• Mount Rushmore, Washington, Jefferson, T. Roosevelt, Lincoln framed by ponderosa pine trees under a bright blue sky.

    Mount Rushmore

    National Memorial South Dakota

Digital Scanning Journal

tripod in fog

Day 12:  The Mount Rushmore technical ropes team work through the fog to position the custom made tripod on Thomas Jefferson's nose.

NPS photo by Amy Bracewell

Day 1: Monday, May 10, 2010
Rain and shipment delays made for a slow start to the project. The team came together for a morning briefing and everyone had a chance to introduce themselves. After an overview of the project, safety and security messages, and a discussion about scanning logistics, the team took a break and began getting outfitted with climbing harnesses and other mountain safety equipment.

The shipments of laser scanning equipment from Scotland were delayed in customs and finally arrived in the afternoon. Most of the afternoon was spent sorting through the boxes and testing the scanning stations. Since the rain continued to pour, the team began setting up the scanning equipment in the historic Sculptor's Studio to run tests and begin scanning. It was a good day to sort equipment and get the plan squared away as the team waited for the weather.

Day 2: Tuesday, May 11, 2010
A break in the heavy fog allowed the Mount Rushmore technical ropes team to begin hauling equipment to the top of the mountain. The ropes team uses a highline system from the top of Theodore Roosevelt's head to the base of the mountain for transporting equipment and materials to the top of the mountain.

Once the equipment was on top of the mountain, the scanning team was able to begin preliminary scans of the Halls of Records that is located behind the sculpture. Snowy and cold conditions required them to stop before they completed the entire scan. Weather conditions will dictate when they will be able to go back up to complete the Hall of Records and begin scanning the sculpture.

While the scanning team was up on the mountain, Michael Harvey from Leica Geosystems HDS began scanning the interior of the historic Sculptor's Studio. Leica manufactures the scanning stations that the team is using for the project and Michael is here this week to see how the stations are doing in this type of complex project.

Day 3: Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Mount Rushmore received 5-8 inches of snow which has slowed down the project. The team used the day to discuss logistics and to get a more detailed schedule in place for when we have better weather. Michael Harvey from Leica Geosystems HDS was able to finish the scan of the interior of the historic Sculptor's Studio and team members are working on processing that data.

Day 4: Thursday, May 13, 2010
As the team waited for the snow to melt, the morning was spent scouting good spots for scanning targets around the Presidential Trail and along the Talus Slope. The team found some excellent spots that will be visible to the scanners on the top of the mountain. The target positions will allow the team to achieve very high accuracy while reducing the need to place targets on the sculpture itself.

A customized scanning tripod that will be used on the sculpture arrived today as well. Larry Hermanson from Hermanson Engineering in Rapid City constructed the tripod, with input and development from Cyark and Historic Scotland. The team was able to practice with the tripod on the ground before we begin using it on the sculpture. Using the tripod will take all of the expertise from the technical ropes team and the scanning specialists from Historic Scotland.

Ben Kacyra, the founding Director of Kacyra Family Foundation and Cyark, was also onsite to see how the project is going. Through his company, Cyra technologies, Ben brought the first commercial laser scanner to the market. The same technology is what we are using to document cultural heritage today.

Day 5: Friday, May 14, 2010
Today was a beautiful day for the project. The Mount Rushmore technical ropes team was able to access the sculpture and begin placing targets for the scanners. The targets will be used as reference points for all of the different scans that will be captured from the sculpture as well as from the Presidential Trail. The targets will allow the team to merge the different scans into one, highly accurate data set.

Other members of the team were spread out throughout the park to begin scanning. A scanning team began scanning Washington and Lincoln's heads from the perspective of the Presidential Trail. The initial data that was coming in was quite impressive and is a good indication as to the quality of details that we will be getting from this data.

Day 6: Saturday, May 15, 2010
Today the team encountered more rain and cold conditions. The mountain scanning team was able to make it up to the Hall of Records and complete more scans inside the Hall as well as outside in the canyon between the Hall of Records and the sculpture. These scans are important to help create a complete image of the whole mountain so that the park can show visitors the location relationship between the Hall of Records and the sculpture.

The ground scanning team was also able to place more reference targets along the Presidential Trail so that they can begin scanning the talus slope and the sculpture once the weather becomes nice. Initial scans from these areas are revealing positive results from data received from scanning up to the front of the faces.

Day 7: Sunday, May 16, 2010
Today started out beautifully and the team was able to hike to the top of the mountain and begin scanning the top of the sculpture. Scans were made from the top of the Hall of Records looking out onto the top of the sculptural heads and scans were also taken from behind George Washington.

The ground scanning crew also had a good morning as they finished one scanning perspective off of the Heritage Village and began setting up another scanning perspective when the weather turned. Rain stopped the project shortly before noon. The team was able to place more targets around the park during the rain, including reference targets around the fireplaces of Borglum's first studio.

