In underground tunnels or caverns, time-dependent deformation or failure of rock mass, such as extending cracks, gradual rock falls, etc
., are a costly irritant and a major safety concern if the time-dependent damage of surrounding rock is serious. To understand the damage evolution of rock mass in underground engineering, an in situ
experimental testing was carried out in a large belowground tunnel with a scale of 28.5 m in width, 21 m in height and 352 m in length. The time-dependent damage of rock mass was detected in succession by an ultrasonic wave test after excavation. The testing results showed that the time-dependent damage of rock mass could last a long time, i.e.
, nearly 30 days. Regression analysis of damage factors defined by wave velocity, resulted in the time-dependent evolutional damage equation of rock mass, which corresponded with logarithmic format. A damage viscoelastic-plastic model was developed to describe the exposed time-dependent deterioration of rock mass by field test, such as convergence of time-dependent damage, deterioration of elastic modules and logarithmic format of damage factor. Furthermore, the remedial measures for damaged surrounding rock were discussed based on the measured results and the conception of damage compensation, which provides new clues for underground engineering design.