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45 + 182 points

Katabasis by Majyk, Fiona

March 27th, 2009 9:49 PM

INSTRUCTIONS: Explore an underworld.

Day one.
Pictures by Majyk and Fiona
Text by Fiona

Okay, I'm adding this bit at the begining; firstly, please read on to day two. Day one was very cool but has now paled by comparison. Secondly, don't try this at home. Well, you couldn't, the tunnels aren't in your home, but you know what I mean. Technically there is a danger of death on these adventures, although we are not stupid, so we wouldn't be doing it if we thought the risks were too high, I'm just saying that if you are someone who has stumbled on this site and wants to go adventuring use your common sense, a bit of planning, and don't get crushed/drowned/stuck/impaled or anything else.

We are doing this task in a fairly epic way, so it will take a few trips. I am writing this after day one, where we went to the western end of the Island. We decided to explore left over and abandoned military structures, as most of them are creepy and underground. Going underground was the best type of underworld we could think of, short of joining the mafia (do we have mafia on the Isle of Wight? Probably, buggers get everywhere), and I didn't fancy that. It will be very interesting and require a couple of stealth missions. The Isle of Wight was always strategically important as a place to spot approaching enemies from Europe and hopefully blow the crap out of them before they get here. So scattered around the coast there are lots of secret observation type bunkers sunk into the cliffs and the hills, as well as some larger structures with areas above and below ground.

By the way, I apologise for my spelling.

I am going to include some of the pictures in the text here but there are going to be way too many so a lot will be at the end. There will be more tales from our adventure attached to them so go on, take a look.

So we started in Freshwater and walked up a bloody big hill to Tennyson Monument (the poet, he lived at the bottom of the bloody big hill, and wrote a lot of his poems here). From there we could see both of the days destinations, and realised we maybe should have parked a bit closer. Oh well.


This is the view to our first destination, the old rocket testing site, nestled in the cliffs above The Needles and Freshwater Bay. It was very warm and bright and glorious and it felt fantastic being out with one of my best friends on an adventure.


He had never been to the rocket testing site before, and its pretty impressive. It feels very post-apocalyptic. The area around it is grass but it always seems pretty dead and dried out, and theres not a lot else visible, apart from a few bunnies and a long drop to the sea. We may come stay here at night some time which will be incredibly creepy. There is no light pollution here so it knows how to get REALLY dark, and its always windy so you have the feeling that someone could sneak right up on you and you wouldn't hear them. It is a big structure, rockets were strapped in either end to have their engines tested, but there are just a couple of underground rooms.


I had brought with me a surprise box of donuts and a little stove to make coffee so we found a good spot and set up.


Yummy donuts for us. Omnomnom.

Majyk found this room somewhere, but I must have missed it, I don't recognise it. I did go off ahead to be amazed by the view out over the Needles.


After exploring the rocket testing site we went to the old battery. Parts are still locked up so we had to peer down through rusty grates but some bits had been turned into and exhibition.


We also found this tunnel a bit further away. We will try this another time...


Then we called M to come drive us back to Majyks van, because we had underestimated the length of the walk and were in danger of running out of day. She was more than happy to come join us but is not collaborating, as she has her own plan for this task. I expect I will go along for that too, I am often photographer for her and Cookie.

We headed off to Fort Victoria, stopping for icecream on the way and finding a GIANT GRIBBLE WORM!

At Fort Vic there are rooms and tunnels leading back under the woods, I think they were ammunition stores. I hadn't been into them before but one had a light well back in the woods somewhere and I thought we could drop, um, I mean carefully lower, Majyk in so he could have a look. Excitingly, someone had been there before us and kicked the locked up entrance open so we all got to descend the murky passage. It was a bit creepy.


My flash is really powerful and so the pictures don't come out looking very atmospheric. You will just have to take my word for it that it was kind of dark and creepy in there. Majyk felt very uncomfortable about the place, especially when we found some suspicious things in the corner.


This is the bottom of the light-well, they way we thought we were going to have to get in. Deeper than I thought.


We explored a bit more. Found a bricked up tunnel with a hole just big enough to get a photograph through. It was to dark for us to see inside but the camera with a flash picked up this:


We went back into the woods looking for another way in but no joy. Went to look at some other bits I'd seen in the past too, but no way in there either.

