When devising a new tour, the standard considerations involve enhancing its appeal, captivating the audience, and ensuring an unforgettable experience. Yet, one must also ponder a fundamental question: "Should this be pursued, or perhaps not?" While I contemplated the prospect of organizing such a tour, I ultimately refrained from realizing it.
Many of you have probably heard the news from Moscow regarding the unfortunate deaths of several tourists during an underground river tour. I've read multiple articles about it in both Russian and English, and would like add more understanding. This is why I'd like to share my thoughts on the accident. I personally visited the location where the tragedy occurred, having worked as a tour guide in an abandoned limestone mine and having experienced a flood in a cave myself. I even considered organizing a similar tour to the same place but ultimately decided against it.
First and foremost, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased. I lack official information about the incident, including the organizers of the ill-fated tour and the precise events that transpired. Thus, I will share my reflections based solely on my knowledge and experiences.
Moscow boasts a plethora of subterranean structures: the metro, bunkers, parking facilities, communication networks, water conduits, rivers, and more. This tragedy unfolded within the largest underground river in Moscow, the Neglinka River. Historically, the Moscow Kremlin was erected at the juncture where this river met the Moscow River, providing a natural defensive barrier from the southern approach. During the aftermath of the Napoleonic War and the subsequent rebuilding of Moscow following its conflagration, the Neglinka River was rerouted underground into man-made tunnels. Along the course of the river's former path, new streets and parks emerged.
Over time, this area underwent numerous reconstructions, transforming it into a sprawling expanse in the heart of Moscow. Throughout history, it remained accessible, albeit unofficially. In the absence of stringent oversight, the most grievous transgressions committed by visitors were limited to wall graffiti. Law enforcement would typically apprehend these individuals, subjecting them to questioning at the police precinct and, perhaps, imposing minor fines; the process was almost routine.
In either 2014 or 2015, I embarked on a venture to this river with a friend. Our journey commenced around 11 pm near the Tsvetnoy Bulvar metro station, in a park adjacent to the location. After lifting a manhole cover, we entered the subterranean realm of the river. Progressing through the tunnels, we traversed several kilometers beneath the surface, finally resurfacing around 5 am. Our expedition allowed us to explore a fraction of the labyrinthine network.
In essence, the tunnel boasts a width spanning several meters, predominantly around 5 meters, with a height of approximately 3 to 4 meters. Within this tunnel, a surprisingly clean water stream meanders, its depth rarely surpassing 30 centimeters. Alongside the main conduit lie numerous connecting chambers, varying in size, as well as smaller tunnels—some submerged, others dry. These passages are adorned with a multitude of pipes: plastic, steel, and even ceramic. Navigating through this labyrinth is not an arduous task, as retracing one's steps is relatively straightforward. Moreover, there exists not just a solitary entrance, but a multitude dispersed throughout the expanse. The air retains a degree of freshness, devoid of any discernible odors. However, in the absence of natural illumination, it's imperative to bring your own source of light.
The environment is devoid of toxic or explosive gases, as well as cables, machinery, or other perilous elements—with one exception. During ordinary days, the water flow within the tunnel appears unthreatening, but the scenario shifts drastically following a bout of rain. Rainwater from numerous streets is swiftly channeled into the subterranean tunnel, precipitating a rapid and drastic transformation. Within a minute of detecting the initial signs, circumstances can evolve from seemingly calm to precarious
Initially, the auditory senses will be greeted by the distant sound of water — its roar drawing nearer with each passing moment. As the wave approaches, a gentle breeze may be perceptible, heralding its imminent arrival. Contrary to a gradual rise, the water surges forth as a formidable wave, its behavior contingent upon the intensity of the rainfall. Swift or even swifter, depending on the rainfall's intensity, the water level in the tunnel may escalate, occasionally inundating the entire space in under a minute. On a fortuitous occasion, you might discover a ledge or projection nearby, offering an avenue for ascent to safety. Yet, the uncertainty lies in whether the ledge will remain above water or be submerged. Choosing to linger in the path of the rushing torrent leaves no room for escape.
Hence, meticulous monitoring of the weather forecast becomes an imperative prelude to any such venture. Even the faintest hint of impending rainfall should serve as an unequivocal deterrent. Venturing into the tunnels during the winter season is equally inadvisable, as the thawing of snow can trigger water surges from the melting snowdrifts.
At present, details surrounding the group's size remain elusive, yet tragically, four individuals have perished. Reports indicate a total of eight people are unaccounted for. It is our fervent hope that these individuals have sought refuge within the tunnels, occupying secure positions and awaiting the eventual subsiding of the water level.