Derinkuyu, or: the allure of the underground city

My friend Robert and I finished reading Alan Weisman's The World Without Us almost simultaneously – and we both noted one specific passage.
Before we get to that, however, the premise of Weisman's book – though it does, more often than not, drift away from this otherwise fascinating central narrative – is: what would happen to the Earth if humans disappeared overnight? What would humans leave behind – and how long would those remnants last?
These questions lead Weisman at one point to discuss the underground cities of Cappadocia, Turkey, which, he says, will outlast nearly everything else humans have constructed here on Earth.

[Images: Derinkuyu, the great underground city of Cappadocia; images culled from a Google Images search and from Wikipedia].

Manhattan will be gone, Los Angeles gone, Cape Canaveral flooded and covered with seaweed, London dissolving into post-Britannic muck, the Great Wall of China merely an undetectable line of minerals blowing across an abandoned landscape – but there, beneath the porous surface of Turkey, carved directly into tuff, there will still be underground cities.

[Images: Derinkuyu, the great underground city of Cappadocia; images culled from a Google Images search and from Wikipedia].

Of course, I'm not entirely convinced by Weisman's argument here – not that I have expertise in the field – but Turkey is a very seismically active country, for instance, and... it just doesn't seem likely that these cities will be the last human traces to remain. But that's something for another conversation.
In any case, Weisman writes:
    No one knows how many underground cities lie beneath Cappadocia. Eight have been discovered, and many smaller villages, but there are doubtless more. The biggest, Derinkuyu, wasn't discovered until 1965, when a resident cleaning the back wall of his cave house broke through a wall and discovered behind it a room that he'd never seen, which led to still another, and another. Eventually, spelunking archeologists found a maze of connecting chambers that descended at least 18 stories and 280 feet beneath the surface, ample enough to hold 30,000 people – and much remains to be excavated. One tunnel, wide enough for three people walking abreast, connects to another underground town six miles away. Other passages suggest that at one time all of Cappadocia, above and below the ground, was linked by a hidden network. Many still use the tunnels of this ancient subway as cellar storerooms.
I was excited to learn, meanwhile, that another – quite possibly larger – underground Cappadocian city, called Gaziemir, was only opened to tourists this summer (someone send me, please!), having been discovered in January 2007 (a discovery which doesn't seem to have made the news outside Turkey).
So the next time the ground you're walking on sounds hollow – perhaps it is... Whole new cities beneath our feet!
I was also excited to read, meanwhile, that these subsurface urban structures are acoustically sophisticated. In other words, Weisman writes, using "vertical communication shafts, it was possible to speak to another person on any level" down below. It's a kind of geological party line, or terrestrial resonating gourd.
There were even ancient microbreweries down there, "equipped with tuff fermentation vats and basalt grinding wheels."

[Images: Derinkuyu and a view of Cappadocia; images culled from a Google Images search and from Wikipedia].

