Metatalktail Hour: Underground! June 15, 2019 3:25 PM   Subscribe

Good Saturday evening, MetaFilter! This week, jessamyn wants to know "What is underground where you are?"

As always, this is a conversation starter, not limiter, so tell us everything that's up with you!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) to MetaFilter-Related at 3:25 PM (132 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Where I am, directly underground, proceeding downwards, is a massive concrete slab, a few hundred wooden pilings, bedrock, an aquifer, a bunch of geology, and eventually a molten iron core.

I may not understand the question.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 3:43 PM on June 15, 2019 [12 favorites]

A non-profit that supports the local DIY music scene.
posted by zamboni at 3:57 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

My Dad's old office, and beneath that, granite.
posted by The Ardship of Cambry at 3:57 PM on June 15, 2019

"I may not understand the question."

No, no, you've got it, I'm atop about 15" of the world's best topsoil! Followed by a bunch more soil, and then eventually the North American Craton (what up, Precambrian rock!).

People in cities with subways and apartment buildings probably have more interesting answers. :D
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 3:58 PM on June 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Hmm, apparently some combination of THIN SOIL COVER WITH SCATTERED BEDROCK OUTCROP and THICK SOFT CLAY. Possibly some Pleistocene deposits. Thankfully, it's all piled high enough that I am outside of both the Tsunami hazard zone, and the predicted worst case climate-change-caused encroachment of the ocean.

Just on top of that are some busybody neighbours who like to knock on my door and share important information, such as "That sound is reeaaally annoying", when I am in the middle of sawing a new sink opening in my kitchen counter.
posted by bethnull at 4:01 PM on June 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

Rats, I assume. Lots and lots of rats.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:01 PM on June 15, 2019 [12 favorites]

We're about 8 to 10 feet above ground water hereabouts. Fortunately I am situated at 20 feet above sea level and don't expect to be around long enough to have ocean front property...

A lot of the soil here is sandy, yet I've white clay in my location.

It seems that what we have here is a geographical anomaly...
posted by mightshould at 4:06 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

In the smallish city where I used to live in Virginia, there's a non-profit that brings in indie musicians to play all-ages shows where teens and families can enjoy live music in a safe/alcohol free environment. Ted Leo was among some of the more well known performers; the shows were usually at this (very underground) venue that functions during daylight hours as a drum shop. Given how many shows I couldn't attend as a teenager because they were usually at 18+ or 21+ venues, I appreciate that someone is working to make live music more accessible for teens - and creating more options for how they can spend a Friday or Saturday night.
posted by nightrecordings at 4:08 PM on June 15, 2019 [13 favorites]

Oh. Just saw Eyebrows McGee's update. I thought the question wasn't meant literally!
posted by nightrecordings at 4:10 PM on June 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

The plot we're on used to be an orchard on county land. There's somewhat rocky topsoil, then clay, then bedrock. Whenever I've looked down into utility digs, it's been dark soil down at least 8 feet. The only underground utilities are water, gas, and sewer (AKA raccoon subway). I'm told the latter is historically recent, dating from when the block was annexed by the city, and some services where upgraded. One of my neighbors is still on septic. Septic, in Silicon Valley.
posted by dws at 4:10 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

A patch of ocean Southwest of Perth, Australia.
posted by condour75 at 4:11 PM on June 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Probably Japanese knotweed roots. They are the bane of my existence and this summer, my project is just pulling up the shoots every 1-3 days.

