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Imagecat.png 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.


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

The Borealis went through many changes during the project's development. Originally unnamed with the generic moniker "ship", it was first called the Hyperborea before being given the title Borealis.[5] It is believed to be one of the earliest levels that Valve created for the game. Work on the ship dates back to May of 1999, six months after they published the original Half-Life.[6]

By the time it was cut, the Borealis featured a fully realized and realistically modeled interior, the intended gameplay taking place on the lower four decks and upper three levels of the vessel. The location featured the character Odell, the ship's engineer. Much of the combat on board focused on Overwatch Soldiers, although Stalkers, Headcrabs, and Zombies are also encountered.[7]

Throughout the evolution of Half-Life 2's storyline, the Borealis is known to occupy two distinct placements in the overall plot. In both iterations, Gordon Freeman would have entered the vessel and, with the help of Odell, made his way to the mini-submarine stored on board which would be used to travel to Kraken Base located under the sea.

Early Half-Life 2 journey.

1999 Timeline

In one of the early versions of the storyline, the game was planned to begin with Gordon initially standing on a bed of ice surrounded by a thick fog. The player would hear a ship bell tolling and follow it until discovering the source of the sound, the ice-locked Borealis. The player would then enter the vessel through a hole in the hull.

Once on board, the player would meet the ship's engineer, Odell, who was to explain the backstory of the ship. It was used by the resistance to deliver supplies to an ice station and the underwater Kraken Base located in the Arctic regions. Many members of the crew were scientists acting undercover for the resistance while the rest were unaware of their affiliation.

The ship became ice-locked while delivering supplies to Kraken. Enemy warships soon discovered their location and bombarded it with sacktick pods, killing most of the crew. Odell determined that the creatures were vulnerable to cold temperatures, so he shut off the generator to allow the vessel to ice over. He attempted to send a distress call but failed as the radios had been previously disabled by the scientists to prevent anyone from discovering where they were. The player would then work with Odell to eventually escape the Borealis in a mini-submarine down to Kraken Base.

Although there is little supporting evidence, The Final Hours of Half-Life 2 article claims that the ship was to head to City 17.

2002 timeline

In this last known incarnation, the Borealis was depicted as a scientific research ship used by the Combine. Gordon Freeman was to reach the Borealis by a tugboat found at the shore near the Air Exchange. He would board the vessel and meet Odell, working with him to pilot it towards the Arctic regions. At some point during the trip, they are attacked by Combine forces, leaving the ship heavily damaged. They make their way through the interior, traversing many sections that are catching fire or already burning, and eventually escape in a mini-submarine to Kraken Base.

It is not certain what the Combine were using the ship for, but it wasn't necessarily for research purposes. The vessel carries Zombies and Headcrabs kept in a freezer area, the corpses of several hung on meat hooks, and some live specimens stored inside shipping containers. One Stalker is found inside a hanging cage in the rear crane room. At the ship's front is a large structure which appears to have pierced through several decks. Held in place by a myriad of chains and pipes, the structure holds a number of tanks which house apparently frozen Combine Assassins.

Borealis Crew

Originally there was to be a Borealis Crew that would help the player fight off zombies and other Combine Units. This idea was brought back in the Mega Patch update that allowed the player to have allies.


  • 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.[8] 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.[9] 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 Two 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