BCRA Cave Surveying Group Projects

Data Archiving

Many of you involved in survey projects, especially in or near established systems, will be well aware of the problems of lost survey data or notes. This is a common result when people drop out of caving or move away. Their work often goes with them, to be thrown away years later 'cos it is taking up space.

The CSG wants to work out ways to ensure that this doesn't happen. There are technical and practical issues to do with preserving the original notes, and computer data, in useful ways. There are also political issues associated with clubs or individuals wanting to keep their data secret for personal or conservation reasons. It is likely that in many cases data would only be handed over to a central repository under strict conditions on who would have access to that data.

CSG member Andy Atkinson has prepared an initial proposal for BCRA council to get funding to enable work towards archiving survey data at the BCRA library. Full details of the current state of the proposal may be found at The Cave Surveying Data Archiving Page.

Software Development


Two members of the CSG, Olly Betts & Wookey have been working on this survey package since 1990. Olly has done nearly all the programming whilst Wookey runs the User group. The software is designed to be cross platform so you can use it on any computer. It is also free - important to cavers!

As you can see from the Survey Projects section, this package is now widely used, particularly for large, complex systems. Survex now has its own web pages at


You can download current and previous releases as well as read the latest documentation and news.

Email Wookey@aleph1.co.uk

Major UK Survey Projects

There are a number of large resurvey projects being undertaken at the moment in the UK. Here is what I know about them. My sincere apologies if any of it is rubbish, but as it is nearly all pub-hearsay I make no guarantees of accuracy.


Details of the Easegill resurvey project


When the last issue of the OFD survey was drawn and printed in about 1990 it became very clear that a resurvey was needed as most of the original data had been lost, with only the drawn-up survey remaining. This made it hard to add new bits where they didn't seem to fit very well. There was also the burning question of just how long it actually is. Iain Miller has been the primary collector of data. They started off using SMAPS but got fed up with it for a number of reasons and exported all the data to Survex instead.

Ogof Draenen

The extraordinary rate of discovery here has meant a two-stage surveying arrangement. The original pushing surveys were done to about grade 3 but usually with no clino information, so it is a grade 2 survey. The Chelsea Speleological Society, famous for their previous surveying efforts on Llangattwg took on the task of doing the subsequent Grade 5 survey using survex to keep the grade 2 & 5 surveys side by side as one slowly superseded the other. Mike McCombe (of Newbury and District Caving Club) also wrote a tool 'SpeleoGen', which allows the combination of the survex centreline output, with separate LRUD info, surface elevation data, and a grid to produce a DXF file for import into a CAD package for final drawing up.

The surveying techniques used appeared in CP12, and an article covering the computing techniques will be in a future issue.

Project management

Experience with the above large cave projects, and CUCC's Austrian Kaninchenhöhle survey have revealed a number of problem areas which crop up in all these big projects. These are particularly down to changing standards over time, constantly changing (and numerous) personnel, different approaches to using the same software, degradation (or loss) of original survey notes, and the sheer effort of maintaining and understanding the large datasets involved. There is also something of a mismatch between the way programmers see a cave survey, and the way cave surveyors see it. Partly to reduce the maintenance effort, and partly to help guide future software developments, Wookey and Andy Waddington have been consulting with various others and working on a "Managing large survey projects" document. This is primarily orientated towards the use of Survex (since all these projects do so), but takes note of other approaches typified by some of the other survey software in use today. This work resulted in an article for CP20, and it is hoped to include a section in the CUCC Expedition Handbook Surveying Guide in the future.

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