Well. End of day one.

Day two. Excitement and joy.

Well, a couple of weeks on and we are onto the second leg of our adventure. I went online looking at maps and interesting websites to add to my list of places to explore for this task, in case there was anywhere I had not found before. Boy was there! You think you know a place...

So, we decided the scope of this task would be West Wight only, there was so much, and the other adventures would be had anyway, in the future, maybe as part of something else.

Today we visited two more places, both of which were new to me. I was excited, but cautious, in case they didn't work out. The reports I had found were quite old so we had no idea if the places would still be accessible. We started our adventure within sight of the Old Battery and the rocket testing site, but somewhat closer to sea level.


I have circled in red the approximate location of our destination. We didn't know exactly what we were looking for then, but now I have been there I can spot it in the long distance shots. As you can see it is a really long way. We had to pick a day with an exceptionally low tide and time it carefully so we didn't get cut off. It still took us an hour, picking across, around and over slippery rocks. It was hard going, had to concentrate all the time so as not to turn an ankle.


This bit was particularly nice.

We eventually came across signs that the place actually existed. A patch of concrete high up the cliff. Higher than we expected. I supposed the entrance had to be clear of high tide. I hoped really hard that we could A. find it and B. reach it.


We walked around a jutting bit of cliff to more rocks. All pretty non-discript, but I recalled the account I had found mentioned an old rock fall which had partly obscured the entrance. After a bit of climbing- success!


We were somewhat unprepared for what we found. It was a tight sqeeze for me between fallen rocks and under a girder but then ahead of us was a tunnel, carved straight from the rock, that just went straight back into the cliff, into darkness. I was expecting a couple of gun placements in the cliff. Not this. It all looked pretty stable. The rock is all sort of one solid lump, so it comes off the cliff face in big chunks but these tunnels seemed less prone to collapse than they would be insome other geology. They had already been here a bloody long time. You could hear as well as feel the wind rushing down the tunnel. So ahead we went.


We came to a T-junction which led off into absolute darkness in both directions. I decided I need to get a decent torch. We were so amazed. We went left.


We were slow and cautious. I don't know about Majyk, but old horror movies were running through my head. I was picturing pale clammy long limbed monsters skulking in the darkness awaiting meat. I didn't feel as frightened as I felt I ought to have done though. It was more of an exagerated alertness than actual fear, at this stage. We came to a crossroads. The path to the left had a faint light at the end, it led back out to the cliff face. The paths to the right and ahead both had stones from the roof littering the floor, making them a tighter squeeze. There were freaky distant noises coming from the right, which led deeper into the cliff. We opted for the left hand turn.


We came to a room with a little window looking out over the sea. This must be one of the small high-up holes we passed on our way here. Check out the graffiti on the wall from 1965. We also found critters.


We went back to the cross roads and turned left, continuing on our previous trajectory, exclaiming loudly in wonder, and marvelling at our own bravery, and possibly stupidity. Just a bit further.


and on...


and on...


My legs were a bit wobbly by this point.

There were two more left turns that led to rooms with views out over the ocean. In the one below I have circled where we originaly walked from. This room was quit high up, and clean and open. Would we be brave enough to sleep here one night? Perhaps not. We would be stranded till next tide and it would be unbelievably creepy. Shudder.


We had to walk back past the scary tunnel with the noises coming from it that led deeper into the cliff. Damn it, we just couldn't resist. The first bit was tight, then it opened up and sloped gently upwards. The alarming noises became louder then became loud, watery gurgles. There was another turning to the left which sloped sharply down and the noises were eminating from there. We hurried swiftly past.


This tunnel looks quite friendly from the pictures but believe me it was really, really scary. My adrenaline was up by this point and I was glancing around in a nervous paranoid manner and gasping ocasionally.

By the way, I apologise if my writing deteriorates. It is now four in the morning and today I have been on these two adventures, written a whole essay for my university course, and uploaded the days pictures. But I really, really want to get this written and posted 'cos I'm still stoked.

Where was I? Oh yes. Eventually we came to this room. It had a shaft going straight up, was originally a lift from the Battery above. We were really deep underground at this point, inside a lot of rock, and having a black space like that opening up above you was pretty unnerving to say the least. The flash makes these places look well lit but inreality our torches did nowhere near such a good job of illuminating things. In fact, I took a lot of pictures just so I could look at the screen and see what lay ahead. No kidding.