Meanwhile, Robert, my co-reader of Weisman's book, pointed out that the discovery of Derinkuyu, by a man who simply "broke through a wall and discovered behind it a room that he'd never seen, which led to still another, and another," is surely the ultimate undiscovered room fantasy – and I have to agree.
However, it also reminded me of a scene from Foucault's Pendulum – which is overwhelmingly my favorite novel (something I say with somewhat embarrassed hesitation because no one I have ever recommended it to – literally no one – not a single person! – has enjoyed, or even finished reading, it) – where we read about a French town called Provins.
In the novel, a deluded ex-colonel from the Italian military explains to two academic publishers that "something" has been in Provins "since prehistoric times: tunnels. A network of tunnels – real catacombs – extends beneath the hill."
The man continues:
    Some tunnels lead from building to building. You can enter a granary or a warehouse and come out in a church. Some tunnels are constructed with columns and vaulted ceilings. Even today, every house in the upper city still has a cellar with ogival vaults – there must be more than a hundred of them. And every cellar has an entrance to a tunnel.
The editors to whom this story has been told call the colonel out on this, pressing for more details, looking for evidence of what he claims. But the colonel parries – and then forges on. After all, he's an ex-Fascist.
He'll say what he likes.
As the colonel goes on, his story gets stranger: in 1894, he says, two Chevaliers went to visit an old granary in Provins, where they asked to be taken down into the tunnels.
    Accompanied by the caretaker, they went down into one of the subterranean rooms, on the second level belowground. When the caretaker, trying to show that there were other levels even farther down, stamped on the earth, they heard echoes and reverberations. [The Chevaliers] promptly fetched lanterns and ropes and went into the unknown tunnels like boys down a mine, pulling themselves forward on their elbows, crawling through mysterious passages. [They soon] came to a great hall with a fine fireplace and a dry well in the center. They tied a stone to a rope, lowered it, and found that the well was eleven meters deep. They went back a week later with stronger ropes, and two companions lowered [one of the Chevaliers] into the well, where he discovered a big room with stone walls, ten meters square and five meters high. The others then followed him down.
So a few quick points:
1) Today's city planners need to read more things like this! How exciting would it be if you could visit your grandparents in some small town somewhere, only to find that a door in the basement, which you thought led to a closet... actually opens up onto an underground Home Depot? Or a chapel. Or their neighbor's house.
2) Do humans no longer build interesting subterranean structures like this – with the exception of militaries, where, to paraphrase Jonathan Glancey, we still see the architectural imagination at full flight – and I'm referring here to things like Yucca Mountain, something that would surely be too ambitious for almost any architectural design studio today – because they lack the imagination, or because of insurance liability? Is it possible that architectural critics today are lambasting the wrong people? It's not that Daniel Libeskind or Peter Eisenman or Frank Gehry are boring, it's simply that they've been hemmed in by unimaginative insurance regulations... Is insurance to blame for the state of contemporary architecture?
And if you called up State Farm to insure an underground city... what would happen?
Or if you tried to get UPS to deliver a package there?

[Image: A map, altered by BLDGBLOG, of an underground Cappadocian metropolis].

In any case, underground cities are far too broad and popular an idea to cover in one post – there's even a Stephen King story about a maze of tunnels discovered beneath some kind of garment factory in Maine, where cleaners find a new, monstrous species of rat – and I've written about these subterranean worlds before. For instance, in Tokyo Secret City and in London Topological.
While I'm on the subject, then, London seems actually to be constructed more on re-buttressed volumes of air than it is on solid ground.
As Anthony Clayton writes in his Subterranean City: Beneath the Streets of London:
    The heart of modern London contains a vast clandestine underworld of tunnels, telephone exchanges, nuclear bunkers and control centres... [s]ome of which are well documented, but the existence of others can be surmised only from careful scrutiny of government reports and accounts and occassional accidental disclosures reported in the news media.
Meanwhile, I can't stop thinking about the fact that some of the underground cities in Cappadocia have not been fully explored. I also can't help but wonder if more than two thousand years' worth of earthquakes might not have collapsed some passages, or even shifted whole subcity systems, so that they are no longer accessible – and, thus, no longer known.
Could some building engineer one day shovel through the Earth's surface and find a brand new underground city – or might not some archaeologist, scanning the hills with ground-penetrating radar, stumble upon an anomalous void, linked to other voids, and the voids lead to more voids, and he's discovered yet another long-lost city?
It's also worth pointing out, quickly, that there is a Jean Reno film, called Empire of the Wolves, that is at least partially set inside a subsurface Cappadocian complex. What's interesting about this otherwise uninteresting film is that it uses the carved heads and statuary of Cappadocia not at all unlike the way Alfred Hitchcock used Mount Rushmore in his film North by Northwest: the final action scenes of both films take place literally on the face of the Earth.
In any case, I should be returning to the topic of underground cities quite soon.

Books cited:
• Alan Weisman, The World Without Us
• Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum
• Anthony Clayton, Subterranean City: Beneath the Streets of London

(With huge thanks to Robert Krulwich for kicking off this post!)

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Blogger Ryan said...

Speaking of underground cities and unexplored corners of the earth, you should check out an article written in the SF Chronicle about Urban Explorers. Pretty interesting things to find out there.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/08/19/CMA4QVBMQ.DTL

August 19, 2007 6:57 PM  
Blogger Nigel said...

Not exactly a city, but Baldassare Forestiere excavated an underground network of rooms and passageways in Fresno, CA. Here's the official web site -
http://www.forestiere-historicalcenter.com/ although there are better photo's here - http://placesearth.com/usa/california/fresno/underground_garden/underground0.shtml

BTW, I loved Foucault's Pendulum too.

Nigel

August 19, 2007 7:38 PM  
Blogger Beat said...

