January 14, 2007 11:04 AM   Subscribe

What's behind Niagara Falls? Some dudes investigate.
posted by davebush (71 comments total) 111 users marked this as a favorite
(self-link) see also Toronto Power Company Tailrace, a trip made two years prior to the one in the FPP.
posted by kowalski at 11:20 AM on January 14, 2007 [4 favorites]

good stuff.
posted by empath at 11:26 AM on January 14, 2007

posted by Spacelegoman at 11:26 AM on January 14, 2007

Also, dsankt deserves more love than a forum link, so here's his website: Sleepy City. And the blokes he was with are Sub-Urban.
posted by kowalski at 11:28 AM on January 14, 2007

kowalski - thanks. I've just been investigating your site.

"popped the manhole open to figure out where we were - under a park near Carlton Street" - and a one minute drive from my house.
posted by davebush at 11:32 AM on January 14, 2007

Wow, that's a fucking fantastic story, from dodging the workers at the top all the way down. Thanks, davebush.
posted by mediareport at 11:33 AM on January 14, 2007

davebush: [Drainer's Catalogue] - a one minute drive from my house.

Amazing. That's a drain I've always meant to go back to. Definitely the most interesting actual storm drain I know of in the Niagara region. Even if some of the most interesting bits are also painful.
posted by kowalski at 11:40 AM on January 14, 2007

Is it just me, or does part of the cross-section diagram look like one of the drawings from the human biology section of the textbook?

And is this story really really real for sure?
posted by imperium at 11:50 AM on January 14, 2007

Awesome. And Kowalski, your shit is even awesomer.
posted by serazin at 11:52 AM on January 14, 2007

Pumped more than Mr Hands (google it)

protip: Don't
posted by atrazine at 11:53 AM on January 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

That's awesome!
posted by brundlefly at 11:54 AM on January 14, 2007

Imperium: It is really really real. For sure.
posted by kowalski at 11:54 AM on January 14, 2007

posted by mecran01 at 12:01 PM on January 14, 2007

Good god, how has this been kept from me?
posted by imperium at 12:02 PM on January 14, 2007

Best. Post. Evar.
posted by Ludi at 12:02 PM on January 14, 2007

Very cool. Some very nice photogrpahy there. I especially like the light-painting they did of the confluence.
posted by mds35 at 12:03 PM on January 14, 2007

Question for kowalski: Has anyone produced a feature-length film documentary on this subject of urban exploration?
posted by davebush at 12:11 PM on January 14, 2007

Way cool davebush. More storm drainage spelunking in Oz.
posted by nickyskye at 12:15 PM on January 14, 2007

This. Is. Good.
posted by jeremias at 12:18 PM on January 14, 2007

posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:22 PM on January 14, 2007

a feature-length film documentary on this subject of urban exploration?

good question; good idea.
posted by Miko at 12:24 PM on January 14, 2007

"The water pelted me from all sides stinging my naked torso. Gusts of furious wind battered me to and fro inside this elemental cauldron. I yelled in unashamed triumph from the depths of my chest for every drop of Niagara's sweet bukkake that stung my face and trickled down my cheeks."

This guy can paint a picture.
posted by anticlock at 12:29 PM on January 14, 2007


There was a short, five-episode series called "Urban Explorers" produced for Discovery Channel in the US and first aired in 2005 I think. It featured Steve Duncan along with a few other people that were chosen for their telepresence and climbing skils rather than prior experience with the subject, and visited a different U.S. city in each episode. It was flakey and annoying with occasional moments of interest, basically the urban exploration roadtrip equivalent (in style, attempted humour, etc.) of Mythbusters.

There is a documentary called Urban Explorers: Into the Darkness that is due to debut on the festival circuit any year now. You can view a trailer on the linked site.

A fantastic short art film composited nearly entirely from single-frame exposures was produced by Bryan Papciak called "Met State" (2001). It documented the abandoned Metropolitan State Hospital in the west suburbs of Boston (now under demolition) and was a selection at Sundance and several other festivals.
posted by kowalski at 12:35 PM on January 14, 2007

I am in awe, excellent post, thank you!
posted by hardcode at 12:37 PM on January 14, 2007

wowee that's coolness, thanks for both linkages
posted by Busithoth at 12:38 PM on January 14, 2007

"Into the Darkness" is exactly the type of film this subject deserves. I look forward to seeing it.

