British geology added to Ordnance Survey Minecraft map

It’s almost a year since one of summer interns, Joseph Braybook, built a Minecraft world using OS OpenData products, representing over 224,000 square kilometers of Great Britain and we made it available for you to download and explore. We’ve seen around 170,000 downloads since last September, and it seems particularly fitting, that as the one year anniversary draws near, the British Geological Survey (BGS) have gone one step further and recreated the geology of Great Britain beneath the surface. 

Drawing on inspiration from our map last year, the new BGS Minecraft map uses our surface data and adds in their own information on the rough position of real geology beneath, right down to the bedrock. BGS produced the Minecraft blocks using data from their parent material map. In the UK, parent materials provide the basic foundations and building blocks of the soil, influencing their texture, structure, drainage and chemistry.

By peeling away the surface OS map, BGS show the underlying geology beneath the Isle of Wight.

By peeling away the surface OS map, BGS show the underlying geology beneath the Isle of Wight.

In order to represent the geology found across Great Britain, BGS Geologists had to select a suitable Minecraft block for the parent material types. To do this they tried to find the best match in terms of hardness, texture and appearance. For example, for sand they chose a sand block (that one was easy) but for something a little more complicated like peat they chose a soul sand block, chosen for its sinking characteristics which are very similar to a peat bog.

For more information and instructions on how to download the BGS Minecraft Geology, see their website.

The Isle of Wight in our Minecraft map

The surface of Isle of Wight in our Minecraft map

When we built our map, we used two of Ordnance Survey’s digital map products that are freely available as OS OpenData for anyone to use, to build the world:

  1. OS Terrain 50: A three-dimensional model of the bare earth surface known as a Digital Terrain Model (DTM). The product is delivered as a grid with a resolution of 50 metres. We used this product to generate the Minecraft GB terrain.
  2. OS VectorMap District: A mid-scale contextual or backdrop map product. We used the raster version, extracting surface features – for example water, woodland and roads – based on pixel colours and densities. We used this information to modify the material of individual blocks.

The resulting world consists of over 22 billion blocks – we think this may be the largest Minecraft map ever built based on real-world data!

Combine the BGS map with our own Minecraft map and you have two fantastic tools to bring geography and geology to life for children across Great Britain. We’ve already heard from parents, teachers and even scout leaders who have used our map to help teach geography – if you know of any more examples though, let us know, we’d love to hear about them.

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