Tutorials/Exploring caverns

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Caverns or caves are naturally formed cavities in the stone layer of a map. Most caverns have tunnels branching off as catacombs and winding in all sorts of directions. They are often very deep and can go from the surface all the way to bedrock. Caverns are not ravines but will often lead into them. Because of the lack of any illumination, they will often have enemy mobs like skeletons, zombies, spiders and etc.

One should never go into a cavern without a good supply of any lighting and weapons. Leave all your valuables back in a safe place on the surface. But if these valuables are from the cavern itself, make sure to have a chest to put them in.

Caverns are huge and can have numerous intersecting tunnels, making them easy to get lost in. Getting lost in a cavern can be very dangerous, since getting lost in a cavern for too long may easily drain your food supply and weapon and armor durability, leaving you hungry and vulnerable to attacks, that can cause your death.

Finding caverns[edit | edit source]

There are a number of ways to find caverns. Below is a table, designed to make cavern-hunting easier.

Method Details
Exploring Surface By exploring the surface of the map, there is a good chance that an exposed cavern can be found.
Digging Digging around might uncover caverns, but it is not easy as the map is (very) large. Choosing a random location and digging a tunnel straight down will intersect a cave system roughly half the time. A diagonal tunnel (downward staircase) takes 3 times as long to dig, but is much safer and can be traversed both ways. Make sure to look out for dripping water or lava above you as it hints at a lake or pool of lava. You can also find caves by quarrying on layer 12 and have your exploration much more profitable rather than only having cut through ore veins that contain less. Quarrying on layer 12 can get you diamonds and lava pools, as well.
Listening By following the source of ambience, or the sound of mobs coming from underground, there is a great chance to find a cavern. It's also useful to follow sound of water. Lava makes a sound as well, which can be useful in finding diamonds, since lava and diamonds can be found in the same layers underground.
Piston Dig down, place a piston and power it. Since pistons don't extend if there are 13+ blocks ahead of them, you can use pistons to find caves.
The Nether Traveling to The Nether, going down roughly 20-30 blocks, along by at least 16 blocks (43 blocks for the Console Edition), and creating a new portal will likely cause the new Overworld portal to spawn in a cavern since a portal is spawned in the nearest suitable space for the portal.
Cartographer Use 3rd party software (such as Cartograph) to make maps of caves. This can easily lead the player to Dungeons or Caverns.
X-Ray Glitch Dig a 2 block wide, two block deep hole into the ground or 2 blocks into a wall. Place two Fences on top of each other in the hole. Dropping into the hole, move as close to the fence posts as possible. Right-click on the bottom fence with a Block of Redstone to place it in the space opposite the fence; repeat with the top fence. Walk fully into the redstone blocks, and the majority of the world, aside from the fence posts, will X-Ray so that you can see any caverns below.

A similar approach is to place a minecart on rails, with a redstone block directly above it, and get into the minecart.

This also works with glowstone or TNT in place of redstone.

Tree Glitch Dig a one-block square hole, two-blocks deep, with dirt at the bottom. Plant a sapling in the hole, stand on a block immediately adjacent to the opening, and use bone meal on the sapling until it becomes a full-fledged tree. By doing this, a block of leaves will appear in the same space occupied by your head, allowing you to see through the block textures of the world and into the ground below where you will find any caves or lava lakes. This only works on "fast" graphics setting and only if the tree has enough space to spawn. Rarely, using this trick will cause the tree to spawn a wood block branching off from the main trunk in the same space occupied by your head, instead of a block of leaves. In the event this happens, the player will take suffocation damage and quickly die, losing all of their things, unless they break the wood block with an axe. No other escape is possible, as the block must be broken quickly enough before death and the player cannot walk out of the block.

Recommendations[edit | edit source]

These are some of the recommended items you should bring with you into caverns.

  • Weapons - Because of a cavern's low light level, mobs such as zombies, spiders, skeletons, and possibly other aggressive mobs will spawn on the dark areas of the cave, making exploration dangerous. It is recommended the player brings weapons such as swords, or bows and arrows to fight off said mobs.
  • Armor - As said before, lots of mobs spawn in caverns because of the low light level. Armor may be needed when exploring caverns, so as to give the player better protection against mobs. Armors can also be enchanted to have Fire Protection (for lava and burning), Projectile Protection (for skeleton's arrows), Feather Falling (for falling from a too high place), and etc.
  • Tools - Because of caverns being found at stone level, lots of ores such as iron, coal, gold, redstone, lapis lazuli, or on rare occasions, diamonds or emeralds, so it is recommended you bring pickaxes along with you to mine ores. Shears are also recommended, it is if you run into cobwebs.
  • Lighting - Caverns can be and will be very dark. Be sure to bring along any source of illumination, such as glowstone, torches, or jack o'lanterns, not only for aiding in exploration, but also to reduce the amount of mobs spawning.
  • Food - Cavern exploration may take quite a long time, draining your hunger. Also with mobs spawning, and the fact that you can get lost may further help drain your hunger. Bring high-saturated food such as cooked porkchop and cooked salmon. Cakes may bring up much hunger points, but will drain more easily.
    • Optionally, any golden food, for instance, a golden apple, can give you status effects that can aid your survival, like regeneration and absorption.
    • Optionally, a fishing rod, for fishing. Water can be found in caves, so it may not be much of a bother. However, it may take quite a while to catch a fish, and may take a while to catch a fish that is edible.
    • Optionally, a bucket of milk can help remove any status effects inflicted on you, especially by cave spiders.
    • If the player runs out of food, and gets lost, they can kill zombies, and use rotten flesh as an alternative. Although it can give the player food poisoning, it will still keep up the player's hunger bar.
  • Wood - In the case of emergencies, for instance, running out of torches, chests, or simply any other optional blocks that may aid your exploration, bringing in stacks of wood can help aid your survival.
    • The most usual occurrence of needing to use wood is to craft more torches, in the case of having a low supply of them later on. It is advised to not turn all of your wood into wooden planks, and then all of those into sticks, because it may take up much of your inventory space. Only craft a few wood into planks, and a few of those into sticks. Then, along with coal, you can craft it into torches.
  • Others - other items and blocks can help you aid survival, and reach any exploration goals.
    • Water Bucket - This is useful for turning lava into obsidian, allowing it to be safely walked on, or mined (there can still be lava below it though. Keep the water flowing). This also useful for putting yourself out of fire.
    • Blocks - A few stacks of cheap blocks, for instance, dirt or cobblestone, can help reach certain places of the caves.