This is all quite fascinating and my hat's off to the explorers.
posted by davebush at 12:46 PM on January 14, 2007

Wicked davebush


Loved the photography. Makes me want to join them next excursion with a large format camera and blow up the negatives Large. The size of Edward Burtynky's work. ]under >Works>Breaking Ground>Nickel Tailings No.31, Sudbury ON.[

kowalski, I just loved your photos. Loved 'em. The Pines ]the pines, in the pines[ with the outside growing indoors to the splendor of Bennett College. Fucking awesome.

I've been downstairs of the Canada Malting, ages ago...with the underground railway. This before squatters etc were living there. I have shots of the old Cement silo at River and King before it got demolished. I was shooting outdoors and some kids asked if I wanted to go in. Sure. It was their "fort". Took some nice b&w's.

Your Crane shots are wonderful. That's why I secretly hope they never tear down the Gardiner Expressway, because late at night, sliding into downtown along there is the coolest on a summer night, with the city lights aglow sliding around the Skydome.....

sorry to hear about your soaker in St Kitts, nice of you to hang in. Dang./
posted by alicesshoe at 1:02 PM on January 14, 2007

Wow... if I was an eccentric philanthropist I'd give these guys a prize. Kudos to those who plumb the depths of places that others have no interest in, and bring back knowledge.
posted by rolypolyman at 1:10 PM on January 14, 2007

Incredible. Bra fucking vo.
posted by Flashman at 1:15 PM on January 14, 2007

Thanks for the link! I really enjoyed their story.
posted by ktoad at 1:17 PM on January 14, 2007


Being in a place like that would fill me with a type of terror and dread that I can barely even imagine. The pictures and descriptions make me shudder.

Those of you who go to places like this voluntarily are simply cut from a stronger kind of cloth than I.
posted by Ynoxas at 1:24 PM on January 14, 2007

I can't really speak for ds, JD or Stoop, but I can certainly say that donations from interested philanthropists are always welcome. I certainly have a lengthy list of places, equipment and publishing that can only be accomplished with windfall profits.
posted by kowalski at 1:24 PM on January 14, 2007

After Hurricane Wilma hit Key West October '05, the old power company was cracked opened. We explored, too. Same feeling. Utter reward. The presence of real magic still to be had on an island gone Disney. And we were there!
posted by mongonikol at 1:50 PM on January 14, 2007

This picture here reminds me of an H.R. Geiger painting I once saw.

Very good FPP overall, many kudos.
posted by Vicarious at 1:58 PM on January 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ah, "Sewerlunking," as it's called amongst cavers. I've done a little bit here in Austin, with one particular old brick stormwater tunnel leading from near town lake all the way to the university before it splits into smaller stoop-walking tunnels. You can scare the bejeesus out of college kids by yelling at them from the drain inlets along the curbs. Went up there on a group trip one time, where someone had set up a slide projector on Halloween, & saw the highly illicit slide of Floyd Collins himself, lying in state in the Crystal Palace. Also, the only other place on earth I've known subaqueous helictites to exist other than Lechugilla is in another large storm drain that runs under S. Congress avenue. I'd love to see something really big like those Niagra tunnels, though.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:58 PM on January 14, 2007 [3 favorites]

Woah! When I visited Niagara Falls a few years ago, I remember mentally tagging that power station as a place which might hypothetically be really cool to explore. Well, now I can. Thanks!
posted by honest knave at 2:37 PM on January 14, 2007

Nice, thanks!
posted by carter at 2:46 PM on January 14, 2007

...as in hypothetically, virtually. After reading the post, I have absolutely *no* intention to go down there. As dsankt notes, there is a conspicuous lack of savepoints in that place.
posted by honest knave at 2:47 PM on January 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

Very cool. I think I'll go watch Echoes of Forgotten Places, which has been sitting in the tv room since it arrived a few days ago.
posted by frykitty at 2:52 PM on January 14, 2007

loved it.
posted by vronsky at 3:15 PM on January 14, 2007

I was Milamber of the Assembly.