Two things:

1. All these tunnels under cities like London make me wonder if one day the city will suddenly collapse into a massive, city wide sink hole, not dissimilar to the small sink hole you posted from South America a while back. Sure, engineers take into account that a particular tunnel construction is strong enough to support the building above it, but what happens when you get hundreds, or even thousands of tunnels?

2. You mentioned insurance of tunnel cities/properties, yet didn't provide any links/evidence as to why these structures would be more expensive to insure - personally I can't see a reason, especially since you live in America, where tornadoes/twisters are a hazard in some areas, which would therefore LOWER insurance costs.

August 19, 2007 8:42 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Wonderful post, Geoff.

Many years ago, someone told me there was a secret submarine base under Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. Then I found a nautical map from the 1950s that blocked off an area around one side of the island as a military installation. Meanwhile, other people told me it was just a paranoid rumor. This site seems to confirm that there was at least a "mining casemate" there, whatever that is. Anyway, it's a beautiful place for a day-hike, acid trip, etc.

August 19, 2007 9:13 PM  
Anonymous Design for MySpace said...

With so much of intervention in urban cities, human beings would probably revert to tunnels in cities like London and SF.

Well written Geoff.

August 19, 2007 9:19 PM  
Anonymous Dogtowner said...

Fascinating stuff. Today's LA Times had an article on tunnels underneath universities:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-tunnels19aug19,0,166738.story
They're small beans compared to the other examples, but we see the same human urge to explore the netherworld.

August 20, 2007 2:10 AM  
Blogger Y.E. Vulva said...

when the dust has settled and the Octopods grown wings, all that shall be left will be an empty spinning projector wheel...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,1299444,00.html

August 20, 2007 2:14 AM  
Anonymous jean poole said...

Thanks for that... I just got back from there... is indeed rad...
included below, links to some photos taken aby a german guy who discovers ancient monasteries for a hobby...

http://www.skynoise.net/2007/08/20/cappadocia-land-of-brain-melt/

August 20, 2007 2:34 AM  
Blogger Christian Schade said...

The british author Terry Pratchett descibes several underground cities: in the dwarf country under the country of Uberwald - complete with underground canals, throne rooms, the works. (See "Thud")

In a dwarf city carved out under the capital of Discworld - Ankh-Morpork (same book).

In levels upon levels of previous city incarnations - still accessible preserved as the foundations of new generations.

August 20, 2007 6:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved Foucault's Pendulum. It is amazing how much was lifted and dumbed down by a certain litigious author who wrote about a code hidden by Leonardo DaVinci.

To see where Eco got his ideas from I'd recommend reading "Faith in Fakes: Travels in Hyperreality by Umberto Eco". Superb.

August 20, 2007 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Aegir said...

Foucault's Pendulum is a great book. I've read it three times now, and I've recommended it to people who've enjoyed it too. Keep recommending it, I'm sure someone you know will appreciate it one day!

August 20, 2007 10:41 AM  
Blogger ERic said...

Foucault's Pendulum was too dense for me. But I *did* finish it!

However, I've stayed away from DaVinci's Code because of all the horrid reviews of it by people I trust.

I much more enjoyed the Illuminati Trilogy.

August 20, 2007 10:42 AM  
Blogger ERic said...

In relation to the 'humans surviving' thing, I got into a discussion with a coworker about whether mankind would survive a massive asteroid strike, the kind that temporarily heats the atmosphere worldwide.

It'd be tough, but for us above ground dwellers here in Texas, I had to remind him that there are quite a few underground places around the world that people would stay a nice comfortable sixty some odd degrees.

The tougher part would be the food.

August 20, 2007 10:45 AM  
Blogger D said...

This simultaneously evoked the following feelings:
1. This is the most wonderful thing I've ever seen.
2. This reminds me a lot of the sets from Fraggle Rock.

I think they call that cognitive dissonance.

August 20, 2007 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Marisa said...

There's a great article in the magazine The Week that gives a scientific interpretation of what would happen to the earth without humans. In a few hundred years plants take over the cities, in thousands of years our buildings disintegrate into fertilizer, and large mammals come back as their territory expands. It's a beautiful article, really.

August 20, 2007 1:11 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Marisa, that's a review of the Alan Weisman book, actually.

August 20, 2007 1:17 PM  
Blogger edub said...

Nice post!

I hope everyone has the chance to watch the series on History channel called 'cities of the Underworld'. There was an episode on Cappadoccia.
I hope they'll do an episode on SF too - sounds like there's plenty of material for it. I've read (FYI, Foucault's Pendulum as well).

