Borealis (cut ship)

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The subject matter of this article was cut from the final version of an official and/or canonical source and appears in no other canonical source.

This article is about the location cut from Half-Life 2. For the Aperture Science ship, see Borealis.

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Borealis Beta logo.svg
Borealis infobox.jpg
Ship / Hyperborea / Borealis
General information

Combine occupation

  • Icebreaker
  • Research ship
  • Supply ship

20th century as an icebreaker


Damaged by the Combine in c. 202-


Sea of the Arctic regions, northwest of City 17[1]


N/A (as an icebreaker), refurbished by the Combine / Resistance


~299 ft (~91 m)[2]


~72 ft (~22 m)[2]

Game information
  • nov_bor_001
  • borealis_full
  • borealis_full_untouched
  • demo_arctic
  • d3_borealis_01 to
  • d3_tug_01 and its variations
  • e3_meathook
  • e3_shiptest
  • e3_ship
  • devtest[3][4]
"I knew this trip was gonna end in a bad way."

The Borealis[1][3][4] is a research icebreaker and a location and chapter cut from Half-Life 2. It was apparently to be a Combine ship used for bringing supplies to the Weather Control, with undercover Resistance scientists in the crew, secretly using the ship for bringing supplies to the Resistance-operated Kraken Base as well. In an early version of the early Half-Life 2 plot, the chapter was to be set at the very start of the game, at this time not including the current part of the game's plot from the City 17 Trainstation to the Depot. In the last versions of the early Half-Life 2 plot, it was to be set between two other cut locations, the Air Exchange and Kraken Base,[1] and to be the first location of the third day, visited during the night, and the first location of the Arctic regions.


[edit] Overview

Odell, the ship's engineer.

Based on its appearance, the Borealis was probably originally a small United States Coast Guard Cutter. Following the Combine invasion of Earth, it was refurbished by the Resistance to bring supplies from the City 17 land area to Resistance factions stationed in the region located northwest of the city's land. One destination was Kraken Base, an underwater Resistance base helmed by Helena Mossman. North of the base was another mass of land where the second destination, the Combine Weather Control, was located, and where Conscripts factions (including undercover Resistance members) were stationed. Half of the crew was made of Resistance scientists; known members of the crew are the engineer, Odell, Johanson, and the unnamed captain. At some point the Combine discovered the ship and halted its course, wiping out the entire crew except Odell (in the first version Odell being present at the time of the assault, in the last version being absent).

The ship was originally unnamed (simply "ship"), which was changed during development to "Hyperborea", then changed again to "Borealis"; the message from Kraken Base as well as the liferaft canister model use the name "Hyperborea", while the lifering model, model folder and map names use the name "Borealis".[1][3][4][5]

The pitch of the Borealis chapter is rather straightforward: reaching the ship, boarding it, meeting with Odell, fighting enemies while going through the ship (Overwatch Soldiers, Stalkers, Zombies, Headcrabs and a Gunship can be found in the maps, but they don't always appear together), reaching the other side, and finally boarding a submarine to Kraken Base, the next chapter and location. The ship was to be heavily damaged, with fires and explosions everywhere, hindering the player's journey. The typical noises added to the fires and the explosions are the hull cracking, and the heavy roars of the ship's machinery.

This chapter was also apparently to introduce Arctic-related weapons and items such as the Ice Axe (melee weapon similar to the crowbar), the Flare Gun (setting enemies on fire) and the Fire Extinguisher (putting out fire that could be in the way).[5][4]

[edit] Features

Promotional screenshot of a Zombie in an engine room on fire.

The Borealis was quite complete and realistically designed when it was scrapped: its most recent maps are very detailed, and many models, signs, and stencil signs were created. Icebergs were also to be featured around the ship, possibly moving in the water; the folder "props_borealis" contains 26 iceberg models. However none of them can be found in the leak maps, all featuring brush icebergs with a snow texture. The ship's dimensions are also rather realistic, as seen in the maps where the hull is complete: 4796 px (~299 ft / ~91 m) in length and 1152 px (~72 ft / ~22 m) in width,[2] which makes it as much as wide as the real-life ships used as reference, but much shorter.