I'm speechless that he's referencing Raymond Feist. That's just weird.
posted by stavrogin at 3:37 PM on January 14, 2007

Great post, really fascinating!
I've done a tiny bit of urban underground exploration when I documented artist Zezão in action doing his thing in the sewers of São Paulo. One thing no image or web presentation can quite convey is the odour...[pardon self-links]
posted by ig at 3:56 PM on January 14, 2007

Watch out for grues.
posted by bardic at 4:10 PM on January 14, 2007

Fantastic! I've always figured there had to be some great tunnels under SP/Rio/BA and other Latin American cities. Your photos are my first indication that those weren't just idle daydreams. Congratulations on your work.
Dear philanthropists who saw my comment earlier, this is what I'm talking about!
posted by kowalski at 4:25 PM on January 14, 2007

Anyone know the follow-up on that very cool underground cinema found in France a couple years ago?
posted by davebush at 4:28 PM on January 14, 2007

Don't forget about the Cave Clan!
posted by tomble at 4:38 PM on January 14, 2007

thanks for the link, davebush - indeed a good find. And thank you, kowalski, for my new source of desktop images. I was about to ask you if you had explored any of T.O., but I see you have :)

Love the images from the FPP. Stunning stuff. Makes me wish I could do a little urban exploration right now. I did a little as a teen, but get the itch every once in a while, but sadly live in too small of a place and nothing worth exploring probably...
posted by rmm at 6:57 PM on January 14, 2007

Oops! Sorry, here's the Infiltration link.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 7:25 PM on January 14, 2007

Hey, WTF? I don't go and post picture of the insides of your houses online! I mean it's supposed to be a secret lair. Secret. Get it? Now I'm going to have all manner of people tramping around messing up my experiments.

Oh well, I guess I've just been putting off building the killer cybernetic watchdogs, and this is just the push I needed to get it done.

And yeah, I know the place is kinda messy. But I wasn't expecting company, so gimme a break.
posted by quin at 7:29 PM on January 14, 2007

rmm: There are definitely drains, bunkers, and assorted other interesting things in the Bay Area. Berkeley has a rather storied network of steam tunnels, and also nearby drains that have figured strongly in the life of certain subgroups of the student population. There are lots of derelict Navy and Air Force structures, diggings, missile and radar installations and land all along the coast. A large, mostly abandoned hospital complex. Factories, power stations, more drains, a train station, and undoubtedly more.

To all:
Never underestimate the capacity of the place where you live and the region around it to hold forgotten places, secret places, liminal spaces, hidden gems we drive by or walk over without ever becoming conscious of them. You don't need to travel to Niagara Falls or Chernobyl to find these sorts of places, they're alive in every city around the world. Now, where your city currently sits within cycles of boom and bust and global economic restructuring may affect what is there, what shape it's in, how easy it is to access and how much time you have before it's leveled or rearticulated into the local/global economy, but don't doubt for a second that there's something around the corner or an hour away from you that's worth the effort to see if you're the sort of person that's ready to make that effort and to manage the varying risks involved.

There may not be a tunnel burrowed under a river into the back of a mammoth waterfall, but everywhere there are glimmers of the sublime, shades of otherworldly beauty, markers of forces much greater than the minor powers we ourselves possess, fossils of ages and dreams our civilization has left behind. Open your eyes, throw away your inhibitions, bare your heart, scrabble around in dirt and brush and crumbling back streets, and don't ever forget to have a little fun while you're at it. There is magic to be found within temporary spaces poised between past and future, ground and sky, inlet and outfall, construction and disaster. The air buzzes, your eyes widen, and you feel more alive than you would ever have thought possible. With care, thought and initiative, and an understanding and acceptance of manageable risks, these are tremendously worthwhile experiences. I hope some of you will seek them out in whatever fashion you are comfortable with, and I hope you'll tell us stories afterwards.
posted by kowalski at 9:38 PM on January 14, 2007 [11 favorites]

Extremely well said sir. As I've gotten older, my rock-climbing/ spelunking/ urban exploration days have slowly slipped behind me. But I remember as an adventurous youth slipping into derelict buildings with little more than a flashlight. (And with some much welcomed knowledge, a flashlight, helmet, rope, gloves, boltcutters, and a good knife) And if I were doing it today, the best digital camera I could afford, so that I could document everything.

Because there are those of us that have put that part of our lives behind us, who desperately long for a look into what we are missing.

