Travel to Antarctica virtually from Geraldton

Francesca MannGeraldton Guardian
The Antarctica Experience uses virtual reality to whisk people away to the ice-covered continent.
Camera IconThe Antarctica Experience uses virtual reality to whisk people away to the ice-covered continent. Credit: Picture: Charles Millen

Geraldton residents will have the chance to embark on an adventure to Antarctica during the next few months, without ever leaving the city.

The Antarctica Experience uses 360-degree, high-definition virtual reality technology to transport viewers to the frozen continent, where Australian scientists are researching Antarctica’s role in climate change and the eco-system.

The immersive experience, the work of Perth-based filmmaker Briege Whitehead and BAFTA award-winning director Phil Harper, opened at the Museum of Geraldton on August 30 after sell-out seasons in Fremantle and Canberra.

Ms Whitehead, who grew up in the Wheatbelt, said she hopes the film will make more people aware of the mysterious continent.

“Antarctica is always seen as this alien place that no one gets to,” she said.

“My hope is the film connects people to that part of the world as it’s so important for climate change and how the world works.

“But to really have an impact on people they have to experience it themselves ... and virtual reality is how you can take people there.”

WA filmmaker Briege Whitehead was inspired to make a film about Antarctica when she was living in Canada in 2012.
Camera IconWA filmmaker Briege Whitehead was inspired to make a film about Antarctica when she was living in Canada in 2012. Credit: White Spark Pictures

Born in Bruce Rock, Ms Whitehead said she was always fascinated by Antarctica and passionate about the natural environment.

But after spending two weeks on the continent filming with the Australian Antarctic Division, Ms Whitehead said she knew she had to use the film to help ignite a worldwide conversation.

“We’re on track for a very different planet,” she said.

“I asked the researchers, ‘how do you keep waking up every day? Are we screwed?’, and they’re like, ‘if we thought that we wouldn’t be doing this’.”

“It was great to see their passion and how dedicated they are, and they’re really hopeful for the next generation, but it was obvious there’s such a short window of time left.

“It was never my intention to make a film that makes people think they have to do something, but you can’t talk about Antarctica without talking about climate change.”

The Antarctica Experience is Ms Whitehead’s first virtual reality project - and the first virtual reality film to be screened at the Museum of Geraldton.

Museum general manager Leigh O’Brien said virtual reality was a great educational tool.

“There’s nothing like a first-hand experience, and this is almost like you’re there,” she said.

“Virtual reality and augmented reality are really taking off in terms of interpretive tools.

“Those kinds of technology are being used more and more so people can find their own connection with a story.”

The Antarctica Experience is on until October 20.

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