Late last night, NinjaKlutz and I finally made our way over to the Burrow of the Beast. It's an oldie, but a goodie. I expect many of us have seen these same pictures many times before, but I hope you like my take on them anyway.
It would have been nice to have a proper light source, a tripod, and something other than a point-and-click digital, but complaints aside, I am happy with the way some of these shots turned out.
NinjaKlutz and I arranged to meet at 2:30am at the cul-de-sac. The outfall is not a possibility for the next few months (unless you go in during the day) due to tides, so the cul-de-sac provides a good isolated, yet traffic-noisy entrance.
We got the manhole open and scrambled our way down. It took a bit for us to get the cover back on once we were inside (cursed little notch!), but we finally got it. Personally, this is as far as I had made it before. Last spring, I had gotten that far too by myself one night, but after seeing the six foot drop into the main drain, I wasn't convinced that I could make it out alone once I dropped in. I had to turn around last spring, but this time, I came armed with a Ninja and a twelve foot stretch of rope that I wrapped around my waist as a belt to prevent suspicion.
I was glad for thinking ahead since it proved helpful for getting in and necessary for getting out later. Dropping down from the street access, we were both surprised to see a teardrop tunnel that stretched as far as our lights could shine in both directions.
We knew we wanted to head towards the outfall first, so we followed the water.
We were both impressed by the size of the drain. Walking took some getting used to thanks to that stupid missing-brick-gutter down the middle of the floor. You either have to straddle it (which is nearly impossible without slipping) or you need to pick a creative foot positioning that spans your boot perpendicular to the trough. I elected to walk a weird sidestep with both my feet pointing 45 degrees to the left.
The water ripples beautifully around your boots when you stop walking. I guess NinjaKlutz didn't mind getting his feet wet; my gumboots didn't look so soggy.
After a little bit, we started to hear water rushing. Having seen the pictures before, I knew what was coming. We came across this large set of steps.
The steps not only take the drain to a different elevation, but they act as a water brake to slow down the water - especially during heavy rain. The water flows back and forth from one granite block to the next, slowing down every time it makes the ninety degree turn.
We kept going towards the outfall and came across another set of steps, arguably more beautiful than the first.
I lucked out and got a picture of NinjaKlutz taking a picture of me. His picture must look the same but with me lower.
I didn't think we would make it all the way to the outfall since the tide was high and still had another ten centimetres to rise. We got as far as we could before the water got deep and turned around to head back to our rope and head on in the other direction.
Traveling now in the direction away from the outfall, we kept opening up into various manhole access shafts.
As you can see, some of them are made of concrete and feel much newer. The ladder rungs aren't too rusted and are big enough to fit two boots or two hands at the same time. Others are much older. The rungs are spaced farther apart.
The brickwork has aged with ornate colouring on many of the older access shafts.
The rungs in these older shafts are full of rust and could easily cut your hands.
As we sludged our way onward, we found this root system that found its way down to a good water source. It's amazing how once the roots get into the main drain, they just spread out and cover the entire wall.
A little later, we saw a smaller root system hanging off the ceiling like tendrils.
It's no wonder the roots like that area - with all the water and all. There were spots where the ceiling was covered with droplets of water. It was nice of them to stay where they were and not to drop on us as we were exploring.
Despite all the moisture, I was surprised by how little organic material was down there. The notable exception of course was the Vomit of the Beast.
Organic and rust and water, oh my!
This drain, in the direction away from the outfall, is relatively featureless. It doesn't have the beautiful steps of the Burrow. The most photogenic features seem to be the different side drains that feed into the main drain.
As it got closer to dawn, the outside air cooling down produced some fog in the moisture-filled drain. We started to see the beams of our flashlights and headlamps. Every time we used our flash, we would pick up the fog with the bright light. Some of the pictures have a real ghostly feel to them - will-o'-the-wisps playing tag with the light.
A few times, I let NinjaKlutz get far enough away from me that I could get a picture of him and his light source in the distance. Sometimes, it felt like an afterlife experience.
Other times, I felt like Wile E. Coyote chasing Road Runner into a train tunnel.
Three hours underground, we made our way back to the exit. Glad to have tied the rope, we climbed up and out.