LiDAR Scanning a UNESCO World Heritage site – Skocjanske Cave System

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Scanning the 2nd largest cave chamber in Europe.

Commendium have deployed their 3D mapping systems in several caves around the world and we were invited back by the Karst Institute in Postojna, Slovenia to complete a 3D survey of the Skocjanske Cave system. As a part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the data was required for geological studies and an appreciation of the state of the cave for monitoring purposes. On one wintery morning in January we set off via the ferry to Skocjanske in Slovenia which boasts the world’s finest portfolio of amazing karst caves.

Karst caves are known for their delicate ecosystem and exhilarating topography and the region around Skocjan is seen as the home of Karst geology.  The brief was to monitor the condition of the cave and take measurements using highly accurate 3D LiDAR, then build digital models of the caves.  After a calm ferry journey and a long drive, we reached Slovenia and were pleased to see our hosts, who are now becoming like family.

After a good sleep, we gathered the team and set off excitedly. With the Reigl Scanner, batteries, photography kit, caving gear, and the drone all weighing in excess of 30kg, we started on the 2-hour walk to the Martel Chamber. John Nelmes was particularly excited to be on his first trip to Slovenia with his drone, but not so excited when he saw the cave entrance and the 70m sheer drop.

We finally reached the chamber via 1.5 km of narrow paths, hacked into the sides of caves by original explorers followed by 4 rope river crossings and lots of traversing on ledges. During the expedition, we found that the Martel chamber is, in fact, the second largest cave chamber in Europe, and 11th largest in the world.

Skocjanske Cave System Flood

A few days after our trip, a huge thaw saw the river rise from 2 cubic metres of water per second to a peak of 290, flooding the chamber where we had been working to a depth of 90m. There was no danger, this cave is the most monitored cave in the world, there was no risk of being marooned. The results will take a year or so to process but already three scientific papers are underway. The survey is also being used to assess the feasibility of establishing other tourist paths within the cave.

Overall, Commendium’s Slovenia trip to the Skocjanske Cave System was very successful and a huge amount of data has been recorded to help the Karst Geology Institute at Postojna develop their ideas and knowledge of these deeply beautiful caves.

View some of the amazing photos taken by Mark Burkey of Skocjanske Jama: