Ukivok, and the People of the Sea

Surely there are ghosts here, my children sprung
from these deeper furrows.

[Joan Naviyuk Kane]


Our new sim, which opens today, is a recreation of the abandoned Alaskan village of Ukivok. The landmark is here. Once home to around 200 Iñupiat, the village is located on Ugiuvak, or King Island, which is situated in the Bering Sea, around 64km off the Alaskan coast and 145km from Nome.

kng's island map.png

This remarkable place is a stilt village, perched on the side of a 45º hill. The village has stood on this site since the late nineteenth century. It was abandoned around fifty years ago, but still stands today, looking as intriguing – and as unlikely – as ever …

ukivok 01 ukivok-abandoned-stilt-village-alaska-ghost-town-6

ukivok house.jpg


King Island, on which Ukivok is located, measures one mile (or 1.6km) across with steep slopes on every side.

ukivok island.png

Besides the stilt village, there are no other buildings on Ugiuvak.

ukivok from above.jpg

As far as we know there is no beach to speak of on the island, making the passage from the sea to level land high up on the island quite impossible from most points. As this sketch by a sea captain suggests, Ukivok is a forbidding, seemingly uninhabitable place …

ukivok wanderlust.002

A distinctive feature on King Island is a group of rocks high up on the saddle of the island. These look like ruins of some kind – an Alaskan Stonehenge, perhaps? But in fact, they are completely natural …


King Island is home to eleven bird species – something like 250,000 birds in total – most notably around 42,000 Parakeet Auklet. From a distance, it can appear quite mystical, especially when shrouded in mist …

ukivok distance


One can but wonder at the ingenuity it must have taken to build a village in such a place, and the resilience demanded of those who lived here. The Iñupiat inhabitants of Ukivok called themselves Aseuluk, ‘people of the sea’, or Ukivokmiut, ‘people of Ukivok’.

The Ukivokmiut were subsistence hunters and whalers who had lived on King Island for centuries. Their activities on and around the island included hunting for seals and walruses, crab fishing, and gathering bird eggs and other foods.






The Aseuluk built Ukivok on stilts because of the lack of sheltered flat ground on the island. Initially the village consisted of houses constructed from walrus-hide for the summer months, and stone for the winter. These were subsequently replaced with wooden buildings, which can still be seen on the island today.

ukivok from above



ukivok map.jpg

As this map shows, the Ukivokmiut also built a school and a church. They are the two largest buildings in this photograph …

ukivok church.jpg

The church was dismantled during the mid 1980s because it was becoming dangerously unstable. We have retained both buildings in our reconstruction, albeit in what we imagine would be an appropriate state of disrepair.

ukivok church B

We were intrigued to discover that the Aseuluk were devout Catholics. A statue of Christ the King – which can be seen on the sim – stands high above the village, perched on top of 700 ft high cliffs …

ukivok statue B

ukivok statue 2 B

At the top of the village itself, an old bell –  also included in our reconstruction – was used to call people to mass. The bell tower collapsed in 1974.

ukivok bell B

Ukivok’s school is central to the story of how the village came to be abandoned. Up until the middle of the twentieth century, the Ukivokmiut tended to spend winter on the island, and at least part of the summer in the mainland city of Nome, where they sold ivory carvings while camping on the beach …


ukivok carving.jpg


During the winter months they spent their time in Ukivok. Because of limited daylight – only four hours per day during December and January – the islanders engaged in activities such as dancing, which was done in the so-called ‘Qagri’ (the men’s communal house). The month of December was known by the Ukivokmuit as ‘Sautugvik’, or the time of drumming.

ukivok drm

The numbers of Ukivokmuit on King Island began to decline during the Second World War, when an outbreak of tuberculosis claimed many lives within the village. Others were lured away in search of jobs and better medical care on the mainland. But the crucial event that led to the eventual abandonment of Ukivok was the closure of the school. This was directed by the Bureau of Indian affairs, ostensibly due to fears of a rock slide that threatened to destroy the school house.

ukivok school closure.jpg

This devastated the village. Without children to help gather winter food, the elders and adults were forced to move to the mainland, and by 1970 King Island was completely depopulated, although some Ukivokmiut continued to make trips to the island during the summer months to maintain the buildings and hunt walrus and seal. Meanwhile, the boulder that had supposedly threatened the school’s existence has never moved, and the building still stands, albeit in a dilapidated condition.

