The Caver Quest Simulation from the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project

Welcome to the FSCSP Caver Quest web page. If you just linked in from the NSS page or the BLM NCA page, we invite you to click on the logo above to take you to our home page where you can learn more about the Project. If you are interested in our new concept of a 3D simulation of sections of Fort Stanton Cave and the Snowy River cave passage, please keep reading.

If you would like to get a better idea of our simulation before you install it on your computer, click HERE to download a14.4 MB wmv video file that shows a "bat's eye view" of the area both outside & inside the cave just past the Bat Gate (designed to keep humans out of the cave while the bats are in hibernation). Look for another link at the bottom of this page for a longer video. Depending on the speed of your internet connection, now might be a good time to go for that cup of coffee while the wmv file makes its way to your computer.
 
 
On September 1, 2001, when Snowy River was discovered, this was the area that was first seen by the members of the dig team consisting of Lloyd Swartz, John McLean, Don Becker, and Andrew Grieco. If you were a tiny bug on the far eastern wall with a very bright light this is what you may have seen. Pictured in this July 12, 2013, blending of photographs is a panorama looking at the west wall in the center. Three of the four members of the Caver Quest photo team are shown in this photo: left-to-right are Rob Wood, Ron Lipinski and Wayne Walker. The darkness behind Rob is where Snowy River heads south for another 10+ miles. Wayne, in the green shirt, is standing in the joint-controlled passage that leads back to the Priority 7 dig through crawls and tight spots.
 

The original explorers marked the pristine clay floor with orange plastic tape to guide future visitors along the unique path. Before exploration could begin an environmental impact statement was prepared by Mike Bilbo, our BLM Cave Specialist. Two years later the first team to actually step on the white crystal surface at first tried special footwear. Quickly realizing that the surface was not quite as delicate as first believed, the teams developed other techniques to protect the surface. Behind this view Snowy River winds around a large boulder and almost immediately the ceiling drops down to within a few inches of the surface of the white calcite floor. The black manganese coating on the ceiling is typical of much of Snowy River where the microbiological forces are at work slowly eating the limestone layers.

     
During 2010, physical Research and Exploration of the Snowy River Passage came to a halt due to a significant snow and rainfall event which caused the stream to flow from April 22, 2010, to December 21, 2010. This was at least the second "flood" event that occurred during the "normal" science and research season since discovery of Snowy River passage. After the original discovery the passage was explored both North (to Crystal Spring) and South just past Turtle Junction, at which point the Priority 7 discovery passage was closed for safety reasons. Several years were spent locating and digging a new access shaft from Don Sawyer Memorial Hall down to the Mud Turtle passage that again allowed the research and exploration to continue. Scientists discovered many new features of the unique Snowy River Passage and with easier and safer access, it became obvious that it was key that this important work should continue at an accelerated pace. It was also obvious that such an important resource, now the central focus of a new National Conservation Area (NCA), should be protected from surface pollution at all costs and that Research and Exploration should be emphasized during the six months when access to the cave is allowed.
 
 

As the exploration of Snowy River pushed South, additional detail survey data was obtained and at the same time photographs of the unique features of the passage were recorded. The exploration teams developed special techniques for traversing the extensive passage (currently over eleven miles in length) following the white crystal-flored passage. Scientists often followed on the very next trip to more carefully record the new data and make specialized measurements. The geology and hydrology of the passage was studied and core samples started to reveal the age of the formation. Sediments were studied to develop a better idea of the time-line of the passage formation. DNA samples were carefully taken and are currently being analyzed.

So, during 2010, the Caver Quest project headed by Dr. Ron Lipinski was formulated to facilitate improved efficiency of the science teams, provide a tool that the BLM could use for better management of the resource.

Currently Fort Stanton Cave is over 50 Km long and is the third longest cave in New Mexico, just after Carlsbad Cavern. (A password is no longer required for the download.) Starting with the July, 2013, Version 6, Caver Quest is using a new Unity Player engine that allows PC, Mac and Linux installations. If you wish to download a version for your computer please click on the DOWNLOAD button below to the right which will transport you to the download site.

 

The March 2017 Ver. (6.5.2) is now available following the link to the right.

(Click HERE to download a 46.2 MB wmv video file that shows a "bat's eye view" of the area all the way to Inscription Wall, well inside the cave.)

