Ceiling anchor

Caving Technology

Ian Drummond and other members of the Alberta Speleological Society began designing a pair of portable, long-wave radio transmitters/receivers capable of operating through solid rock in 1980, when the technology was in its infancy. With the help of modest grants from the Alberta Speleological Society and the province of Alberta, successful "cave radio" models with ranges of several hundred metres were built, some of which remain in service with caving clubs throughout North America today. The Alberta Speleological Society contributions, both practical and theoretical, were reported at the 1997 world caving congress in Switzerland and have influenced cave radio design around the world. A cave radio is useful to cavers in two ways: it permits voice communication between surface and underground teams, and can be used to determine relative locations of transmitter/receiver by measuring radio wave geometry. Voice communication is important to coordinated activities between surface and underground teams - during a cave rescue, for example. Radio location can be used to verify the accuracy of a cave survey, direct a surface team searching for a possible 'back entrance' to a cave, or even assist with attempted connections between two separate caves.

Recognizing the shortcomings of other cave mapping computer programs, Taco van Ieperen created a user-friendly program called On Station in the mid-1990s, and later made the program open-source. Although other good survey software has since been developed, On Station remains popular with many cavers.

Many cavers have worked on the mapping of Castleguard Cave, but because this 20km long cave is very linear, the sheer scale of producing a detailed map on paper defied the best efforts of cavers for decades. In 2005 Dan Green applied computer software to the problem, and finalized the survey as an innovative navigable PDF file. For more information see Castleguard Cave Survey.

Another useful Alberta Speleological Society innovation is the "caver counter", a small device that counts and records the number of visitors to a particular cave passage. These are easily hidden from view and, as they are light-activated, do not erroneously 'count' bats or other nonhuman visits.

The Alberta Speleological Society membership includes a number of accomplished photographers, who have overcome the unique challenges of the underground environment by building small, light-activated flash triggers which coordinate multiple flashguns without cable connections. (For advice on improving your own cave photographs using an inexpensive disposable camera, see Point and Shoot.)