doing cutting-edge research marine biology research, the Finnish team, consisting of Professor Alf Norkko, marine biologist Joanna Norkko from Tvärminne Zoological Station at the University of Helsinki, and explorer Patrick “Pata” Degerman will examine how climate change affects Antarctic coastal ecosystems. They will collaborate with BBC Earth.

The Finnish group will team up with international researchers in an expedition to the coastal area near Scott Base on Ross Island, Antarctica starting in October. The project is led by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research in New Zealand.


From the left to the right: Photographer and Explorer Patrick Degerman, Dr. Joanna Norkko and Professor Alf Norkko. Photo: Iain MAcDonald

Climate change is expected to affect even Antarctica


The diving expedition will embark in October. The Antarctic and Southern Ocean play a powerful role in the interaction between the world’s oceans, climate and biodiversity.

"The aim is to raise awareness about the unique and fragile Antarctic coastal under-ice ecosystems and the broader effect climate change might have on the ecosystems and the whole planet. Climate change affects the whole world, including the waters of Antarctica”, says Alf Norkko.

During the six-week expedition to Antarctica, temperatures can go down to -40 degrees Celcius when the team stays in the field camp in tents. The Virtual Reality component is led by the team from the University of Helsinki. The team also includes divers with years of experience in taking stunning underwater footage in Antarctica.



The divers will dive in pairs for safety reasons. A dive takes 40 minutes and each diver carries an equipment which weighs nearly 100 kilograms. Image: Vera Schoultz.

Direct reports from Antarctica on climate change


The environment in Antarctica is beyond the reach of most people.

"We want to touch the public; particularly the younger generation. They are the ones who will take over after us. Imagine being able to put on your VR goggles and dive underneath the 2-5 metre thick ice in Antarctica and see the rich, colourful and absolutely unique life on the seafloor!”, Professor Alf Norkko explains.

“In addition to raising awareness, we want to give everyone an opportunity to follow a real expedition during six weeks. From start to finish, from planning to actual field work, camping in tents on the sea ice, and beyond”, says Dr Joanna Norkko.

She will be working in the lab tent with samples and will also write blogs and short posts to accompany photos and videos that will be posted on social media during the expedition. 

“ I will be able to concentrate on documenting the research both through conventional cameras as well as 360°  VR cameras,” Pata Degerman adds.

" And for once, I will not have to pack all the equipment myself. The logistics organization Antarctica New Zealand and our colleagues from New Zealand will take care of that part, Degerman says.

The expedition will use a strong arctic vehicle, which pulls the entire equipment, weighing 22 tons in total. Another special, so-called Hägglund vehicle, of Swedish design will serve as the crew transportation vehicle. The group will have 2 snow mobiles, 32 cameras, 3 drones and 1 ROV, which is a small remotely controlled submarine and five 360 degree VR cameras with them.

"And lots of food. We will eat 1 kilogram of food per person per day”, Degerman concludes.

You can follow the expedition on Facebook.

About Antarctica

Antarctica is Earth's southernmost continent. It contains the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere, almost entirely south of the Antarctic Circle, and is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. At 14,000,000 square kilometres it is the fifth-largest continent.

For comparison, Antarctica is nearly twice the size of Australia. About 98% of Antarctica is covered by ice that averages 1.9 km in thickness, which extends to all but the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Antarctica, on average, is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Antarctica is a desert, with annual precipitation of only 200mm along the coast and far less inland. The temperature in Antarctica has reached−89.2°C (or even −94.7 as measured from space, though the average for the third quarter (the coldest part of the year) is −63°C. Anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside throughout the year at the research stations scattered across the continent. Organisms native to Antarctica include many types of: algae, bacteria, fungi, plants, protista, and certain, animals, such as; mites, nematodes, penguins, seals and tardigrades. Vegetation, where it occurs, is tundra.

Abbreviated from Wikipedia

More on Antarctica in Wikipedia


You can follow the team and their research in Facebook

Interested in what the weather is like at Scott Base? Get your daily dose of snow and ice from Scott Base.

Follow the members of the expedition