In the maps, the Borealis is divided into several levels and sections, indicated by signs. The sign of current area is a black-colored rectangle with the area name in a yellow-colored stencil; it is often seen with above and under the next and previous areas, which are displayed as gray-colored rectangles with the names in a black-colored stencil, with next to them black-colored directional arrow on gray-colored squares.

List of the ship's levels and sections, starting from the highest:

  • Deck 3: Where the bridge is located, near the ship's bow (front). From the bridge there is access to the conning tower (or crow's nest) from a ladder. The bow can also be accessed, directly leading to Level 2 through a large hatch.
  • Deck 2: Connected to several cabins with locked doors.
  • Deck 1: Outside, it has two identical sides connected by an indoor corridor. Featuring liferaft canisters and liferings, it is patrolled by Combine soldiers. The bow is featured at the same level. It has an orange crane, and a double door on the floor leading to the Zombie hangar of Level 2.
  • Main Deck / Level 1: Includes two identical partially covered external decks on each side, located right below Deck 1; Gordon enters the ship through the port (left) deck at the start of the chapter. At the stern (back) this level also includes a large outdoor deck with another orange crane, and a large hangar with AVDET pictures on the wall. This is where the game ends, and where the submarine was presumably to be boarded. The upper part of the large hangar also fills the Deck 1 level. The outdoor deck connects through a large hatch to a hangar located at Level 3.
  • Level 2: Located right under the deck where the chapter starts, it includes a flooded corridor, the walk-in freezer with dead Headcrabs hung to meat hooks and Zombies, the galley (kitchens), and beyond a large room where five tanks contain frozen Combine Assassins (its upper part also fills the Main Deck level). Farther are a storage room filled with Stalkers, then, upon reaching the bow, a hangar (aka "forward hold") with a container filled with Zombies, connected to the bow side of the Main Deck through a large hatch.
  • Level 3 features the command/monitor rooms of the engines, filled with fires, Stalkers, Zombies, and Overwatch Soldiers, and a hangar (aka "aft hold") filled with containers, connected to the stern side of the Main Deck through a large hatch. Some versions (such as the one featured in "d3_borealis_01_017.vmf") include a small brush crane, with meat hooks hung under. The map also features a large garage crane, similar to one found in the APC garage in the Combine Factories area. In this map the roof is also partially destroyed; missing models of Combine "claws" ("combine_claw001.mdl") suggest the Combine had torn apart the roof to get in. Missing models of Combine cells ("combine_cell001.mdl") and cages ("combine_cage001c.mdl", likely a model version of the early cell) are also found around and inside the hangar, though their presence is open to interpretation. These three Combine-related models were to be located in the folder "props_borealis", suggesting a close relation to the chapter (the Combine cell model can be found in the Combine-related model folder of the playable leak, "props_combine").
  • Level 4 is mostly made of the engine rooms, also filled with fires and the same enemies. This level and Level 3 are connected through corridors and catwalks.

[edit] Versions

[edit] First version

Overview of the Borealis locked in the ice and the nearby base in a fixed version of the map "demo_artic.vmf".
"Once I figured out these Sacktick things didn't like the cold too much, I shut off the generator - let the whole ship ice over. That did the trick, mostly."

According to Marc Laidlaw and analysis of the WC mappack maps and other files of the Half-Life 2 leak (notably the map "demo_artic.vmf", last modified September 2001), an early version of the Half-Life 2 story did not feature City 17 before the end (thus no City 17 Trainstation, no Kleiner, no Canals, no Black Mesa East, etc.), and was to have Freeman starting Half-Life 2 by boarding the Borealis, leaving from an undefined Arctic location, and bound for the city. He was likely to be left there by the G-Man, like in other early versions of the plot and the final game.

In the backstory of the ship for this version, the ship was to be a Combine ship with some if not all members being undercover Resistance members. Scientists were to secretly carry supplies to the underwater Resistance station Kraken Base, and undercover Rebels among Conscripts rank at the Combine Weather Control. To preserve the secrecy, the radio was to be sabotaged. At some point the ship was to get icebound. Over time some crew members would leave the ship and venture on the ice. Then the Combine were to attack the ship after apparently discovering the treason from the crew, and bomb it with Sacktick shells, and the creatures were to attack the crew. Odell was to notice that the creatures are vulnerable to cold temperatures, and shut off the generator to let the whole ship ice over; it was to kill the creatures, but in the end Odell was to be the only survivor. He was to try to send a distress call, but the radios would be inoperable. He was then to remain isolated in the cold, and the ship was to eventually get locked in the ice. This is partially explained through early Odell sound files found in the playable leak files, in which he tells Gordon his side of the story. While it is not 100% sure that the Sacktick backstory and the ship located at the start of the game are part of the same version, this seems likely, as that backstory was scrapped in the next version, which has Odell not aware of the ship's attack.

