Farewell to Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay sim opened around 6 weeks ago, on 9 February 2019, and we think it’s time to move on. So we’ll be closing on Saturday 23 March.

Chesapeake was a popular sim. Since it opened, around 1800 people have made 9700 visits there. The place was often full at weekends and at other peak times. Although this makes no difference to our costs – we don’t ask for donations, and we don’t charge membership fees – it’s always nice to see the sim getting busy.

The sim received some great reviews from Maddy Gynoid, Inara Pey and Diomita and Jenny Maurer. And we were very pleased to see this video of Chesapeake Bay by Tizzy Canucci, who has filmed several other sims of ours over the past few years …

As usual with our sims, we hoped that what we had designed would bear a resemblance to the real Chesapeake Bay. This was no easy task, given that we were reconstructing ‘the islands that disappeared’, specifically Holland Island and Sharps Island. So we were very pleased to see these comments in the guestbook:

‘Evocative sim — I live near the Chesapeake Bay and you’ve beautifully captured part of its essence’ (Ziki Questi)

‘I hike along the Chesapeake often. Thank you for doing doing this…. you’ve captured it so well.’ (Agent042 Resident)

‘I live near the Chesapeake Bay, so I really appreciated seeing this sim. You did an amazing job.’ (Victoria Draegonne)

As ever, we have enjoyed watching the sim’s Flickr group grow. In less than six weeks, more than 950 pictures have been posted, giving us the opportunity to see the place from various perspectives and in different light settings. Here is a very small selection of highlights taken from the vast range of pictures taken at the sim during the past few weeks …

V.eritas V.os Liberat

Sweet Decay

~Chesapeake Bay~

Chesapeake Bay B&W Series #1

Devastation

Chesapeake Bay

Companions in a deluge

c o n t a c t

Breaking the line

Chesapeake Bay

Samε Spacε... Inƒinite √√or(l)ds @Chesapeake Bay

It’s an odd world, this one...

CHESAPEACKE BAY

25feb2019@Chesapeake Bay

Death comes to us all

So our thanks, once again, to everyone who stopped by and took photographs – and also to those who simply liked spending time at the sim. We enjoyed Chesapeake a lot.

One Week at Chesapeake

The Chesapeake Bay sim has been open for just over a week now and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  Over 900 people have visited, many of them several times over, and for long periods. The sim is often full during afternoons and evenings, and at weekends. We were pleased to see great reviews of the sim by Maddie Gynoid, Inara Pey, and Diomita and Jenny Maurer, and we are grateful to everyone who signs the guestbook.

Perhaps most strikingly of all, the Chesapeake Bay Flickr group has grown to almost 450 pictures in just one week. As ever, we have enjoyed seeing many different perspectives on the sim. We felt sure that the place would prove to be photogenic, not least because it features some ‘original’ buildings and structures that cannot be seen elsewhere on the grid. Moreover, because of the layout of the sim, there are plenty of angles from which these can be photographed. It’s never easy picking out highlights from such a large pool of pictures, but here are some observations on what has been posted so far.

First, I’ve been struck by the number of great wide-angled shots that have been taken at the sim …

Chesapeake Bay I

Chesapeake Bay III

Chesapeake Bay (3)

Bird Set Free

Waiting for the tide to turn

la substance du ciel est d'une tendresse étrange

silhouette

Chesapeake bay la ressuscitée

ᴮʳᵒᵏᵉᶰ

Chesapeake Bay IV

Chesapeake

Chesapeake Bay (2)

Chesapeake Bay (1)

There are also a good many photographers who have imagined the sim in what I’d describe as a ‘painterly’ way, with stunning results …

Krise exploring Chesapeake Bay

wading

When did they leave?

Chesapeake Bay 05

Chesapeake Bay

CHESAPEAKE BAY

Bay view

Refusing to Disappear

Chesapeake Bay

.

A Thousand Shores - Mille Rivages

When nothing but hope is left

You can also dream awake!

By contrast, there are photographers who seem able to render the sim with an incredible degree of realism, which in some cases leaves one scratching one’s head and wondering whether an image was taken in the ‘real’ Chesapeake Bay …

peeking and capturing

Chesapeake Bay

Behind every image, something has disappeared. And that is the source of its fascination

Chesapeake Bay 07

Birds Bay

Chesapeake Bay

@Chesapeake Bay

Sweet Decay

Chesapeake Bay

Vive la vida

Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay

Stress in the sky

"A Scattering of Two"

.

