This Adventure:




    Part 01

    Part 02

    Part 03

    Part 04

    Part 05

    Part 06

    Part 07

    Part 08

    Part 09

    Part 10

    Part 11

    Part 12

    Part 13

    Part 14



    Main Page


Intro/Rant 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14


Splash of the Titans


Looking at the doorway that once led to the LOX bay and the giant tank of liquid oxygen that supplied launcher #2.  The tank is gone and the door has been welded shut with plate steel.

When last we saw our damp heroes, they had lost one of the fearless crew to the merciless depths of propellant terminal #2. (see Part VIII)

After a brief period of mourning topside, with the daylight hours swiftly ticking by, we paddled ass back into the tunnels, determined to conquer the rest of the complex in tribute to my dearly-departed camera.

But wait, what about propellant terminal #2?  We went there, my camera was lost, but there is more to the story.  These few photos show what we saw.

With my good camera appearing to be mortally wet, I got out my backup camera-- a cheaper, lower resolution Minolta.  It had followed me into other Titan sites in the past so I knew it was up to the task.

The "mysterious" concrete box on the upper level of the propellant terminal.

The water level was perhaps 10 or 12 feet deep which put us at the upper level of the terminal.  We orbited around the reinforced concrete platform that was the enigmatic foyer for the LOX bay. 

As we circled it's cracked and damaged ramparts, we mused over various theories as to its purpose: Why was it there?  What purpose did it serve?

At the time, we never hit on a solid theory as to why it was there, but I think I might have an idea (just hatched) that explains the concrete "box" that surrounds the doorway to the LOX bay. 

Pretty much everything was taken from this room.  Only some spring supports, light fixtures and conduit were left behind.

My theory (which is mine) is this: the concrete box appears to enclose many of the larger valves employed in the transfer of liquid oxygen-- a substance that is very hazardous and reactive, and as such would be a good candidate for something best kept from spilling all over the place.  I think the concrete was a very large catch basin to contain any large spills that might occur from the valves and keep it from poisoning personnel or damaging equipment.

Liquid oxygen causes many materials to become extremely brittle due to its extremely low temperature which can make gaskets in piping fail and leak and is also highly oxidative, resulting in vigorous reactions (read: explosions!) and also readily boils off in ambient indoor temperatures enjoyed by humans (it boils at -297.33°F) giving off alarmingly-high levels of (big surprise!) O2 which can in turn incite hyperoxia-- aka: oxygen poisoning.

Well well.  Look at that.  light fixtures and conduit.  These lines were some of the 4800v power drops to equipment in the terminal.

Yes, too much of a good thing rears its ugly head when you breathe too much oxygen.  Oddly, the effects are similar to that of hypoxia, or too little oxygen: dizziness, disorientation, visual disturbances (tunnel vision) and trouble breathing amongst other unpleasantries.

Given all liquid O2's tendency toward mischief, it seems no small wonder that extra precautions might be taken to prevent it from getting all over the place.

However, it must be stated that I am still not sure about the concrete barrier in the propellant terminals.  

For a while we scouted for a good place to moor the USS Moistbottom in an attempt to make landfall on the concrete island, but the looming threat of falling ass-over-espresso-machine into the questionable waters held us at bay.  Seeing very little on the platform, we decided to leave it in peace and relative dryness.

Access to the completed terminal was through this 10' diameter ceiling hatch.  All the major equipment and services-- tanks, piping and such were lowered into the terminal via the hatch which was later sealed with asphaltic sealant and plugged with a giant concrete and steel cap.

What little there was left to see in the propellant terminal was mostly hidden beneath the murky water that filled the structure roughly half full.

Somewhere below, the LOX tunnel joined the silo in the depths.  I began to long for a wetsuit and requisite dive training!

What secrets lay at the bottom of those deep, dark silos?  Would I ever find out?

Leaning over the side, we could see the pads where once very large cylinders of nitrogen and helium were secured to the floor in clusters.  Other shapes, barely visible in the poor light played tricks on our eyes as we strained to see what they were. 

A lateral spring support with a broken fluorescent tube floating next to it.  These springs supported most of the upper platforms and would dampen any shockwaves that might otherwise damage the delicate piping and controls which filled this room.


Unable to contain ourselves, (also we were getting rather cold from being wet from the waist down) we squeezed back out of the fateful tunnel that had claimed my camera and made the long trip back to the blast lock.

Walter swiftly paddled the kayak back through the rusted tunnels as I snapped a bunch of reverse angle shots.  

The cold clutch of discomfort swiftly returned as we soaked up the chill waters once more, but all that was so very far away.  We were now on our way to launcher area #3 for real.


