Ocean (2009)

Ocean (2009) from Peter Morse on Vimeo.

A visualisation of the global ocean derived from the GEBCO dataset. Rendered at 4k Fulldome resolution.

This is an excerpt from current work.

The visualisation is set up as a conundrum: what can be 4.5 billions years old, eternally dark and bitterly cold; always seen and never seen?

It’s not outer-space but inner-space – and right here on planet Earth. Of course, this is poetic license, but it gets the point across: we think of geopolitical oceans and cartographic fantasies (the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian, the Southern..) – yet in reality, there is only one Ocean, mostly unknown to us, yet seen and exploited everyday.

Hopefully, this is a vision of its alien-ness, to help us see again the familiar in a new and insightful way.

The model is derived from current GEBCO data (General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans) subtracted from WGS’84 – meaning that this is the ocean volume – the sea – the water – the world of sea-life and unimaginable depths. The physical geography of the Earth is intimated by the shape of water; the sea is a world itself.

Depth is exaggerated for visualisation purposes.

Made by Peter Morse (http://www.petermorse.com.au) and Paul Bourke (http://local.wasp.uwa.edu.au/~pbourke/).
Many thanks to:
Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT: http://www.anat.org)
WASP (Western Australian Supercomputer Program : http://www.www.wasp.uwa.edu.au)
IVEC (http://www.ivec.org)
University of Western Australia (http://www.uwa.edu.au)
Australian Antarctic Division (http://www.aad.gov.au/)
GEBCO (http://www.gebco.net)

Visualising GEBCO: A new way of seeing the global oceans (2009)

Visualising GEBCO: A new way of seeing the global oceans (2009) from Peter Morse on Vimeo.

A short overview of work-in-progress visualising the GEBCO dataset (General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans – http://www.gebco.net/ )

The visualisation involved developing a derived dataset from GEBCO in reference to WGS’84 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Geodetic_System), where we have effectively ‘removed’ the entire Earth – all the continents, islands and geology above and below sea level.

What remains is the ocean – a global ocean that reveals its encompassing interconnectedness. This remarkable view enables us to perceive the complex shape of the sea – and reflects upon our deeply terrestrial view of this volumetric world – which makes up 99% of the living space on the planet.

The model is derived from current high-resolution satellite data, enabling a variety of visualisation techniques to be explored, including 3D rapid prototyping – enabling you to hold the oceans in your hands.

More details can be found here:

Special thanks to Paul Bourke (my collaborator); The Western Australian Supercomputer Project (University of Western Australia); Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT); GEBCO; CAML and colleagues at the Australian Antarctic Division.

Some Test Renders of an Unusual Perspective on the Ocean

Here are a variety of renders from various stages of the production process. They derive from a variety of datasets relating to the Antarctic ocean – primarily GEBCO. The ocean is rendered as a polygonal surface mesh, using shaders to impart a sense of volume. The tricky bit is getting the lighting and transparency right – in order to impart a sense of ‘wateriness” without sacrificing too much detail. Naturally this has an interplay with the transparency/translucency of the object and the refractive index of the material shader (generally set to 1.3). Some of the renders are preview tests for fulldome, so they are rendered in a fisheye projection, assuming a unidirectional seating arrangement with azimuth at the centre of the image.

Needless to sat, rendering this large dataset at 3200×3200 consumes from 5-20 minutes per frame. Fortunately I have secured access to a renderfam (more details TBA.)













Oceans of the Earth

Paul has written up some of the work we have been doing since February – with some useful resources and images:


3d Rapid Prototype of the Global Ocean

In concert with Paul Bourke (WASP, UWA) we have produced an accurate 3d model of the global ocean – based upon the dataset derived from GEBCO and the WSG 84 world geodetic system.

Here’s a couple of snapshots:


It is remarkable to hold this in your hands (even if it’s a bit flakey and fragile) – as a way of inspecting the structure of the ocean it is most impressive and detailed. Naturally there are issues with this first rough draft – such as a missing Mediterranean – but that’s solvable in future iterations. The next question is what to cast it in – I can foresee steel or, more interestingly, transparent bluish acrylic.

As a sculptural artifact, this would seem quite marketable.

Volumetric Visualisation of CEAMARC Trawl Video (2009)

Volumetric Visualisation of CEAMARC Trawl Video (2009) from Peter Morse on Vimeo.

Remapping video from time series into spatial series demonstrates the possibility of creating volumetric visualisations of video. The video is exported as a series of frames (selecting every 10th frame from a short sequence in this example); then using volume visualization software the frames are image processed and remapped into a volume representation, using transfer functions to elicit structure and detail.

This is very much at an experimental stage.

Volumetric Global Ocean: Temperature Visualisation (2009)

Volumetric Global Ocean: Temperature Visualisation from Peter Morse on Vimeo.

Preliminary visualisations of the Global Ocean as a volume. Derived from the CARS 2009 data (Jeff Dunn, CSIRO), massaged by Paul Bourke (WASP), for a current project I am working on to visualise the world’s oceans using a new synthesis of scientific datasets, for fulldome display. The objective is to map as many types of datasets as possible into a spherical volumetric visualisation of the world’s oceans. Hopefully something interesting will emerge – it’s blue sky stuff.

