Percentage of caves mapped

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What percentage of the world's caves have been mapped?

1%
4
36%
3%
1
9%
10%
2
18%
30%
4
36%
90%
0
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Total votes : 11

Percentage of caves mapped

Postby tmazanec1 » Aug 25, 2014 5:37 am

What percentage of Earth's caves have been mapped? I realize this cannot be answered exactly, but can you give an estimate to half an order of magnitude or a factor of two? This could be guessed from how much work has been done on exploring karst areas, for example. Just a rough estimate
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Re: Percentage of caves mapped

Postby Chads93GT » Aug 25, 2014 7:14 am

No idea, but as for the USA goes, Missouri has a high %
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Re: Percentage of caves mapped

Postby JSDunham » Aug 25, 2014 9:18 am

Working on the digger definition of a cave, which is anything we could travel through regardless of whether it has yet been discovered or currently has an entrance, I say 1% is in the ballpark for order of magnitude, or even much too high. Of course, that would geologically be considered a conduit, and if you say all caves that currently have entrances, I'd be willing to go higher, to maybe 10%, assuming we are talking about percent of currently accessible passage with no digging required that has been mapped to any degree of accuracy between Grade 3 and Grade 5. On the other hand, I'd have to go back down to 1% if you do percent caves by entrances rather than percent of total cave passage length in the world.

I recall a presentation at the 2010 NSS convention in VT talking about estimating how many caves have been discovered, using a particular county in, I believe, Virginia and starting with an estimate from some 50 years back that the 17 caves in the country represented <10% of the caves total, then contrasting it with many hundreds of caves currently, and rate of cave discovery implying that the new number was actually 1% or less, suggesting the first estimate was too high by orders of magnitude. Maybe whoever did that can comment, because my memory from 4 years ago has likely ret-conned the numbers. Hopefully I'm in the order of magnitude ballpark. :shrug:
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Re: Percentage of caves mapped

Postby trogman » Aug 25, 2014 10:10 am

According to the latest ACS data listing, more than 55% of the known and documented AL caves have some type of map. If you subtract those that only have a sketch map, it is still 47%. I was rather pleasantly surprised to learn this; my guess would've been that only about 10-15% were mapped.
It wouldn't surprise me if half of the mapped caves in AL were done by Bill Torode. :big grin:

As far as the rest of the country, not to mention the entire world? I have no idea, but my best guess would be about 10%. My assumption is that we are talking about known caves. There is really no way to calculate a percentage for the total number of all caves, since there is no way of knowing how many are undiscovered. :shrug:

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Re: Percentage of caves mapped

Postby JSDunham » Aug 25, 2014 10:16 am

I was curious about how this question applies to Vermont, so I went hunting for some numbers.

Using the 2010 NSS Convention Guidebook, also known as the second edition of Peter Quick's "Caves of Vermont," I added up the total mapped length of all the solutional caves in my fine state. That brought me, roughly, to 25,000ft of cave. Then I looked at all the caves we've discovered and mapped since 2010 in Vermont. This number, roughly, is 6000ft of cave. That is a 24% increase over a period of 4 years, and really the majority of that was in the past 2 and 1/2 years because we spent a lot of time digging in Massachusetts, too. So lets assume we continue to discover caves a bit slower, and say 25% over 5 years, which means that by 2030, we will have doubled the mapped cave in Vermont. But really, all we need to double the cave in VT is to breakthrough on half of a dozen digs that we know full well go into major systems by VT standards. So the percent of mapped cave cannot possibly be higher than 50%, and I have no doubt that there are many more large caves (or conduits) than we just don't know about yet. This is in a state where we have to work hard for our passage; I'd be very curious to see similar numbers for states where you can find and map a mile of cave in one weekend, though I wouldn't be surprised to see similar percentages, even if the overall numbers are higher.
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Re: Percentage of caves mapped

Postby ohiocaver » Aug 26, 2014 10:06 am

Are we talking KNOWN caves? And just the USA or worldwide? If known US caves, the percentage is much higher than if we are talking all possible caves or all caves worldwide.
Hmmm...would be interesting to see a total of known cave passage by state. And to sum that up.And to pinpoint known caves that have no survey information attached. Maybe a Senior Thesis in Geology or Geography here for someone? Surely would be a publishable article from it.
I'd probably start with the long cave list then use such references as Davis's West Virginia book and other state guides. Then....well, that's why you'd earn an A on the paper. :tonguecheek:
[url=http://postimg.org/image/lex35gcbv/][img]http://s9.postimg.org/lex35gcbv/curt_Bryants_Cave_Indiana.jpg[/img][/url]
[url=http://postimg.org/image/eta4ctvar/][img]http://s21.postimg.org/eta4ctvar/cn_oh_isl_coils_cave_curt_sketch.jpg[/img][/url]
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Re: Percentage of caves mapped

Postby tmazanec1 » Aug 27, 2014 4:03 pm

I voted 30% just to see other people's votes. I do not have the background to make a decent guesstimate. Please disregard that one vote.
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Re: Percentage of caves mapped

Postby trogman » Aug 28, 2014 9:56 am

ohiocaver wrote:Are we talking KNOWN caves? And just the USA or worldwide? If known US caves, the percentage is much higher than if we are talking all possible caves or all caves worldwide.
Hmmm...would be interesting to see a total of known cave passage by state. And to sum that up.And to pinpoint known caves that have no survey information attached. Maybe a Senior Thesis in Geology or Geography here for someone? Surely would be a publishable article from it.
I'd probably start with the long cave list then use such references as Davis's West Virginia book and other state guides. Then....well, that's why you'd earn an A on the paper. :tonguecheek:



In AL, of the known caves that are actually mapped, there is a total of 2,190,292 feet of passage. That comes to 414.8 miles of cave. If you include all of the known caves, both mapped and unmapped, the total is 2,591,060 feet, or 490.7 miles. A lot of the unmapped caves just have estimates of passage length. In some cases, however, these caves have been surveyed, but the map has not yet been drawn.

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