Resurrecting a Ghost Town

Birds cry above our heads. Waves and wind are the sounds that disrupt the silence at Advent City. Small motorboats occasionally glide past. During our work among the ruins, our challenge takes shape: to restore the Advent City houses to their former glory and fill the town with life again. We opt for a digital visualisation, not least because it can accommodate many more visitors than would ever personally be able to reach the site.

In August 2016, our archaeologists carried out a DGPS-survey of the topography and the archaeological remains at Advent City. They additionally recorded the original Advent City houses at Hiorthhamn in three-dimensional high resolution and precisely scaled models, using an image-based photogrammetrical approach. Two archaeologically-minded polar bears came to visit; how were they to know that we would have to cut our work short in their presence?!

Funded by the Svalbard Environmental Protection Fund, the field data was processed in the safety of a Tübingen office. The localised DGPS-survey was complemented with the publically available digital elevation model of Svalbard (provided by the Norwegian Polar Institute at 5m resolution), which enabled the digital reconstruction of the landscape. This formed the basis of a 3D virtual environment that was implemented in real-time engine Unity3D. Field observation and historical photographs improved topographic details and vegetation cover. Finally, we added the foundation of individual buildings and completed the formulative spatial layout of Advent City at its greatest extent in 1908 AD.

Advent City in 1905: a model mining town in the Arctic. Source: Norsk Polarinstitutt, np002340