Yikes, claustrophobia alert

I guess there are some caves or tunnels near St Paul — historically, the city was originally named Pig’s Eye, after a brewer/tavern keeper who owned a cave near the Mississippi, so it’s not surprising there are caves connected to the river. These actually look like old sewer lines, too.

Anyway, some people explore these places. (Note: there is no information in the soundtrack, it’s just noise, so you can turn it off and miss nothing).

Now I’m wondering, if someone rediscovers these caves in 50-100 thousand years, how will they interpret the cave art?


  1. wzrd1 says

    Huh, no video box here, just an inclined ringed planet placeholder. What source and display method is being used to display the video?
    Firefox 100.0.2 on Ubuntu 20.04 here.

  2. says

    They’ve found the Nosferatu warren of the Minneappolis/St Paul vampire community. They’re lucky they went in during daylight hours.

  3. larpar says

    There is a show on the Science Channel called Mysteries of the Abandoned. Just about all of the places they explore are covered with graffiti. Not as abandoned as the title would leave one to believe.

  4. PaulBC says

    I didn’t think I was claustrophobic but I am having trouble breathing watching them go through that tunnel, so maybe.

    Despite its narrowness, that tunnel looks clean, dry, unobstructed, and free of creepy crawlies. But if those conditions were to change suddenly, then what you do? How far would you have to back up? Count me out! This reminds me of predicaments I’ve gotten into in dreams, though those usually involve rickety bridges, not narrow tunnels.

  5. Tethys says

    There are many caves within the Saint Peter Sandstone, which crops out at multiple places in the bluffs along the Mississippi in both St. Paul and Minneapolis.

    It’s not stone, it’s a very friable layer of white sugar sand that you can dig quite easily. The caves were gangster hideouts during prohibition.
    Wabasha Street Caves gives tours of theirs.

    Both cities have extensive tunnel networks and utilities built underneath them. Sadly, people go in them, build fires , and then die of asphyxiation or having the roof collapse on them. The city usually cements bars across the openings, but the curious just chisel away the rock and get in anyway.

  6. Robbo says

    Just hope there isn’t a build up of carbon monoxide in those caves. You never know if someone else had a fire going recently.
    The city of St. Paul has closed off a lot of the caves to keep people out. But deaths do occur.

  7. hemidactylus says

    You’ve gotta combine spelunking with underwater diving. This isn’t the same Florida aquifer dive I saw years ago on public TV where the above ground trackers walked through a BBQ restaurant but close enough:

    Or watch the movie Sanctum.

    Not for me!

  8. says

    My kind of place. Serious Lost Boy vibes.
    I’m also trained for confined space entry and tight spaces don’t bother me.

  9. says

    Oh I like that tag that is the female symbol crossed with a flame. Feminism is fire. Let that fire burn as bright as you can.

  10. robro says

    How weird. When I saw this post I got that feeling of seeing an ad in FaceBook for something I just looked up on Amazon. How did you know my son and I were just talking about spelunking the other day, and specifically underwater spelunking. Primarily we talked about the risks.

  11. hemidactylus says

    Sorry. I don’t think I did the three part video on diving the Floridan aquifer justice. It was cool and creepy for claustrophobic tight squeezes, but it was much more than that. Even the first video was so much more. It gives overview on how the aquifer formed over millions of years, its vitality as a water source, so much beauty contrasted with ugly pollution. At one point the divers meet up with the trackers in a sinkhole full of nasty garbage. That’s our drinking water. Plus cow poop, fertilizer, and other bad stuff. At one point there was a pipe for a residential well (I think) protruding into the cave system. Very informative.

    But I am tempted to rewatch Sanctum, the ultimate cave dive movie that goes disturbingly downhill badly for the characters.

  12. Artor says

    I didn’t used to be claustrophobic, and I spent half my adult career inching my way through cramped crawlspaces, but I’m much larger than I used to be, and that video was made of Nope.

  13. Paul K says

    I grew up in St. Paul, and I’ve been in that very cave so many times that I could confidently find my way around in the absolute dark. We called it Schmidt Cave, because it was fairly close to the Schmidt Beer brewery, and we were told stories about Schmidt at one time using it to store beer. Many of the tunnels were clearly dug out by heavy machinery: they are straight, and fairly square in their dimensions, so this seemed reasonable to us. The temperature is somewhere around 10C year-round. Other folks we met in there called it ‘Frankie’s Cave’, after a supposed hermit who had lived there, and according to some stories, he’d been murdered in it (we rolled our eyes at that; it was always said to try to get a scare out of us.)

    As a kid (from around age ten and up), I went there with friends and siblings (I have 11 of those), and we would play ‘ditch’, wherein a couple of us would take off to some other area in the cave, and the rest would give us some time and then try to find us. All without lights. And this cave is ‘wild’ in that, of course, it does not have any built-in artificial lighting of its own. I once drew a map of all the interconnecting tunnels from memory. It’s nothing like any of the larger limestone cave systems that have been made into parks, but there are hundreds of meters of tunnels, and they are haphazard in their layout.

    At the beginning of that video, those folks are coming in through an entrance that does connect to a sewer, if you follow it the right way. We did once, and it’s the only time we ever saw rats. And we saw lots of rats. We had pet rats at home, so I didn’t have any kind of phobia, but it was still scary because they came for us! It’s not easy running from scurrying little critters when you are bent nearly double (that tunnel was lower than many in the cave system). We did run, and they didn’t follow very far.

