Vastness of Lava Cave Beneath Couple's Oregon Home Revealed in 3D Scans

The vast interiors of a mysterious cave discovered beneath a home in Bend, Oregon have been unveiled in a new video shared with Newsweek.

The walls of the lava tubea cave formed from a volcanic eruption—were captured via 3D scans of the interior done by O'Brien & Company, a design/building firm based in Oregon incorporating virtual reality, laser-scanning and drone-mapping technologies in their practices.

Speaking to Newsweek, Elsa Manning from O'Brien & Company, said the scans revealed the scale of the cave beneath the 10-acre home of Suzanne and James Brierley to be "much larger than assumed."

"The primary lava tube is over 264 inches (22 feet) long, with a top of cave height of over 15 feet at the high point and a sandy loose floor that tapers up to the end of the cave.

"As far as the significance of the colors [shown in the 3D scans], color in the point cloud defines the density of the cave. The more red the color, the more dense the area. The variety of colors show that there is a lot of surface variation in the cave," Manning explained.

The video was created using these 3D scans and takes viewers on a tour of the lava tube. The video features a small computer mouse-type icon acting as a focal point that glides through the inner depths of the cave.

The footage captures the imposing feel of the interior as it pans up and down through the lava tube. It exudes almost an underwater feel, as if the viewer is gliding across the bottom of an ocean.

Manning told Newsweek: "In this particular story regarding the lava tube found on Suzanne and James Brierley's property, it was a perfect opportunity to utilize our scanning tools to uncover the details of the lava tube without damaging any of the property or the tube itself.

"After running the scan of the lava tubes, we discovered the exact heights, dimensions, and length were much larger than assumed," Manning added.

Using its Leica scanner and laser layout tools, the company claims it can create 3D scans of a given structure "to a 1/32" accuracy so our client fully understands the structure of the building or in this case, the tube," Manning explained.

In 2017, the Brierleys were told there was a small cave somewhere below their property but were surprised to recently discover how large the cave was.

"I was really shocked by how big it couldn't even touch the ceiling in it," James Brierley told Bend's KTVZ in late May.

"It was quite impressive, it was kinda like a gift we didn't really know we'd had," he added.

The lava tube has been examined by the Oregon High Desert Grotto, a branch of the National Speleological Society that was contacted by the couple in a bid to establish the origins of the cave.

Newsweek has contacted Oregon High Desert Grotto and the National Speleological Society for comment.

The property is currently up for sale and the couple hopes the future homeowners will help preserve the lava tube.

Manning told Newsweek: "What's particularly cool about this discovery is that the tubes are considered a commercial zoned property. So whoever purchases the land has an incredible opportunity to build something unique and offer an experience to their clients."

It is hoped the future homeowner will decide to perhaps build a unique bed-and restaurant or another hospitality venue that "emulates a cave environment for guests to enjoy," Manning said.

Lava tubes are probably the second-most common type of caves, after limestone caves, the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) says, and most are found "close to [the] surface and not too deep underground."

According to the Bend tourism website, there are believed to be as many as 400 lava tubes in central Oregon, many of which are on public lands.

This article has been updated with further comment from O'Brien & Company.

The Thurston Lava Tube seen in Hawaii.
The interior of the Thurston Lava Tube at Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, pictured in December 2016. A video made from 3D scans of a lava tube found beneath a home in Oregon revealed the cave was "much larger than assumed." George Rose/Getty Images