This week I saw something that gives a whole new meaning to the idea of armchair travel. Gone are the days of curling up with your dog-eared copy of Theroux, Morris or Bryson. Well, not gone I hope, those days are pretty darn nice. Add a blanket, a few cups of tea, maybe some autumn leaves falling and it’s verging on some kind of perfection. But now there is a whole new way of experiencing wild, remote places from beneath the comfort of your blanky.
There is a reason I want to share this with you. It’s a bit of a digression but work with me.
A few months ago I started taking a photography class. It’s the real deal – the science and the magic – and I’m really enjoying it. It runs once a week in a quaint cottage of bouncy rugs, fireplaces and photos of trees.
Last night during our tea and shortbread break we got to talking about canyoning. I shared a couple of stories from my time guiding canyons this year and a couple of the ladies didn’t get it. What would possess you to do that? I looked at them over my steaming mug in the soft warm kitchen light and I really understood their incomprehension. Canyons are cold. Rocks are slippery and sharp. You’re dangling from ropes. You’ve always got one eye to the weather.
I couldn’t explain what keeps me going back, how the mere thought of those places gives me goosebumps – and not only the cold kind. I was trying to figure out how I could explain this when I realised that I could SHOW them. No – better. They could GO there.
This summer, a photographer, a 3D imagery guru and a few local guides spent 11 gruelling days over 3 weeks in Claustral canyon, painstakingly mapping its curves and undulations from every angle and you won’t believe why (or how).
Through a series of black and white 3D scans and digital colour photographs superimposed over the 3D data, they are recreating this canyon so that people all over the world can venture through, interact with and experience the rugged beauty of the canyon. Think: virtual reality canyoning experience. And it sounds like this is just the beginning. It probably won’t be long before we’re poking at the Marianas Trench with a curious virtual finger.
I think that this is a good thing. It might not change the world, but it will probably give you the good kind of goosebumps. And that’s worth a lot.
Check out some of the footage on the ABC 7:30 report this week.