Are these the greatest man-made caverns on earth?
Dr Philip Pells
About 15 years ago, almost by pure chance, there were discovered at a place called Longyou, about 3 kilometres south west of Shanghai, a most extraordinary complex of human-excavated caverns. The caverns were excavated in sandstone quite similar to Sydney’s Hawkesbury Sandstone, have spans up to 35m and depths of cover less than 10m.
It has been found that they were excavated about 2,500 years ago. There is no record of their existence and there is no understanding of their purpose. The Chinese consider them the 9th Wonder of the World and more than 1.5 million Chinese visit every year. They are largely unknown to the West. Following a visit to the caverns in April 2015, Philip considers they constitute stunning rock mechanics that can only make us humble in terms of anything we do today.
About Dr Philip Pells
Dr Philip Pells is a Civil Engineer who has spent four decades in geotechnical and groundwater engineering and has been the recipient of several awards for his research and design work.
Having retired from full time consulting engineering, Philip continues to make some contributions from his experience in the industry; integrating theory learnt at Imperial College and Sydney University, with the practice of designing and constructing significant engineering structures. These structures include the Ocean Outfall Tunnels in Sydney, the Sydney Opera House Car Park, the Eastern Distributor, major water storage dams in South East Asia, the Yandicoogina bridge foundations in the Pilbara, and forensic engineering for the collapse of the main conveyor transfer cavern at Chuquicamata in Chile, the Burnley Tunnel in Melbourne and the Morwell River Diversion at Yallourn.
Engineers Australia members participating in AGS technical sessions can record attendance on their personal CPD logs. Members should refer to Engineers Australia CPD policy for details on CPD types, requirements and auditing guidelines.