.

Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay

She Remembers

Can you see beauty?

As for the ‘signature’ builds on the sim, there have been some outstanding shots of the house that Stephen White fought to save …

Chesapeake Bay - Feb 2019

Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay 08

Chesapeake Bay 04

Chesapeake Bay

… Sharp’s Island hotel …

Chesapeake Bay (1970's Color) wonder if it still plays?

Chesapeake

Lucide dream

Chesapeake Bay

Bates Motel going down

… the Holland Island Bar Lighthouse …

Recovery....@Chesapeake Bay

Only the Ocean

Entre Mensonges et Verités

Foretop

… Sharp’s Island Lighthouse …

Vday @ Chesapeake bay

Chesapeake Bay

Steadfast

… the sunken church …

It was not the Church that resisted the deluge

chesapeake bay

CHESAPEAKE BAY

Chesapeake Bay

No services today

… various submerged roofs …

sous les flots

Chesapeake Bay

...sleepwalking land

Chesapeake Bay - Feb 2019

All that shines is not gold

… the cemetery …

...a little whiff in history

12022019

… and the Tangier Island cross …

Chesapeake Bay

"God So Loved The World"

Finally, the sim’s massive bird population has proved to be popular with photographers …

Dudes

The doubt

Chesapeake Bay 02

~Chesapeake Bay~

Muted

Chesapeake Bay

Birds

Crowd

We usually spend between two and three weeks working on each sim that we open, and much of that time is taken up by the rather obsessive attention we pay to details. So we’re pleased to see photographers who notice – and highlight – features of the sim we worked hard on. Thanks to everyone who has visited and posted pictures. And do keep going, we’ll surely be staying open for a little while longer …

The Islands that Disappeared

Forget me not, is all I ask.

1200px-holland_island_house

Our latest sim is located in the Chesapeake Bay, an estuary in the US states of Maryland and Virginia.  The Chesapeake Islands are famous for the simple reason that they disappeared. Built on clay and silt, over the course of a century the islands were gradually submerged as a result of erosion exacerbated by sea level rise. They were the islands that sank. For our new sim which opens today, we have focused on two of the islands, Holland Island and Sharps Island. The landmark is here.

holland-island-bar-light-chesapeake-bay-maryland.10

Holland Island is arguably the best known island in the Chesapeake Bay. Once home to almost 400 watermen and farmers, the island was slowly sinking for much of the twentieth century – during which time it halved in size, from 160 to 80 acres – and was gradually abandoned.

bal-vanishing-island-pg

HollandIsland.jpg

The last house on the island, built in 1888, finally collapsed in 2010, before falling into the sea altogether two years later.

poi_gallery_image-image-b94eabd2-e031-4999-8523-46d3b41503ea

hollandsisland_crop-copy-small

hi-8

hi-4

holland island no house

Our reconstruction tells the story of an extraordinary man, Stephen White, who fought for fifteen years to hold back the sea and save the house.

hi-stephen-white

Stephen White, a waterman and Methodist Minster, first visited Holland Island when he was a boy. Years later, he was visiting one of the island’s three cemeteries when he saw an inscription on one of them …

Forget me not, is all I ask
I could not ask for more,
Than to be cherished by my friends
So loving and so dear.
Dearest Effie, thou hast left us,
And our loss we deeply feel.
But tis God that has bereft us
He will all our sorrows heal.

The grave belonged to Effie L. Wilson: “Born Jan 16, 1880. Died Oct. 12, 1893. Aged 13 years, eight months, 27 days” …

effie grave

The discovery inspired Stephen White to embark on a campaign to stop Holland Island from disappearing into the sea. He purchased the island for $70,000, and set up the Holland Island Preservation Foundation. For fifteen years, Stephen and his wife waged their own battle against the sea. Spending $150,000, they built wooden breakwaters, laid sandbags and carried 23 tons of rocks to the island and dropped them at the shoreline.

holland+island+landscape.JPG

They employed an excavating machine and a small bulldozer to dig makeshift levees. They even sunk a barge just off the house to break the waves.

Despite these efforts, the silt on which the island had been built could not resist the waves, steadily eroding – just as it had for the past 100 years – until the Whites finally admitted defeat in 2010, and sold the island to the Concorde Foundation.