In our basement is a bar that is definitely a Prohibition holdover. Apparently a lot of houses in our neck of the woods in Philly have these basement bars, as they got traffic from the river and canal workers. There is a photo in the Philly historical society archives of flooding in out basement from the late 40s/early 50s, and in the photo, there are tables set up near the bar and crepe paper streamers hanging from the rafters down there.
posted by coppermoss at 4:12 PM on June 15, 2019 [10 favorites]

Dirt and sand SF Bay fill. The island I live on was about half its current size 150 years ago. They only stopped adding to it in the 50s. We even have a lovely little sand beach that definitely wouldn’t have existed a couple hundred years ago.
posted by not_the_water at 4:17 PM on June 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

(incidentally, only an hour ago upon returning home, our kids discovered a rabbit holding like half our lawn in his mouth in the backyard, next to a cartoon-perfect new rabbit hole. I'm guessing he hopped in under a fence, but it's enticing to think he burrowed up expecting Pismo Beach)
posted by condour75 at 4:17 PM on June 15, 2019 [12 favorites]

This is a tough one. In my city we have one of those pedestrian tunnels under the commuter train tracks that connects the back of city hall with one of our more charming heritage neighbourhoods. It is officially known as the McNab Street access. The walls are constantly being painted and repainted by local artists. I haven’t needed to use it in awhile so I don’t have photos, sorry.

Yesterday morning in what I can only imagine was a fog of head cold congestion I left my iPhone on the city bus. I have personally experienced the particular hell that is public transit customer service and was prepared to have to use most of my next paycheque replacing a phone I only got six months ago. Did I mention that I had recently turned off the passcode feature? It never leaves my presence! It will be fine! Ha!

In some stunning act of good fortune, the bus driver found it and I was able to collect it at the end of the day from the same bus upon which I had left it. I am pretty sure that I have now used up all of my luck for the rest of the year.

Here is a photo of my cat being adorable.
posted by janepanic at 4:18 PM on June 15, 2019 [14 favorites]

"Oh. Just saw Eyebrows McGee's update. I thought the question wasn't meant literally!"

Hey I like your answer too! Tell me all about your local arts undergrounds! Crime undergrounds! Prank undergrounds!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:19 PM on June 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

Speaking of rabbits ( a couple comments up)... I think a rabbit is building a nest in the grass near my patio. If so, I’m a little concerned about protecting the nest from the weekly lawn service mowing contracted by our HOA.
posted by bookmammal at 4:22 PM on June 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Two more condos, a lobby that looks like a holdover from the 70s (which it is), no real foundations and the whatever this was built on top of in Cambridge.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 4:27 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

No one quite knows what's under the streets here; the water pipes, sewer lines and gas lines are so ancient and so poorly mapped that it's always a discovery process when the city digs things up. They actually send robots down through the sewers to map them out.

One thing that we don't have underground is a separate storm sewer system; the grates in the street drain right into the same pipes that your toilet does so if it rains hard (and it does that a lot) the treatment plants get overloaded forcing them to dump raw sewage right into the Ohio River where it sails toward Cincinnati.
posted by octothorpe at 4:38 PM on June 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

Not much right now, but there are people who want to put a Maglev tunnel down there for luxury travel so investment banking lobbyists can meet their mistresses at their 2nd apartments more quickly.
posted by duffell at 4:43 PM on June 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

A chair.
Then a chair mat.
Then thick vinyl plank flooring.
Then foam padding.
Then an 8" reinforced concrete slab.
Then a slightly passive aggressive neighbour and his condo.
Then seven more condos.
Then two levels of parking garage.
And then I'm not sure. According to the city, this parcel hasn't got any archaeological significance. So probably just dirt and rocks.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:48 PM on June 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hillsides and hills of sand above, sand below, aquifers, then oil, oil, oil. But underground, nothing is underground, bullets fly, crazy religion, white supremacy, unions, music of all kinds, cowboys and wooden Indians in the parking lot. This town was described as gritty, by a lover of this town. It is always open season on pedestrians. The Latin culture is huge and wonderful, the food! The music! People secretly love this place, that must be the underground.
posted by Oyéah at 4:57 PM on June 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Me. I live in a basement apartment.
posted by Melismata at 4:58 PM on June 15, 2019 [12 favorites]

I thought the question wasn't meant literally!

I like how it can be either!