August 20, 2007 2:45 PM  
Blogger Adam said...

I used to joke with a sister that all those strange, seemingly blocked doors found in cities under bridges, in road tunnels, in metro stations were actually the work of mole people - and that the true city extended for many kilometres further beneath what we could see.

Perhaps there's something behind those suspicions after all?

(Oh, and for the record - I did finish Foucault's Pendulum, although I do need to read it again some day. But I've got numerous other books by Mr. Eco waiting on my shelves - I've got too many unread books that need reading before I start re-reading anything...)

August 20, 2007 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Andy K said...

I remember seeing some other underground "villages" in France. Whereas the Provins caves do not appear to be dwellings, those of Rochemenier and around Saumur are definitely troglodyte caves. There seem to be several troglodyte sites along the Loire river, in places where the tufa cliffs are exposed, and also in limestone hills of Provence. Many of these are still inhabited, and you might even be able to stay in a B&B cave. The French wikipedia entry for troglodyte is much better than the English one.

August 20, 2007 7:46 PM  
Blogger sevensixfive said...

I finished Pendulum a few times, it's one of my favorite books.

If you like labyrinthine conspiracies, undiscovered rooms, and underground architecture, I'm sure you know House of Leaves, but let me second, third, fourth, etc., whatever recommendations you've gotten in the past for that book.

August 20, 2007 8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have got Weisman's book on request through my local library. Have heard good and bad about it. Worldchanging did a whole piece regarding it as counterproductive to the enterprise set before us of overcoming the ills of climate change. The idea being that we need to be focusing on a world WITH US and not WITHOUT US. As for me, I am eagerly awaiting being imaginitively tantalized. Hope I am not disappointed.

August 20, 2007 8:47 PM  
Anonymous kevin manaugh said...

I'm not sure if it was by your recomendation, but but just for the record, Foucault's Pendulum is also one of my favorites. I even re-read it just this past year. I actually find it hard to believe that we've never discussed it.

August 20, 2007 9:16 PM  
Blogger DJensen said...

Something these tunnel cities, and the old continental European style villages, have that modern city planning and architecture lack is a sense of human interconnection reflected in the infrastructure. Modern ideas of family and property have much clearer lines drawn, and we rarely cross them. Look at modern suburbs; we cram homes as close as possible without letting them touch, rather than build more communal structures for shared use among larger groups. Think of the narrow twisty stone block villages of Europe and then look at, say, downtown Toronto.

Modern buildings, reflecting modern concepts of property, clearly demarcate where one (one's) ends and another (another's) begins. I don't think it has anything to do with insurance or fire/ambulance access or anything else: it's our sense of exclusive property rights.

Sometime I would love to have home built mostly underground, and I would welcome any neighbour would wanted to extend a tunnel or sidle right up side and put in a door.

August 21, 2007 4:16 AM  
Anonymous John C said...

An amazing place. I thought at first that Derinkuyu was a Japanese neologism meaning "the allure of underground cities".

I also finished Foucault's Pendulum but was rather disappointed by it, too much of it seemed to be lengthy paraphrasing of different theories. I was surprised when I flicked through it again recently that I remembered hardly anything of the story so maybe I should give it another go. But I prefer The Dumas Club by Perez-Reverte.

August 21, 2007 9:05 AM  
Blogger palinkk said...

Hello,

It is fascinating to see Kapadokya here. I am from Turkey and there are some more underground settlements but lots of them are not arised clearly yet.

For example there are lots of tunnels in Istanbul, lots of them are closed by nature or by humans and noone investigates them much. I saw some of these's enterences.
These tunnels and some secret underground accomodation parts of the palaces are very usual in both Ottomans and Byzantians. Usually they use these tunnels and rooms for the important people's escapes or private life. And usually these tunnels go straight to the sea from the palaces.

August 21, 2007 10:29 AM  
Anonymous lauren said...

Though it rather pales in comparison to a planned underground city, in Seattle you can take a of an underground portion of it near the waterfront. Apparently sometime in the late 19th century the whole city of Seattle decided that the tidal flood waters were a problem (hah) so they built it up two stories. Most buildings were gone from a large city-wide fire but buildings that remained have whole storefronts and rooms fronted by elevated streets. Pretty cool but it's no Cappadocia.