[Full disclosure: the 100 year old, former power station building I work in, has an abandoned five story sister right next door. I've been scoping out the very good security and surveillance they have on it for the past 3 years. The moment I find a chink in the armor, I will be the first to slide under the chain link and get some pictures for myself. I may be old, but I ain't dead yet.]
posted by quin at 10:26 PM on January 14, 2007

There may not be a tunnel burrowed under a river into the back of a mammoth waterfall, but everywhere there are glimmers of the sublime, shades of otherworldly beauty, markers of forces much greater than the minor powers we ourselves possess, fossils of ages and dreams our civilization has left behind.

Or, more succintly, some really cool shit. Great stuff. Four stars, best of the web.
posted by three blind mice at 11:06 PM on January 14, 2007

jesus christ, what horrible prose. Next time, they should bring a writer with them.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:22 PM on January 14, 2007

Not to hate on the FPP or anything. I mean it was good, I enjoyed it, I appreciate the huevos it takes to do this sort of thing, etc. But seriously. Less slang. Less flowery language. Better objective description. Tell me what you're actually doing.

I found the whole thing pretty hard to follow.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:30 PM on January 14, 2007

Yeah, I'm betting that's a joke, but just to be the devil's-spokesman...

Because great pictures and reasonably compelling exposition isn't enough, the next time you and your crew go down a dark and dirty hole to bring us some interesting subject matter, make certain you bring an award winning writer along with you to ensure that your journey's are fully and completely documented. N00bz.

posted by quin at 11:37 PM on January 14, 2007

quin, I know that you're trying to snark, but you unwittingly made my point for me.

If it's not enjoyable to read, then why should I bother with it? There is no shortage of interesting photos or stories on the internet.

And the prose in the FPP was confusing and painful to read. I only slogged through it to get some context for the (moderately) interesting photos.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:04 AM on January 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

And lest I seem completely ungrateful, I liked kowalski's site a lot more. Better photos, better writing. His site should have been the FPP, in my opinion.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:23 AM on January 15, 2007

posted by brautigan at 2:10 AM on January 15, 2007

I'm surprised I haven't seen any mention of Andrew Emond of worksongs, he has some amazing shots of the falls, some of which I believe were with kowalski.
posted by phirleh at 2:15 PM on January 15, 2007

Phirleh's correct. Unfortunately for all of us, Andrew hasn't had the opportunity to photograph this particular tailrace.
posted by kowalski at 2:29 PM on January 15, 2007

Sweet cabinet-making Jesus.

You've got that right, don't fuck with the Jesus man.
posted by peeedro at 10:13 PM on January 15, 2007

"The tailrace is the most incredible underground space I've ever seen. It surpasses everything, even the Labyrinth. If the Labyrinth is slow sensual tantric sex then Confluence is like defiling three midget hermaphrodites in the back of a stretch hummer while you're downing mouthfuls of motherfucking embalming fluid from a platinum chalice with a decapitated baby floater. When the buzz begins to fade bite off a toe son and suck the formaldehyde juiciness right out the flesh. Any super villain of suitably ill repute would be proud to call it home..."
posted by growabrain at 12:49 AM on January 16, 2007

This surprised me. I thought the Illuminati were behind everything.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:13 PM on January 16, 2007

"This surprised me. I thought the Illuminati were behind everything."

Of course they are. Who do ya think paid to have it built?

...ya. The pyramids too.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:31 PM on January 16, 2007

Very cool kowalski, and eerie. I've been to The Pines, and your photos really capture it well. I've also been to another abandoned former hotel in upstate NY, I don't remember the town. It was called the Hotel Budapest, and it was a really cool site to explore. I've tried and failed at locating a web link, although I know that is how we found it back on '03 when we went there. It was an old resort abandoned, then turned into a Hebrew kids camp, then abandoned once again. Especially creepy were the excessive amounts of Torahs and kid's shoes scattered about...

Thanks all for your links!
posted by rollbiz at 6:55 PM on January 17, 2007

Wow, that creative writing class really didnt pay off.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:22 AM on January 28, 2007

In case anyone else is still following this thread, I had the chance to rope back in there this weekend with dsankt and some other great people. [photo] [photo]

I'll maybe say more when I'm not so exhausted and about to be late for work.
posted by kowalski at 6:32 AM on January 29, 2007

Very nice post.

kowalski, nice site and great photos!
posted by OmieWise at 7:24 AM on January 30, 2007

Damn, that was incredible. Thank you.
posted by aliasless at 11:32 PM on January 30, 2007

Another photo from this weekend
posted by kowalski at 4:51 PM on January 31, 2007

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