Having crawled in to some tight cave locations as a teenager I have an idea of what this was like, but you have to see this video to really appreciate the effort that was required to document this cave system. Just watching the video makes me ill.
The extremely difficult conditions in which University of the Witwatersrand’s (Wits) Professor Lee Berger’s Rising Star team was forced to work, gave rise to the use of space-age technology to map the Dinaledi chamber and Rising Star Cave, in which over 1500 Homo naledi fossils were found.
Ashley Kruger, a PhD candidate in Palaeoanthropology at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits, who was part of Berger’s initial Rising Star Expedition team, roped in the use of high-tech laser scanning, photogrammetry and 3D mapping technology to bring high resolution digital images to Berger and team members on an almost real-time basis in order to make vital decisions regarding the underground excavations.
“This is the first time ever, where multiple digital data imaging collection has been used on such a sale, during a hominin excavation,” says Kruger.
In 2013, after the discovery of the hominin assemblage, Berger put a call out for “skinny” explorers to join him on the expedition to excavate what became known as the Dinaledi Chamber, a cave system near the Sterkfontein Caves, about 40km North West of Johannesburg in South Africa. An all-female team of six “underground astronauts” were selected to undertake the underground excavation, due to the challenge of navigating a 12 meter vertical Chute, and passing through an 18 centimeter gap.