UVA underground

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UVA underground

Under the cover of night a small group of UVA students walk cautiously down McCormick Road, tiptoe into the grass and then—CLINK—they’ve vanished. What happened?


Escape hatch: The steam tunnel entrance at McCormick Road and Emmet Street leads to another world.

No, they haven’t been abducted by the ghosts of ol’ TJ, Faulkner or Poe. These stealthy students are journeying into UVA’s network of steam tunnels. It’s not streaking The Lawn, but the descent into these interconnected underground tunnels provides an escape for Wahoos bored with things like the "Good Old Song" and the Sea of Orange.

Lifting the grate, if it’s you who ventures underground next time, you’ll find a steel ladder leading into the depths. Underground, it’s a whole different world—stuffy, grimy and dimly lit. Warmth emanates from the pipes that heat much of the University, and, with the accompanying wires and valves, it’s like traveling along the University’s veins.

Signs of previous tunnelers abound: scrawled graffiti and crumpled cans of Old Milwaukee. A chance noise will send your heart racing. You are, after all, trespassing.

A few minutes and you’ll be ready to return to the surface. Pop up in front of the Chemistry Building or at the corner of Alderman and McCormick, make sure no one has spotted you and breathe in the fresh air as you return to the surface.

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