This and That

Random bits of my life

Virtual Caves of Nottingham

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 23, 2011

This video is a virtual fly-through through Mortimer’s Hole, one of 450 sandstone caves under Nottingham, England.

The Nottingham Caves Survey uses laser scanning to map many caves that are not accessible to the public. A laser scanner emits a beam of that bounces back when it hits something. The scanner calculates how far away the object is by measuring the length of time it takes for the light to return (isn’t that how bats find their way around, only with sound instead of light?). By sending out a lot of beams in different directions, like photographing a360 degree panorama, the scanner is able to build up a “picture” of these cave interiors. The points that are plotted are transformed by software into maps and 3D models.

Tthese caves are not natural. The softness of the sandstone makes it easy to work with hand tools and apparently it is very stable. The caves are safe to use as dwellings, even with buildings above them. Some of the caves have been dated to 1250. In the 1600s, they were known as “Pauper Holes,” evidently not one of the more desirable neighbourhoods. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the caves were used as basements and were ideal for storing ale. During the Victorian period, some caves were carved as follies. Caves were re-purposed as air raid shelters during World War II.

You can find other videos posted by the Nottingham Caves Survey on their YouTube profile, but this short clip is my favourite. I love its surreal quality, the way interiors dissolve into exteriors and vice versa. I’m a sucker for virtual reality, probably because I do some of my work in Flash and I’m trying to learn Adobe Illustrator. Someday I may see the caves in person, but in the meantime, this fly-through is wonderful!

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