View Full Version : Can we "see" undiscovered caves?

Tom Mazanec
2013-Oct-05, 12:22 PM
Perhaps using some type of sonar or radar technology?
I imagine it would not be able to detect speleothems like the tragic Butterfly of Sonora, but I imagine someday we will be able to drill into the cave and insert a tele-operated Lilliputian robot to explore it.
Is this plausible?

2013-Oct-06, 12:24 AM
Long-term? Sure; the same technology as used for oil exploration should be able to detect large open spaces underground. It's also possible one could also use gravimetric measurements.

2013-Oct-07, 12:09 AM
I would like to think there are billions of cubic meters of voids exceeding one cubic meter within ten kilometers of the surface, but a 1 or 2 cubic meter void is not very useful if 1 it is long and skinny. 2 contains toxic liquid, vapors or gas. 3 there is no path to the surface 4 will collapse if the pressure is reduced to 1 or 2 bar

2013-Oct-09, 11:13 PM
Actually, through methods I am totally unfamiliar with, infrared lasers seem to be what you are looking for Mr. Manzanec.

Both the Israelis and the US military use them to find tunnels. Since the nineties. Probably got better since then.

2013-Oct-10, 11:19 AM
Well, I am no expert either, but there are many ways you can map things under ground, it generally involves the measurement of some aspect of the area, electromagnetic transmission or emission, sound propagation, electric resistivity, magnetic variations, microgravity surveys etc. Data from such mappings can be used to create 3D and tomographic maps. The Wikipedia article on Exploration Geophysics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exploration_geophysics) has some info and links on techniques that can be used.

2013-Oct-10, 05:36 PM
Far more likely is that the investigations and intuitions of cavers will lead them to suspect a cavern, which they will find a way into.
This was true of Titan, the largest chamber and deepest shaft (464ft!) in the UK.
Once they knew it was there (2006), they dug a 151ft shaft from the surface to gain access to the head of the main shaft. They're still digging, in boulder chokes, because they are sure that there are more connections to more caverns!