I live in an apartment on the second floor and I always think about how not having to worry about flooding basements (or first floors) is a sort of nice luxury that I should think about if/when I move somewhere else. Under me is a garage. Then some dirt, and then probably some granite.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:05 PM on June 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

Just a few feet of soil and then bedrock. You can get a sense of it here if you look around, a bit less than a mile from our house, though in our yard it's not quite that shallow. Or at least, I'm pretty sure our fenceposts are set deeper than that.

Not having a basement is kinda whatever either way, but our little bit of soil gets saturated easily so spring in our house is a hellscape of mud and puddles and mucky dog footprints.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:20 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well, by definition, the C.H.U.D.s, right? I mean, as long as we’re lucky and they stay down there...
posted by Ghidorah at 5:30 PM on June 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Under my cottage (originally built in 1916, I think) is a concrete slab foundation. Under that is Coast Miwok land. Underground are probably a lot of earthworms and definitely large numbers of gophers. We're on a well, so presumably there is also water.
posted by lazuli at 5:30 PM on June 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

We're worried it might be Herbert.

About a hundred years ago, young Herbert married one Mary Myrtle, a midwestern schoolteacher, and their wedding announcement mentioned them returning from their midwestern church wedding and taking up residence several states away, here in this very house. A local newspaper article mentions them adopting a baby boy a few years later, and then Herbert suddenly disappears from all news and census data. No funeral records, no headstone, no nothing.

After Herbert drops from public record, it's just Mary Myrtle and her son. Mary Myrtle goes on to build a pretty spectacular career for herself in the local education system. She never remarries, and her son lives with her until his death. Mary Myrtle lives to a ripe old age, and though she completed her career under her married name, her headstone is under her maiden name.

So yeah. Underneath, there's a 116 year old maple floor, then quite possibly Herbert, then a network of elm roots knit together for blocks, planted by our city founders.
posted by mochapickle at 5:37 PM on June 15, 2019 [48 favorites]

Not far from me - the Pendleton Underground.

From the article:
Hidden away beneath the city of Pendleton, the Pendleton Underground is a network of tunnels that once was home to many secret businesses, both legal and illegal.

The tunnels were built by Chinese workers who had been harshly discriminated against by the town's white population —to the point that it was unsafe for Chinese people to be out after sunset. In order to run businesses and move freely from place to place, hidden tunnels were built beneath the city, eventually forming a secret underground district...
posted by hilaryjade at 5:44 PM on June 15, 2019 [12 favorites]

The roots of a three-story-tall sycamore with a 24-foot circumference trunk. This tree is so big the trunk straddles both our yard and our neighbors' yard.

I love this tree but I worry about living so close to such a giant. Its boughs hang over our house and my workshop like swords of Damocles. It seems inevitable one will eventually crack off and crash down through a roof.

And I think those roots are responsible for the downstairs toilet hating poop. You can pee in that toilet and it will flush just fine, but if you poop in it the toilet needs a plunge or two after the flush to get the water to return to a normal level. Nothing we've tried to fix it works. I think it's the tree's roots choking the sewage pipe. And I hate to replace the pipe because we're going to have to cut out a lot of those same roots, and I don't want to hurt the tree. Even though I'm afraid of it I love that tree. It's big, and beautiful, and serves as the home of so many squirrels and birds. It provides so much shade and cools the porch so nicely.

So yeah, roots. Lots and lots of roots. Roots all the way down.

Today was kind of exhausting. We took the kids to the big pride parade downtown, but it lasted over three hours and it left us a little euphoric but really tired. It left me a little weepy, frankly. I remember gay rights marches I was in back in the eighties and watching this parade left me so struck at how much has changed and how fast. We were protested, spit on and booed back then, but earlier today I saw about a quarter of our city either proudly marching, or proudly cheering. No AIDS floats, no mean placards about hell, no Die Faggot chants, just love. All this outpouring of love. I couldn't help it. Tears just kept flowing down my cheeks. When the queer veterans marched past I kind of lost it. It was a wonderful day, but it really ran me through the wringer emotionally.
posted by Stanczyk at 6:04 PM on June 15, 2019 [19 favorites]

The Freedom Tunnel is down the hill from me.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 6:09 PM on June 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

When I moved into an apartment in an 90 year old building (it's 110 years old now!) I had to let the gas company into the basement to activate my gas service. The landlord lent me keys, and I had to enter a totally different building down the block, where we descended into a dirt-floored cave half a block long, filled with boilers and heaters and meters. I've only had that one trip to the basement in the 20 years I've lived here.

