The Light Fantastic
Before I take you down into the dark, I want to shine a spotlight, if I may be so trite, on a light that on this trip had shone so bright.
A few months back, a friend turned me on to Streamlight, (with whom I have absolutely no business or promotional affiliations, guaranteed) manufacturer of professional-quality flashlights, spot lights and other illuminating products used by police, fire, security and the military as well as the private sector.
I'd never heard of them and when I saw what it cost for a small flashlight, (about $50) I confess I was sticker-shocked. I unclenched my wallet and bought an LED model, the Tasklight 3-AA which for its size had greater intensity than most similar-sized lights. It also had an 18-hour run-time on one set of batteries.
Brightness and battery life are paramount for my purposes and this little light performed beautifully with surprising brightness. I used it for about 10 hours solid, almost never turning it off and it never diminished. In fact, I used it lightly for 2 months after that, and then on this trip to 568-C where it saw perhaps another 10 hours of nearly continuous use and I have yet to replace the original 3 batteries I installed the day I bought it as of this writing!
I must admit, I am impressed.
So when it came time to plan this trip, I wanted some good, bright light to help banish the darkness of Larson 568-C. I immediately checked Streamlight's product line where I found exactly what I wanted: the E-Flood Litebox.
The E-Flood Litebox offered just what I needed: intense light with a long run-time and rechargeable-- perfect for exploring a Titan I. There were brighter lights available, but none could match the run-time of 8 hours on a charge.
In the past I had used large 1,000,000 candle power spotlights, but they were cheap, poorly made and lasted only about 25 minutes with intermittent use, always dying way too fast when I really needed them. Feh.
The Litebox has 6 super-bright LEDs like the one in my Tasklight and so uses a fraction of the power an incandescent bulb uses. It performed wonderfully during the trip and though it wasn't the lightest or the brightest I could have gotten, I love it for its solid construction and performance. Anyone messes with my Litebox they'll get hurt!
Maglite? Don't even come at me with that crap.
You WILL Get Wet On This Ride
Moving into the larger tunnel section of the main junction, the echo of running water seemed to come from all around me, and yet I could not see where the sound was coming from.
Now that it was almost completely dark, I turned on my flood light so I could see what was going on.
The floor was largely intact but the walls bore the usual aerosol assault of dirty words and lewd imagery. The rust wasn't as bad as expected with the obvious (and as yet unseen) presence of water, and from the sounds of things there was rather a lot more than usual at this site.
I headed toward the control center, breathing in the familiar underground odor that all the sites have, only this time it was mixed with the stench from the pigeons.
The sound of the water was amplified by the tunnels and became increasingly loud. I could see the group just ahead of me, gathered around a large section of missing flooring and shining their lights into the opening like they had just discovered a human corpse.
My slow and deliberate progress through the site was completely derailed by my terrible curiosity about what they were looking at and where exactly all this water I was hearing could be coming from.
I made my way to the edge of the opening in the floor and brought the E-Flood to bear upon what lay below.
Really, I shouldn't have been surprised at that point, but I was. There in the underground complex, from somewhere far back in the launcher tunnels, a stream was flowing-- right through the missile site!
Taking On Water
A steady volume of crystal clear water flowed out of the launcher tunnel and around the steel sub-structure of the missing floor panels. With its soothing burble it was almost beautiful and it invoked a very surreal sensation with its rather unlikely and incongruous presence.
The gentle creek flowed into the main junction, past where we stood, took a corner just outside the antenna and control center tunnels, and following the passageway, disappeared underneath the floor panels and out of sight in the direction of the power house.
This was more than just a little trickle here-- thousands of gallons were flowing through there every hour. Where the hell was it all going?
The small stream made a tiny waterfall as it spilled out of the launcher tunnel and into the main tunnel junction. The whole scene had a very Tolkienesque feel to it and you'd almost find it rather natural for a hobbit to come strolling out of one of the passageways at any moment.
I shined my flood light down the tunnel, and seeing the stream stretch off into the darkness, wondered how it was getting into the complex: an open air shaft or escape hatch perhaps?
The guys from Undersea Adventures told us that the tunnel was blocked somewhere past the fuel terminal. In order to keep intruders out, a barricade had been welded across the tunnel, so we'd only be able to go so far in that direction. To get to the launchers we'd have to use the "other entrance". Hmmm.
Yes, now things were starting to get very interesting indeed. This was supposed to be the "dry" part of the site! I was beginning to think I really should have packed some waders for this trip.
Once again, the group headed off without me as I got my pictures. I found it rather difficult to tear myself away from the creek, taking a few more pictures as I followed reluctantly.
Looking at the tunnels to the control center and antenna terminal it appeared that there had once been a lot more water flowing through as there was sand washed right up to the tunnel openings.
Though quite barren, the main junction wasn't in terrible shape like the entry portal. There was rust of course, but not an intractable amount. Most of the flooring remained, making the footing less treacherous than it certainly could have been.
The antenna tunnel was was stripped of all trappings and no trace of the cable trays, pipes, light fixtures or conduit had been left behind. Thorough folks those scrappers. I also noticed that the tunnel wasn't deformed out of round as it was at 724-C from the tremendous weight of backfill soil pressing down on it after it was buried.
The raw water tanks (like the diesel tanks I would later find at this site) were housed behind heavy steel bulkheads with a hatch that looked like something out of "Das Boot". Perhaps in later designs (Lowry sites were the 1st to start construction and the first to become operational) it was decided that the 35,000 gallons of water each tank held was best kept in check lest it flood the complex and affect the site's operational readiness.
The door hatches had been partially cut away undoubtedly to allow for the removal of the 16-inch valves that each tank had been outfitted with.
Heading toward the power house I could see in my mind a scenario unfolding as I looked at the opening leading into the giant concrete dome.
One side of the highly-reinforced high-strength concrete opening had been jack hammered out and widened, almost certainly to make room for the diesel generators so they could be removed.
I can only guess what a giant pain in the ass it must have been to remove most of the salvage inside the Titan I sites, but items like the generators-- very large, massive and ridiculously unwieldy, must certainly have through the mechanisms of naked anxiety and scheduling pressures, shortened the lives of the haulers and riggers commissioned to affect their extraction.
My companions had already disappeared into the vast open space of the power house dome. Closing in on the entrance, I could once again hear the sound of running water.
It was obvious that "Titan Creek", as I had dubbed it, was flowing straight into the power house, but I was rather surprised that the entire tunnel junction was not flooded.
Entering the power house, the sound of running water echoed quite surprisingly inside the concrete dome. I started to wonder if the dome was breached somewhere and the water was flowing out through some jagged rift in its walls or foundation.
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