VIDEO: Fly through 3D history of Newcastle

THESE breathtaking three-dimensional bird's-eye views of the infant colony of Newcastle will enthral computer buffs and history enthusiasts alike.

The fly-through videos take you on time-travelling journeys, showing the settlement as it would have appeared from the air in the decades between 1800 and 1830.

Viewers see the entry to the river mouth, before Nobbys Breakwater was built and before the estuary was remodelled to suit shipping needs.

They see the settlement's first main street, now Watt Street, down which convicts once carried baskets of coal to ships that waited at the wharf.

They see the original church on the site of the present-day cathedral, and the windmill that once stood where the Obelisk stands today.

The fly-throughs were prepared for Newcastle's Coal River Working Party.

Design and illustration contractor Charles Martin, from EJE Architecture, based these renderings on authentic historical archival maps and survey records.

The details will be enhanced by cross-referencing against paintings from around the time, including those from convict artist Joseph Lycett and Edward Charles Close.

Coal River Working Party chairman and Newcastle University archivist Gionni Di Gravio said Mr Martin's work had fulfilled his own dream.

"This is something I've wanted done for so long. And even though Charles insists it's just a crude beginning, I think it's astonishing," Mr Di Gravio said.

"We've been able to do this because we are lucky enough to have some very accurate and helpful maps, surveys, paintings and sketches from those early years of the settlement.

"The same computer technology that can give us photo-realistic interactive games can give us these incredible fly-throughs for teaching and learning," he said.

Already Mr Martin has done some preliminary detailed rendering of particular areas of the bigger 3D landscape, hinting at what might lie ahead if sponsors come forward to fund the work.

In time, interactive walk-throughs of Newcastle at various points in its history might be available, giving people a real sense of how the place has changed since the days of indigenous human occupation, through the stages of European settlement and development.

Mr Di Gravio said the fly-throughs were just one branch of an exciting suite of digital and computer-driven developments being created by Hunter heritage enthusiasts.

Another was a recently launched mobile application that harnessed geo-tagged historical photographs and enabled users to see present-day sites and buildings as they appeared in years gone by.

"What's happening is that younger generations of computer-literate Hunter people are discovering our history and being amazed by it," Mr Di Gravio said.

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