Underneath that, yeah, probably rats.
posted by moonmilk at 6:15 PM on June 15, 2019 [9 favorites]

And Fraggles.
posted by moonmilk at 6:16 PM on June 15, 2019 [17 favorites]

Under where I am sitting is nothing exciting, a few layers of concrete slab mostly. I am always jealous when I see photos of those ancient basements in places like Greece and Italy, where over there is the walled-off Roman tunnel, and here are the stairs down to the prehistoric wine cellars, and there are mysterious carvings, too. I want a basement like that, with vaulted ceilings and beautiful stonework.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:22 PM on June 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

The Northridge blind thrust fault, which nobody knew existed until it announced itself in 1994. I am fascinated by the earthquake - I lived in Texas at the time, with no ties to California and not even an inkling in college-age-Lyn's mind that I might ever live out here, much less on top of it.

It is INCREDIBLY frustrating (from a technology etc standpoint) that the very scattered bit of publicly-available video footage and photographs are obviously not geotagged, whatever identification might have originally been attached to it is largely missing, and 1994 video makes it hard to pause and see the few visible street signs/landmarks that might tell someone today what they're looking at. And the earthquake hit pre-dawn and it seems like there must have been airspace restrictions by the time the sun came up, as there's very little from-above footage (because helicopters didn't fly around with cameras running as a matter of course) even to be able to triangulate where that footage is.

But, I still like watching the early news reports because it's very much the terrestrial TV news of my youth, and various documentaries about it.

Meanwhile, here in the future, my watch tells me every time there's another tiny shift in the ongoing Glen Avon swarm, which has been rumbling dozens of times a day in the 1.0 range for a couple weeks now, and I know that's extremely unusual because my watch is normally not so busy telling me about these things. It's so WEIRD, this thing is happening and we have no idea what it means and there's nothing we can do about it.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:07 PM on June 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

Super cells, tennis ball-size hail, 80 mph winds... flooding rainfall... a tornado touchdown near Putnam, OK.... under my house is a concrete slab, but these are the days that a storm shelter would be welcome.
Unfortunately, our street turned into a creek (again) last week with the heavy rains. No vehicles flooded out while driving down it this time, but it's happened in the past. That's why most houses in my area do not have basements -- they flood.
So at 11:30 pm we should have some exciting times. We need to get one of our cars in the garage before then. The other is for local hauling and transportation, so it sits in the driveway in all its geriatric glory.
I'll be switching between the local channels as the weather forecasters go hoarse talking to the storm trackers about... another tornado on the ground near Putnam and Custer City. And something developing near Fairview.
I'm glad we have the storm trackers, but that's a job I wouldn't want.
posted by TrishaU at 7:26 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

An archetypal set of sketchy Camberville basement stairs that make me slightly nervous every time I head down to do laundry. Physical evidence that my building probably has a 1:1 bike:resident ratio, which I rather approve of. And in some number of decades, depending on what we do or don't do about climate change, probably the Charles River, at least during storm surges.
posted by ubersturm at 7:30 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Very cool resource for people in many European-colonized areas to look up the indigenous land you're on:
posted by lazuli at 7:51 PM on June 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

This is not actually something I'd thought about much even after becoming a householder and realizing I had to be concerned about issues like whether I live on a flood plain. So this question prompted me to look up the geology of my area and it turns out I live in a place even geologists find boring: The official North Carolina Geological Survey says: "Very little detailed geologic work has been published..." and the earliest citations only date from the 1950s, a couple centuries after white settlers began farming the area. My house is in a Reagan-era suburban development carved out of a forest that reclaimed former farmland so, while the terrain is mostly low rolling hills, there aren't any rocks and the soil is about as deep in both the lawn and still-wooded areas because the developers back then didn't strip the topsoil and remove all the trees the way they do now. And I don't live on a flood plan, although there's a minor creek that develops in the woods uphill that cuts through our back yard every time we get a heavy rain and dries out again shortly afterwards.

