Lost in the Sewer: Steve Duncan, Urban Explorer
Despite a popular modern attitude of disparagement regarding cities, placing the urban at odds with that which is natural, the promotion of the urban is one of my greatest interests. A while back on my and Greg’s former blog, Criticism As Inspiration, I decided to write a short series of posts concerning some of my favourite [non-trespassing] adventures from Los Angeles (beginning with parts of Griffith Park with the intention of becoming more unconventional/climactic as the series progressed). I ultimately aborted the series after the initial post because I realised it wasn’t exactly suitable content for the CAI blog. Even so, one of my most favourite pastimes is ‘urban exploration’ – exploring that which is typically overlooked, ignored and shunned for being banal, strictly functional and ugly.
The popularity of urban exploration is on the rise and I suspect that many incredibly curious city-dwellers have been doing this sort of thing for a long time (I’m pretty certain Fagin knew all the good underground routes in London). Among contemporary urban explorers, 32-year-old Steve Duncan is one of the most notable. Duncan is not merely a thrill-seeker, but is deeply concerned with urban history and development (he’s currently working on his PhD in urban history at the University of California, Riverside) and preserving these urban sites he so cherishes.
This past weekend I caught All Things Considered on NPR and was pleasantly surprised by a story about this hero of mine: ‘Into the Tunnels: Exploring the Underside of NYC‘. For this story, NPR’s Jacki Lyden and producer Brent Baughman join Duncan for [most of] a 25-mile excursion beneath New York City, wading through raw sewage, crawling among rats and cockroaches, jumping over third rails and evading police. Duncan, Lyden and Baughman are joined by world-famous Norwegian adventurer, explorer and author Erling Kagge (he’s climbed Everest, hiked to the South Pole, and became the first person to walk alone to the North Pole, just to name a few of his accomplishments).
I strongly urge you to read the article and listen to the 20-minute broadcast if you have not already!
Duncan was also recently joined for an adventure under NYC by HDSLR director/cinematographer Andrew Wonder, which is documented in this 30-minute video entitled ‘UNDERCITY’, which is definitely worth a view.