August 21, 2007 2:52 PM  
Anonymous John C said...

Lauren: that underground section of Seattle formed a very memorable setting for the climax of Kolchak; The Night Strangler (not to be confused with the earlier Night Stalker), a TV movie written by Richard Matheson in 1973.

August 21, 2007 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy k -- Manybooks.net has an interesting old text that describes lots of European cave and cliff dwellings:
http://manybooks.net/titles/baringgoetext058cave10.html

August 22, 2007 6:27 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Beat's comment brings to mind a lighter-hearted example. The system of tunnels used by the main characters to scavenge fallen gold dust in PAINT YOUR WAGON. Worked well until they forgot to reinforce the tunnel running underneath the bull/bear arena. The bull fell into the tunnel and started a rampage that destroyed the supports for the rest of the system and dropped No-Name City into the ground.

August 22, 2007 9:47 PM  
Anonymous James said...

And don't forget the mine hijackers previously covered here.

August 23, 2007 4:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the teriffic article. Also - I have read Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, and also loved it.

Keep up the awesome work!

: )

August 23, 2007 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the big piles of underground radioactive waste we're leaving behind might be a candidate. The caves may collapse but the radiation signature will last for millenia.

August 23, 2007 2:47 PM  
Blogger Bricology said...

Fascinating post! I enjoyed exploring more interesting posts of yours from this one (like a series of interconnecting, underground passageways, hm?) and I'll be checking your blog regularly in the future.

You might be interested in the 1911 book "Cliff Castles and Cave Dwellings of Europe" by the redoubtable Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould (it's been reprinted a few times, and is in many public libraries). Baring-Gould describes many abandoned underground dwellings and fortresses (in fine Edwardian English) including a few that I've never been able to find mentions of elsewhere.

By the way, I too enjoyed (and finished) "Foucault's Pendulum", although I felt let down by Eco's theistic cop-out in the end.

August 24, 2007 12:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

check for sutro tunnel in colorado usa.

was designed to drain the comstock lode shaft, 1870's, became unnecessary.

present use?

August 24, 2007 11:01 AM  
Blogger Pandora said...

Actually, somewhere in Australia is an entire community that lives underground like this. It's supposed to be pretty cheap to have your own underground "home" hollowed out, and it looks incredibly cozy. I can't remember the name of the place; only that it was in Australia.

August 24, 2007 3:35 PM  
Anonymous Paul Broekman said...

Not a lot of people know that almost the whole western part of Picardie in the North west of France also exists unnder the ground. Even little villages have rooms underground and a lot of those villages are conected by tunnels. Most of them are not in a good shape anymore.

I lived in Baizieux, inbetween Albert and Amiens. In Corby, a small but once an important town with a big abbey, a truck fall down in an underground tunnel as it was to heavvy loaded.

The biggest underground city which is open for tourists in the one in Naours.
I lived three years in Picadie and I do live in Cappadocie now.
The simalarity between those two places is remarkeble when it comes to the underground networks and their history.

http://www.grottesdenaours.com/

August 25, 2007 8:39 AM  
Blogger J E Carter II said...

Just found your site this evening... I think via Digg. Thanks for this fascinating post. I had never heard of these underground cities in Turkey. I'd love to know the history of them and how it figures into the last 5000 or so years of human history.

August 27, 2007 11:23 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

No problem, J E. I'm glad you found the blog!

August 27, 2007 11:28 PM  
Anonymous g510 said...

Most interesting. And it necessarily raises the questions, how did they provide for light, water, and sanitation down there? (the photos are lit with electric lights)

One envisions boreholes to the surface and clever arrangements of polished metal to reflect the sun along careful paths and bring in a kind of attenuated daylight. Perhaps there were individuals whose job it was to keep these things in proper alignment, much like the street light maintenance workers of today. For night use, perhaps ancient chemists discovered and used a basic form of chemoluminescence or highly efficient small candles to provide at least enough night light to enable people to crawl safely into bed. And perhaps a people used to living below ground from childhood developed their night vision and auditory navigation senses far enough that the small candles or whatever were quite sufficient to see by at night.

Getting water would have been simple enough, via gravity drains from above. Removing wastes on the other hand, might have been a challenge. Simply letting them fall into deeper pits would have led to an unbearable stench and overt health hazards, so the logical solution would have been chamber pots that could be carried topside and dumped far from the air inlets.

