Exploring the rate of climate change from deep within the Earth

A first attempt in the 1990s was broken off at a depth of 70 metres, due to melting glacial ice water. The second attempt in 2010, was completed with difficulty, and the inner shaft was only partially documented.

Recently, Francesco Sauro and Alessio Romeo, geologist, speleology instructor and one of the two photographers at the cave, organised a team of geologists, equipped with Leica Geosystems products, to be lowered 284 metres into the abyss.

On October 15, 2015, despite 70 centimetres of fresh new snow and a two day wait, a helicopter brought 18 participants up the mountain to the abyss. A platform was installed within the cave and the scanner placed on it to ensure data of the highest precision. Because of Cyclone’s ability to seamlessly stich together large amounts of data, the team was able to complete scanning the 2,700 m2 area with over 200,000 m3 volume in just a few days.

Tommaso Santagata, 3D technician, cave specialist and responsible for the La Venta project topographic survey and monitoring says, “Considering the size of this area, Leica Geosystems equipment and software helped us to obtain highly precise data incredibly fast.” The team also used Hexagon’s 3D Reshaper software to create surface models of the highly complex 3D geometric wall surfaces.

“The data obtained from the 3D laser scans enabled us to analyse the surface and ice layers of the walls in exact detail. 3D Reshaper enabled us to turn the pointcloud into a surface, giving us a detailed analysis of the surface. From this, we could calculate the volume of the chamber as well as make sections and contour lines,” explains Tommaso.

Both Earth Sciences departments at the University of Bologna and Innsbruck supplied very helpful advice. The data collected by the Leica Geosystems laser scanner and processed by Cyclone software will be analysed and compared with over 20 years of data acquired since the abyss was discovered. These scientific finds will be published when completed.

Tommaso concludes, “The scans acquired are the fundamental basis for future comparisons and studies. The floor of the huge final chamber is glacier rock and its surface is expected to evolve because of important climate changes in the coming years.”

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Story: Exploring the rate of climate change from deep within the Earth
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Chapter 2: Part 2

Reporter 76

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