Mapping the Underground Mysteries of Socotra

The underground waters of Dahaisi cave run deep. (Photo by Daniel Britton)
The underground waters of Dahaisi cave run deep. (Photo by Daniel Britton)

The first part of our adventure saw us making the arduous journey to Dahaisi cave and braving the legendary giant white snake that lurks in its recesses. Having made it to the final chamber the expedition team has been working long hours in the dark to fully document all the natural features and extraordinary rock art within the cave.

The Technology

An important part of this process was to create a detailed map of the entire cave and accustom ourselves with all aspects of this hidden realm. This task fell to our geologist and caver Peter de Geest. Instead of the traditional tape measure, inclinometer, and compass used by cavers, Peter used a combined digital-compass/clinometer/laser-range-finder device that he paired to his Android phone via Bluetooth. This allowed him to gather a huge range of data simply by pointing the laser at the cave walls and clicking a button.

Seeing the red beam that would shoot out of Peter’s hand after every click was like watching him fire a blaster ray, and it did not take a lot of imagination to feel like you were in another dimension being attacked by aliens.

Completing the survey took Peter about 14 hours and resulted in a cloud of more than 8,000 data points. Only by dragging a 3-D laser scanner into the cave could we have come close to the level of detail achieved by Peter and his blaster ray.

The Observations

The next step in this survey was to note down details about the cave. This allowed us to understand more about the morphology of the cave, how it was formed, where water could be found, and how it was used by people in the past.

The results were spectacular. We were able to determine that —> Read More