Jeff Barr's Blog

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Second Life Tour: The NOAA/ESRL Virtual Island

I had bookmarked a blog entry about this build a long time ago and finally got around to visiting it today. NOAA (the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) is part of the United States Department of Commerce.ESRL is NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory.

It is pretty cool — there are all sorts of things to see and to do, and I could see how it could be used as part of a virtual classroom. I spent almost an hour wandering around and taking pictures, and here’s what I saw:

After landing there’s a map of the entire island, which is called Meteroa:

I started out by taking a ride on a weather balloon:

I was expecting a nice gentle descent back to the launch pad, but this was not to be. At a preprogrammed height the balloon simply dropped me and I fell, stone-like, to earth:

Next, I boarded the plane (an authentic realization of a P-3 Orion) for a trip through a hurricane:

Unlike the weather balloon, the plane made a nice landing on the short airstrip and returned to its starting point! I hopped off the plane and headed over to the hangar with the Real Time Weather Reporting inside. There’s a large map of the US, with dynamically generated clouds:

Here is the Pacific Northwest:

I stepped into the Conference Hall and found three commemorative posters:

Further in, I discovered the conference room:

Moving upstairs, I found a Reuters news ticker and a smaller conference room:

There was also a poster which described the project to bring NOAA into Second Life:

After a short walk over a large hill (sort of like a long walk off a short pier) I was at the glacier exhibit. This animated exhibit showed the effect of melting glaciers on the ocean level:

I spent some time exploring the Science on a Sphere exhibit, but my Second Life client kept crashing when I tried to change the image on the sphere for some reason:

From there I headed over to the Sea Life exhibit. The killer whale was passing by so I took a quick ride. Fortunately I didn’t get chased away by a park ranger:

Then I hopped into the submarine Clelia for an underwater tour:

I even saw a school of fish:

My final stop was the tsunami simulator:

Things started out looking normal. A short time while the tsunami warning sounded! I watched the beach, transfixed. Suddenly, the water receded:

Stupidly, I stepped out into the water to read the signs:

I beat a hasty retreat to the beach when I realized that the tsunami was coming back:

The wave was really high:

And covered everything:

All in all, this is a pretty nice island. Lots to see, and a good demonstration of what can be done with Second Life to create interactive learning and teaching tools.

Give it a visit someday soon.