The laser scanning and panoramic photograph of Sarawak Chamber is now complete and the whole team has returned to Park HQ.
The scanning team was headed by Kevin Dixon and supported by Meg Stark and Andy Eavis. They spent three nights camping in the passage just below the great chamber itself. The scanner was set up at nine separate locations around the chamber and 13 million individual measurements were taken. It is too early to give any results as there is a lot of processing work still to be done, but quotes from the survey team suggest that it really, really is big! Kevin expects some preliminary results to be completed by the end of the expedition but the full 3D model and more complex results will take a further six months.
The photographic team was directed by Robbie Shone and supported by Mark Brown, Mark Richardson, Mark Wright, Tim and Jane Allen. They were based at Camp 1 in the Paku Valley some 45 minutes from the entrance to Nasib Bagus (Good Luck Cave) and spent five days camping there. The photo team also supported the survey team during this time and several carries were needed to get all the equipment into the cave. As well as the ‘big shot’ other photos were taken at the Plunge Pool and in nearby Drunken Forest Cave. Unlike the first day when we carried in for the survey team, the entrance canal remained low for the duration and the raft we had made went backwards and forwards through the canal purely to transport the piles of equipment and in case it flooded again. During these set up trips we were also helped variously by Veno Enar, Chris Victor and 14 surface porters.
The day of the big shoot dawned on Friday 25th February 2011, and the six of us headed into the cave early to take just two photographs. The first photograph was taken from the back of the chamber at the highest point with the camera located on an enormous boulder. It was also the exact same location as one of the scanning points. Five P300 Meggaflash bulbs were used on each of the four attempts. Shone was happy with the shot but feared the view would appear a little like looking through a letter box as the floor rises up to a ridge across the centre of the chamber. The second shot was the one we had all come for - a five shot panoramic of the lower half of the chamber. This would capture the best of the 1984 Wooldridge photograph but include more of the cave from a similar location. Starting with the left hand photograph each shot overlapped the previous by 30%, so it was vital that each overlapping part was lit the same so that the blend would work. The first photo only took two attempts to get right but the forth one took twelve. Each of the five frames were shot separately with Meggaflash bulbs and then with Scurion caving lights. The difficulty caused by the scale of the place is hard to describe, but was made considerably easier by powerful lights and radio communication.
The whole shoot took eight hours in the chamber and used 115 P300 bulbs and an awful lot of sweat. The team were relieved to get back to Camp 1 by 10.30pm with the photo ‘in the can’. The photo below shows just the first individual shot of the panorama of Sarawak Chamber.
The team are now involved in a number of tasks will preparing to move up to camp 5 for the next month of exploration. Over the next few days some members are due to return home and some are due to arrive.