The chapter itself was to start on the ice, on foot. As found in "demo_artic.vmf", it was to start behind a base made of hangars and prefabricated buildings located near the ice-locked Borealis. Freeman was to traverse the base, then hear an alarm coming from the ship. However the map does not feature any NPC nor a way to board the ship, incomplete inside; it also features a cave nearby, with inside a small cabin. Once aboard the ship, Gordon was to meet Odell. The duo was then to hear a distress call from Kraken Base, then make their way through the ship, passing by the dead crew members, and confront various enemies. At some point the ship was to free itself from the ice (presumably after Gordon helps Odell restart the engines), and navigate to the area set above Kraken Base. Gordon and Odell were then to board a small submarine and proceed underwater to Kraken Base. What happens at the base and the course of the game from that point on was left mostly unchanged in subsequent versions of the early plot.

There are several instances of the submarine in the leak files, but not in the Borealis maps. The ship has an orange brush crane located outside that may have been present to lower the sub on the water. The submarine was probably to be stored in the large hangar located at the stern of the ship at the Main Deck level, though there are no clues of sub there. The actual sub can be found only once in the leak files, in the WC mappack as a brush in the most complete Kraken Base map, deep_01_011.vmf, at the spot where the chapter was to start. Another direct reference is in Odell's dialogue files, in which he mentions getting to the sub. In the Borealis-related texture files can also be found an unused texture named "borealis_submarine001.vtf", which is identical to a crane texture named "borealis_crane001.vtf".[1][3][4][5][6][7]

[edit] Gallery

[edit] Second version

Map of one of the early Half-Life 2 journeys.

Later in the game's development, the Borealis was to appear later in game, which was to start in (or en route to) City 17, like in the final game. As in the previous version in which the Borealis chapter starts Half-Life 2, it was still to be set before the cut chapter set in Kraken Base, but right after the Wasteland and Coast levels, which end with the Air Exchange chapter.

This version, featured on the map of an early Half-Life 2 journey featured in Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, was to have Gordon reaching the ship from the shore near the Air Exchange (probably with a tugboat, see the third version for evidence), and meet on the ship with Odell (in this case Owen) like in the first version, although this time it was apparently not stuck in the ice. Like in the first version again, they were to navigate the Borealis across the sea from the Coast to the Arctic regions, and eventually Kraken Base (the journey is shown on the map as "Path of Borealis").[1][6]

[edit] Third version

Promotional screenshot of the Borealis seen at E3 2003 (in the map "e3_ship"), with the ship's full name not displaying properly.
"Captain, Johanson, you in there?"

This last variant is featured in the most recent Borealis maps, such as the maps with the prefix "d3_borealis" ("d3_" being for "day 3", prefix used in the late leak and retail maps), the E3 map "e3_ship", and the mod Missing Information. Located farther northwest that in the second version, it was to have the ship adrift in the sea, with Freeman apparently reaching the Arctic regions with Odell in a tugboat from the Coast, as the Borealis here is nowhere near land. While no tugboat can be found in any of the known Borealis maps, the Borealis-related model folder of the playable leak ("props_borealis") contains several models that, after being assembled along with several brushes, form three variants of a tugboat, as well as a shrimp trawler (they can be found beached in the WC mappack map "jeep_beach01"); one of them was probably to be shown as the boat used to reach the Borealis. Furthermore, the most recent version of the map opening the Borealis chapter is named "d3_tug_01", suggesting a connection with a tuboat.

