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Tunnel-Digging as a Hobby
Tunnel-Digging as a Hobby

From one of the pages of Modern Mechanics and Invention, scanned and transcribed here by Modern Mechanix, we learn that “one of the oddest hobbies in the world is that of Dr. H. G. Dyar, international authority on moths and butterflies of the Smithsonian Institution, who has found health and recreation in digging an amazing series of tunnels beneath his Washington home.”

And he was quite the mole: digging and removing the dirt without the help of heavy machinery, Dyar still managed to excavate “almost a quarter of a mile of tunnels,” which he “lined with concrete. The deepest passage, illustrated in the accompanying diagram, extends 32 feet down.”

In case you're wondering: yes, Dr. H. G. Dyar is Geoff Manaugh's nom de plume. So watch out California, his tunneling activities will undoubtedly compromise the tectonic integrity of the San Andreas Fault.

Meanwhile, a recent BBC News article reports that “an Italian sociologist has taken up residence in an underground cave, where he is hoping to spend the next three years of his life” in order to “better understand the body's natural cycles.” And apparently this would not be his first subterranean self-exile: “In an earlier attempt, Mr. Montalbini's sense of time was shifted by a lack of exposure to natural light,” explaining that “when [he] remained 366 days underground, [he] had the impression of only spending 219 days.”

A couple of things: 1) Was it the lack of landscape or the incredible abundance of landscape that messed with his internal chronometer? Quite a lot of people would tell you of having spent hours in a mall and of having walked for miles and miles through its shopping aisles and quaintly-named corridors without having realized it.

And 2) can you design a landscape in which your sense of time is absurdly skewed, wherein you think you've spent an hour fumbling about in the dewy darkness but in actuality you were there for a whole week, perhaps a lot longer? Or vice-versa? The Super-Mall-of-America and the Super-Hospital-Waiting-Room.

  • Geoff Manaugh
  • October 17, 2006 at 12:34:00 AM CDT
  • Unfortunately, Alex, I've now tunneled under Pruned's Chicago offices, leaving you stranded above a thousand mile honeycomb of empty networked passages, on the verge of collapse, in Freudian glee, replacing your earth's surface with hollows, a loss of structure, anti-solidity, this terrestrial eggshell you may one day find yourself cracking through. The subterranean baroque.

    Fact #1: Jules Verne: "Look down well! You must take a lesson in abysses."

    Fact #2: Knock on all floors: that resonance you hear is the sound of someone else's excavation.

    Fact #3: Don't mess with tunnelers.

  • e-tat
  • October 17, 2006 at 3:08:00 PM CDT
  • What is a silo but an extruded tunnel? And what is a monolith but a tunnel wanting to happen?

  • Alexander Trevi
  • October 18, 2006 at 5:14:00 PM CDT
  • Fact #4: Pruned is now troposphere bound. On the whirring blades of a half-forgotten province of the Helicopter Archipelago. Looking down, grinning.

  • Andrew
  • October 22, 2006 at 2:01:00 AM CDT

  • Anonymous
  • October 3, 2007 at 11:47:00 AM CDT
  • If we tunnelled enough all the spoil would raise the Earth's surface and hence increase its surface area (as well as all the square footage from the tunnels themselves). Just how much extra space could we create on this planet and how would we use it?

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