The speaking-tube communications systems definitely get points from me (I'm a telephone systems engineer); it might even have been possible to create horizontal ones a couple hundred feet long or longer.

All of which raises the issue of how these things were excavated out of rock. Late 19th century Western cultures were surprised to rediscover concrete and figure out that the Romans had been blessed with natural pozzolanic cement with which to build structures that stood for over 2,000 years. Nowadays there are reasonable speculations that the Egyptian pyramid builders used a kind of concrete to cast their top courses of stone. So perhaps it's not too far out to suggest that some of the techniques of excavation we consider modern (20th century) were known, in simpler forms, to these builders of underground cities.

Hmm. Some friends and I are planning a sustainable community, and occasionally we joke about putting in tunnels between the buildings, with underground storage areas to provide useful space without increasing the built footprint on the ground above. Perhaps I'll send them a link to this article...

August 28, 2007 11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a side note, the Cappadocia has been one of the main rivals to the Homerica city of legend, Troy. The city with the most "valid" claim at the moment is Truva, also in Turkey. Several cities built atop each other. ..

August 30, 2007 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff - I have read all of Foucault's Pendulum and thought it was wonderful! You're not alone!

Also, thanks for the great post. I'd never have known about these cities otherwise.

August 31, 2007 11:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

SubTropolis near Kansas City, Missouri.

It's an underground business park built in a salt mine.

Top 10 reasons for moving there, according to themselves--

10. SubTropolis is completely dry, brightly lit, with miles of paved roads.
And, all entrances are at street level.
9. Safe from the outside elements: wind, rain, ice, snow, tornadoes.
8. Buildings are protected by a state-of-the-art sprinkler system that is
monitored 24/7.
7. Stable, long term ownership and management.
6. Employees love the environment. And, they're more productive!
5. Maximum flexibility for expansion and seasonal surges.
4. On-site property management, security and maintenance.
3. Covered underground parking for all employees.
2. Low lease rates and operational costs.
1. 65° to 70° year round! Zero heating bills in the Winter and comfortable
temperatures all Summer long.

August 31, 2007 1:16 PM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Speaking of underground cities, don't miss BLDGBLOG's interview with urban explorer, Michael Cook...

August 31, 2007 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Australian underground community mentioned above is Coober Pedy, a centre of opal mining in the region. The underground homes there are built to avoid the intense heat. The name 'Coober Pedy' itself is supposedly an Anglicised version of a local Aboriginal phrase meaning "white man in a hole."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coober_Pedy
http://www.mytravellogbook.com/?p=8

August 31, 2007 11:12 PM  
Blogger agent139 said...

Very cool, thanks.

Well, for the record, I loved Foucault's Pendulum. So You needn't feel alone.

September 01, 2007 12:57 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Hey Geoff, have you head of Williamsons tunnels beneath Liverpool? They are pretty unusual in terms of secret sub-metropolitan tunnel systems in that they were all built one slightly crazed millionare for reasons best known only to himself.

September 02, 2007 11:34 AM  
Blogger Rob MacD said...

Hi. I came here via Cliopatria. Great post!

I'm halfway through World Without Us, and I don't have the book in front of me, but I thought what Weisman said was that underground cities in general would outlast everything on the surface - not just Cappadocia, but also things like the Moscow subway system, various NORAD bunkers, and even the winter weather shopping malls of Montreal. And that's remain intact. Apparently depleted uranium rods and tiny plastic nodules will be around long after that?

ps Foucault's Pendulum is possibly my favorite novel too. With due respect to previous commenters, the ending is not a cop-out - it's the best & only ending possible for that story.

September 04, 2007 1:29 PM  
Blogger Geoff said...

You asked why people don't do this any more. Two reasons, I think. First, lack of slavery. Building this stuff is going to be a bitch, and you need a workforce that can't say no. Maybe when we get cheap robots...

And second, opportunity cost. Because while you may find this cool, it's relatively inefficient. Build one underground city or three above-ground. Which are you going to do? The local realtor's association has the answer!

September 04, 2007 9:58 PM  
Blogger kittent said...

My friend Charlie directed me to your blog (curse him! I don't have time to read another blog) and I am fascinated. Went out at lunch and bought The World Without Us on your recommendation.

I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

September 05, 2007 2:38 PM  
Blogger Yanurama said...

Let me recommend you Ambergris: The City of Saints and Madmen, a sf novel where the city has been built on top of an underground empire of... read it to know!

