Photo Essay

Tunnels of Tradition

Gold Eternal

There are several miles of subterranean steam tunnels beneath the University of Virginia.

These tunnels contain steam pipes, water pipes, communication cables, and drainage systems.

They are notoriously hot and humid. In some areas, temperatures can exceed 45 degrees Celsius.

Over the past few decades, a tradition known as "steamtunneling" has developed at UVa. This activity involves students entering the tunnels for exploratory purposes. Many students make it a goal to go steamtunneling at least once prior to graduating.

Technically, steamtunneling is illegal. However, just like with students streaking the lawn, University Police frown upon the act, but generally don't heavily penalize the few people who get caught doing it.

From a visual perspective, the tunnels are full of graffiti, mechanical devices, and physical obstacles; this greatly adds to their appeal. Insects are relatively rare, but a cockroach or spider is seen on occasion.

In general, photography is difficult within the tunnels due to the lack of light and the ubiquity of dust and dirt. The abundance of interesting subject matter, however, more than compensates for these setbacks.

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