Data Visualisation & A Question

2.0] Data Visualisation:

Data visualised includes resources such as global topography/bathymetry (eg. GEBCOETOPO1); volumetric ocean models; sea ice data; krill observation datasets; deep sea ocean trawl video; CTD profiles (conductivity/temperature/depth); sub-surface buoys; sonar information; long-range remote sensing data; voyage track data; marine life track data; electron microscopy data.

The sheer amount of data available via Australian and international scientific programmes is overwhelming: it is a truly remarkable intellectual and observational achievement of humanity. When you begin to dig deeper into available resources you begin to realise what a credit it is to the public nature of science that thousands and thousand of individuals all over the world have given of their time, not only professionally, but personally as well, to share their hard-won and vastly complex knowledge about the world that we live in. This is also a function of the time we live in, when information can be made globally accessible via the internet and when download speeds enable the transaction of huge datasets, many of which are measured in terabytes and, in the near future, in petabytes and exabytes. Needless to say very fast networked supercomputers with large amounts of RAM and high-end GPUs are also crucial to this developing area.

In this project I can barely scratch the surface of what is possible – so this presents an initial problem – where to start? Having given this substantial thought I decided upon a deceptively simple question:

3.0] “What is the shape of the sea?”

It has become apparent to me that we have a deeply terrestrial view of the world – ordered by a whole series of anthropocentric conventions – and that in looking at and attempting to understand the sea – much of this apparatus must be discarded. It is similar to the feeling of looking at a world-map upside down: the familiar landmarks, the topology, are estranged and made unfamiliar – we lose our bearings. The paradox then, in order to  “find” the sea as a globally encompassing body of water, is precisely to explore this ‘seeing the aspect‘ as an advantage.

When we look at global topographic and bathymetric models of the Earth, what we see is the surface of Earth – the rock surface, the geology: not the fluid world. The dataset is constructed from millions of point readings of the elevation of that surface in relation to ‘nominal sea level’ – itself determined in relation to the Earth geoid(WGS84 and other models) that mathematically describe the complex shape of our planet. This is a very complex area that I can only gloss here – as a non-expert – so I encourage you to read the links for clarification.

Remarkably, in my research into this question, I have found no images at all of what the sea would look like if we simply saw it as a self-contained volume – the largest biosphere on the planet, in which most of the world’s life exists, in an entirely different volumetric and physical way to which we perceive and interact with tjavascript:;he world. So I posed this question to Paul Bourke at the WASP: how would it be possible to construct a volume representation of the global ocean? Isn’t it a matter of ‘simply’ subtracting the GEBCO topography/bathymetry from the WGS84 geoid? The answer is, principally, yes, but as Paul figured out, the solution is more complex than it seems – and involved writing some software that could accurately calculate the intersection of “mean sea level” with global coastlines as well as retaining the bathymetric structure of the ocean floor – at many resolutions. This has led to the development of a new dataset derived from GEBCO that creates an accurate high-resolution polygonal mesh of the global ocean. In itself this is not, strictly speaking, volumetric (we will cover this later on in detail), as the the model derived is a polygonal closed solid that represents the surficial shape of the ocean – however, it is a remarkable object and gives us a unique view of the world’s global oceans.

See Paul’s notes upon deriving the model: http://local.wasp.uwa.edu.au/~pbourke/miscellaneous/oceans/

Important note: the depth exaggeration is a factor of 200 – the ocean, like the atmosphere, is a thin veil across the surface of the earth, despite its prodigious depths. If it was not exaggerated we would barely see it in this model.

Here’s a short first-attempt quicktime movie visualising this polygonal volume, as if the global ocean was frozen at a point in time and cast in blue glass:

This link will take to to my website where you can view the movie:

Benthos: Project Description


“Benthos,” proposes to explore and generate full-dome visualisations of volumetric and multidimensional datasets derived from Australian Antarctic Division and international oceanographic and marine science programmes.

Enormous amounts of data have been generated during the International Polar Year (IPY) during the extensive international CAML (Census of Antarctic Marine Life) and ongoing marine research activities by the AAD. These may include datasets measuring physical features as ocean currents, temperature gradients, thermo-haline cycles as well as ecological features such as marine biodiversity; benthic ecology (deep ocean; continental shelf; shoreline) and so forth. Part of the Synapse proposal involves identification of suitable datasets for volumetric and three-dimensional visualisation.

Volumetric visualisation in a fulldome format explores both aesthetic and empirical features of datasets, creating a fertile intersection of the sciences and arts. Within the field of contemporary media arts practice little has been done with fulldome data visualisation, however, there is an emergent field of data-arts, which draws upon scientific datasets to explore them in new and insightful ways – the viewer’s immersion in a visualised dataset reveals not only the inherent beauty of unseen structures but also elicits an understanding of complex connections between parameters that may not have been revealed via conventional approaches. The artist and WASP are explicitly experienced in this field and the proposed programme would go a long way towards extending and innovating in this field.


Dr Peter Morse, Visualisation Consultant and Media Artist.  www.petermorse.com.au

Paul Bourke, Senior Visualisation Research Fellow at the Western Australian Supercomputer Program (WASP, University of Western Australia)

Dr Martin Riddle, Senior Principal Research Scientist (Programme Leader, Environmental Protection and Change), Australian Antarctic Division.

Dr Steve Nicols, Senior Research Scientist (Program Leader, Southern Ocean Ecosystems), Australian Antarctic Division.

Dr Ben Raymond, Data Mining & Visualisation, Australian Antarctic Division.