Today, Holland Island consists solely of marshland – home to many thousands of birds – which is often completely submerged. Fishing still takes place there, as can be seen in this video (around the four minute mark) …

… so we have reflected this in our reconstruction. But given the precarious and ever-changing nature of Holland Island, this is a recreation that seeks to convey a spirit and an atmosphere. In particular, we have tried to encapsulate that dreadful moment in 2010 when Stephen White had to accept that the house was beyond saving …

hi-11 (1).jpg

In addition to the house, we have also rebuilt the cemetery White would have visited, which disappeared along with the house.

DWH1611_HollandsIslandCem_2.jpg

We have also recreated this distinctive sign from another of Chesapeake Bay’s sinking places, Tangier Island, which reflects the religious spirit that pervades many of the Chesapeake Islands. The inscription – “God so loved the world’ – is from John 3:16

tangier island

Holland Island also had a distinctive lighthouse – the Holland Island Bar Lighthouse – which also its own compelling history. The lighthouse was built in 1888, consisting of a house on a screw-pile foundation …

440px-hollandislandbarlight

On March 31, 1931, the lighthouse keeper,  Ulman Owens, was found dead in the kitchen, which was in disarray, suggesting that there had been a violent struggle. Blood stains were in evidence all around the room, and there was a blood-stained butcher’s knife near the body. The dead man, however, bore evidence only of scraping and bruising, with no gunshot or stab wounds visible.

9118

Bizarrely, the inquest into Owens’ death ruled that the he had suffered some sort of fit- even though on the night of the murder, a local captain saw a vessel cruising without running lights, its wake leading directly back to the lighthouse. A subsequent autopsy revealed that he had suffered a cracked skull. The case was re-opened, and a federal agent would later testify that he overheard a suspected rum runner, Guy Parkhurst, say, “There go the rats that turned us in. Well, the lighthouse keeper got in the headlines. We did that. What these rats get will be worse.”

The uncertainty surrounding Owens’ death lingers around this strange structure that stands alone in Chesapeake Bay. As an article in a local newspaper stated at the time …

The waters of Chesapeake Bay moan round the old Holland Bar lighthouse. The hoarse screams of the seagulls resound through the chill spring air. The fogs rise and subside. The moon glints through the clouds of approaching storms. And always the yellow pencil of the lighthouse lamp traces its pattern on the murky waves.
But the hand that guides its course is not that of Ulman Owens, whose wounded body sleeps peacefully in a little seaside churchyard.

In 1960, the house was dismantled, and an automated light was constructed on the original platform. As far as we know, this structure still exists, and we have recreated it at the sim …

aholland3.jpg

While we were researching the history of Holland Island, we started to become interested in some of the other islands in the Chesapeake group. Although it was located some distance north of Holland Island …

sharps-island-light-little-choptank-river-maryland.8

… Sharps Island stood out not least because it is home to a lighthouse – the Sharps Island Light, dating back to 1838 – that bears comparison to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Apparently, the lighthouse started leaning in 1977 due to ice flows. We could not resist replicating this strange structure at the sim. Although the lighthouse still exists, it was deactivated in 2010 and appears on navigation charts only as “Sharps Island Obstruction” …

normal_sharps_island_light

Sharps Island sank somewhat earlier than Holland Island, disappearing from view by 1960. Besides the distinctive lighthouse, we have added the hotel that was built on the island by Miller R. Creighton in the late nineteenth century, alongside a boardwalk and steamboat landing. The hotel was very popular, but inevitably short-lived.

sharps island hotel news

According to this newspaper article in The Star Democrat, it may have been the solid appearance of the Sharps Island Lighthouse that convinced its owners that erecting such a building on this land was a good idea. If so, they were sadly mistaken. The article quotes Margaret Stevens Parsons – who lived at a farm on the island as a child – vividly describing her experience of relentless erosion …

The farm consisted of eight big fields that were cultivated, with a large garden, a big apple orchard and a damson and peach orchard. The yard where the house stood was as wide as half a city block and as long as one and one-half blocks. On the west side was a heavy pine woods. Each winter they would cut the trees back from the shore about 10 feet and before the winter was over, the wind and waves had washed away the earth and trees would be falling into the Bay.

