|U of Minnesota West Bank Steam Tunnels|
| We had been into the East Bank steam tunnels for months before we realized, “hey, I bet the West Bank has some, too!” So we started looking for evidence of this, and for a way in. And eventually, we found one. Things started out great. We descended into a shallow-level tunnel, went about 20 feet, and descended again into the deep level tunnels, which were concrete and about 6 to 7 feet high. Shortly we came across a ladder which lead up to a big thick trapdoor on hydraulic hinges, which is something we’d never came across before. We of course went through it, and found ourselves in one of the weirdest places we’d seen. The room was huge, and had strange rough concrete walls. There were lights, and we were jumpy as hell, as we felt very exposed in the vast, open, and unknown space.
For a moment we entertained the notion that we were in some weird sub-river bunker, before realizing that the arched wall at the far side looked familiar: it was the river entrance to the new special collections underground book storage facility being built. In one corner of this space was a huge machine with tubes coming out of it everywhere like octopus tentacles, making weird gasping noises.
|We found a doorway out of the octopus room, and followed it into a series of hallways and stairways. Then we saw what looked like a skinny cat running from us around a corner, and tried to follow it, but we never saw it again. We found a multilevel area filled with empty bookshelves, and were just getting into what promised to be a very interesting part of the complex when we saw a flashlight beam bobbing toward us at the end of a long hallway. It was security doing a routine patrol of the half-finished structure. We took off, and silently made our way back to the trapdoor and went back down into the steam tunnels.|
| The tunnels were very different from the dirty, old, and eccentric East Bank steam tunnels: these were clean (swept, even!), uniform concrete. We moved all the way north to the dead end at the bridge, which is where we found the map, right at the very end of the tunnel. We turned around and I noticed a little light about mid-wall. We stood very still, and sure as shit, it turned off. It was a motion sensor, and a big, highly sensitive one unlike any I’d seen before. We speed walked away as I studied the map. We went past our point of entrance (over by the Washington Ave Bridge) and continued south to the first major right, toward Blegen Hall ...where we found another super motion sensor.
By then we’d become bored with the sanitary, uniform tunnels, and realized from the map that the system was essentially one long tunnel with a few dead end offshoots, which would make it very easy for someone alerted by the motion sensors to come down and catch us. So we found a shaft to a large surface vent cap (which are, we discovered, VERY hard to open from beneath, especially quietly) and headed to Perkins. The tunnels had been kind of a disappointment compared to the East Bank, but the book depository had been rad and we’d succeeded in our goal of conquering the West Bank tunnels. Not too shabby. I’d like to go back and poke around inside some of the older West Bank buildings sometime, although it seems that the tunnels do not link directly to many of them. We’ll see.