by Walden Kirsch
About 300 miles south of Hanoi in the Truong Son Mountains near Vietnam’s border with Laos, Swedish photographer and journalist Martin Edstrom trekked deep into the jungle for 2 days, strapped himself into a climbing harness, stepped off a cliff and slowly lowered himself 260 feet down through a gaping hole in the earth, into a world of utter darkness.
Edstrom was not just entering any hole in the ground. He was dropping into the world’s largest cave, so cavernous you could fit a Boeing 747 inside it.
Elstrom —working for National Geographic–was on an expedition co-sponsored by Intel and Dell, and the result is a dazzling first-ever look deep into Son Doong cave.
The Son Doong cave was created by a ground seepage through limestone and carved by a subterranean river over the last 2-plus million years. The cave’s entrance was stumbled upon in 1991 by a farmer who felt a rush of cool wind in the hot jungle. But not until 2009 was the cave first explored.
Edström’s underground mission was to create a 360-degree interactive photographic tour of Son Doong’s depths.
Working with a ruggedized Intel® Core™ i7-powered Dell Latitude 12 Extreme 2 in 1—they lowered their technology down into the cave—Edström and team were able to stitch together 360-degree images in remarkable time—not in the 8 hours which they were accustomed, but in just 15 minutes. Edström also brought down into the cave one of the thinnest workstations on the market, a Dell Precision M3800.
“Working with creating interactive reportages from remote locations is very demanding, and today I need a lot of computing power. Prototyping 360-degree images in the field has to be fast and reliable,” says Edström.
Power in turns out, is critical in this environment. Each of Edström’s 360-degree images is super high-resolution and large, consuming 500 megabytes. (A single shot from a typical point-and-shoot is 5 megabytes or less.) Images from the entire Son Doong expedition filled some 700 gigabytes of storage.
Enough words. Go! Experience the photos of the 230-foot-high “Hand of the Dog” stalagmite (perhaps the world’s biggest), Son Doong’s 600-foot-high passageways, and the river that runs through it.