September 23, 2007 2:16 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Yanurama, I actually interviewed the author of that book (Jeff VanderMeer) for BLDGBLOG last summer: Science Fiction and the City: An Interview with Jeff VanderMeer.

September 23, 2007 11:33 AM  
Anonymous Claire said...

People didn't like Foucault's Pendulum? It was great—especially because it so perfectly captures the tone of "real" conspiracy theory literature. I first read it in college, having been immersed in conspiracy theory material courtesy of following up leads from Steve Jackson Games's Illuminati game (itself based on the Illuminatus trilogy, and another good parallel/precursor to and probably inspriation for FP).

I read FP again a year or so ago, and it was as good as I remembered. Definitely many cuts above tripe like Dan Brown's.

(Also, I think that your interview might have been one of my first exposures to Jeff VanderMeer, who's turned out to be a great author, an interesting blogger, and quite the pusher of other great art and writing. Thanks!)

December 06, 2007 11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These undergroud cities look so cool to go and explore, i would personally love it. Though i don't think that i would like to be down there too long i would feel trapped.

December 22, 2007 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I used to have dreams about discovering a basement with all kinds of rooms and stuff, via an entrance through my bedroom closet, in my family home in FL (few basements, there!). These dreams were a combination of borderline-scary and fascinating. (BTW - I used to have internet dreams before there was a public internet, also! I can't claim real originality there, though: this was in the eighties when BBSs already existed. But that was all text stuff on paper and monochrome CRTS, and pretty limited. But in my dreams I could quickly access a vast array of sites with at least colored text, and possibly images.)

There is so much I'd like to see, learn and talk about, relating to this secret underground stuff! But, speaking of dreams, here is one key thing I want to say: I guess I must subconsciously have what I'd call "ClaustrAgoraPhobia." Everyone knows what claustraphobia is; "agoraphobia" is fear of wide open spaces and has the same Latin root as "agriculture." I used to have these nightmares in which I suddenly find myself in a huge, enclosed, empty, warehouse-sized room, which is actually an elevator, and is moving! It would terrify me. So: fear of vast, enclosed spaces: Claustragorophobia!

Well, in spite of my claustragoraphobia, I think one of the neatest things is the discovery of huge underground caverns. I have been in Carlsbad cavern and others. (No fear, either: guess their best caverns just aren't big enough!) Now, they used to say the earth's crust is 8 miles deep. Well, that was grade school in the sixties and seventies and maybe that is an accurate AVERAGE. But there are places where it's HUNDREDS OF MILES deep! Can you imagine someone not only discovering a cave system that went that deep and was that huge, BUT: which also had one or more cavernous cavities at least DOZENS OF MILES across!? That would be awesome, in spite of my claustragoraphobia!

To note: with the past year or few, they discovered a forgotten subway line underneath Manhattan. I think it had been a private subway line built in the 1930s or such. Personally, I've gotten to ride on the subway that runs between the Senate and House office buildings in Washington, DC!

Is Beijing building subway lines for the Olympics?

Cappadocia reminds of me of Petra, in Jordan. Haven't been to either but would love to! I wanted to take the sewer tour of Paris on a family trip, but was disallowed! They say the Paris metro is extremely extensive, like there's a line underneath almost every street or something? I rode on it but did not learn all I could about it.

I DID make a discovery of my own, one time! A friend of mine and I discovered a road not on the map of the Everglades and followed it and then another "unlisted" road. We found a closed (but sealed up) Nike missile base! Later, the Miami Herald had an article about it; by then it was obviously public knowledge and someone was trying to turn it into a museum.

Well, I guess my other thoughts and ponderings will have to remain "underground," for now! Oh, BTW: I came across this site due to Googling "secret soviet underground cities!" (Leave off the exclamation point!)

January 16, 2008 8:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The underground cities that are known about by the general public don't even touch the tip of the iceberg on some of the stuff and theories i've read. check this out; lots of conspiracy theories, i know, but if you can read thru it a bit there are some interesting things in there, which appear to be confirmed at least in parts by these discoveries.
http://www.theforbiddenknowledge.com/hardtruth/cosmicconflictintroduction.htm

February 03, 2008 7:57 AM  
Blogger Writer said...

Great article! I've always been interested in underground cities. I believe this began with my watching Scooby-Doo as a child - the characters always ended up finding secret passages - and extended into Fraggle Rock which took place almost exclusively underground. This of course continued in my Teen years with Neil Gaimen's Neverwhere.

