Tunnel Vision


They’re nothing but utility pipes and dank, dark hallways of cement, but the underground tunnels beneath campus have been luring generations of intrepid Triton trespassers. Share your story at tritonmag@ucsd.edu

Read the feature story, “Notes from the Underground” here.

And now the conclusion of our late-night adventure…

Equipped with flashlights, a crude map and derring-do, Josh Schoenwald ’00 and Amber Schnaider ’01, MEd ’02 wandered throughout the tunnels for hours one night until they finally realized—they weren’t alone…

“In November of 1998, Amber and I set out on an adventure. Located on “The Hump,” a grassy knoll between the Old Student Center and Gym and UCSD, is a manhole. This manhole leads to the UCSD tunnel system. Our journey began by climbing down the manhole after prying the cover with a piece of rebar. Once inside we walked down a corridor to a dead end. We continued in the opposite direction lighted by the blue-green fluorescence of the intermittent lights. It was quite warm down there and a very large fan could be heard far off in the distance…”

“…after turning a few corners we came to a door that was locked. There was a grating however that led under the door. It wasn’t too difficult to snake under the gate and past the door. Past that and to the left, was a short corridor leading to a door marked “Muir Bio,” obviously the Muir Biology Building. This map was found on the internet by Amber and helped us along our way. The “X” marks the end of our journey. It was Amber’s discovery of this map while looking for HA program ideas that prompted our little adventure. We pressed on, and the fan noise grew even louder.”

“…upon entering the Muir College Complex, we came to a large room with several tunnels leading away from it: one of those tunnels led to the Muir Rathskeller; at door #6. Among the pipes and junk inside the big room was a desk, taken from a classroom. I decided to pose for a picture. As we forged ahead, the tunnel began sloping downward until we came to a ‘locked’ door…”

“… this door looked like it would stop us from going any further. It was chained and locked. Fortunately for us, however, the door was bendable, and the chain wasn’t particularly snug. The above shot (left side) is me clamoring through. We determined I should go first since I was the biggest. It was a difficult fit, but we made it and continued further. Not long after, we reached the Geisel Library manhole. We figured out that the fan we heard was coming from an industrial-strength airplane turbine fan that cools the tunnels.

So people can actually walk around—like us! Soon we came to yet another chained, locked door. This one also had some give in it, but the opening we were able to make in this door #8 was not quite as big. I went first and tried to wiggle around the door at the bottom since the top end was sealed tightly. This proved to be our greatest challenge but we had come this far and [were] determined not to turn back here. Quite literally, 15 minutes later, I made through and Amber followed with much less trouble. At this point, we were able 75% of the way back to the start…”

“… Further along our journey we came across a small tunnel offshoot, leading up to a grate. The place where Amber and I are sitting is actually a square chamber about 6′ x 6′. Finally we reached tunnel door #3. This door was sealed in 3 places at the top, middle and bottom. Foiled at the very end, we began our trek back, not anticipating those 2 doors we had to squeeze through. As we turned a corner, we saw 2 figures ahead of us. Wow! We thought, more explorers! As we approached them, I noticed something shiny on one of them. A badge! It turns out these explorers were UCSD Police Officers, and they were not happy to see us. ‘HANDS ON THE WALL!!’ they shouted and preceded to search and handcuff us. The map I was carrying fell to the floor but it was folded and the cop simply put it back in my pocket. They led us back to the Physical Plant Services building and gave us a talking to. They checked our records and since they were clean, they said they would simply refer us to the Resident Dean. At that, we were let go! :)”