3D scans preserve historical ship Edwin Fox for a new generation

One of the world's oldest merchant ships is being brought into the 21st century, with a 3D scanning project underway to preserve it for future generations.

A virtual reality walkthrough of the Edwin Fox will be created to help engage kids in a piece of Kiwi history.

"I think [3D scanning is] worldwide recognised as the only viable alternative for preservation," 3D Scans' Hennie van der Merwe told Newshub.

When the Kaikōura earthquake caused massive damage, Picton's Edwin Fox Maritime Museum grew concerned a further disaster could severely damage the boat.

To safeguard against such an event, Mr van der Merwe and the 3D Scans team are working to create a high-resolution model of the ship, raising the last of the funds to complete it on Kickstarter.

The model can then be not only supplied to museums and educational institutions, but also can be 3D-printed to create replicas.

"You can imagine this model being available to teachers in classrooms and it will immediately grab the kids' attention," Mr van der Merwe said.

Edwin Fox ship maritime museum 3D modelling virtual reality
The modelling of the ship's interior (3D Scans / supplied)

"You know what they're like nowadays - if it's not on an iPad they're not interested."

After being built in 1853, the Edwin Fox worked as a cargo ship, as a troop transport ship and as a convict transport ship.

Mr van der Merwe says she was one of the first ships to bring immigrants, outside of the Pacific Islands, to New Zealand.

"She's a very important part of New Zealand's history and she also has a role to play in New Zealand's future - we need people to know where we came from and how we came about."

Nearly 8000 photos were taken as part of the two-day scanning process in December.

The ship's age proved to be a challenge when it came to capturing the data required, with some sections blocked off for safety reasons.

On top of that, the scans were so detailed - down to the millimetre - that the information collected proved unmanageable. They're now taking a step back and cleaning up the data.

Edwin Fox ship maritime museum 3D modelling virtual reality
The modelling of some of the details within the ship (3D Scans / supplied)

CGI artist Katarina Markovic says it's the first time something like this has been done and it's allowing them to figure out the best way to do it.

"Merging the history behind it with cutting-edge technology, I think will have an awesome outcome," she told Newshub.

Once the work on the Fox is complete, the 3D Scans team have their sights set on other vessels, including the Rewa, located at Auckland's Maritime Museum.

But it's still a fair way down the track.

"We don't have the capacity to tackle another big project like the Fox right now, but we'll certainly be doing a lot of smaller items in the near future," Mr van der Merwe said.

The team is hoping to have the first model of the Fox completed by the end of May, with the full VR experience ready by the end of the year.

It's hoped eventually they can create another model of the ship rebuilding what's already been lost through time, restoring it to what it would have looked like in action.