Currently I live in Lexington, KY, and my interest continues in a large part because Lexington has been completely mined under, and we have a few rivers and streams that now run under the city. I live on Water St., named for the Town Branch that flows somewhere beneath the pavement. I've also been told that Mammoth Cave ends somewhere beneath Lexington - 300 miles from where it begins in western Kentucky.

July 30, 2008 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I posted before and now want to note: when I first moved to Greensboro, NC, I read something on the net that indicated there was a five mile long tunnel, possibly for trucks only, going to the Piedmont Triad International Airport. Asking locals turned up no info and further internet research turned up nothing further. I guess I misread something.

BUT: I just found out there was supposedly a long rumrunners tunnel in Mt. Airy, NC, running to the Virginia state line. They are still looking for it. (Man, hasn't the statute of limitations for rumrunning run out by now? [:-)] )

Lexington, KY sounds like an interesting place, with rivers and caves underneath it!


Florida has the aquafir. After watching something on TV, I thought someone ought to post a note to Orlando-ians, and other central FL residents:

"Is there a scuba diver 400 feet below your living room?"

July 30, 2008 5:35 PM  
Blogger Writer said...

This postings mention of The Great Wall of China decaying reminded me of this great book - that I posted on my blog here http://quiethands.blogspot.com/2008/07/great-decaying-wall-of-china.html

I'm sure you've seen it...but just in case...

July 31, 2008 10:28 AM  
Blogger Geoff Manaugh said...

Thanks, Writer; that Great Wall book looks amazing, I'll try to find a copy.

July 31, 2008 10:42 AM  
Anonymous Kat said...

Why don't architecture firms propose these projects? Imagination or insurance? I doubt you'd even be posing that question if you had any idea how little input architects actually get. Firms get a brief and they design accordingly. Unless you've got a ridiculously adventurous client who is happy to reduce his or her profits by building underground, there's no point even discussing it. Architects can be as creative as they like, but if there's no money behind it, they're just running themselves into the ground. Literally.

And frankly, the only thing boring about contemporary architecture is hearing the same 5 or so "big" names over and over again. Even my mother knows Gehry. Enough with starchitects, how about looking into the -rest- of the world of contemporary architecture?

August 10, 2008 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting to come across your information on Derinkuyu. I have been re-reading the book "Seth Speaks" (a channeled work published by Jane Roberts in 1972)and in it Seth talks about a highly evolved civilization called the "Lumanians". Seth says that this race pre-dated the stoneage "caveman" and created underground cities to dwell in due to their inability (physically and mentally) to deal with the harshness of the environment at that time (about 8000 b.c.). Although these cities supposedly still exist, Seth said at the time (1972) that few if any had been discovered. This he said was because of "false walls" in the backs of caves that masked their existence. Your post fascinated me so much that I had to get my book and re-read the chapter entitled "Reincarnation, Civilizations, Probabilities and More on the Multidimensional God" in which this information is presented. I am very curious as to whether or not these may be some of the underground developments of which he speaks.

April 25, 2011 12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I look at these pictures, I have images and hazy recollections of past lives. These places were built because the ancient ancestors were terrified of lights in the sky, UFOs, and the associated disappearances. Look at the way the roofs of the buildings of Cappadocia were built to look like mountain peaks, so they would not appear as dwellings from the sky.

July 30, 2011 9:15 PM  
Anonymous Julianna Lees said...

We live among the caves of the Dordogne and most recently visited a private one where an artist painted a human face looking straight at you - 12,000 years ago.

As it happens, we have been in Derinkuyu, (Cappadocia) Naours (Picardy) and many, many, Dordogne caves.

We have also enjoyed Foucault's Pendulum!

Julianna Lees

December 12, 2011 5:02 PM  
Blogger malizengin said...

Good article, thanks.

One comment I have, you say " I'm not entirely convinced by Weisman's argument here – not that I have expertise in the field – but Turkey is a very seismically active country, for instance..."
I am not expert on this, but these underground cities have been there for thousands of years in same seismically active region and still standing.
Somehow these would stay there, I believe. It is always astonishing for me, we claim we have most advanced technology but new buildings/structures being demolished by the earthquakes etc. but thousands years of old structures are still standing.

April 18, 2014 4:06 AM  

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