Modes of locomotion


Not all tunnels are created equal.  That's why we explore them, but it also means they're sometimes very different heights.  Here's a breakdown of how they break down explorers.
Walking -  I don't even consider exploring most tunnels most days unless walking upright is the default option for at least the majority of the trip.  Anything 6" on up will be comfortable enough for most people.

Hunching -  Among explorers, the common name for tunnels that have us hunched over to keep from scraping our heads along the ceiling is "back-breaker."  You can minimize some of the discomfort by, for example, walking with your hands behind your back (i.e., your shoulders are kept straight in a normal position), but these aren't especially fun after a while.

Crouching -  Typically this is what you are forced to resort to in, say, 3' diameter concrete pipes.  In other words, you have to bend your knees the whole time and basically squat and walk at the same time.  It is awkward, but it's easier on your knees than crawling.

Crawling -  I've found reason to check out a few small spaces that required some crawling, but generally I try not to get into tunnels (or parts of tunnel) this small.

Slithering -  Even though this isn't a desirable form of locomotion and is typically the slowest-going of them, a few tunnels with especially small inlets (or exits, depending on which direction I'm heading) make this the only option.  If you're heading for a definite destination like a known tunnel or a curbside drain at the surface, then it's worth it, but always be aware that it is impossible to turn around, so you have to be capable and willing to work your way backwards if you find you're in a dead end or the passage is too constricted to pass through at some point.


Implications of alternative modes of transportation
Biking -  For the first couple of modes outlined above, you can bike a tunnel without any discomfort.  In fact, biking is more comfortable for the "back-breakers" than walking hunched over since, for one thing, you're going to get through a tunnel faster on two wheels than on two feet, and you're sitting low to begin with.  For more pros and cons, see this page.

Skateboarding -  Many have suggested using a skateboard or mechanic's creeper (i.e., the thing they roll under cars they're working on), but these turn out to be more trouble than they're worth.  You're using muscles you wouldn't normally, so you fatigue faster.  Unfortunately, since you're using a single mode of transportation, you're stuck doing the same thing.  If you were just crouching or crawling, you'd have more options.  If you're slithering, a skateboard might be viable, but you really shouldn't have to go very far before you no longer need it, in which case, what are you going to do with it now?

Boating -  Whether you're in a canoe, inflatable raft, or another craft, you're going to be down low already, so height isn't much of a concern down to a point.  In fact, a low ceiling can be an advantage.  For example, on one trip through a tunnel, the ceiling was low enough for me to reach up and touch, though not so low we were ever in danger of scraping our heads.  I just put my arms up and propelled us along by "walking" on the ceiling.  It was far more efficient than rowing, and the guy at the front of the canoe steered primarily by using his oar to gently push us away from the walls whenever we neared the sides.


Copyright 2007 Alexplorer.
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