    We usually went there in the afternoon, because we knew that there were lots of alcohol-fueled parties there after dark, especially in the summer, since the caves are nice and cool then. I only went in once during such a time, when I was around twenty or so, and a very drunken teen started shooting a long gun of some kind. Much scarier than rats, but he was so drunk that I just lunged toward him and took it away. I was not with the people who were drinking. A couple of friends had just asked me to show them the cave. They were pretty amazed at what I did, but the guy was not angry and trying to hurt anyone; he was just an idiot ‘having fun’. His own friends were grateful, and took him away. All of them were embarrassed.

    This cave was closed many times over the years I would go to it, blocked with concrete plugs at the entrances (there were at least three entrances). But since these are in sandstone, digging around the concrete is not very difficult.

    Learning about this place was one of those things that older kids taught younger ones. Adults were not involved. We heard lots of stories from those older kids, and knew that some were probably not true, but that others probably were. I only ever once was in there with a fire, and that only because it was lit already when we got there. We had been told that, if the roof of the cave dried out to much, it would collapse, and that fires, for that reason, were dangerous. The three entrances, one of which was quite large but on private, industrial property, kept the air quite fresh, so we didn’t worry about that. It was clear from all the graffiti, some of it quite old (it was very convenient that lots of folks date theirs) that there had been no recent cave-ins. But I once went into a cave on the other side of the river where there had clearly been lots of them, and, in fact, a couple of kids died in there a few months after we had been there. That’s the only time I ever heard of anyone dying in one of these. My adventures there were in the 1970s and 80s. I haven’t been back since about 1987.

  14. birgerjohansson says

    The second last Garret P.I. novel has elements that seem inspired by the caves under St Paul.
    If the caves are cool in the summer heat, and the material is easy to excavate to create new spaces I anticipate this will be one of the last holdouts for homo sapiens during the mass extinction.
    Except maybe Greenland. Does Greenland even have caves?

  15. says

    @19 are you kidding. Seriously. Greenland has some of the most epic caves in the world. It really is a fascinating place.

  16. Walter Solomon says

    if someone rediscovers these caves in 50-100 thousand years, how will they interpret the cave art?

    How do today’s archaeologists interpret prehistoric cave art if at all? Of course, prehistoric cave art seems more representational (uncertain if that’s the proper term) and less symbolic than modern graffiti.

    Reminded me of how much I hate rap music and why.

    If you think that’s rap, or more specifically hip hop, I doubt you’re very familiar with the genre. That sounds more like a electro, a musical style derived from hip hop.

  17. hemidactylus says

    @21- Walter Solomon

    Egads no that wasn’t electro at all. It seemed more like what a friend derides as mumble rap. Some of the stuff the kids these days play is annoying as hell (or I’m getting old). I never did stuff like that in the late 80s. Never ever annoyed other drivers and neighbors with obnoxious music. Not me.

    AUX 88, Illektrolab, Egyptian Lover, and Dynamix II are electro. Not that. It does boom a bit so could have some distant booty bass inspiration plus the umm…lyrics. A far cry from 2 Live though.

  18. numerobis says

    I’m a bit amused by the concept that the camera has a go-pro but can’t afford a headlamp.

  19. Rich Woods says

    Way too claustrophobic. I had to stop watching after 20 seconds and go outside to sit in the sun.

  20. Walter Solomon says

    hemidactylus @21

    Egads no that wasn’t electro at all. It seemed more like what a friend derides as mumble rap.

    You might be right here. Whatever the case, it shouldn’t be used as a proxy to hate the entire genre as brightmoon has done. That would be like justifying your hate for rock based solely on screamo or punk.

  21. birgerjohansson says

    The cramped bent cave reminds me of the video for “Firestarter”.
    The 90s had some good music.

  22. hemidactylus says

    @28- birgerjohansson
    Ah The Prodigy. They had a heavier electronic sound…almost industrial. I preferred Orbital at the time. And before that 808 State. I guess they are “Madchester”? Hmmm…all footnotes to Kraftwerk (and also somewhat to Afrika Bambaataa’s hiphop take on krautrock).

    Hmmm…Tangerine Dream too? I thought they were more new age and soundtracks. Kosmische Musik? Wow:


    Actually very early Pink Floyd had their techno electronica moments.

    When I think Sweden I think heavier stuff… Meshuggah. Not very electroish.

  23. wzrd1 says

    @Ray Ceeya, there may well be remnants on Greenland of a clandestine US attempt to build an ICBM base in the glacier.
    They found, much to their irritation, that glacier ice flows, so the corridors quickly ceased to be continuous. The Danes learned, much to their anger, the US had also installed a nuclear reactor, which leaked like a proverbial sieve, the waste finally collected in drums and abandoned on site, the reactor removed, the base also abandoned.
    The US then had to quietly go back, recover the contaminated drums and remove them.
    Pissed off is an understatement! I’m sure we’re still apologizing for that and rightfully so.
    Decades later, when Trump blathered about buying Greenland, I’m sure some suggested selling where we contaminated, but were overruled, lest he try to take it all once we got that…

  24. wzrd1 says

    Oh, some of those caves looked like they were modified for storm water drainage and one did have a cast iron pipe along the side of the floor.
    Much of it reminds me of times in my youth, following storm drains as far as I could fit. Once, I got all the way to my house, half mile from the discharge point. Longer by the pipe though. These days, my rusted caboose would get stuck.