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This article is about the location cut from Half-Life 2. For the Aperture Science ship, see Borealis.
"I knew this trip was gonna end in a bad way."

The Borealis,[1][2][3] originally known as the Hyperborea,[3] is a location and chapter cut from Half-Life 2. 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.


Borealis opening concept

Gordon Freeman hiding on the Borealis during the original opening.[4]

In Marc Laidlaw's first pass at the game's script, Freeman was to start the game by boarding the Borealis, bound for City 17, and leaving from an undefined Arctic location.[4] At the end of the journey, he was likely to first set foot on a dock and first see the Citadel, in a map similar to "proto_docks.vmf".[2]

Later in the game's development, he was to appear between two other cut chapters, the Air Exchange and Kraken Base.[1][2] In that storyline, Gordon was apparently to encounter Odell, the ship's engineer, on the Coast, and probably reach the drifting ship on a tugboat (note that it is unsure. Only the "tug" word in several Borealis map names suggests this). The ship, whose captain was named Johanson, was an icebreaker supposed to bring supplies to the Kraken Base.[3] Half of the ship's crew consisted of scientists. At some point the Combine found the ship and threw Sacktick shells on the ship, and the creatures attacked the crew. Odell noticed the creatures didn't really like the cold so he shut off the generator to let the whole ship ice over, and it killed the creatures, but most of the crew was already slain.

In search of survivors, Gordon and Odell visit the ship filled with the corpses of the original crew members of the ship, Stalkers, Zombies, five tanks containing frozen Combine Assassins and Overwatch Soldiers. Odell and Gordon leave the ship with a small submarine and proceed to the nearby Kraken Base.[1][2][3]


HL2 original journey

Early Half-Life 2 journey.

Added to the version set at the very start of the game, several variant of the ship setting exist:

  • An early Half-Life 2 journey shows Gordon traveling across the sea on the ship, directly from the coast to Kraken Base. It is unknown if at this point the ship's crew was already to be dead.
  • One version shows the ship stranded in the ice with a base nearby. It can be seen in a very early demo map called "demo_artic.vmf" last modified in September 2001.[2] It is unknown how Gordon was to reach the site at this point of the game's development; the question was probably not even answered yet. Furthermore, that particular map may have had no relevance to the storyline, given its "demo" status.
  • The most recent version (since its maps bear the "d3_" prefix [day 3], typical of the late Beta and retail maps) shows the ship drifting in the sea. This is this version Gordon reaches with Odell on a tugboat and leaves in a small submarine to Kraken Base.[2] Sacktick are not present since they were cut early in the development process and never scripted, the "shelling" being recycled for the Headcrab, present on the ship. This is the version included in the mod Missing Information (but the maps are not completely finished and the ship workers' corpses are missing) and the E3 version where one of the first Half-Life 2 official screenshots is from.


  • The Borealis is part of the storyline set between Nova Prospekt 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 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.[2] 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 model folder "props_borealis". While the original folder contains 238 models, only 6 have been kept in the retail files. Its skybox texture files are also still present in the retail files, under the name "sky_borealis", although they are not used.
  • The Borealis was brought back into the Half-Life canon in Episode Two and is likely to be visited during the events of Half-Life 3.

Behind the scenes


AvDet pictures.

  • The Borealis appears to be based on existing research icebreakers, the USCGC Polar Sea, the USCGC Polar Star (both sister ships) or the USCGC Healy (which is bigger and more recent than the former), all United States Coast Guard vessels, homeported in Seattle, Washington, USA. POLAR STAR was 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. Several copies of Half-Life were donated to the Morale Committee to be used as raffle prizes during upcoming deployments.[5] However the size of the Borealis seen in Episode Two seems to be closer to these existing vessels.
  • Inside the ship can be found signatures of the ship's aviation detachments (AvDet). The pictures seem to be from an actual ship, although it is unknown which one exactly. Most of the time those images consist in the names of the detachment personnel, detachment dates, flight hours, ports of call, and cruise comments, along with humorous images or squadron crests.[6] Such images could be found in the USCGC Northwind, an icebreaker similar to the Polar Star and the Healy, and also belonging to the United States Coast Guard.
  • 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 where it was said they lived in paradise. "Hyperborea" means "beyond the Boreas", thus beyond the land of the wind god Boreas.
  • The cut Borealis is noticeably larger than its Episode 2 counterpart.


  • Johanson 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 H. P. Lovecraft's work, this may be intended.
  • "Arbeit Laboratories" ("Arbeit" = "work" in German) can be seen on some crates inside the ship. The retail Borealis belonging to Aperture Science, it is possible this name was also recycled into "Aperture Laboratories".
  • Six props from the Borealis can found in the retail game. This includes the three blue barrels (One normal one and two damaged models), door, door wheel and docking cleat.


Most of the following screenshots were taken in the mod Missing Information.

List of appearances


See also

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

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