ukivok school.jpg

Although King Island has a lot of vegetation, there are few (if any) trees there. This raises an intriguing question: the Aseuluk built a stilt village on an island where wood is essentially lacking, so where did they find all that wood? According to this article, the village was mainly built out of a combination of driftwood and wood procured during trips to the mainland. Wood was hugely important to these people, as indicated by the rich terminology of wood types and expressions in their Inupiaq dialect …

wood words.jpg

Photographs suggest that the real King Island is incredibly ‘green’ during the summer months, and we have sought to reflect that in our reconstruction …

ukivok green 2

ukivok green 1

Although the village still stands, one wonders how much more difficult the life of the Aseuluk might be today in the face of climate change. In recent years, more and more of the ice in the sea around King Island has melted; indeed as this graphic shows, it almost disappeared completely in 2018 …



If the trend continues, the region’s ecology will be seriously destabilisedwinter storms will be common and the capacity of the villagers to hunt would surely be diminished.

While researching the history of Ukivok, I was pleased to discover the poetry of Joan Naviyuk Kane, whose mother was an inhabitant of Ukivok.

joan kane.jpeg

In 2015, Joan visited King Island – she gives a fascinating account of that visit here.


Joan’s 2016 poem, ‘Exceeding Beringia’, resonates powerfully with her experience of that trip …

Nimiqtuumaruq aktunaamik: bound with rope.

This land with its laws that serve as wire
and root to draw us together. Sinew, snare,
the unseen growth of the green tree
many rivers south whose stump now shoals

into use. Through layer upon layer of land
submerged, of ice, of ash, through lakes
that cannot be the eyes of the earth.
The phreatomagmatic blue sprawl
of the Devil Mountain Maar, the Kuzitrun

drained by inland veins scrawling tributaries
with name upon vanishing name.
The giant granite tors at Serpentine:
Iyat, the cooking pot sentineled
by unscoured stone as it towers

endlessly into the flickering sky.
Auksruaq, like the blood that seeps
across such hot and dim and strenuous
times where one still cannot be serene:
red phalarope, might we follow,

leaving the meadow wet with tears?
From nest to fledge and then to move again
right out to sea, circling tight vortices
to upwell food. Let us lose our grief
in great rafts as we translate the renamed

straits. Our limbs, like yours, are burnt
and broken. Let us at last make noise
of this truth as we return together
to wear another furrow, to make portage,
to make our land our home anew.

Finally – and purely for fun – we have added a zipline. As the map above indicates, there was a winch house in the village, next to the church. This suggests that the islanders probably used a ropeway for transporting things between the village and the sea. We simply made ours longer and higher – and it’s intended for people, not things. After all, Alaska does boast of having the world’s longest zipline … albeit located some 2000km away from King Island, at Icy Strait Point …

In this spirit, we hope that you enjoy visiting the sim, and that you post your images in the Flickr group.



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


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...


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


Chesapeake bay la ressuscitée


Chesapeake Bay IV


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


When did they leave?

Chesapeake Bay 05

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?


Lucide dream

Chesapeake Bay

Bates Motel going down

… the Holland Island Bar Lighthouse …

Recovery....@Chesapeake Bay

Only the Ocean

Entre Mensonges et Verités


… Sharp’s Island Lighthouse …

Vday @ Chesapeake bay

Chesapeake Bay


… the sunken church …

It was not the Church that resisted the deluge

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


… 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 …


The doubt

Chesapeake Bay 02

~Chesapeake Bay~


Chesapeake Bay



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.


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 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.



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





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.


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.


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.


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 …


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.


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 …


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 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” …


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 …


Ready for fight?


I'll Stand By You

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

Nothing's Happening ...

suspension of disbelief


#La rumεur dε Paris *2 @Rummu

Rummu 1

Rummu Explorations

Better half




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


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



“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 …




Graffitie sur le mur!


Soviet Suprem



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


Jade Koltai: lol les petits culs


1 2 3 ja

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

dive for dreams


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


Drowning in the waves of a no man‘s land


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 …




[ Breathe me ]

Jungle Pool

Summers look good already.


Remains of the past...






Rummu III

εmo *295 @Rummu

Happiness Does Not Wait


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.


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


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


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 …




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!


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.


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.


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.


Golden Bayou


Quiet moment

" Saving nickles, saving dimes "


Light me up a cigarette

Black Bayou Lake


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.