Upon reaching the ship, Odell and Gordon would board it, Odell not aware that all of his crew have been killed by the Combine that locked down the ship (as a reminder, this version does not include the Sacktick plot anymore), and surprised the ship has been locked from the inside. The duo was then to hear a distress call from Kraken Base, then make their way through the ship, passing by the dead crew members. As Odell is unarmed, Gordon was to go through the ship on his own or always ahead of Odell, fighting various enemies; the duo would then either reunite at the end if Gordon went ahead alone (it is unsure how long Odell remains with Gordon). The duo was then to leave the ship to Kraken Base in a submarine (as said earlier, the last map does not feature any submarine, nor any proper end with Odell).

This version of the ship also features five tanks containing frozen Combine Assassins, which were placed by destroying the surrounding area through several levels.[1][3][5][4][6][5]

[edit] Gallery

This gallery includes screenshots from non altered versions of the Borealis chapter, with simple error fixes, and screenshots taken in the mod Missing Information, featuring an altered version of the chapter (actually two different versions in releases 1.4 and 1.6). Though differing from the leak maps, the mod does not include drastic changes (except for the inclusion of the submarine) and is quite faithful in tone and overall design to the original maps.

[edit] Fate

The Borealis in Episode Two.
Main article: Borealis
  • The Borealis is part of the storyline set between the Depot and the City 17 street wars that was completely cut, the game timespan having been reduced to three days instead of the original four.
  • This chapter was apparently scrapped around August 2002, as the last Borealis maps to be edited, "d3_borealis_01_017" and "d3_borealis_02_003.vmf" were edited on August 9, 2002.[3] However, a few of its props, prominently the blue barrels and the Vortigaunt Camp door, are used in the final version of Half-Life 2 and can be found in the retail model folder "props_borealis". While the original folder found in the leak contains 238 models, only 9 have been kept in the retail files: 6 in the Borealis folder: 3 for the blue barrel, the Vortigaunt Camp door, a door wheel, and a mooring cleat; a meat hook model was moved from the Borealis folder to folder "props_junk", with alternate textures; a deck light model, made of two models for the on and off states, found in the folder "props_c17", also remains in the retail game, in the same folder, but is not used. The skybox and water texture files for the chapter are also still present in the retail files, under the names "sky_borealis01" and "water_borealis01" respectively, not used either.
  • Johanson, an unseen individual called to by Odell, is the name of the second mate of the ship in H. P. Lovecraft's novel The Call of Cthulhu, and the only man who survives the encounter with Cthulhu. Knowing Marc Laidlaw's love for Lovecraft's work, this may be intended.

[edit] Behind the scenes

The two sets of AVDET art images found in the hangar on the ship's Main Deck.
  • The Borealis was based on an existing and longer United States Coast Guard research icebreaker homeported in Seattle, visited by Valve when docked in Seattle. Several members of the ship crew being Half-Life fans, they were glad to grant them access to their ship to do their research.[8] It is unknown what ship exactly was visited, as three icebreakers are homeported in Seattle: sister ships USCGC Polar Sea and USCGC Polar Star, and the USCGC Healy.
  • On the bulkhead in the hangar on the ship's Main Deck, trench art made by the members of the ship's various aviation detachment units (AVDET) can be found, a common tradition in USCG ships. The aviation detachment of USCG ships is usually made of two Eurocopter HH-65 Dolphin helicopters, though the Borealis has no helipad, which should be on the Main Deck's stern, right beyond the hangar with the AVDET art. Given the dates on the images, they are presumably actual images found in the Polar Star. AVDET images celebrate a particular trip and consists of the AVDET unit number used for the trip (therefore used only once), names of the detachment personnel, detachment dates, flight hours, ports of call, and comments on the trip, along with humorous images or squadron crests. For instance, "AWS 93" in the first image of the first set is the name of the trip, "Arctic West Summer", made by the ship in 1993 by AVDET 132.[9][10]
  • The name "Borealis" comes from "Boreas", a wind god in the Greek mythology. "Borealis" is related to the term "aurora borealis", the northern polar lights only visible in the Northern Hemisphere. "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 where it was said they lived in paradise. "Hyperborea" means "beyond the Boreas", thus beyond the land of the wind god Boreas.

[edit] General gallery

[edit] Miscellaneous

[edit] Models

[edit] Textures

[edit] List of appearances

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] External links

Preceded by
Air Exchange
Half-Life 2 original storyline Succeeded by
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