Culturally, I'm thoroughly unplugged from the local underground. Unlike the last town I lived, where I was also pretty much an outsider but at least had enough friends in the various local scenes to attend the occasional show and mark the turn of the millennium at an anarchist squat. I'm getting old and spending a few hours in a sweaty room with the music turned up loud is a lot harder on the body than it once was.
posted by ardgedee at 8:09 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Somewhere, deep below, massive earthquakes slumber, restless. Shhh! Don't wake them. They are very old. They need their sleep.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:10 PM on June 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

Morlocks, duh.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:16 PM on June 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

They have a vibrant club scene, too.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 8:16 PM on June 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

The Capitol South Metro station.
posted by jgirl at 8:18 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Water. My house sits up near the top of a small ridge and there's an aquifer in there, with a small spring that has a little stone catchment box built around it so there's always a few inches in the bottom and it stays fairly clean. I suspect it was built to give livestock a spot to water themselves at? The aquifer discharges into the creek at the bottom of the hill and the groundwater is very close to the surface in the floodplain of the creek and there's quite a few small sinkholes. Last May we had a ton of rain and the aquifer got so charged that water was just weeping out through the worm holes all over the hillside.
posted by drlith at 8:31 PM on June 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I live in California Gold Country, I better start digging...
posted by MountainDaisy at 8:33 PM on June 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

I live on an island that didn't exist 15 years ago. So under me is apartments, parking garage, mud? They are still expanding and I see these barges collecting stuff off the sea floor and dumping it in a different spot to expand the island. At least I think that's what they are doing.

I don't know how ecologically sound the enterprise is, but I figure that it keeps me pretty safe from ghosts. Although, if you wanted to get rid of a body dumping it into reclaimed land could be a great disposal option.
posted by Literaryhero at 8:40 PM on June 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

OMG, underground is a tale. So this one time at summer camp there were steam tunnels. We would wake up at ungodly early am and go spelunking through the steam tunnels. I have popped my head up a manhole cover to try and figure out where we were. And there was a shit-ton graffiti all over the place. We ended up finding a clue left over from a scavenger hunt and followed it over a few days (well nights). We 'borrowed' a maintenance master key from some undergrads and ended up at the top of the library (the tallest building around) where we found a single Saint Paulie's Girl Dark bottle of beer and it was nasty. A few days later our clique leader roused us up at some ungodly hour and we trecked back through the tunnels to the library rooftop where he looked at his watch until he pressed PLAY on the boombox and we listened to Ravel's Bolero which he had timed to the sunrise and it was glorious. Best summer camp ever! Half of it was spent crawling through tunnels at two am and picking locks and getting chased by security.

It helps or not to know I was 16 and to have watched Real Genius. It was that place and we were the geekiest kids and it was the 80's and OMG the underground tunnels are the least of the things we did :P
posted by zengargoyle at 8:47 PM on June 15, 2019 [10 favorites]

I’m in London. Underground is more London, and under that other London, and then more. It’s London all the way down. The river washes bits of London-then onto the shores of London-now. You can’t dig a foundation, or a basement, or a Tube tunnel without hitting bits of London that came before.

The rule is that, if archaeological remains are found, construction work in that area has to stop until it’s assessed. Not surprisingly, there are dark tales told of workers and archaeologists getting bribed or bullied not to ‘notice’ things.