The island itself had been reduced drastically in size by 1900, while the hotel itself was closed and torn down just ten years later. We struggled to find images of the hotel, although this one is strikingly evocative …

sharps island hotel

This has been a fascinating and rather poignant project, not least because of the extraordinary myths and stories that surround these islands. We especially enjoyed the challenge of imagining the houses, hotels, churches, tracks, and piers that sank … and recreating the traces that they left behind, forever lost in time …

Besides the few structures on the sim, there are many birds – cormorants, herons, albatrosses, gulls, brown pelicans, geese, swans, ducks, grebes, loons, osprey, pheasants, woodpeckers, crows, magpies, kingfishers, jays – which we believe are found in the Chesapeake Bay today. For us, what’s left of these islands are poignant, ghostly places, in which one cannot but imagine the lingering sadness of residents forced to abandon their homes – as well as the grim determination of Stephen White.

As ever, the sim won’t stay open for long, so please enjoy visiting while you can and post your pictures here.

Hüvasti Rummu

Rummu opened one month ago, on 1 January 2019, and we feel that it’s time to move on. So we’ll be closing the sim this week, on Friday 8 February 2019. The place has been popular, with many regular visitors staying for extended periods – hours at a time – while the sim has been completely full at the busiest times. As I commented before, the Flickr group has also been busy, with more than 600 pictures posted in just a few weeks. Here are some of the more recent highlights from the group which reflect the many and varying ways the place has been seen and used …

Rummu

Ready for fight?

Risk

I'll Stand By You

[sometimes you have to be alone to come back and be better … ♪♫]

Nothing's Happening ...

suspension of disbelief

somehow

#La rumεur dε Paris *2 @Rummu

Rummu 1

Rummu Explorations

Better half

猿も木から落ちる

friday

hope

Rummu (Spacer)

I’ll drown my beliefs

"Science is the Whore of Industry and the Slut of War"

Deep green light

Rummu 2

craving for sunshine

Bird:Cage

I wonder if the movie is about to start...

As ever, we’re grateful to everyone who visited, took pictures, and left comments in our guestbook.

So … what next? I guess we’ll think of something. Meanwhile, we hope you enjoy Rummu’s final week.

Reflections from Rummu

Rummu opened on the first day of the year and it has been well-visited since, with around 1000 distinct avatars paying approximately 4000 different visits. The sim tends to be full during the busiest periods, and many stay for a very long time – the record for Rummu currently stands at around 13 hours in one single stay. This suggests that the sim has become an ‘AFK home’ for some regulars, and we don’t mind that at all.

Rummu has had great reviews from Inara PeyMaddy Gynoid and Susann Decuir, for which we are very grateful, as well as some generous feedback from visitors – both in conversation and via comments in the guestbook. But as ever, we mostly look forward to your pictures. The Rummu Flickr group has been busy. As we approach 400 images in the group after less than two weeks, we have been struck by both the quality and diversity of the pictures you’ve been taking. As I said once in a post about Bayou, it is on Flickr that we see our places though the eyes of others, and we really enjoy viewing Rummu from different perspectives and angles, light settings and so on. So … here are some personal reflections about the images taken at Rummu so far.

As with Bayou, it’s been striking how many photographers opt for monochrome, and with real skill. Here are some great examples …

@ Rummu

The Sound Of Silence

equilibrium position

strange ideas

Rummu. Surface.

On Reflections

sometimes its only black and white

The V.acuum

Delicate

Rummu2

“The quiet sense of something lost”

As for subject-matter, we were intrigued by what photographers would do with the murals at Rummu, and have not been disappointed …

Rummu

Rummu

AHHH

Graffitie sur le mur!

wallpainting

Soviet Suprem

whisper

Remembrance

And given that we always intended that Rummu should be a place with summer vibe,  where visitors enjoy hanging out with each other – making use of some of the ‘toys’ we left lying around – it’s great to see so many fun images like these …

searching naturist place(s) (for better suntan)

Love at first sight

Fun.<3

Jade Koltai: lol les petits culs

08012019

1 2 3 ja

I don't have a choice, I still choose you

dive for dreams

Aquagym

Emotional rescue

Happy Chit chat :D ( raw shot)

One of the other intriguing features of Rummu lies underwater – the old prison – so we’ve especially enjoyed seeing pictures taken in the murky depths …

Submerged Ruins @ Rummu

Rummu........

