Author Topic: Prosthetic Speleothems?  (Read 1471 times)

Offline Kenilworth

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Prosthetic Speleothems?
« on: November 03, 2017, 01:54:02 pm »
Topimo's recent thread, requesting sites to attempt formation repair via 3D modelling, raises some interesting questions. My initial instinct is to reject such applications as being grossly artificial. However, my first instinct isn't altogether logical in this case.

If cave formations are primarily an aesthetic resource, then how important is the ecological and morphological integrity of their repair or restoration?

Are some sites more/less suitable for this sort of restoration from an ethical standpoint?

Once plastic models have been used to replicate, will there be a temptation to use them to enhance? How about create?

There are also practical questions. If the plan is for the prosthetic to be overlain with calcite, how can the installer be sure that conditions will remain conducive to deposition? If the broken peice is not available, how will the size and shape of the replacement be determined? If the broken peice is available, why not reattach?

I have no respect for the argument that human impact within a cave is unnatural and therefore undesirable. It is good and natural that we go into caves. Once there, it is inevitable that we will impact them, both passively and actively. So we need to ask ourselves if our impact is respectful of what is there, what/who will be there, what might be there, and indeed, what was there.

I can imagine cases in which artificial formations could fulfill all of these demands for respect. They are severely limited. Others might feel differently, but hopefully they (topimo for instance) at least ask themselves plenty of these sorts of questions before making a decision.

Offline MJenkinson

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2017, 02:34:22 pm »
I would be very surprised if any "cavers" decided that printed / plastic formations should be used to enhance a cave.  I can certainly imagine a showcave operator doing this, whether with no reference to the fact they are fake, or indeed with some sort of pseudo justification along the lines of "the cave used to look like this" or "here is a replica of a grotto in blah-blah-blah cave".

Thing is, the ability to make artificial formations has existed for a while and no one has taken up the chance to redecorate a cave (that I am aware of).  The effort involved in going to the cave, collecting a piece, modelling it, printing a section etc sounds to me that this will be unlikely to be taken up by a commercial operator, given they could just find someone to make fake ones already.  I doubt they will be fussed about "accuracy".

Fixing broken formations has been done, and continues to be done (Collonades in Lancs, plus there is one on the way to Wilf taylor's still with some red electrical tape round the breaks!).  I think this may just give cavers a chance to make more accurate / less obvious repairs.  I am sure the preference would always be to reattach pieces.  I see this as just another option and those likely to carry this sort of work out are likely to be experienced, conservation minded cavers.

Offline pwhole

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2017, 03:41:31 pm »
A sculptor friend of mine was commissioned a few years ago to make perfect replicas of stalagmite formations from a local showcave to produce an exhibit at the local visitor centre - I think he ended up casting them in polymer resin, after very carefully making moulds from the originals. That would be a good (and non-controversial) use for this technique, as opposed to actual repairs.

Online mikem

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #3 on: November 03, 2017, 08:06:01 pm »
Of course, calcite will reform over time if there is still some flow. Mud banks, however, are a different matter...

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Offline Alkapton

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2017, 05:29:39 am »
In Northern Spain is a very accurate replica of a very famouse 'pre-historic art' cave.   The cave in question was recieving 1,000's of visitors per year changing the humidity of the cave and damaging the paintings.    The replica cave (all laser scanned etc.) is not really distinguishable from the original (which is no longer public access),  I was amazed in that unless I knew the cave was artificial and in a building, I would have thought it a real cave.   Piccasso was right in saying the ancestors were better artists than he, the realism is on another level, due to use of contors of the  cave for full 3d effect 1,000's of years before 3d tv.

It would be nice to see this done for other exceptional caves.   Slarlom Passage in Ogof Capel comes to mind.  Though technically more challenging cause of the nature of some formations there (long hair like crystal needles)
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Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #5 on: November 06, 2017, 03:35:01 pm »
It isn't too hard to trounce Picasso in a realism match.

Commercial caves in the US have made all sorts of shameless modifications. Artificial rivers, artificial wetting of the formations. The last commercial cave I was in (as a customer) had repurposed broken stal to create a supposedly natural but horribly obvious "fairy grotto" in an alcove. I have seen a couple of stalactites mounted on cave floors. I have no doubt that if realistic artificial formations could be had cheaply enough, some commercial caves would use them.

But I'm more interested in these non-commercial repairs. Perhaps someone could explain in what sense(s) formation repair is conservation?







Offline Leclused

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2017, 07:21:28 am »
In Northern Spain is a very accurate replica of a very famouse 'pre-historic art' cave.   The cave in question was recieving 1,000's of visitors per year changing the humidity of the cave and damaging the paintings.    The replica cave (all laser scanned etc.) is not really distinguishable from the original (which is no longer public access),  I was amazed in that unless I knew the cave was artificial and in a building, I would have thought it a real cave.   Piccasso was right in saying the ancestors were better artists than he, the realism is on another level, due to use of contors of the  cave for full 3d effect 1,000's of years before 3d tv.

