Supercomputing 3D Shipwrecks with Magnus

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HMAS Sydney underway in 1940

HMAS Sydney underway in 1940

Researchers are using the Magnus supercomputer at the Pawsey Centre to explore the mysteries of two shipwrecks involved in Australia’s greatest naval disaster.

“After a short but fierce battle with the German raider Kormoran, HMAS Sydney sank in 1941 with the loss of all 645 crewmen. Its final resting place became one of the nation’s greatest wartime mysteries until 2008, when both wrecks were found 2.5 kilometers underwater off the West Australian coast. Last year, researchers returned to the site to survey the wrecks.”

In an effort too capture an experience that would otherwise remain out of reach to the public, a research team lead by Dr Andrew Woods collected approximately 500,000 photographs of the wrecks and around 300 hours of high definition video. This generated a formidable amount of data to process.

The process of generating 3D models from the photographs we’ve taken is very computationally intensive,” he said. “The time it would take to process half a million photographs using our conventional techniques, using our standard computers, would take about a thousand years, so we needed to do something to bring that time down to something achievable.”

wreckEnter the Magnus supercomputer, which used pattern recognition software to reconstruct the wreckage in 3D. If things go to current plans, museum-goers will be able to do virtual tours of the site within three years.


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