Drowning in the waves of a no man‘s land

History

Rummu - Jan 2019

Rummu II - the past underwater

There have also been some excellent pictures by photographers with a talent for spotting those small but all-important details that give any sim its distinct character and sense of life …

Sound of wood

I am a unicorn

From Hell to Paradise ...

Rummu 04

Rummu 09

Comptine d' Un Autre Eté

Finally, there are those pictures that simply stand out – because of an angle, a colour, or some other indefinable quality …

Freedom..

Stay

transformator

[ Breathe me ]

Jungle Pool

Summers look good already.

Swimmingpool

Remains of the past...

🌺

symmetries

Rummu

Tetris

Silence

Rummu III

εmo *295 @Rummu

Happiness Does Not Wait

Running

So, as ever, our sincere thanks to everyone who has visited Rummu, given us feedback, and taken pictures. We enjoy seeing the place occupied, used and interpreted.

Nobody will be surprised to learn that we are already working on a new project … so the next time you read a blog from me, it’s likely to be a notice about Rummu’s closure. We don’t have a set date in mind for that yet, but you know us by now, it’s never too far away. Which means … keep enjoying Rummu while you can.

Welcome to Rummu

rummu 01

Rummu is located in the Vasalemma Parish of northern Estonia, around an hour’s drive from Tallinn, the country’s largest city and its capital. It is the inspiration for our latest sim, which opens today. Here is the landmark.

rummu 02

We came across Rummu quite by accident, but instantly felt that this was an ideal place on which to base a Second Life sim. It was the location of a quarry from the 1930s until the early 1990s. More notoriously, Rummu was the site of a Soviet prison, whose inmates formed the majority of the quarry’s workforce. Rummu prison – also known as Murru prison, which was situated close by and eventually merged with Rummu – has a dark history: known and widely feared for its abuses of prisoners, little of that history is documented today, although various references to human rights violations at Murru can be found on the US Department of State website. Rummu quarry was essentially a labour camp in which prisoners were forced to work and to endure brutal treatment from guards who barely spoke their language.

rummu 03

After Rummu prison was closed following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the quarry ceased operating. The site was flooded and another remarkable story began. The prison itself now lay hidden beneath a lake that slowly became a well-known Estonian beauty spot, drawing many visitors who wanted to swim and dive in its crystal clear waters. In summer, this place resembles a city beach, packed with bathers.

rummu 04

As one commenter said under a YouTube posting of a video taken at Rummu, one might describe this is a story of “how hell became heaven with love …”

At present, Rummu quarry is officially closed, and swimming is outlawed – and yet still visitors come, sneaking in past security gates.

entrance-to-the-rummu

There are many good articles and blogs about Rummu, with some excellent photographs that we relied on when making the sim – see for example here, here, here and here. Rummu also features as a backdrop in the video for Alan Walker’s Faded

… and in Einar Kusk’s short post-apocalyptic film, The Most Beautiful Day (2015) …

We were drawn to the place by its contrasts: between past and present, between what lies above and below the water, between freedom and captivity, between beauty and brutality. We also liked Rummu’s bohemian vibe: there is something carefree and illicit in the way that visitors use it, painting murals on the walls of the buildings one can see, and staging impromptu parties and music events. I imagine that most of us know of places like this, with their mix of beauty and squalor, and understand how seductive they can be.

rummu 06

SONY DSC

rummu 08

Rummu can still be a dangerous place. The lake is deep, the ground falls away quickly, and is full of bits of broken rubble and barbed wire that will cut careless swimmers or any paddlers without shoes. For those choosing to dive from one of the derelict buildings above water, there is the ever-present danger of colliding with something in the water, and there have been a number of deaths and injuries in recent years as a result. Nevertheless, the swimmers still swim, and the divers still dive.

rummu 09

A large part of the attraction of Rummu is the knowledge that beneath these waters stands the old prison, which – fortunately for us – has been regularly filmed by divers.

