am a bit sad to say that Action
Squad has most likely hit our underground peak (as oxymoronic
as that may sound) with the Saint Paul Labyrinth. It's simply
difficult for me to believe that any tunnel system we explore
in the future will ever be as awesome as this system is. Why?
Because the Labyrinth is un-fuckin-believable. How's that for
fine, let me try out a somewhat more detailed response.
to begin? Allow me to ramble a bit
distinct yet interconnecting, tunnel systems. A stunning variety
of architecture, with each system featuring several unique
styles. Well over 15 miles of multi-level, interconnecting
tunnels. Multiple manmade caves, and lost levels of long-demolished
buildings. An almost perfect absence of graffiti, explained
by the lack of access points achievable by anyone but truly
Labyrinth has been the most rewarding site Action Squad has
ever explored. We've wiggled through holes too small to crawl
in, and we've dangled from ropes in 60-foot voids. We've faced
seething walls of cockroaches, been charged by sewer rats,
and been dive-bombed by tunnel pigeons. We've constructed
ladders up and dropped rope ladders down vertical shafts.
We've spent hours digging tunnels through solid sandstone
using butter knives and other primitive tools to bypass barriers
that stood in the way of our exploration.
rappelled down an abandoned 5-story freight elevator shaft.
We've soaked our feet with sewage, choked our lungs with powdered
bird shit and dust, and filled our clothing with fine sand.
We've exited in the pre-dawn hours from a manhole in the middle
of a downtown intersection. We've exclaimed dozens of variations
on the theme of "holy fucking shit!", as we found
still more amazing places to explore after thinking we'd already
seen it all.
we love that place.
Squad has launched dozens of missions into the Labyrinth in
2001 and 2002, often entering at dusk and not leaving until
dawn. We've never seen another soul down there: the system
has been our private exploring paradise. The little graffiti
that one can find is almost all left by tunnel workers: much
dates back to the 1940's and 1950's, with a couple notable
sandstone carvings dating back to the infancy of the Labyrinth
in the 1800's.
when we'd only discovered two of the many tunnel and cave
systems, Slim Jim Hollison (the official Action Squad cartographer)
was already pointing out that the infamous "catacombs"
of Paris are vastly inferior to the Labyrinth, in terms of
the sheer diversity of interconnected tunnel types. (Obviously,
they kick the Labyrinth's butt in terms of human remains and
history, but hey, we're in America here, buddy.)
recall that the repeated Slim Jim refrain as we explored the
Telephone Tunnels was "This is totally Paris style!"
It became kind of a running joke with the rest of us; "hey,
this (random silly object) is sooo Paris style!" However,
once we got into a different section of the tunnels and connected
to a whole new system, we were all amazed to hear Jim say,
"Holy shit! This is way cooler than anything in Paris!"
from a guy who absolutely loves the Paris underground, and
has spent weeks over there exploring and mapping the extensive
underground quarries of the region. Not too shabby!
to be honest, I don't really know or give a shit about how
the Labyrinth compares with other underground systems around
the world. All that matters is that the place is plenty amazing
for me and for the rest of the Action Squad. I suspect it
would be enough to wow any urban explorer, even those guys
with the silly accents from France. I treasure the memories
of the days and nights we've spent exploring it, and I'm proud
that Action Squad had the opportunity to play a pioneering
role in its comprehensive exploration.