We hastened back but had to pass the gurgly scary tunnel again and just couldn't resist. It curved gently down and eventually filled with water. It looks like the tunnel carries on down and half submerged there seems to be a bridge over a lower tunnel crossing this one. Don't know if pumps used to keep this clear of water, there were pipes, or of it was just a reservoir. I am sure the water was fresh, I'll test it next time. It was unbelievably clear.


One more bit to explore and then a hasty retreat before the tide comes in. Unbelievable. Just amazing, stunning, and so BIG.


On the way back along the base of the cliff I stopped to collect some free dinner and give Bob (the duck) a swim.


I still had to finish my essay for uni at this point, so Majyk was going to drop me back at my office. But on the way we wanted to reccy our last destination. We needed to find it, stealthily, in daylight. I am not going to give too much information on the location of this one as access may be cut off if too many people are spotted in the vicinity. There are plenty of clues here though if any explorers want to find it, just treat it with repect and leave it how you found it please.

It really was easy to find the entrance, if you knew what you were looking for. In a big grassy area used for leisure activities, on a hillside in plain view. A small square hatch and a vent. That's all. There was noone around so Majyk sidled up to it and had closer look. He was excited, was pretty sure we could get in with no effort at all. Sod it, tonight. We have stamina. He dropped me off and I finshed writing about policy making blah blah blah.

At 11.30 he knocked on my van door. We had a coffee and headed back out. A bit of a drive but worth it. What we had located was a ROC bunker. I have done a bit of research and it seems that they were set up just for observation, during the cold war. Apparently they were to monitor fallout in the event of a nuclear strike. They are quite small, just an observation room and a small toilet really, and I wondered if they would really offer very much protection, and what were the monitors supposed to eat whilst they were observing this fallout? Very peculiar. On one website there was a rather optimistic little drawing of two operatives sitting happily watching an explosion outside on their little screen.

We arrived in some very good darkness, no light pollution and no moon. I stumbled into a ditch and nearly kneecapped myself on a sign. Discovered it was hard to even find something right out in the open in the pitch black, but we did. I didn't fancy our chances of an easy entry, but we got one. There was a bit of a clang as the hatch opened and there were lights on in buildings not too very far away, so we sat still for a few minutes to make sure we had not been discovered. We needn't have worried. We wnet down one at a time because I was paranoid about the hatch closing and us getting stuck. Majyk bravely went first and while he was down there a fox ran straight past me, just a few feet away. If we were quiet enough not to bother a fox, I'm sure we hadn't alerted any humans. My turn.


So there I was dissapearing down a hole in the ground. Just like that, straight down a narrow ladder. And I have walked past here so many times before, unsuspecting. Very scary, descending into darkness. No torch till half way down, don't want to be seen. Magyk was very brave to go first. I at least had seen a picture and had a vague inkling of what was down there, to him it had been a mystery. Got to the bottom and all fear dissipated. Somebody had laid a rather nice, albeit rather old and smelly, carpet. How scary is a bunker with a carpet? Not very. I took a couple of pics then decided to scoot. Very peculiar. It is a bunker, underground, from the cold war, but it is small and strangely mundane. Like maybe being in the living room of a squatted house or something. There was still a sink in the little room. Just wierd.


I took a few pics and scarpered. Climbing out was actually the scariest bit, because all the darkness is behind you.

Its not letting me add the last couple of pictures for some reason, and I have to sleep, yawn. Am going to submit now. Good night.