Those who visit Rummu and write about the experience invariably say that besides the strange beauty of the derelict buildings that lie partially submerged, it is the knowledge of what lies below the water – and the terrible history of the prison itself – that lends the place its extraordinary charisma. We have tried to recreate this combination of surface and depth. If you venture into the water and walk around, you will soon find yourself in darkness, surrounded by plants and pieces of derelict building. Keep on going down the slope, and in the depths you will reach some gates. Here you enter the prison itself, deep under the water, just as divers do today. It’s a creepy place, for sure.

rummu 12

rummu 11

rummu 13

Above ground, Rummu’s most striking feature consists of the giant slag heaps that were created by quarry works.  These act as a great vantage point, while in the real place, they have to be crossed to gain access to the beach.

rummu slag heaps.jpg

Besides the ruined buildings and underwater prison, Rummu’s other distinctive feature are its murals, and we have recreated some of these – while adding others – at the sim. The biggest murals, most notably the image of the coffee cup, which exists at Rummu, appear to be the work of a Moscow-based group of artists called Zukclub. Looking through the group’s website, Rummu’s derelict buildings were once used as a ‘street art gallery’ for a show called Past Future Perfect Continuous, and we have recreated this concept at the sim.

zukclub gallery

A music festival – Moonland – was planned at Rummu during August 2018, but it was cancelled when its financial backers withdrew. At present, a degree of uncertainty hovers over the place, as the site’s owners appear to be building a technology park there. We will see how that turns out.

We have enjoyed creating this space. For the past month or so while we worked on details, it was our private ‘summer haven’ in winter. But now we are ready to open Rummu for others to enjoy. As is normal for us, we won’t keep the sim open for long; we don’t plan any exhibitions or events; we ask for no tips, donations or membership fees. There are no rez rights – we needed every last prim – but there are plenty of animations on the sim, including two places where you can dive (find them if you can), a rope slide, a pedal boat rezzer, and plenty of seating. The Flickr group is here.

So, now that January is here, and the myriad winter sims of Second Life are becoming tiresome  … enjoy a taste of summer at Rummu.

welcome to rummu.jpg

 

Farewell to the Isle of May

farewell may final.jpg

We will be closing Isle of May next week, on 1 January. The winter version of this sim was very popular. The sim was often full, and another 800 pictures or so were added to the Flickr group in the month or so since we re-opened the sim on 23 November. Thanks to everyone who posted pictures to the group, to those who reviewed this latest iteration of the sim, and to everyone who signed the guestbook.

Huge compliments to all you photographers – there have been some great shots of the sim in winter conditions. I am reluctant to pull out favourites, but here is a small selection of images that – for me – capture the ‘rawness’ of the winter setting we were trying to recreate at the sim …

taken at Isle of May

Isle of May

Granted

Isle of May

~A Winter's Tale~

The north wind doth blow...

[...this unfamiliar place]

campagne enneigée

As always, there is a hint of sadness when we close a sim. But I’d be surprised if this one doesn’t make a third appearance on the grid at some point in the future, it’s a real favourite of ours – and, it seems, of yours.

So … what next? Rest assured that we are thinking, and planning. As ever, watch this space.

But for now, happy holidays to all, and we hope you enjoy visiting the Isle of May for a few more days.

The Isle of May in Winter

When we closed the Isle of May in June we promised ourselves that we would try designing a winter version later on in the year to see how it turned out. Having worked on the sim for a couple of weeks, we rather like it, and so today it opens to everyone – here is your landmark. As usual, it won’t stay open for too long – think of it as our ‘festive’ sim – so make the most of it while it lasts.

may snow 1

The Isle of May was always a special sim to us, it seemed to have a magic all of its own. When the sim opened on 16 March 2018, we were pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm shown by visitors. The Flickr stream grew fast, with around 350 pictures posted in the first week alone. As comments in the sim’s guestbook testify, our first ‘pastoral’ sim – a contrast to some of the more desolate landscapes we’d made in the past, such as Furillen and (especially) Khodovarika – struck a chord with its spectacular views and abundant wildlife.

But we always wondered about this place in winter, fully exposed to winds from the North Sea, bitterly cold, and covered in snow …

may snow 2

What we were hoping to create is something wild and untamed: less desolate and abandoned than Khodovarikha, or even Furillen, but still a place where you’d feel the wind and snow hurting your face, and the cold gnawing away at your insides. We imagined a roaring sea, with north-easterly gales blasting onto isolated beaches.

may snow 3

In real life, this would surely be a thoroughly horrible place to be for all but the most masochistic lover of raw nature.

may snow 4

But in Second Life, such places can be wonderful, and surely a contrast to sunnier beaches or even some the cuter, picture postcard versions of winter we are used to enjoying on the grid over the Christmas weeks. So we have not compromised: the Isle of May in winter is brutal and unforgiving, dark and forbidding.

