Home > Other > Urban spelunking – “The Big Thing Here Is Not To Get Killed”

Urban spelunking – “The Big Thing Here Is Not To Get Killed”

Jacki Lyden of NPR has written an article about an urban explorer named Steve Duncan who spends his nights exploring the hidden places of cities.  Subways and Sewers in New York are the main focus Jacki’s article but Mr. Duncan explores just about anywhere that is old, hidden, and generally illegal to access. You can view his exploits on his web site, undercity.org, with many videos and pictures of his adventures.

It’s a shame that the authorities, especially in a post September 11th world, make accessing these areas so difficult.  I imagine there would be quite a market for tours of such areas.  I know I’d pay good money to ride my bike though the Downtown Seattle Bus tunnel late at night, even though I can already legally drive a bus through it for work.  What kind of things would you pay money to do that currently would be labeled as trespassing?  Climb the staircase at the Space Needle?  Admire the view from the roof of the Columbia center?  Ride a mountain bike through the BNSF freight tunnel under Seattle?  I’m not willing to risk injury or arrest to do such things, but I’d be first in line to pay for a sanctioned tour.  Revenue stream anyone?

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  1. Andreas
    January 3, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Back in 2006 there were some rumblings of trying to start an underground tour of the counterbalance tunnel in Queen Anne. Ever since reading about it, I’ve been tempted to find the entrance and explore it on my own, and since the official tour seems dead in the water, that might be the only way I’d ever see it.

    SDOT lets the public walk on the viaduct when they close it for seismic inspections, which I think is a great educational and public-relations move that other agencies would do well to follow. For example, each of Seattle’s giant, cavernous, underground reservoirs is periodically drained to be inspected and cleaned. West Seattle Blog shot some video when they were allowed down into the new Beacon Hill Reservoir before it was filled, and that thing looks freaking amazing. Allowing the public down there during routine drainages would be a great opportunity to teach the public (or kids on a field trip?) about the municipal water supply.

    And once a year the Army Corps of Engineers de-waters to Ballard Locks to scrape out all the barnacles. Supposedly volunteers do the scraping, and I would love to get on that list—though I hope they supply noseplugs.

    Other spots that have always intrigued me in the city: bell towers (churches, Denny Hall); water towers; construction cranes (going up UW’s Canopy Crane is a favorite memory from college); the floating-bridge pontoons; radio/tv/high-voltage towers. Oh, and walking the cables on a suspension bridge like the Narrows has always been a dream, though I imagine I would be completely freaked out the whole time.

    • Andreas
      January 3, 2011 at 12:07 pm

      (Minor correction: the Viaduct is a state route, so it would be WSDOT, not SDOT, that allows the public on for tours.)

  2. January 3, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    UW’s steam tunnels.

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