Show cave: Natural Bridge Caverns
Location: Between San Antonio and New Braunfels, Texas, USA
Show cave since: 1964
Guide parts: Discovery Passages, Hidden Passages
Length of discovery: approx.1,300.00 meters
Type: natural cave, limestone
Room temperature: 22 ° C
Tourists, year: 400,000.00
Water: Standing pools, the local aquifer can rise into the caverns after heavy rains
Owner: Private, Wuest family
1. Acquaintance with the Wuest family
We first met the Wuest family, Joye Wuest and Brad Wuest, at the ISCA conference in France in 2008. Since 2008 we have met regularly at different events for show caves worldwide. In 2016, Brad Wuest invited Cave Lighting to visit Natural Bridge Caverns to perform lighting tests there and give advice.
2. Test phase and decision
Cave Lighting first toured the show cave in Texas in spring, 2016. After at least 5 lighting tests and very constructive discussions about LED lighting, color temperatures of the light and technical requirements of the new installation, the Cave Lighting team created a first concept for the new lighting in the Discovery Passages. The Discovery Passages are the most highly toured show caves in Texas, and one of the most visited caves in the United States.
A year later, in spring 2017, Cave Lighting visited the United States a second time. This time Cave Lighting carried out extensive tests in the Hidden Passages and created a concept for lighting the cave. This cave is entirely separate from the Discovery Passages, but is located nearby on the same property. A third invitation and trip to Texas followed two years later. In March 2019, the Wuest family decided to tackle the Discovery Passages project immediately.
3. Preparation for execution
The technical planning of the project was started at the beginning of April 2019. The complete project documentation was created within 7 weeks and made available to the customer as well as local electrical and engineering firms to ensure that the project would conform to American standards. In parallel to the planning phase, Cave Lighting started producing the lighting system. Production was completed in late June and the devices were delivered to Germany in early July. From July to mid-September, we shipped all of the equipment to the United States so that we could start construction in October.
4. Construction phase
We started the project on October 14th, 2019. The Cave Lighting team worked together with the NBC team, and within 5.5 months the project was 95% complete. On April 2nd, 2020 the last of our employees left the USA.
Cave Lighting, led by Adrian Kondacs, had a total of 6 employees in the USA: Vladimir Vashkevich, Kondacs, Tudor Rus, Dan Ciulpan, Tudor Marin and Alejandro Hernaiz Gomes.
Around 1200 lights were installed in the show cave. The professional installation was carried out directly on the guide path and the natural floor and walls of the cave. Some lights were placed in out of reach locations using rope work by highly skilled Cave Lighting team members.
The old lighting system was 50 years old, and we wanted to completely change the image of the cave with the new lighting. The Cave Lighting experts set about finding the correct installation locations to underscore the beauty of the cave. Tour operations were never suspended during the new installation. In order to ensure the safety of the tour, the safety lighting (usually pathway lighting) was installed separately from the accent lighting. Accent lighting was installed simultaneously, and the new light was used to generate outstanding 3D scenes in the cave. Even before the Corona crisis, visitors to the cave enjoyed and marveled at the new lighting.
Our Cave Lighting team worked on the project with the NBC team, led by Matt Carr and Justin Royce. The NBC team supported us and was responsible for laying of cable systems, installation of distributions in the cave and all kinds of assembly work. Up to 15 skilled show cave specialists worked in the cave at the same time.
About 1300 meters of the cave passages were re-illuminated. Around 1200 LED lights, 40 controllers and 4 electrical distributors were installed. The new system is a mixture of technical and artistic light. The lighting system is mainly controlled via a DMX-512 interface, with parts of the system being managed via PWM. The electrical system and parts of the lighting are controlled and monitored via a fiber optic network. Dynamic scenarios have been installed in several halls in the cave, to help tour guides interpret the cave to visitors as well as for dramatic effect. Guides use handheld remote controls to operate the system. The system can also be operated from hard-wired switch boxes which are equipped with the new RF ID activation, which prevents misuse of the control by visitors. Tour guides carry RF ID cards with them on tour in case they are needed.
The customer is extremely satisfied with the results.
The Corona Pandemic occurred during the installation, which created difficult conditions for both NBC and CL teams. For Cave Lighting, the customer comes first. Cave Lighting specialists stayed in Texas until the very end and completed their work there.
They came back to Europe with the last planes.