Digital Mapping And Cave Exploring
By: Jiro Sosh
Digital mapping is the use of computers to create maps. It has a number of useful applications in different fields. One of the most interesting applications of digital mapping is in the sport of cave exploration, also known as caving.
Caving is becoming an increasingly popular sport. It is undertaken not only for physical fitness but also for purposes of scientific study. Today, most caves in developed countries such as the United States are already well-explored and thoroughly mapped. Going into these caves no longer poses much risk. However, there are still a number of caves, not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world, that haven't been explored or mapped by cavers.
Mapping is important in the sport of caving because it gives cave explorers an idea of the depth of the cave, allowing them to make good estimates of how much rope to bring. The use of rope allows cavers to maintain safety and to go up and down pitches (vertical spaces in caves). If a team of cave explorers makes an incorrect estimate and does not bring enough rope, it will be forced to go back before it reached the farthest depths of the cave.
Digital mapping has been used to map caves for a long time. However, it wasn't always reliable because it was based on handwritten notes taken by cavers in less than optimal conditions. Many caves have a lot of dirt or mud, are humid or wet, and have very little light. Writing down measurements on paper was a messy, inconsistent process because the paper would get dirty or wet, and the cavers taking the notes couldn't see very well, so their handwriting would be almost impossible to decipher.
With the advent of handheld personal computers, however, data gathering in caves has become easier and more reliable. The first handheld personal computers that cavers tried to bring with them weren't sturdy enough to withstand the rough environment within the caves, but today a number of models with special rugged casings are available. The casings make these models impervious to dirt, water, and even rough handling. This is important for cavers because they are sometimes forced to throw their backpacks ahead of them when they're crawling through narrow or low-ceilinged spaces in the caves.
Digital mapping is an important advance in cave exploring because it allows cavers to create accurate maps of caves quickly and easily. This increases the safety of all subsequent cave explorations, making the sport of cave exploring more rewarding for more people.
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