Launcher Area no. 3 - Cribwork at Last

Blast Lock #1 - Back for more, this time we head for launcher area #3.

Back at blast lock #1 again, we took the other tunnel, passing more silly graffiti and absurd spray-paint vandalism.  I checked my camera to ensure I hadn't destroyed the backup and swapped out batteries.  I also managed to get some video (which will be uploaded to this website eventually, so keep your eyes peeled for it in future updates) as well which will better convey the experience of seeing a flooded Titan I site to those who are not able to see one for themselves.

Graffiti always amuses me when I think about the trouble one has to go through just to bring cans of aerosol paint along and then try to do "art" on a wall while floating in a small watercraft.


Just about to turn toward launcher #3.  A lot of cable and conduit used to pass through here but little was left when I got there. 

I took the opportunity to get more shots of the blast lock as we sailed through again.  I wonder just how long this site has been flooded like this?  It appears that perhaps at one time it was dry and getting around the tunnels was of course much easier, allowing someone to spray paint all over the walls for instance.

Looking toward the entrance to the tunnels to launcher area #2.


Coming about: Launcher area #3 dead ahead

This blast lock is much more colorful than those in Colorado, and has the bright orange/red paint flanking the doorways.  What a difference a little color makes; but why stop there?  The ambience of this room could be greatly enhanced by the judicious use of caution stripes, warning signs and placards to carry the theme of menace and danger and draw the eye to its other industrial features.

Blast lock area of launcher area #3. This is a short concrete tunnel with blast doors at either end.

It was fun to watch the waves play along the walls as we moved through.  It was rather like being in some big wave chamber watching them recede and then bounce back to collide with other waves.

The tunnel to launcher #3 lays just ahead, you can see where the round tunnel meets the blast lock corridor here.  The blast door has been removed from the opening ahead.

Nearing the long tunnel to the launcher area, I could not contain my excitement about the cribwork.  We decided to bypass propellant terminal #3 and make straight for the launcher silo.

The tunnel to launcher #3

The Ascension

At this point in the voyage, I was a bit gun-shy with my remaining digital camera, fearing that I might destroy them both and have no way to get pictures of the areas I was most excited to see.  As a result, I took few pictures (almost none in fact) of the trip to launcher area #3.  I did shoot some video instead however.

With luck, we found the entrance to silo #3 well open and we squeezed through the short opening and emerged in a very strange place indeed.  Tall columns of steel thrust up into the inky darkness above and dove down into the unexpectedly clear water below.  Crescents of foam glass pipe insulation bobbed all around us under disquieting signs warning of the many hazards of the place we now beheld.

For a minute, we said nothing, simply trying to twist our heads about to see it all and strained our eyes to pierce the water below and the darkness above.  Walter spun the kayak in a circle so we could see the entire space that enclosed us.

Above us, perhaps another 4 stories of dry cribwork extended into the darkness, inviting us to climb up and see the secrets it held.  First, however, we had a bit of a problem.

One of the typically unsettling sights to be enjoyed in place as strange as a flooded missile complex: a sign warning "DANGER - HIGH VOLTAGE" hangs perhaps two feet above the water in which we were floating.  Even though there was obviously no power-- could not possibly be any power-- something visceral is felt when existing in a situation of such obvious logical contradiction as to be floating in water near such a sign.

We looked around skeptically at the slippery vertical steelwork surrounding us, both thinking the same thing:  "How the hell do we get off this thing without taking a bath?"

There really was no ideal place for such maneuvers anywhere: no pier, no dock, no good place to moor the SS Moistbottom for exploring "ashore" that we could readily see.

Hmm...  No good place to clamber out of a highly-unstable watercraft here...

Submerged counterweight guide rails and piping with a touch of foam-glass insulation in silo #3 presenting little opportunity for safe, dry landfall.

We circled about the silo looking for the best spot we could find-- something where we could reach a ladder up onto the cribwork and find some footholds within reach.  Nothing really promising presented itself, but finally we settled on a spot just under a service ladder and catwalk, that although not directly accessible, we could climb to it easily if we managed not to capsize the kayak trying to reach it.

The silo presented us with rather poor choices for landing.  Here we move around some of the steel beams of the cribwork looking for a likely spot to climb aboard.  This photo shows how easy it was, with a little illumination, to see under the water.

Finally we found a spot where we could steady the kayak on each end by holding it against two beams.  The plan was that Walter would exit first, slowly and carefully standing up in the kayak-- not an easy move on the water-- and grab a duct support above and cautiously pull himself up off the kayak (hopefully without dumping me and my cameras into the water) allowing me to move the the kayak so I could do the same, leaving it tethered to a pipe for our return.

