Borealis (Aperture Science ship)
This article is about the Aperture Science ship. For the location cut from Half-Life 2, see Borealis (cut ship).
- "Our peers at Aperture Science were at work on a project of some promise, but in their rush to beat Black Mesa for funding, they must have compromised ordinary standards of risk. We heard their research vessel had simply disappeared. Vanished - with all hands... even part of the dry dock!"
- ―Isaac Kleiner[src]
The Borealis is an Aperture Science research icebreaker of an almost legendary stature, introduced in Half-Life 2: Episode Two. It is implied that it contains an immensely powerful and dangerous secret, yet to be revealed.
- 1 Background
- 2 Appearances
- 3 Related Achievements
- 4 Behind the scenes
- 5 Trivia
- 6 Gallery
- 7 List of appearances
- 8 References
The Borealis began its life as a project worked on by Aperture Science in a competing bid against Black Mesa over a Defense Logistics Agency contract for an effective FSII solution. Although events surrounding the ship are highly classified, it is known that it disappeared in its entirety during testing and development.
- “I'm fairly sure I've pinned down the location of the Project. It's hard to say how much of it might have survived intact, or whether there's anything remaining that could compromise our work... if it were discovered by the Combine. We'll need to take a close look at it, of course, but I should be able to give a better opinion within a few hours. If the site is where we think it is, then it should be no more than... I'm going to cut this short. We may have been spotted.”
- — Dr. Mossman
Many years after the Combine invasion of Earth, Judith Mossman, Resistance operative, finds the Borealis in an Arctic location. She is attacked by Combine forces soon after, and is only able to send an incomplete transmission of her discovery to White Forest. This is intercepted by the Combine, and in turn stolen back by Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance from the Citadel Core during their flight from City 17.
After safely reaching White Forest, Alyx and Gordon deliver the data to the Resistance, which reveals that Mossman was cunning enough to encrypt Borealis photographs, coordinates, blueprints and hailing frequencies within her message. Once Eli Vance and Isaac Kleiner have decoded these and realize the full significance of the transmission, a rift opens between the two Resistance leaders. Kleiner believes the technology the Borealis contains could be used by the Resistance against the Combine; Eli, haunted by memories of the Black Mesa Incident and not wanting a second Seven Hour War, believes that the Borealis has to be destroyed at all costs. It is not clear whether the Combine know of the Borealis, and consequently if they themselves have some interest in the ship's contents.
While the nature of the secret hidden within the Borealis is unknown, one of the blueprints indicates the presence of at least a Material Emancipation Grill and an Unstationary Scaffold within the ship.
In Portal 2, a large drydock for the Borealis can be found in the 1970s section of Test Shaft 09, near the offices where Chell finds GLaDOS in the bird's nest. The dock is completely empty, save for several life preservers bearing the ship's name scattered on the floor.
Unlike other rooms in the same area, this room was not vitrified. In fact, the large bulkhead door has been blasted straight out of its hinges. There is no gate or exit of any sort through which the Borealis could have been entered or left the room, so it can be assumed it teleported out, perhaps through some violent portal event. Kleiner says in Episode Two that the ship disappeared with parts of its drydock; he likely refers to scaffolding, cranes, or similar machinery as the drydock itself appears intact.
As suggested by the end of Episode Two, the Borealis is expected to be focal point of the next Half-Life game. The three pieces of concept art released in 2008 show the Borealis stuck in ice, covered in Combine technology and flanked by Advisors, suggesting the Combine will have a presence around the ship.
|Ship Overboard (10G)|
|Discover the missing experiment.|
Behind the scenes
The icebreaker Borealis was originally to appear in Half-Life 2 as the Hyperborea, then the Borealis. In one of the earliest versions of the story, Gordon was to start the game by boarding the ship. Later in the game's development, it was to appear between two other cut chapters, the Air Exchange and Kraken Base, before being eventually cut with the whole part set between the Depot and the City 17 uprising.
The original ship was based on the real world USCGC research icebreaker the Polar Star. However, the design of the ship seen in Episode 2 is based on the USCGC Healy rather then the Polar Star. The reason for the change is unknown.
The name "Borealis" is likely associated with the term "aurora borealis", the northern polar lights only visible in the Northern Hemisphere. "Borealis" comes from "Boreas", a wind god in the Greek mythology. "Hyperborea", the early name for the ship, was the name of the land of the Hyperboreans, a mythical people who lived far to the north of Thrace. "Hyperborea" means "beyond the Boreas", thus beyond the land of the wind god Boreas.