may snow 5

And yet … this is a nature reserve, where 285 different bird species have been recorded. The Isle of May is especially noted for its puffin colonies, crowds of angry cormorants and hungry gulls, guillemots, herons and cranes, as well as a variety of birds such as ospreys, crows, ravens, bats, pheasants, eurasian jays, magpies, starlings, blackbirds, blue tits, sparrows, woodpeckers, owls and – of course – robins. You will find all of these on the sim, as well a few hardy black-faced sheep huddled close to straw bales, a small raft of otters, some goats, wild rabbits (yes, rabbits are abundant on the real Isle of May!), and a family of deer – all braving the cold and fighting for survival …

mountain-hare-scotland

sheep_64336042_isle_of_may

 

may snow 9

may snow 7

may snow 6

may snow 10

As always, we have paid close attention to the sim’s soundscape. In this instance, I added original sound files to the cormorants, egrets, cranes, herons, common murres and geese. It makes for quite a cacophony at certain places on the sim, as indeed it would in real life.

Out in the bay, you should be able to spot the beautiful orca, and if you listen closely, you will surely hear its wonderfully plaintive cry. You might also notice the mother and baby dolphin. Dolphins are quite frequently seen from the Isle of May, and I was somewhat surprised to learn that they do not migrate, although realistically, I doubt they would be seen in water this cold!

orca

dolphins may

In addition, besides the sea birds that we believe would still inhabit the island even in deepest winter, you will also find seals and seal pups, for whose protection the Isle of May is officially closed every year from 1 October until Easter.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

We did take some liberties when putting this version of the sim together. For example, we introduced a small wolf pack. Surely there are no wolves in Scotland? Correct – not since the eighteenth century, it would seem – but we placed this group on the sim as a hat tip to a landowner called Paul Lister, who wants to reintroduce wolves – safely behind fences, I hasten to add – to the Scottish highlands. I have no strong views about Mr Lister’s plans, but love hearing the howl on the sim. Just pity the poor sheep, grazing within earshot …

may snow 11

We’ve taken other liberties too. You’ll also see an arctic fox flitting in and out of its den. Why? Because this beautiful animal once thrived in Scotland, and although you can only see it in the Highland Wildlife Park these days, I find it fascinating to imagine times when species such as arctic foxes – and, indeed, wolves – were plentiful in the Highlands and Islands.

Arctic_Fox

In any case, our Second Life version of the Isle of May was never an exact replica, indeed as we always made clear, we were hunting for the spirit of this place more than a literal representation – our own ‘true north’, as it were. So our island was inhabited by more than just the nature wardens – a lighthouse keeper, a house owned by an artist, and a smattering of smaller buildings around the periphery probably hosting holidaymakers. Previous visitors seem to have enjoyed these signs of human life, and we have continued many of them – the main house, the lighthouse, and so on – here in their ‘winter coats’.

may snow 12

Some buildings have changed – e.g. the fisherman’s hut – or are new. We couldn’t resist placing a ‘real’ church just beyond the ruins of the old St Adrian’s Chapel. This is the delightfully creepy ‘Church of the Damned’ by Schultz, which sits gloomily under frozen oak trees, guarded by those wolves and some ominous bats.

As for music, I have re-introduced the Furillen radio stream – consisting of around 70 hours of ambient music on random rotation – which many visitors have enjoyed in the past. Here are some tasters from the stream:

Finally, a quick note to photographers. We know that snowfall can make picture-taking a little frustrating. At the same time, we wanted to make the experience of being on the Isle of May as immersive as possible, so make no apologies for the fact that visitors will find snow all over their screens, and their view into the distance obscured. However, we will be switching the snow off on some days. But enjoy the challenge, too – snow shots can be incredibly atmospheric … we believe in you!

As ever, please enjoy what you see and ask for nothing more, just as we ask for no donations or membership fees. There are no rez rights. Why? Because we wanted to use every last prim to make the sim as good as it could be.

We love this place and thoroughly enjoyed putting it together. But whatever you think about it, and wherever you spend your time, have a happy winter!

