Tunnelling guide

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The following is a guide to spelunking in the Columbia tunnels.

Getting ready

Any potential tunneler needs a few things before setting out. While venturing into the tunnels isn't exactly trekking across the Himalayas, you do still need to be prepared for a successful trip.

  • Wear comfortable and durable shoes. You may come across a lot of awkward footing like thick pipes, metal grates, and deep puddles.
  • Dress lightly. No matter how cold it is outside, the tunnels are always warm.
  • Bring a flashlight. Some tunnels are well-lit, others (especially the older and more interesting ones) are not. Carry along a sturdy flashlight with a full battery.
  • Bring friends. Entering the tunnels alone is like going to the prom with your Game Boy. Also, bringing people will probably ensure that, if you slip and fall, you won't just lie there for weeks, rotting.
  • Having a camera on hand will help document all the cool stuff you'll encounter.

Once you're down there

There is lots of information of WikiCU that will help you explore the tunnels. But this information is not a substitute for the actual experiences you'll have. Be adventurous, but be cautious.

  • Explore every nook and cranny. There is far more to be seen in the tunnels than we could ever express on a map, and every expedition finds something new and interesting.
  • Keep track of where you are, where you're going, and how to get out.
  • Leave your mark. Much of the character of the tunnels comes from messages that previous explorers have written on the walls. At the same time, please try to limit graffiti to specific locations that have already been tagged by other people, since Columbia may not be aware that we tunnelers have access to certain active areas like the New Powerhouse. Don't tip them off by being the first idiot to graffiti up a place where people work every day and will definitely see it. However, most tunnelers agree that explorers' graffiti can be a good thing as long as it isn't overly destructive and doesn't piss off Columbia. Employ your best judgment. Also, try to use a permanent marker rather than messy spray paint or a chisel.
  • If something looks hot, electric, or has a warning sign on it, don't touch it. Many of the tunnels contain functioning steam pipes, live wires, and other scary things that should be avoided. However, if you find radioactive material, that is totally cool and it may provide you with superpowers. Go nuts.
  • A lot of the ladders are old and crumbling, and some of the stairs are narrow and steep. Be careful.
  • Watch for doors that might lock behind you. When using an unfamiliar door, prop it open to ensure that you can get back where you came from. Always remember to remove your door jambs later, or these will be a sure sign that somebody was trespassing down there the night before.

How not to get caught

Columbia seems quite aware that students have a knowledge of the tunnels and frequently explore them as a pastime. The powers that be could very easily padlock all the entry points and only give access to people who need to work down there. But they haven't. We believe that, though Columbia doesn't endorse exploration of the tunnels, they seem to willing to look the other way as long as there is no harm done.

At the same time, maintenance workers do have to keep the place running, and they sometimes don't appreciate bewildered liberal arts majors wandering into their workplace. This is understandable, as liberal arts majors don't belong anywhere near a workplace of any kind. If a janitor, technician, or other worker spots you in the tunnels, he may care and he may not. It's best just to avoid this situation. Many tunnelers have gone years without bumping into a single worker.

  • To have the most freedom to explore the things that you want, ignore the possible negative consequences and tunnel during maintenance's working hours. Maintenance leaves many more things open during their working hours. The Schapiro power house, for instance, is much easier to access during these times (though you may sometimes find an entryway propped open after hours if you look hard enough).
  • If you hear workers down there in the middle of the night, try again at a different time. When maintenance men are in the tunnels at all hours of the night, there is probably some sort of urgent reason for them to be there.
  • Don't break anything, don't flip any the circuit breakers, don't fuck with the elevator systems. Just don't do anything stupid or destructive that would make your presence known. Just be aware that Columbia, like any other entity, doesn't take kindly to "breaking and entering".
  • Know the fastest exit route in case you have to make a break for it. Most tunnels have an abundance of exits, save for a few. You will slowly be aware of more entrance and exit points as you gain experience in the tunnels.
  • In general, a good rule of thumb is to keep moving. If you leave the subterranean steam/coal/abandoned tunnels and go up into the more readily accessible service tunnels you may trip an alarm by opening and closing a door. If you do set off an alarm, campus security from Low Library will usually respond, however it usually takes them at least 20 minutes to figure out where the alarm was tripped and to get there. If you keep moving (walking to different regions and not staying in one place) they will usually get there after you leave and usually won't bother to investigate it further or search you out (depending on where you are of course).

When you're done

Tell us about anything interesting that happened!