Day 8: Monday, May 17, 2010
The scanning team came off of the mountain with huge smiles on their faces after an extremely successful day of scanning. The mountain scanning team scanned from the top of all four heads and finished the scanning of the Hall of Records canyon. The park service technical ropes team was able to have some sculpture time with the new scanning tripod. The tripod was custom made for the project and will allow the team to scan directly on the faces.

The ground scanning team was able to finish several scans from the Heritage Village area of the park and move on to another scanning location off of the Presidential Trail. They worked until dark to take advantage of the nice weather.

Day 9: Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Another beautiful day helped to create another productive day of scanning. The park welcomed members from the local press to come and view the project. The media day was a great chance for the local press to meet all of the participating organizations of the scanning team and get a better understanding of the capabilities of the digital data.

The mountain scanning team was able to complete scans from the shoulder of George Washington as well as from a ledge beneath the chins of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. The scanning team worked closely with the park's technical ropes team to access these very remote and dangerous areas of the sculpture.

The ground scanning team were also able to take advantage of the good weather and complete scans from several locations off of the Presidential Trail. These scans from below the faces will be combined with the mountain data to create the highly accurate data of the sculpture.

Day 10: Wednesday, May 19, 2010
The mountain has been completely fogged in today. Since the group is not able to scan the sculpture in the fog, today has become a rest day with plans to start early tomorrow morning to take advantage of any good weather tomorrow can bring.

Day 11: Thursday, May 20, 2010
Excitement is building as the team can see the end! The team has taken advantage of every moment of sunlight today to fill in the data holes of what we have captured so far. The data set is almost complete, with the ground team and mountain team working together to capture the faces. Today and tomorrow's scans are to fill in the gaps and complete the project.

The ground team completed their scans all but one more that will be done tomorrow. They have worked their way around the base of the mountain, have moved tree limbs out of the way of targets, carried the heavy scanning equipment across the dangerous talus slope, and have taken scans of each president. They returned to the operations center exhausted but excited about the progress of the project.

The mountain team started up the mountain at 5 am this morning. They began using the custom made tripod today and have had great success with it. They began with Roosevelt and also completed scans on Lincoln and Jefferson. They are filling the data holes of the details of the presidents' eyes since neither mountain top scans nor ground scans were able to get the lasers into the eyes. These are the last few data areas we need to complete the project. They have some more scans to do of Washington to complete tomorrow.

Day 12: Friday, May 21, 2010
The team is sooooo close to finishing! The mountain team went up first thing in the morning and began preparing the tripod and scanner for Jefferson's nose. Jefferson's eye are so deep set that we have not been able to get good details. The Mount Rushmore technical ropes team brought the tripod out onto the nose but determined that it was too dangerous to station 2 ropes members and the tripod on the bridge of the nose. Fog also rolled in and brought with it wind and cold. The mountain team regrouped and took a break before trying more scanning on Washington. They successfully captured data from four different locations on and near Washington. Doug Pritchard was also able to capture data from Lincoln's chin area and that completed the scans needed from the chins. Due to weather and the threat of lightening, the mountain team had to pack up in the early evening before being able to complete all needed scans.

The ground team completed all of their scans off of the Presidential Trail early in the day. They were able to finish their work and begin sorting and packing all of the gear needed for the shipment back to Scotland.

Another team composed of members of the Kacyra Family Foundation have been working around the park to capture scans and virtual tour images. They were able to capture data on the Presidential Trail from the Sculptor's Studio up to the Grand View Terrace. They are planning on finishing their work over the weekend.

Because there are just a few scans left to do on the faces, two team members (Doug Pritchard from the Glasgow School of Art and Liz Lee from the Kacyra Family Foundation) have decided to stay on through Monday to complete the scans. As for the mountain scans, the team has decided to take a break over the weekend and finish up on Monday.

Day 15: Monday, May 24, 2010
Over the weekend the last remnants of the team were able to complete the scanning of the visitor facilities around the park. This includes the Avenue of Flags, Presidential Trail, and amphitheater. This will not only help with the documenting and preservation of the memorial grounds, but the data could also be used to create a virtual tour in the future.

The scanning of the sculpture was put on hold today because of fog, severe thunderstorms, and hail throughout the day. The team will attempt to finish up three last scans of the sculpture tomorrow before people are scheduled to return home.

Day 16: Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Scanning is complete! All needed scans of the mountain were successfully finished today and the remaining scanning team members departed from the park.

Now that the scanning is complete, all data has been compiled and the next phase of the project can begin. Processing the data will take approximately 10-12 months. After the data has been finalized, the memorial will be able to begin using it for interpretive programming and preservation of the mountain. Stay tuned!

Did You Know?

Did You Know?

Geologists estimate that the granite at Mount Rushmore National Memorial will erode only 1 inch every 10,000 years.