Virtual reality Andrew Marvell walking down South Church Side

VR Experience of Flooding in Andrew Marvell’s Hull

University of Hull researchers are using virtual reality technology to flood Hull during the time of poet Andrew Marvell – more than 400 years ago.

Funded by the AHRC Creative Industries Cluster ‘XR Stories’, the project aims to bring together literature and climate change through technology, working alongside virtual reality industry partners, BetaJester Ltd.

Andrew Marvell, who would celebrate his 400th birthday in 2021, is a celebrated Hull poet who often wrote about flooding in his works.

The project is being led by Dr Stewart Mottram, a Senior Lecturer in English, whose research focuses on the seventeenth-century poet, alongside academics Dr Chris Skinner, within the University’s Energy and Environment Institute, and Dr Briony McDonagh in Geography.

The University’s Energy and Environment Institute has developed a computer model to simulate flows and flooding around the Humber and the team are adapting this to find out more about how floods affected Hull in the lifetime of the Hull poet, Marvell, who writes about floods in his poetry from the 1640s.

Stewart Mottram said: “This project brings together the heart of Hull in the 17th Century with the climate interests of the University. As a city we have a lot of history and heritage with flooding and we are at an advantage we have never been at before where we can now use technology to explore and create some of our history, through virtual reality.”

“Andrew Marvell often writes about flooding and the aim of this project is to bring people face to face with a virtual flood that they can experience and interact with. People can make decisions about how they might deal with the flood, by talking to Andrew Marvell.”

The team has worked with researchers in Geography to build a digital model of 17th-century Hull, using old maps and archival and archaeological evidence. This has then been embedded into the Energy and Environment Institute’s flood model in order to test out how flood defences in 17th-century Hull would have fared against flooding of the kind experienced in the Humber in recent years - in effect, recreating a known ‘weather event’ from 400 years ago.

The team used the storm surge of 2013, to see how defences at that time would have stood up to significant weather events we are experiencing today,

Chris Skinner, whose flood modelling has informed the virtual reality experience, said: “Before we extensively managed the estuary, building embankments and walls to keep water out, people used to use it to their advantage – by deliberately flooding fields they added rich sediments and even held back Royalist forces sieging the city during the Civil War.”

“In part, it’s this relationship with the Humber we want to try and come back to – learning to live with the estuary as part of the nature of the city as opposed to it being something to fear.”

Visitors to the virtual Hull will experience a flood in real time, and find out how to survive a flood, while at the same time learning more about flooding, technologies to prevent flooding, and the heritage of 17th-century Hull more generally.

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