Abstract - The Use of Student Surveyors on the Wind Cave Mapping Project*

Shreves, Dennis D. 1989. The Use of Student Surveyors on the Wind Cave Mapping Project. 1987 Cave Management Symposium. p. 76-98.


As exploration of Wind Cave in the South Dakota Black Hills revealed more and more miles of intertwining passage, the map of the cave became more confusing. Surveys performed by many different parties over the years, using different techniques, types of equipment and degrees of accuracy all served to create a large amount of error in the existing map. For any type of management program to be initiated an accurate map had to first be developed.

In 1984 Kay Rohde, Assistant Chief Naturalist at Wind Cave National Park began the first steps toward development of a correct map to aid her in the creation of a cave management program for the park. Frank Reid of Bloomington, Indiana volunteered to bring his magnetic induction "cave radio" to the park to help pinpoint on the surface the location of several key survey stations within the cave. Prior to his arrival, Park Service personnel spend several weeks performing a rough surface survey to various points based on the existing survey notes. Approximately two weeks were spent performing the "cave radio" survey, and twenty stations were located on the surface. Brass caps embedded in concrete were placed at each location, along with a steel bar to aid in their future recovery.

The following winter, Civil Technology students at Kansas Technical Institute were offered a two hour class entitled Special Problems in Surveying. The objective of the class was to perform a precise traverse survey to tie in the new monuments to a grid systems that could be used on future cave surveys, and to correct existing errors in the map. Four students signed up, and they spent three days at the park in March of 1985 doing the field survey. They used state-of-the-art equipment including theodolites, electronic distance meters and field computers. All angles were turned using initial-reverse methods. The result of their work was a very precise survey that indicated as much as 200 feet of horizontal error in some locations in the cave. Depths were found to be off by as much of forty to fifty feet. Using this survey, park personnel are now making significant strides in the development of a new computer maps of this extremely complex cave.

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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