Walter managed to disembark without anyone getting dunked and climbed to a ladder leading up to a nearby platform.  I too was successful at staying out of the water and quickly joined him on the catwalk.  We were rather uncertain about getting back on the kayak, but that was a problem for later!  Now we had some cribwork to explore!

Access ladder leading to the lowest catwalk near our "landing site".


The catwalk we climbed up to after leaving the kayak tethered below.

There were always ample choices for routes between different levels and platforms as the cribwork could easily be described as a gigantic jungle gym.  Ladders, beams, bars, conduit, brackets and struts were everywhere making, for the adventurous explorer with good upper body strength, a very interesting exploration.

Looking down at the SS Moistbottom from the catwalk.  The support we used to climb up is right over the kayak in this photo.  The red pipe is part of the fire water system of spray nozzles and the yellow pipe is the RP-1 (fuel) supply line for the missile.

Once we were both safely on what appeared to be solid "ground" on the maintenance platform, Walter and I both proceeded to geek out and marvel at all the details of the silo cribwork that surrounded us.  

Now Walter had been there before some years back, but he was still stoked as we clambered about on the catwalks, platforms and service ladders that ran in just about every direction.

This silo is one which was minimally salvaged and a lot of it's original fixtures are still in place.  Here, piping or ductwork has been removed, but brackets and hangers remain.  Some Titan I silos have nearly bare walls by comparison with almost nothing left behind.

Myself, I went on a frenzy of photographic mayhem in an attempt to photo-document every square nanometer of the silo.  The flash on my camera was strobing so often you'd have thought we were in some bizarre vertical discotheque.

View from one of the many narrow catwalks and platforms on the cribwork.  A damaged maint- enance platform can be seen in the background looking rather unstable.

Once I was on the structure of the cribwork, the scale of the whole thing was quite impressive.  Even though the water was perhaps 20 feet below, I knew that below that water there was another 100 feet of this massive steel work extending below the surface.

At intervals on the cribwork, there were stops where the personnel elevator accessed the different levels.  At these levels there were maintenance platforms which folded out to surround the missile creating a nearly continuous work area for the crews to inspect, repair and otherwise maintain the weapon.

A severely-damaged maintenance platform hangs askew some 25 feet above the water.  These retractable platforms were lowered for maintenance and checkout procedures on the missile airframe at a number of levels accessible by elevator and service ladders.

It appeared that these work platforms were all, or mostly still in place, though many were badly damaged and appeared to have been struck by falling steel or perhaps snagged on something as it was being hoisted out of the silo.  Some were twisted at odd angles, their hydraulics torn loose, and others appeared to hang by a thread.

Another maintenance platform dangles nearby


Looking at the platform and opening for the personnel elevator.  No sign of the elevator car however.

Everything here, all the enormity and complexity, buried deep and hardened with all this concrete and steel in this mazelike warren of tunnels and rooms existed for the sake of this place, the silos' precious inhabitants, the mighty Titan I missiles, and even though the missiles are long, long gone, there is a sense of presence about this specific place that remains, assuring one that the Titan was aptly named.

Another mangled maintenance platform about 30 feet below the surface and some 20 feet above the water line below. 


Looking a bit further up you can see the accordion-style elevator door, rusted but still in there at the destroyed retractable platform.

Scaling the levels, I felt an elation at finally being at the locus, the crux of the Titan 1 complex and joy at finally seeing for myself, at last, the place where the Titans slumbered.  This was something I had waited over 15 years to see firsthand.  I was ecstatic. 

Another shot of the elevator doors and platform

The remnants of the cribwork, though battered and beaten by salvage, weathered by time and neglect, were largely intact in their main structure.  Large parts had been cut away to facilitate removal of features here and there, but in essence, the cribwork was by no means disappointing or diminished.

As we climbed higher I knew that ahead of me lay one more ultimate goal in my exploration of the Titan I complex.  This-- viewing the cribwork-- had been one of those goals for many years, just like seeing the silo catwalk level back at Lowry 724-C had been about 7 years earlier and seeing the launcher air filtration facility a year before that had been.  One by one these goals have been checked off my list, but this, this was a big one.

After this, only a visit to the very bottom of a Titan I silo could top what I was seeing this day!  I wondered if I should ever be so fortunate.  What was down there, in that deep, dark place that was always flooded, completely hidden and tantalizingly mysterious?

The fatigue I might have otherwise felt after such a sleepless night before, and the tiresome and demanding trek to get to this place was completely banished by the excitement of being here.  Time for rest later; I had more climbing to do!

Tune in soon for the next installment:

Part Ten -  The Upper Reaches

Intro/Rant 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14