+ larger

01 First we go here.jpg
02 Then there later.jpg
02b We are lucky to live here.JPG
03 New exhibition.jpg
04 With some newer buildings.jpg
05 Barren and creepy.jpg
06 First underground room.jpg
06b Sunlight from above.JPG
07 A bit manky.jpg
08 Rusty blast proof door.jpg
09 Observation window.jpg
11 Someones bed.jpg
12 Stop for coffee.jpg
12b Yum.JPG
13 and donuts.jpg
14 Omnomnom.jpg
14b I look ridiculous.JPG
15 Yes, he got stuck.jpg
16 Thought I'd  include this.jpg
17 Useful sign.jpg
17b Where is this Majyk.JPG
17c I missed it.JPG
18 Old battery, through bars.jpg
19 Entrances locked.jpg
20 Open to public.jpg
21 Cone.jpg
22 See next picture.jpg
23 As it was.jpg
24 Model sattelite.jpg
25 As it was.jpg
26 To return to another day.jpg
27 We also passed this.jpg
28 and this.jpg
29 Victim.jpg
30 Gave this one a miss.jpg
31 Excitement.jpg
32 What is it.jpg
33 Highly suspicious.jpg
34 Thankyou.jpg
35 Glad we didn't have to come this way.jpg
36 More.jpg
36b Interesting.JPG
37 Closed off.jpg
38 Want to get in there.jpg
39 Looking for entrance.jpg
40 Show off.jpg
41 This must lead somewhere.jpg
42 random  chairlift.jpg
43 Todays first destination.jpg
44 road to nowhere.jpg
45 over there.jpg
46 very pretty.jpg
47 first clue.jpg
48 second clue.jpg
49 really big clue.jpg
50 huzzah.jpg
51 Wow.jpg
52 Blimey.jpg
53 Amazing.jpg
54 Its huge.jpg
55 old graffiti.jpg
56 Alien life forms.jpg
57 scary as.jpg
58 cave in.jpg
59 and on.jpg
60 jittery.jpg
61 where we came from.jpg
62 thick cable.jpg
63 how rude.jpg
64 more.jpg
65 intrepid.jpg
66 really scary.jpg
67 don't like it.jpg
68 lift room.jpg
69 looking up.jpg
70 a long way.jpg
71 gurgles.jpg
72 underwater tunnels.jpg
73 and on.jpg
74 and back.jpg
75 bonus dinner.jpg
76 bob.jpg
77 going down.jpg
78 carpet.jpg
79 not actually scary.jpg
80 a sink.jpg
81 and out.jpg
82 exactly how we found it.jpg

38 vote(s)

Favorite of:


shplank, tide, fire, sea, war, whywait

16 comment(s)

(no subject)
posted by Lincøln on March 27th, 2009 11:45 PM

Beautiful. Brilliant. Amazing.
Not since Myrna and her brother and friends went into the secret depths of St. Louis have I seen a task this good.

(no subject)
posted by ananas on March 28th, 2009 12:16 AM

Wow. A whole network of tunnels inside a cliff where the military used to test rockets. I wonder whether any other places like this exist in the world.

(no subject) +1
posted by Fiona on March 28th, 2009 4:14 AM

The tunnels in the cliff were older than the rocket testing site. There are two batterys on the cliffs by the needles, the old battery, and the new battery, as well as the rocket testing site and some other modern buildings. The bit I refered to as the old battery in the first half was actually the new battery, I think, although its still pretty old. I didn't bother with the actual Needles old battery because you have to pay to get in, which spoils the fun. The tunnels were connected to the old, old battery. So amazing. So I think we investigated stuff from the first, second and the cold war.

There are loads of places like this in the world, and you can find them through official and urben exploration websites. Well, theres certainly a lot in the UK anyway. Just on the Isle of Wight I still have a large number of sites too explore, although probably none as spectacular as that gem. One dissapointment that I discovered whilst researching this that the big bunker I always believed to be a myth did actually exist, on top of Ventnor Down, where I thought it was, but I never went looking for it. Didn't think it could possible be there without everyone knowing about it. But people were getting in and exploring for years. The bungallow which disguised the entrance has now been demolished and the hatch capped with 18" of concrete. I missed it.

I had also heard rumors of the tunnels we explored yesterday, but never followed them up before. Must remember in future: listen to rumors.

(no subject)
posted by praximity on March 28th, 2009 12:55 AM

i like your style.

i also like how often you talk about the tunnels as a place to live.

(no subject) +1
posted by Fiona on March 28th, 2009 4:18 AM

Me and Majyk always have fun planning what we would do if 'the world ended'. He always looks for a defensible position, I always look for a place with more than one exit and a food supply. The tunnels yesterday were good on all those counts, and I think a plentiful supply of fresh water, as well as plentiful food. Cold though, with an unrealistic treck for fuel for heat and cooking. Diet of raw shellfish, seaweed, greens and seagull eggs anyone?

