Visitors can take a virtual tour of one of Naracoorte's hidden gems thanks to advanced technology.
Schultz Cave was 3D mapped, as part of a recently funded $2 million University of Adelaide project focusing on scientific research at the Naracoorte Caves, and caves in the Naracoorte area, over the next four years.
The Australian Research Council Linkage grant will allow researchers to 3D laser-scan the caves, starting with the research partner Wrattonbully Wine Region Association’s site.
Project co-lead chief investigator Dr Liz Reed said mapping was “just the start” of what’s to come, explaining eventually these data could answer questions like the age of the caves and how they have changed over time.
“We’ve been working consistently for several years at the caves all in preparation to secure funding for something of this scale, so this has been a really critical foundation stone for moving this forward,” she said.
“It’s definitely going to be a case of watch this space over the next few years of this project, so this is just one aspect, but there’s other things that we plan on doing that will answer some really significant questions.
“We’re just at the beginning of a grand adventure I feel.”
University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute has a high end, high definition LEICA geosystems 3Dlaser scanner to complete the mapping of the cave. Mapping of Schultz cave took only about four hours.
The device, which sits on top of a tripod, emits laser beams in virtually 360 degrees which hit points in the cave to record the distance and point of the angle to form what’s known as a point cloud.
The scanner records about one million points per second to a range of 80 metres of space around it, and the points are stitched together to form an image of the shape. University of Adelaide PhD student Martin Ankor, who is an expert in 3D scanning, led the scanning and compiled the 3D map and fly-through of the cave.
Watch the virtual tour here:
The new project focuses on the rich fossil history of the Naracoorte caves, and Dr Reed said the advanced technology took out the time-consuming nature of traditional mapping.
It also protects the site from a conservation standpoint.
“It’s a very good chance for us to map the caves with minimal impact,” Dr Reed said.
“If we find a cave that hasn’t ever been walked over we only have to go over a very small part of it.”
Dr Reed said the group hoped the mapping would help to uncover the extent of the cave system.
“We walk around today and you wouldn’t know there are these vast underground systems beneath our feet, they’re not cave systems that are really obvious...some of them have entrances and some of them don’t,” she said.
“In a cave, that’s particularly interesting for us because we’ll be able to then see the shape and tie that into the surface and hopefully work out where all the caves sit in relation to each other.”
According to Dr Reed the public has been “blown away” by what they’ve seen, adding the mapping could open up a number of possibilities like “fly-throughs” or virtual reality.
“It allows people to see the caves in a different way, or those who may not have had the opportunity before,” she said.
Your beautiful photos of the caves here