Navigating and surviving caverns[edit | edit source]

  • It is surprisingly easy to get lost in caverns. Below are a number of methods you can implement while exploring to prevent this, especially trail markers. The Navigation tutorial has much more information about markers and other navigation methods. (Summary: Torches, wool, signs, blocks and arrows made from them, and especially jack-o-lanterns.)
  • One fairly easy marker method is the "torch on the right" rule. While exploring a cave simply place torches on the right side of the wall as you go deeper in. This way, no matter how complicated and even intertwined the caves get, you can always find your way back because if the torch is on the left of a cave wall, that means you're heading towards the exit. Conversely, if it's on the right, it means you're heading deeper in.
  • While it will not help you in navigating the cave itself, it may be wise to bring a map with you into a large cave, should you get lost and need to dig your way out. Note that most caves occupy less area horizontally than they might seem, but interconnected caves and abandoned mineshafts can sprawl over huge distances. You might well map some new surface as you explore underground, but the cave itself will not be mapped.
  • An important tip to remember in caves is to always look around, especially upwards. One of the most common sources of mobs within previously explored caves is unnoticed openings in the ceiling or walls. If you're in a ravine, watch out for monsters falling off of high ledges!
  • A good mining practice is to fully explore and light a cave system before beginning to mine out any resources. It is extremely dangerous to stop and mine in a dark cave, where you can lose your loot if you are killed. Check for "broken bridges" such as gravel masses or 2-block drops. If monsters can come out of them, you may want to change that; once safety is verified, you can save the blocked-off areas for later.
  • As part of exploration, "clean up" the area, taking off leftover blocks, filling small pits, and generally smoothing things out. In abandoned mineshafts, you can clear out most of the fence-and-plank "supports" as you "claim" an area. This will use a lot of axes, but it will improve both visibility and mobility, cutting down on unpleasant surprises. (Notably, those fences provide better cover for creepers than they do for you!)
  • To reach ores or tunnels high on the ceiling, try pillar jumping to gain altitude or use ladders by placing new ones as you climb. You can also build bridges across ravines and pits.
  • Water coming down from above is especially troublesome, as it can carry monsters down from a whole chain of darkened caverns.
    • It's a good idea to swim upwards and light the path of the flow.
    • Most water flows can be captured at the source with a bucket; if that doesn't work out, they can be contained with fences or blocks. Either way, be aware of areas where the water flow formerly blocked monsters! Some flows may be useful to keep for travel—you can swim up or down waterfalls to traverse high cliffs. With a little care, you can swim along the outside of the waterfall, which lets you keep breathing normally.
    • Some water flows come from openings in the seafloor. With care (and perhaps a door or some ladders), you can swim up these and mark the entrance with a jack-o-lantern, which will generally be visible from the sea surface. Such openings are also a quick way to get back to the surface if you've gotten lost. With a bit more effort, you can seal the opening altogether, perhaps leaving a shaft with ladders for your own use. (Remember that ladders and signs block water.)
      • In addition, one can create easy access from the cave to the ocean surface by making a pillar of sugar cane. This will provide a fast, breathable path in both directions. This method can be used for both entering and exiting caves.
  • Lava flows and pools can also block your passage as well as the monsters'. Like water, lava flows can be bucketed if you can reach the source, or contained with blocks otherwise. Lava pools can be flooded to convert them to obsidian. Again, be aware of areas where monsters were blocked by the lava. Also, remember to re-light the area after removing that brightly glowing lava.
  • When in mob fights, be careful of lava as mobs could nudge you or you might walk into lava by accident and lose all your stuff.
  • When finished exploring a cave, you can make your own exit—just dig upwards to the surface in a staircase fashion, watching for drips. You can also dig directly upwards, however, be careful when doing so, as it can cause suffocation.
  • When digging a staircase out of a cave, it can be useful to check your map to figure out where you will, or want to, emerge. Coming out into the seabed can be tricky, especially if your torches get washed away. Put your torches 3 blocks up instead of 2 or 1 to avoid "wash-outs" (specifically: high enough that the air 1 block above the next higher stair isn't beside the torch).