Post: Down the drain

Date: 28/10/2011

Tags: drains

Location: Glasgow

Camlachie Cuban Camlachie Bricks Self Escape Potential Stooped Arches

It's been far too long since I've posted an update to this website. It's not for lack of content, far from it. I have a backlog of photos to sort through that I seem to keep on adding to rather than dealing with. But before I get to any of that, I'm going to jump to something much more recent. Yesterday in fact.
It had to happen eventually, and I probably took far longer than most. I went down a drain. Funny as this may sound to many explorers out there, the truth is Scotland appears to lack either the drainers or the drains. I'm not sure which it really is because investigations are showing that there are probably worthy drains in Scotland that just have yet to be properly checked out. Because in this country the majority of people who explore drains are south of the border, little time seems to be spent trying to find out what Scotland really has to offer, if that's much at all. There are one or two Scottish explorers (notably BenCooper) that have been down some drains before, particularly in Glasgow, and it's sparked interest with other explorers too. The Molendinar burn in Glasgow is an ideal introduction, so when I was contacted by Cuban and Pyro about a trip down, I thought, what the hell.
Despite all the places I have ventured before, both over and underground, this was all a rather new experience for me. As luck would have it, nearby the entrance to the burn there is a fishing megastore, so a quick visit and £25 later and I had myself a pair of thigh waders. The waders are nylon, and they stink - not of sewerfresh but they have a nasty petroleum sort of odour that's stinking out my flat from the cupboard as I type this. Cuban had picked up waders from eBay for a similar price. His were rubber and altogether looked much better. For the convenience of buying locally and a necessity of paying by cash, they suited me just fine though.
Escape Potential
An awkward climb over a spiky fence, down the embankment and into the burn we splashed. My feet were still dry. Good. Downstream we waded and into the mouth of the tunnel. Further and further we went, and by this point I'd come across the first and most annoying unpleasantry - flies. Lots of tiny little flies that were determined to get up my nose, in my mouth and in my ears. Futher up we encountered an opening into a fast flowing stinking shitpipe which was my first introduction to sewerfresh. One step at a time. Next, after a downhill slide I encountered the second annoyance that was more of an issue for me, being over 6ft tall. At this point the tunnel required me to bend double to pass and it went on and on like this. I enjoy my height advantage in many situations, especially when clambering over something is required, but in this case it just sucked. Short-arses are kings here. Luckily there was a little respite every so often in the way of shafts that led up to manholes at street level. At one point, when I didn't think the tunnel could get any lower, it did. This was to pass under the low level railway line. Trains passed over as we squeezed under the line, the metro musings distracting me from my uncomfortable posture for just a moment. These things are the sort of things that after you have encountered enough, you simply stop noticing, but they'll always stand out the first time.
Further up the Camlachie Burn joins the Molendinar. Its tunnel provided an opportunity to stand up straight, so we took it and branched off. As well as containing the odd rat, the tunnels up there proved to be more featureful too. Time to get the camera out. When there's no dry place to put anything down, you really have to think about what you are doing so that you don't accidentally drop anything or allow things to dangle into the water. I managed to juggle everything just fine until the very end when we were about to exit the tunnel. The rather vague locking of the plate on my cheap manfrotto tripod caught me out and my 20D and 50mm f/1.8 tumbled off the tripod and into the water. I instantly snatched it back up and pulled the battery. I had never so much as dropped a camera before, so it was only time. Naturally it had to be the worst time. Thankfully, the build quality of the 20D is pretty solid and coupled with the very short period of time it actually spent in the water, after a night on the radiator it's as if it didn't even happen. I have insurance ready for moments just like this, but there's still the inconvenience of being without a camera for a while, as I'm in no financial situation to be able to replace it immediately. Lesson learned.
The time came to make our way back, taking a few shots on the way. I've still a lot to learn about drain photography, but I feel my first attempt at it didn't fair too badly. An interesting experience that while hasn't got me hooked as of yet, I've told myself I'll give this whole drain malarkey a go at least while my waders hold up. Might as well get my money's worth. Never know, I may actually grow to love it.
Group shot
Pic: Pyroninja

Some video to follow soon.
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