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May 8, 2013 at 10:52 pm

‘How Do You Find a Cave You Can’t See?’

How do you find a cave you can’t see? How do you stop a potential landslide? Ohio University students found a way.

“Ever wish you could go somewhere truly unexplored?” asks Neha Gupta, a Geological Studies graduate student who produced Hunting Cave Blowholes with an Infrared Camera. “Finding unexplored cave passages is one way to truly go where no one has gone before.

“How do you find a cave you can’t see? In cold weather, caves blow out hot air. We used a Tamarisk 320 to detect these pockets of hot air, called blowholes,” said Gupta. The Tamarisk 320 Cave, located in Greenbrier County, WV, was dug open March 8 and surveyed by Gupta and Dr. Greg Springer, Associate Professor of Geological Sciences.

Both the cave blowholes and the potential landslide signals were invisible to the naked eye—outside the visible light spectrum. But a new infrared video camera quickly showed the cave blowhole and the landslide hot spot. Ohio University geology students show how they did it in new videos, Hunting Cave Blowholes with an Infrared Camera and Infrared Image of a Landslide.

“I worked with two geology students on entries to a video contest sponsored by DRS Technologies for innovative uses of the Tamarisk 320 thermal imaging camera. The company provided us with a free camera and DVR. Now the students are inviting the campus to view their YouTube entries,” said Springer.


“What if we had a tool that could accurately predict where landslides were going to occur,” asks Daniel Hermanns, the undergraduate student in the College of Arts & Sciences who produced Infrared Imaging of a Landslide. “Such a tool would allow proper measures to be taken to remediate the potential slide, thus saving lives and damage to property.

“The Tamarisk 320 thermal imaging camera can be used to detect spots of higher water saturation, a key component that contributes to landslide activity. Using the Tamarisk 320, researchers would be able to identify spots of intense saturation, a ‘red flag’ of a landslide, before any actual damage is done,” she said. Her video uses a local Athens, Ohio, landslide on an engineered hillside after a March 2013 rain.

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