Mystery Cave Found

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TSIL436 = The Secret in Locker 436


In late March St. Louis Magazine reported a long-lost cavern far beneath the surface of the Benton Park neighborhood–

The curtain began to be pulled back when Dr. Kenneth Boyko, a post-doctoral fellow in geological engineering at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, began to take LIDAR measurements of the cave, after the delicate laser measuring instrument tool had been threaded like a needle down the 49-foot bore hole. LIDAR works by “firing” millions of laser beams in horizontal and vertical orientations, and measures how long it takes for the light from the laser to bounce back to the LIDAR instrument. Dr. Boyko explained that LIDAR is incredibly reliable, as the laser beams can travel great distances, and since we know the speed of light, we can calculate how far away an object or wall is by how long it takes for the laser to bounce back to the LIDAR instrument. But there are a few issues. Some surfaces can still cause the laser to bounce off, particularly aluminum. Also, because water can slow down the speed of light compared to air, it can result in some slightly inaccurate readings, but for the purposes of measuring the cave, this was not a significant issue. Dripping water can also create “static” when the laser beams hit water drops coming off the ceiling of the cave.

LIDAR image Overhead View, Courtesy of Ken Boyko

The reporting started in 2018 thanks to Chris Naffziger.

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