I much prefer the donuts, frankly. ~Waldo
posted by Waldo Cheerio on March 28th, 2009 6:23 AM

This is amazing. Your donuts and coffee look jarringly welcoming in such a scary place. Of the many meals players have documented in unusual places, this is on my top list of ones I wish I could've been there for. Please note that I do not envy you the horrible scary crumbling abandoned flooding corridors to get there though; that was just what made the surprise of warm coffee and donuts so delightful.

I think the Isle of Wight would be an unusual hotspot of abandoned military entrenchments, so I would be surprised to know other players have remotely so exciting an opportunity with this kind of man-made underworld from a forgotten age. Some combination of the decline of a massive empire, outdated technology making a site strategically unimportant in modern war, a low population density that hasn't rebuilt or restored the infrastructure, and really remarkable geology that allows tunelling, preserves it, and makes it only unreasonably difficult but not impossible to access. Then again, I'm no war buff, so I'd love to be proven wrong.

(no subject) +1
posted by Haberley Mead on March 28th, 2009 6:02 AM

This is the sort of tasking SF0 needs more of. Utterly brilliant, from start to end. I take my hat off to you both for your sheer balls to go into a mysterious, black, crumbling set of tunnels in a cliff :)

(no subject) +1
posted by teucer on March 28th, 2009 6:47 AM

That was amazing.

Like, really really really amazing.

As in, the kind of amazing we have a word for around here.

posted by susy derkins on March 28th, 2009 8:19 AM

Yeah, we need a word coined after you guys, "fairly epic", uh?
Is the kind of things people makes up and write about and makes readers drool, only you guys actually do them.

(no subject)
posted by Fiona on March 28th, 2009 8:26 AM

You are all very kind.

(no subject)
posted by Ben Yamiin on March 28th, 2009 10:43 AM

You guys win.

That's really amazing -- honestly top notch.

And now, I have to admit something...when I first saw the IOWØ logo, i thought it was Iowa, not the Isle of Wight. Now that I know that there's an IOWØ, I might consider visiting after getting into Europe...

(no subject)
posted by Raizekiel Malbrandt on March 28th, 2009 8:22 PM

Jeez, if I could award you more than 5 points, I would. You deserve it.

O my!! +2
posted by Majyk on March 28th, 2009 8:28 PM

wow me n fee thought we'd get good points for this but neither of us was expecting anything anywhere this good of a response!! thankyou ladys and gentlemen but please give fee more due i might be the adventurous nutter climbing the cliff to find it, but fee is the one who took the time to put together a good praxis (because im rubbish at it!) and do some amazing research. so if you please, give fee a round of applause beacause i couldnt have done it without her!

Thanks fee!!

(no subject)
posted by rongo rongo on April 2nd, 2009 12:46 PM

Very underworld! Glad you made it in and out without any horror movie stuff happening.

(no subject)
posted by Cookie on April 8th, 2009 1:41 PM

It took a while for Cookie to get back online to review this praxis he heard rumours of from M. Cookie is very impressed and has now found another potential place to orchestrate his world dominion. Have many cookies! M is duely disapointed on missing out on such an adventure, but the fish needed to be gutted.

Two things to add...
posted by Fiona on December 4th, 2009 11:48 AM

Firstly, the tunnel we found on the first day and photographed through a small hole in the brick; me and Majyk went back there a month or two later after tracking down someone who had accessed them before and begging for a hint of how to get in. We had to go into some woods and find a random pit filled with barbed wire and rotten wood and crap. After climbing down into it we had to excavate one corner and slide down a slimy vertical hole, bending in half a few feet down to slide through a narrow horizontal slot into pitch blackness. It was REALLY scary. I couldn't have done it if Magyk hadn't been brave enough to go first. We got covered in ook. Inside there was a tunnel and a few rooms. I think it used to hold a big machine of some kind and we had come in through the old coal chute. I almost crapped myself when a lost bunny ran over my foot in the dark. Thought it was a giant rat! Not generally affraid of rats but up close in an enclosed space they are not my favourite! Was happy to see daylight again! Had trouble squeezing back out. My boyfriend (now ex!) valiantly stood by and offered to send Magyks girlfriend down to help me. Sadly, I was not carrying my camera that day.
The second thing is that one of the engineers who headed the project at the rocket testing site has written an autobiography, and I am publishing it, doing the layouts and stuff. Wonder if there will be any interesting nuggets in there.