The Borealis's teleportation mishap shares many similarities to the urban legend of the Philadelphia Experiment in which the warship USS Eldridge was rumored to have been rendered invisible by experimental technology. In some versions of the story, the ship had accidentally teleported from its dry dock to a U.S. naval base over 200 miles away. In the most radical versions of the story, the ship achieved accidental time travel. When Marc Laidlaw was asked about it, he stated that he had it in his mind from way back.
The images hidden in Mossman's message are located in the Episode Two texture files in the folders "effects" and "Props". One of these images shows two of the unknown scientists of Kleiner's Black Mesa main team photography, a bearded man and a woman, posing in front of the Borealis. Other images include three blueprints of the Borealis. The original images are not blueprints for any of the United States Coast Guard research icebreakers mentioned above but those of a naval warship, the USS Newport News, a United States Navy heavy cruiser launched after World War II. They also feature tables taken from other blueprints. The images also shows a QSL card, originally for the USCGC Polar Star.
The ship serves as the central focus and climactic location of Marc Laidlaw's Epistle 3, a short "fan fiction" story that gives a summary outline of the events in a planned iteration of Episode Three. It is explained in it that the Borealis is equipped with what Aperture Science researchers called the Bootstrap Device. This piece of technology was designed to emit a large field around the vessel, teleporting everything within it to any chosen destination. Before the researchers had a chance to test the device, the eruption of the Seven Hour War forced them to switch it on and fling the ship towards the Arctic to avoid it being captured by the Combine. Unbeknownst to them, the Borealis traveled in both space and time. Moreover, it wasn't limited to one location or one time, phasing in and out of existence at certain points along its path. After Alyx and Gordon enter a Combine compound erected in the Arctic to study and seize the ship whenever it materialized, and manage to board the Borealis, a plan is hatched to set it to self-destruct, while riding it into the heart of the Combine's invasion nexus. Turned into a time-travelling missile, the ship ultimately blows itself apart on the Combine's Dyson sphere.
While the Borealis was apparently located in an area of the Enrichment Center built in the 1970s, the ship's blueprints feature GLaDOS' name where the corporation's owner would sign, as well as the modern Aperture Laboratories logo. This issue has yet to be addressed or retconned.
Blueprint. The word GLaDOS can be seen, as well as the location of Aperture Science's labs and administration, Cleveland, Ohio, and an Aperture Laboratories stamp.
USS Newport News blueprint. The left portion is one of the sources of the previous image, reversed, while the right portion is the source of next image.
The USCGC Healy.
List of appearances
- Half-Life 2 (First appearance) (Game files only) (Non-canonical appearance)
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two (Video only)
- Portal 2 (Drydock only)
- Portal 2
- Half-Life 2: Episode Two
- Portal 2 Collector's Edition Guide, page 309
- The Final Hours of Half-Life 2, "The Hemoglobin"
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 177
- WC mappack
- Marc Laidlaw on the inspiration behind the Borealis (unverified)
- Epistle 3 on Marc Laidlaw's personal website (August 24, 2017)
|Vehicles, vessels and transportation|
|Aperture Science transportation||Borealis · Teleportation|
|Black Mesa transportation||Black Mesa SUV · Black Mesa Transit System · Black Mesa truck · Rail cart · Teleportation|
|Black Ops transportation||AH-64 Apache · M44 cargo truck|
|HECU transportation||AH-64 Apache · Jet · M1A1 Abrams · M2A3 Bradley · M44 cargo truck · Osprey Heliplane|
|Combine transportations||Advisor Platform · Armored Personnel Carrier · Hunter-Chopper · Razor Train · Teleportation|
|Resistance transportation||Airboat · Mil Mi-8 · Muscle Car · Scout Car · Teleportation|
|Xen transportation||Alien Craft · Teleportation|
|Trainstations||City 17 Trainstation · Depot · Technical Trainstation|
|Other||Rail transport · Road transport|
|Black Ops (cut)||Osprey Heliplane|
|Combine (cut)||AirEx Truck · C-130 · Combine SWAT Truck · M2A3 Bradley · Merkava · Osprey Heliplane · School Bus|
|Resistance (cut)||Borealis · C-130 · Jalopy · Jet Ski · Osprey Heliplane · Submarine|
|Other (cut)||Digger · Stealth|