Friday, July 21, 2006

U of M East Bank Storm Drains


Location: East Bank of Mississippi River, near the Washington Ave. Bridge
Crew: Cheese, Deadhead Bob, Rataphobe, & Spaz
Mission Time: 1 hrs
Difficulty: Easy.

We wanted to meet at 1:00, but it turned out we didn't leave my place until past 3:00. Rataphobe, the newest member of the crew, slept through his alarm (which turned out to be "in his head"), and then got lost on his way over! Eventually though, the four of us got on our bikes, and road over to campus, where we locked up our bikes near the river bank. On the way to the storm drain outfall, we passed the blocked steam tunnel entrance. We were going to give it another look, but someone was catching zzz's in it this time.
Minutes later, we were crawling through the spider tunnel. "Why?" Quite simply, to see what was in the other side.
We made our way down the concrete tunnel keeping our feet dry by straddling the trickle of water flowing down the center. That was, at least until we reached the half way point, there water flowed down a mini water fall from a pipe above (there was also a drop shaft on the left with about a foot deep pool beneath it), and a damn of debris trapped enough red, rust colored silt on the on the other side, to make a several inch deep mess. Some us changed in to sandals at this point, some kept their boots on, while the rest went bare-foot.

Looking down the tunnel. The floor is covered in some very wet sand, but easy to walk on.

Soon the floor became covered in pebbles, and we could see a wall blocking our tunnel. To the left was another dropshaft.

The End. The drop shaft of The Cess Pool of Death is just out of sight, to the left.

The glowing Cess Pool of Death (illuminated by my head lamp).

That was pretty much it. On the way back we noticed a few things we had not seen on the way in. First was a metal grate in the ceiling near the half way point, and just above us, what looked like a steam tunnel, running perpendicular to our drain. It wouldn't budge for us. The next was a similar hatch in the roof, but this one was a solid sheet of metal, which had been bolted in place, and then the nuts soddered. Bummer.

Left to right: Rataphobe, Deadhead Bob, & Cheese.

A very cool shot with the lights on.

Spider webs on the roof of the tunnel near the entrance.

I actually ended standing up right into this stuff when we climbed in. The webs got in my hair, and then I had spiders hanging in my face, crawling on my neck, oh it was fun!

At least I got some cool shots. We discussed biking down to Minnehaha, but our stomachs, wallets, and schedules dashed our hopes of exploring the Amphitheater Drain, at least for the day.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

U of M East Bank Storm Drains Recon


Location: East Bank of Mississippi River, near the Washington Ave. Bridge
Crew: Spaz (me)
Mission Time: 1/2 hrs
Difficulty: Easy

I happened to find myself biking down the river road this morning when I remembered seeing something on some person's web page late one night, about a tunnel entrance on the opposite bank, near where I was. I spotted not one, but two concrete structures on the far bank, and having nothing but time to kill, decided to check them out.
I crossed back over the river, through the university, and locked my bike up down by the long stairs from Coffman. From there, I hiked along a foot trail beneath the cliffs.
The first structure was just a concrete tunnel leading back into the river bank. A sign near the entrance warned of high pressure steam and CCTV surveillance cameras. S
surveillance cameras, yah right.

The mouth of the tunnel was blocked by a iron gate. There was no way this was gonna budge

A look through the gate, and down into what becomes a sandstone tunnel. Beyond the darkness, the lower level U of M East Bank Steam Tunnels.

Defeated, I decided to move on to my next objective.

Looking back across the river at the Washington Ave. Bridge from the blocked steam tunnel entrance.

A few minutes later, I was looking down at the other structure that I had seen from across the Mississippi. It looked like the entrance to a bunker. I walked up to the door, to see if there was a way to open it. Unfortunately, the door was barred, by three bars of iron, bolted across the heavy door, but
where there is a will, there is a way

The entrance to what ever is on the other side was barred shut. No one has gone through there for years.

A very large spider sits in the middle of its web near the door, only a taste of what is to come.

There is always another way in, especially in Urban Exploring, and what you seek might be closer that you think. That is what I did, I stopped to think... and listen. Soon I was ducking through a cement culvert beneath "the bunker", waving my spider wand (a stick I used to clear the nearly solid masses of sizeable spiders and cobwebs) in front of me as I went.
A few yards in, I arrived at a spot where a metal grate that would have welcomed people entering through the door, had been broken down (not an easy task), to provide access up in to the tunnel.

Water flows through the drain from campus above, through the tunnel, and into the river.

