Cave Surveying - History


The first known plan of a cave dates from 1546, and was of a man-made cavern in tufa called the Stufe di Nerone (Nero's Oven) in Pozzuoli near Naples in Italy. The first natural cave to be mapped was the Baumannshöhle in Germany, of which a sketch from 1656 survives.

Another early survey dates from before 1680, and was made by John Aubrey of Long Hole in the Cheddar Gorge. it consists of a elevational section of the cave. Numerous other surveys of caves were made in the following years, though most are sketches and are limited in accuracy. The first cave that is likely to have been accurately surveyed with instruments is the Grotte de Miremont in France. This was surveyed by a civil engineer in 1765 and includes numerous cross-sections. Édouard-Alfred Martel was the first person to describe surveying technique. His surveys were made by having an assistant walk down the passage until they were almost out of sight. Martel would then take a compass bearing to the assistant's light, and measure the distance by pacing up to the assistant. This would equate to a modern day BCRA Grade 2 survey.

The first cave to have its centreline calculated by a computer is the Fergus River Cave in Ireland, which was plotted by members of the UBSS in 1964. The software was programed onto a large university mainframe computer and a paper plot was produced.

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