Auckland's underground lava caves have been illuminated with incredible new images that researchers hope will help city residents to appreciate the hidden volcanic wonders.

Chirag Jindal, a digital artist and graduate of the University of Auckland School of Architecture and Planning teamed up with veteran speleologist Peter Crossley to create breathtaking new 3D images of the cave networks, along with the city environment above.

The pair used a high-tech LiDAR scanner to map, in 3D, 10 caves that lie below the Auckland isthmus, before the images were combined with photographs showing the surface.

"The idea was to try to show the existing relationship between the subterranean landscape and the surface world," Jindal said.


"The thing with photography is that, while it does capture the nature of a site, it's hard to relate that to what's existing around it.

"So, with the scanner, we would scan the sites and then create a 3D model of both the caves and the surface above - and the potential uses of that were essentially limitless."

Crossley, who has been exploring the network for 50 years, said while the caves were formally registered for their heritage value, few Aucklanders likely knew where they were.

"They're certainly not like volcanic cones, which stick out and which we can all see."

Jindal also hoped the pictures would help people view the caves in a new light.

"There is kind of a negative connotation that comes with the subterranean landscape - we get ideas of hell or the underworld, and become less emotionally curious about it.

"Our idea for the art is to force to look at the sites in a different and more immersive way."

The images are being displayed at the Wynyard Quarter's Silo 6, in the exhibition Into the Underworld, running from December 9-24.