Egyptian crisis thwarts inventor Ng Tze-chuen's pyramid robot mission

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 15 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 September, 2013, 12:49am

The political crisis in Egypt has put on hold a plan to unlock the secret of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

A key player in the elaborate project, Hong Kong dentist and inventor Dr Ng Tze-chuen, is holding out for the end of the trouble and the realisation of a longstanding dream.

"I've been working on this for 11 years, even longer than Howard Carter, who discovered King Tutankhamun. We deserve to unlock the mystery of the second door," Ng says.

Mystery has surrounded the pyramid since British engineer Waynman Dixon discovered two small tunnels - a northern one and a southern one - in 1872. In 1993 a German engineer sent a small robot up the southern tunnel and discovered a door. Nine years later, another robot was sent in and discovered a secret chamber behind the first door. Ng was watching the National Geographic live broadcast and it caught his imagination.

He badgered the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities until put in charge of pulling together a team for the project.

It's been a long journey. In 2011 success was achieved with a robot called Djedi, which took photos of hieroglyphics inside the narrow tunnel.

The Djedi project was put on hold by the revolution. Ng says a new robot is ready to go and is waiting for the country to stabilise so a licence for the work can be granted.

"This British-made robot is the best," says Ng. "It won't scratch the walls like a German robot did and a very special feature is that it can split into two parts so that it can turn corners. And they've got all the drills so that they can go through the door." The ability to navigate corners will be especially useful in the northern shaft where the gallery necessitates a bend.

The project has been on hold for two years and Ng expects it will be another two before they get the go-ahead.