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February 25, 2006 3:27 AM   Subscribe

Secret tunnels may give any Tom, Dick, and Harry a way out in the movies, but Hollywood only scrapes the surface of serious pick and shovel work throughout history. The lure of freedom, overconfidence, or sheer persistence — combined with much ingenuity — has empowered good and evil schemes alike. Some hidey holes are mysterious and some are uncovered, but it's always a tough job for tunnel rats to keep the bad guys from digging in.
posted by cenoxo (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, took ages to get through all of that. The bit about the Iraqi prison tunnel and riots was especially interesting.

One of the articles claims that we were able to detect a tunnel dug by North Korea that was 146 meters under the surface. That's darn near 500 feet, and yet we were still able to hear the sounds of digging.

Makes you wonder why they don't use the same kind of listening technology on the Mexican border... but then again, I suppose it's hard to hear tunnels that have already been dug. I wonder just how many there are?
posted by Malor at 6:18 AM on February 25, 2006

I've only looked at a few of the links so far, but thanks. Great Escape has been a favorite movie of mine since I was a kid, and ever since then I've been fascinated by tunnel rats. This will keep me occupied for a while.

The Vietcong's Cu Chi tunnels are discussed at great length in the book The Tunnels of Cu Chi . They had entire "cities" set up underground. They not only had hospitals, sleeping quarters, and storage facilities, but also factories and a theater. The book also details the US tunnels rats that explored these tunnels.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 6:20 AM on February 25, 2006

I want to heartily endorse that first link - the PBS show - it was an awesome documentary! They take the surviving prisoners back to the same place as archaeologists excavate the tunnel.
posted by ao4047 at 7:58 AM on February 25, 2006

I totally need my own batcave/secret underground headquarters. Thanks for the post!
posted by Balisong at 8:28 AM on February 25, 2006

Buy your own
via BoingBoing
posted by Aknaton at 8:47 AM on February 25, 2006

Funny, I loved The Great Escape but seeing Charles Bronson get buried in a cave-in cured any interest I had in becoming a tunnel rat.

But I love spelunking!
posted by fenriq at 8:59 AM on February 25, 2006

Yes, there are many creative uses of hidden tunnels and caves, even in Tennessee.
posted by dbiedny at 9:53 AM on February 25, 2006

True, dbiedny, and overconfidence (mixed with a little greed) can definitely collapse one's plans.
posted by cenoxo at 10:51 AM on February 25, 2006

Great Post. We go "sewerlunking" here in Austin once in a while (there's some old storm sewers that are walking height) and I understand it's popular in Manhattan as well. I'm also of a breed of caver known as "diggers." We've been known to dig at little holes trying to make big ones out of them for years at a stretch. Once in a while, it bears fruit. Natural Bridge Caverns was dug open in the early 60's.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:14 AM on February 25, 2006

Loved this post. "the Great Escape" was frequently shown as the Saturday afternoon movie when I was a kid. My Dad and I watched it together at least a dozen times.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:20 PM on February 25, 2006

Pretty damn cool. I'm fascinated by the differences and similarities between the Luft III tunnels and the Bucca tunnels. Like the way that the dirt disposal methods that worked in 1942 were detectable by satellite(!) in 2005.

Wasn't there a post a while back on MeFi about a guy in Seattle who built a giant bunker under his suburban house? And another about a network of tunnels dug by a commune in Spain over a span of several decades? I can't find either. :-/
posted by hattifattener at 1:22 PM on February 25, 2006

Cool FPP cenoxo, thank you. The whole topic of secret tunnels/rooms/hiding places interests me. I loved it in Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne digs his way out of Shawshank Prison. The pot factory in Tennessee was astonishing.

Aknaton, that is an amazing resource for building secret hiding places. wow.

How about this cute secret tunnel cake?
posted by nickyskye at 2:01 PM on February 25, 2006

More on the Marijuana Cave in Tennessee. You can also visit the Seattle Undergound, and go down under down under (bring me back a few of those sparklies, please.)
posted by cenoxo at 2:35 PM on February 25, 2006

Great post, thanks.
posted by firemouth at 2:54 PM on February 25, 2006

I dig this post, cenoxo - quite excellent links, thanks!
posted by madamjujujive at 4:26 PM on February 25, 2006

oooh cenoxo, I love opals! Cool Coober Pedy links.
posted by nickyskye at 4:50 PM on February 25, 2006

Ditto, great post. And...digging for beer bottles is a hobby? Like, a hobby that multiple people share? Huh. You learn somethin' every day.
posted by cribcage at 7:29 PM on February 25, 2006

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