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Otago and French experts bring WWI tunnels to wider audience

Friday 24 June 2016 2:03pm


Under the northern French city of Arras, there is a network of caves and tunnels that hold huge significance for New Zealanders.

Arras tunnels image
The network of caves and tunnels beneath Arras are a clear demonstration of the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the NZ tunnellers.

They represent a permanent but unseen memorial to the brave and industrious actions of the New Zealand Engineers Tunnelling Company during WWI.

The Ronville network of tunnels under Arras extends over approximately 2.3km, with some named after towns and cities of New Zealand.

The network was capable of accommodating about 10,000 men and included its own light rail, a hospital, a shop and living quarters safe from the heavy German bombardment above ground.

Staff and a student from Otago’s National School of Surveying along with counterparts from the École Supérieure des Géomètres et Topographes (ESGT Le Mans, France) are currently using 3D laser scanning to record and map the tunnels and caves, creating a stunning virtual world to be explored from the safety of their newly launched website.

Named the LiDARRAS project, it is making excellent progress, with the second lot of fieldwork well underway in France. Initial scans and models generated from the data collected at the end of last year, can be seen on the website, and these will be updated regularly.

Arras tunnels kia ora image
Writings in Te Reo Māori, sketches of girlfriends, cartoons and directions are clearly visible 100 years after they were made.

The website provides information about the project and the history of the tunnels and caves themselves, and a number of helpful links for further reading.

This project is made possible with support from many institutions, organizations and partners, including direct funding from the Lottery World War One Committee and the New Zealand-France Friendship Fund, as well as with direct support from Trimble, the City of Arras, and the museum Carrière Wellington.

For further information, contact:

Dr Pascal Sirguey
National School of Surveying
University of Otago
Phone: 64 3 479 7698

A list of Otago experts available for media comment is available elsewhere on this website.

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