La Culebra Passage from Harmony Hall at MK001 to MK028
Midnight Creek Passage from Harmony Hall to MJ20
MapPad button to transport you back to the Entrance in case you get stuck somewhere
Entrance Region: from the Ramada to AA-1 in the Bridal Chamber
Main Corridor Region: from AA-1 in the Bridal Chamber to A-40 at Inscription Rock.
Decoration Passage: from start of Crystal Crawl to the Lake Room and Lunch Room.
Snowy River North: from SRN2 at the south end of Snowy River North to SRN81 at the Crystal Creek sump, and also Saguaro Dome and the start of the Metro (1SRN1-1SRN8), The Attic (2SRN1-2SRN8), Tulip Garden (SRA1-SRA9), and Windows Passage (WN1-WN5).
Turtle Junction Region: from SRN2 at the start of Snowy River South to SRS97 at the start to Crawl from Hell, and also to the top of the Don Sawyer stairway
Floating Islands Region: from SRS369 to SRS383
Frosty Canyon Region: from SRS501 to SRS540
Midnight Junction Region: from SRS661 north of Midnight Junction to MJ06 near Harmony Hall
 

DOWNLOAD Version 6.5.2

Dr. Lipinski began by using the game engine for URU (with gracious permission from Cyan, Inc.), which is an immersive game that begins with an avatar entering a cave in New Mexico. He has since switched to the Unity3D game engine for greater versatility and multi-platform compatibility. First loading in the precision survey data from the program COMPASS, Ron constructed a 3-D framework of the cave passage in and around the areas between the Priority 7 Junction and the Turtle Junction. After applying the wall, ceiling and floor distances from the survey notes, Ron applied a generic "wallpaper" obtained from previously archived FSCSP photos from the survey and exploration teams. Since this technique did not show any of the actual photos at a particular spot in the cave, it was proposed to use actual photographs taken every 10 feet along the passage being enhanced. During the April, 2011, expedition the FSCSP was given permission to experiment with new photography techniques using a wide angle lens on a digital camera mounted on a compact panorama tripod head. Over 900 images were taken between survey stations SRS11 and SRS32 using multiple strobes for each image. The 4-person team, led by Pete Lindsley, took careful notes locating each photo relative to the existing survey stations, and multiple shots were taken in some locations to improve the lighting. The resulting collection of images were grouped into sections along the survey line and were next blended into larger images such as the image on the right which shows the Turtle Junction area between SRS23 and SRS25. Just above the white floor of Snowy River is the west wall and some of the black plastic used for the changing area and the trail leading down to Snowy River. The ceiling runs across the middle of the picture, with the (up side down) east wall just above. The east edge of Snowy River runs across the top. The lighting has been adjusted to minimize dark spots, and places where the lens did not fully cover the scene have been filled in using PhotoShop techniques. If you look closely at the edge of Snowy River about 2/3rds across the bottom just below the clay floor line you can see the FSCSP MiniDiver data logger. Clicking on the picture will load a higher resolution photo that shows the red string attached to the data logger. In the actual CQ simulation there is an even higher resolution image that forms the "wallpaper" that the avatar can examine even closer.

Version 6.5.2 Updates Include:

We added Decoration Passage as a new section of the simulation and moved Crystal Crawl into the new section. Next we added the passage from the end of Crystal Crawl to the Lake Room overlook, based on recent LiDAR scans and some new wall photography. Look closely and you will find the Lunch Room, Crooked Thumb Passage, Rosebowl Room, Binocular Crawl, Our Latest Crawl, Pool Finger Room, and Lake Room using the lidar data and photos from the October 2016 expedition. The Rosebowl Room, Lunch Room, Pool Finger Room, and Lake Room use local wall photos for texture; the rest is generic wall paper. We also added a new map (two pages) for Decoration Passage, and added juniper trees at the entrance and a pause button for the intro Fly-by video.
Previously we added Snowy River North and South to Crawl from Hell to the introduction flyover (but not the fly through). Just so you can briefly experience the Crawl From Hell, we added a short crawl section at the start.
Recently we added popup messages identifying major rooms and passages as you enter them. The Turtle Junction tarp cave note now has a voice. We improved the quality of the texture mapping in many places from the Entrance to the Lake Room. The New Mexico cave law was added to the cave note at Crystal Crawl and Pool Fingers.
     

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Rev. 5-7-2017
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