Standing up through the grate, and looking in to the still blackness beyond. This is as far as I got.

Lacking flashlights and backup, I didn't go any further in, so I went and ate breakfast/lunch at Coffamn, but will return soon. It is possible that this storm drain tunnel links to the U of M Steam Tunnels further back.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Return to the Nicollet Island Utility Tunnels (Satan's Cave)


Location: Nicollet Island
Crew: Cheese & Spaz
Mission Time
: 2 hrs (underground)
Difficulty: Moderate-Easy
After an unsuccessful attempt to make a return trip several weeks ago (in which incompetence on the part of all involved caused us to believe that we were trapped beneath the manhole through which we entered the tunnels), Cheese and I returned for a more thorough exploration of the complicated tunnel network (as that is what it was revealed to be).
Unlike in our previous expedition, we took time to explore many of the side caves (due in part to the fact that dry weather made their exploration possible without walking in several inches of mud), leading off from the main brick tunnels. Most were dead ends, or were blocked by sand, but more led into other small caves. We also realized that the main brick tunnel snakes all over the island. At one point, we found a manhole leading to the surface above with climbable rungs. It turned out that it surfaces right in front of someone's front yard!

This large sanitary sewer pipe crosses one of the first side tunnels we encountered after our decent. The iron panel is, in fact, a door that opens inwards to provide access, as we found later...

A more typical side tunnel for the first section of brick tunnel.

Pipes and hoses protruding from the water pipe that runs the length of the tunnel, into a hole in the wall.

Interesting drip-formations beneath a rung less manhole shaft.

We proceeded down the brick tunnel, and to the small hole in its side that leads to the first cave.

Cheese crawling through a side tunnel that opens up into the first cave.

The sand stone in this section was eroded up into the cave's limestone ceiling.

We made our way through the first cave more slowly than in our first visit, when we believed it to be the actual Satan's Cave, and were expecting to stumble upon the shrine, just around the next turn,

Cheese, about to climb down into the first cave.

On each side of the first cave is an entrance to a sandstone tunnel. I don't know where either lead, and will need to check them out when we return.

An entrance to tunnel that crosses the cave.

The tunnel continues on the other side.

A look at the roof of the cave, and what could come crashing down on us (however unlikely that would be).

"Dragons ^"

We continued on, back into the brick tunnel, passing by Satan's Cave for the moment to have a look at where else it goes under the island. We explored many sandstone side tunnels that at times became quite small. They connected to each other, and back into the brick tunnel in several places.

Another sewer pipe, very similar to the one in the first side tunnel, maybe another part of it. Note the open iron door in the brick-work.

"mommy, what does raw sewage look like?"...

Time waits for no man, and we were running short, so we decided that we had better check out Satan's Cave and the shrine before we had to leave.

graffiti on the wall, next to where we dropped in from the brick tunnel.

Looking back, in the opposite direction of the shrine. Barely visible to the right is the part of the cave that leads back the the drop-point.

An evil smiley carved into the sandstone near the shrine.

Another demon face.

This wax (actually, I think it is plastic) head sits in an alcove carved into the cave wall, and is probably the creepiest thing down there.

Another shot of Wax Head (and yes that is a proper noun now).

Cheese brought his Zippo down with us this time in hopes of lighting the numerous candles, but most had already been burned down to nothing. Note to self: Bring new candles.

Does anyone know Russian? What does the flag on the shrine say?

The shrine, with the one candle we managed to light.

Cheese poses with his Zippo.

About a minute of video from Satan's Cave.

More graffiti. Any NOFX fans out there?

"The Earth keeps some vibration going there in your heart, and that is you, and if the people find you can fiddle, then fiddle you must, for all your life."

"The world was not given to us by our parents, but loaned to us by our children" (actually a Kenyan proverb)

We eventually decided that it was time to leave, and headed back to the drop-point, facing a challenging climb out. On the way, I spotted a small sand stone tunnel, just large enough to crawl through. I had heard that there was a crawl tunnel that led from the cave, back up to the brick tunnel, and figured that this must be it. It followed a slight incline for several yards, before emerging back into the brick tunnel, just feet from the drop-point. I highly recommend this path as an alternative to the drop.

Cheese, about to start making his way through the crawl tunnel.

So yah, we came, we saw, we kicked some cave ass, and we will be back. We aren't finished with Satan's Cave yet.

Looking back down at Cheese again, as I climb back up the manhole shaft to the surface.