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.

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