Bayou Bids Farewell

We opened Black Bayou Lake on 9 October 2018, and having originally planned to keep it open for about one month, feel that the time has come to move on. The sim will therefore close on Friday 23 November 2018, so you have a few more days to enjoy it.

black bayou lake

Black Bayou Lake has been popular, perhaps a little bit more than we expected. The Flickr group is now approaching a thousand pictures. As I said in my last post, we really enjoyed seeing now various photographers imagined the sim, indeed this is one of the most intriguing and satisfying aspects of sim design. There are many highlights which demonstrate great variety in how you saw this place.

Bleak

Golden Bayou

Silhouette.....

Quiet moment

" Saving nickles, saving dimes "

木立

Light me up a cigarette

Black Bayou Lake

Through

We also wanted the visit to be immersive, and were pleased to note several of the reviewers commenting about exactly this. As noted in my last blog, and as some entries in the sim’s guestbook confirm, we were especially pleased when visitors who have actually been to this part of the world ‘approved’ our attempt to recreate the Bayou in SL – given that we had only photographs and maps to go on. Finally, we always intend our sims to be places where visitors are not bombarded with greetings or requests for donations, and can just, well, hang out … and this is what seems to have happened for the almost two months we stayed open.

Rewinding back

Sunday Night Football!

A friendly encounter and stories shared

“The Graveyard In Our Heart”

As I have said in the past, our plan now is to follow a pattern of old sim revivals mixed in with new sims. Besides Bayou, our ‘back catalogue’ of sims now includes Furillen, Digue, Khodovarikha and the Isle of May, and we think they all merit the occasional return with improvements, variations or second thoughts. Our last revival was La Digue du Braek, which re-opened for a month or so at the beginning of 2018. We will surely do a ‘Version 2’ of Bayou in due course, and have some interesting ideas for brand new sims that we will follow up in 2019. But for the time being, we have another revival in mind.

So … watch this space.

It may come sooner than you think.

One week in Louisiana

walkway final

Black Bayou Lake opened just one week ago – with no advance notice – and the sim has been busy ever since. Given that the grid is currently in the grip of Halloween fever, this is a nice outcome. Thanks to everyone who has visited so far, and especially to those of you who took the trouble to leave a comment in our guestbook.

guestbook_001

Apart from the intrinsic satisfaction to be had from trying to recreate real locations using the somewhat limited resources available to us in Second Life, the two main reasons we put sims together are, first, to give visitors an immersive experience of ‘being there’ – hence our focus on a convincing windlight and soundscape, for example – and, second, to give the large and active community of photographers something new to take pictures of.

Black Bayou Lake

After one week, the sim’s Flickr group is fast approaching 300 pictures, and it is always intriguing to see how others choose to ‘see’ what we put together: the angles they choose, their light settings, favourite details, and so on. I have been struck so far by how many of you have chosen monochrome …

Please just take me with you when you go

Keep The Streets Empty For Me

We have also been surprised by how many photographers have focused on one small detail that we added right at the end, almost as an afterthought: these old sneakers, hanging from the hammock, and from a boat …

" Saving nickles, saving dimes "

Dancing Shoes

Pause

As expected, the sim’s wildlife has been popular …

Black Bayou Lake

It's a Canadian thing....

Black Bayou Lake

… and I have enjoyed seeing images that use the walkway for perspective, to create pictures that remind me of Furillen’s old pier …

To lose in the fog...

Black Bayou Lake

Finally – as with every sim we’ve been involved with – some of you are simply very good at making images that are downright moody …

Golden Bayou

The Beast in the Swamp

BBL

Bleak

There have been very positive reviews from Inara Pey and Maddy Gynoid – both are experienced reviewers and it is always interesting to get such feedback. But the ‘review’ we are always waiting for – with baited breath, it must be said – is from anyone who has actually visited the places we try to recreate. I remember some fascinating conversations from people who had visited the real Furillen and the Isle of May – although, alas, nobody I met has ever visited Khodovarikha. As for Black Bayou Lake, we had our first conversation with a ‘local’ reviewer last night. This is how it went …

[18:08] RM: just wanted to say WELL DONE! I am a Louisiana native and I’m positivley sweating and batting away mosquitos while standing here LOL
[18:08] JK: Ohhhhhhhhh nice :p
[18:08] RM: you def captured the essence for sure
[18:09] JK: ha ha ha we were waiting people from louisiana to have their opinions, you’re first and that’s very coool to hear 🙂
[18:09] RM: the ambient sounds, everything…perfect
[18:10] RM: GOOD JOB