It would be nice to see this done for other exceptional caves.   Slarlom Passage in Ogof Capel comes to mind.  Though technically more challenging cause of the nature of some formations there (long hair like crystal needles)

Not only in Spain  ;D In France there are at least two other replica caves

- Lascaux  2 and lascaux 4  (so 2 replica's of the same cave)
  https://archaeology-travel.com/reviews/is-lascaux-4-better-than-lascaux-2/
- Grotte du pont d'arc which is a replica of Grotte Chauvet
   http://www.cavernedupontdarc.fr/
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Offline beardedboy

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2017, 09:59:53 am »


The thought of this reminds me a lot of this artists work. It is seen by many to enhance and draw attention to dilapidated or war stricken historical buildings. There is a school of thought that if you are fixing something you should do so in a way that adds to the story of the piece. However, i'm really not convinced this applies to structures from the natural world.
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Offline BradW

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2017, 10:16:40 am »
Perhaps someone could explain in what sense(s) formation repair is conservation?
It isn't - its restoration. I am reminded of that medieval painting of the Madonna that went tragicly wrong a year or so ago.

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #9 on: November 07, 2017, 11:32:05 am »
Perhaps someone could explain in what sense(s) formation repair is conservation?
It isn't - its restoration.

Excellent answer, though some would (and do) say that restoration is conservation.

What then are the purposes of non-commercial cave restoration?

Offline cooleycr

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #10 on: November 07, 2017, 01:48:18 pm »
I would have thought that, in most cases, replacing broken stal enhances a cave by restoring it to a previous incarnation such that future visitors can see it how it was.
This to my mind is restoration.
Protecting it from further damage, or maintaining it in the original state, would be conservation.

I think the big discussion should be around whether a cave passage that has had stal removed to allow ingress should have the stal restored, thereby barring access once more - it has been restored to the original state but to what gain?

There are arguments from many angles regarding how far should one go in restoring a subject - for example many people would be glad to see some of the innovative buildings from the 1960's razed to the ground, others would insist they were restored and/or preserved (conserved).

in many instances, there is little, or no, choice but to raze and rebuild, and in many cases the reproduction is far superior to the original, but is a facsimile acceptable?

Personally I  would like to see broken stal restored where practical, but if it cannot be restored then 3D modelling seems a reasonable alternative method to pursue...
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Offline robjones

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #11 on: November 07, 2017, 08:32:36 pm »
Modern museum ethics might be summarised thus:

Conservation is stablising an object to minimise and slow further deterioration.

Restoration is filling gaps and replacing lost elements. A 'six inch / six foot' approach (other figures are used) is often cited: it should be undetectable when viewed from a few feet away but should be reasonably obvious when viewed from a few inches away.

Replication is making a copy in new materials, of either a complete object, or of a major component.

All conservation and restoration is aimed to be reversible / removable without damaging the original object.

An exception to the above is treatment of vehicles in museums, especially railway rolling stock and locomotives, and road vehicles, which continues to often be based on irreversible actions aimed at returning the object to as close to 'showroom' or 'new' condition as possible.

Grist to the mill for the speleotherm discussion?


Offline PeteHall

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2017, 09:16:03 pm »
Anybody else thinking of one of Alfie's Spelaeodes?  :lol:
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Online mikem

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #13 on: November 08, 2017, 07:59:47 am »
If formations have been destroyed then repair them if you wish, but replacing them is surely pointless - broken stal is far more likely to encourage future cavers to take care, whilst knowing they can replace them may encourage some to go places they shouldn't...

Mike

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #14 on: November 08, 2017, 11:59:50 am »
If formations have been destroyed then repair them if you wish, but replacing them is surely pointless - broken stal is far more likely to encourage future cavers to take care, whilst knowing they can replace them may encourage some to go places they shouldn't...

Mike

I'm very surprised it has taken this long for anyone to make this point.

Might formation repair/replacement at times be problematic denial of a caves human history?

Offline BradW

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #15 on: November 08, 2017, 12:01:53 pm »
A repair/replacement becomes part of the cave's human history.

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #16 on: November 08, 2017, 11:54:04 pm »
A repair/replacement becomes part of the cave's human history.
Indeed. At the potential cost of an earlier one. This is, as ever, a question of relative values.


Offline BradW

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #17 on: November 09, 2017, 11:56:06 am »
"Best practice" is to execute repairs etc so that the repair is not totally invisible, and is reversible, so it is always possible to determine the previous state if necessary, so a proper repair etc is not "perfect". The earlier history is therefore preserved.

Offline Kenilworth

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Re: Prosthetic Speleothems?
« Reply #18 on: November 09, 2017, 10:20:39 pm »
"Best practice" is to execute repairs etc so that the repair is not totally invisible, and is reversible, so it is always possible to determine the previous state if necessary, so a proper repair etc is not "perfect". The earlier history is therefore preserved.

There are a couple of problems with this. In an active cave, it is impossible to guarantee that a "repair" will be "reversible". In fact, the proposed prosthetics are supposed to be readily overlain with calcite, with the apparent goal of making the repair invisible. This best practice (a lazy concept in any case) doesn't make sense at all in the case of speleothems. I would much prefer to see broken stal on the floor than a lot of obvious repairs.