Recreating an historical storm surge from 1646 in 360 VR

Take a trip back in time and visit Hull in winter 1646 to see the flood damage caused by a devastating storm surge described in archival records as a ‘hideous Tempest’. First launched in 2022, this 360 VR film recreates the path of the storm surge as it overtops flood defences on the rivers Humber and Hull, showing the extent of flooding at timed intervals across the hour leading up to the storm surge peak.

Viewers see the flood waters develop in stages as we approach the storm surge peak, and learn more about Hull’s centuries-long history of living with flood risk – a history that has not only shaped the town but the literature and culture produced in the Hull and Humber region.

In order to recreate the 1646-47 flood of Hull we first built a digital model of the seventeenth-century town and surrounding terrain. Basing our model on Wenceslaus Hollar’s scaled map of Hull from c.1640, we used Arc-GIS to georectify and digitise Hollar’s map, adding terrain data (from the Ordnance Survey and LIDAR), and gauge data from recent storm surges in Hull, both adjusted for seventeenth-century sea levels.

We sourced building, wall, and revetment dimensions from standing buildings, archaeological reports, and archival accounts of Hull’s early modern flood defences.

We then applied the open-source CAESAR-LisFlood landscape evolution model to our digitised Hollar map, creating time-stepped simulations of the 1646 storm surge and flood path. These simulations were then validated against historical accounts and animated in Unity VR by industry partners, BetaJester Ltd.

Related resources

Flooding Andrew Marvell’s Hull in VR

Rising Tide of Humber 360 VR film


Discover how water has shaped the literature, history, and culture of regions that have historically lived with flood risk and remain at risk of flooding today.

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