Very occasionally, history wins. I’ve sung on the site of the Rose playhouse on Bankside, which people constructing an office block were annoyed to find. But the Save The Rose campaign happened, and the office block now has an Elizabethan theatre concealed in its basement. The remains are below the water level of the Thames, so right now there’s a temporary stage built over this underground lake with the foundations of a theatre under the water, the shape of its walls picked out in lights.

London also has a Mithraeum, an underground temple of the Roman god Mithras— a popular deity among soldiers— which was moved away from its original location and then moved back.

We had rivers that flowed through the city, tributaries that fed the Thames. But the city choked them with filth and bricked them over, and now they’re part of our ingeniously-constructed but now insufficient Victorian sewer system. A new super-sewer is being constructed which, itself, is turning up some neat archaeological finds.
posted by Pallas Athena at 8:51 PM on June 15, 2019 [13 favorites]

It's not, like, directly underneath me at the moment, but Cleveland does have an entrance to the salt mines under Lake Erie (picture gallery at the bottom). Video.

And while only part of it is actually underground, the Detroit-Superior Bridge crossing the Cuyahoga River has a lower level that was used for streetcar lines until the 50's, then shut down. You can still occasionally get in on a tour of the level, and it's been used a few times for art & music events. Atlas Obscura article. Slide show. Page with links to (massive) photo galleries of one of the arts events.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:15 PM on June 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

For most of the career, the answer has been “my office”! I spent all of my 20s working in labs or offices that were in basements, and after that I upgraded slightly to windowless workspaces that were technically above ground. None of this is even inherent to the work I do, I just ended up in basements a lot.

It’s only in the past three years that I’ve been upgraded to rooms with exterior walls and windows. It honestly felt rather weird to begin with. ;)
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 9:27 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Rubble underneath Flintstones Bedrock.
posted by clavdivs at 9:41 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Serpentine! Serpentine! Serpentine!

Well that was a joke that takes me back to geology class. ANYWAYS. We're gearing up at work for one of the few sales we do here and hoo boy is it going to be nuts. I have run holes in most of my shoes already (not that they were in the best of shape anyways, because of some of the peculiarities of my feet I am *very* hard on footwear) and It looks like I can't wait til next paycheck to get a new pair, I need one now. Oh well. The absolutely insane heatwave scorched some of my plants, and caused quite a few to bolt before their time. But I got some really pretty flowers out of it, and some small harvests here and there. I also got some more really interesting plants, including a native plant called "coyote mint" which I may do a stand alone post on, as it's a real interesting plant. Not a real mint, grows native near the Russian River, should do wonders for the native bees once it flowers. I also sowed some scallions and parsnips, AND the great black lettuce seeds LaBellaStella sent me through the card club! Can't wait to see what they look like! I also didn't have to water this morning, as it rained. In June. Also today at work, one week after I was getting heatstroke, I was shivering in my sweatshirt. Ah San Francisco. Never change.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 9:59 PM on June 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

Ugh, a liquefaction zone. I think about this way too often.
posted by potrzebie at 10:11 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ah, why'd I have to see this intriguing question now, when I need sleep. We're right off a lake, part of a chain of lakes, and one of hundreds of inland lakes formed in the county by glacier movement.

What that means in terms of actual soil layers/ groundwater, underground rivers, wetland-ish composition - well, I'm not geologically literate enough to answer without more research.

I can say that underneath a thin layer of sand just off the shore, some other residents who do a sort of scavenging/ cleanup find a bizarre assortment of junk, beyond what would've been dropped from boats or even carried by currents across the lake. Like antique kitchen utensils and very old bottles.
posted by NorthernLite at 10:17 PM on June 15, 2019

7 floors of apartments, two floors of underground car parks, and dirt? This road has existed since Roman times so I imagine there are interesting archeological artefacts buried here.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:35 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not that much topsoil over 20 feet of glacial till atop scoured bedrock, from what I've read.

Unexpectedly interesting thread.
posted by jamjam at 10:57 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

"Unexpectedly interesting thread."

Right? Great question from jessamyn!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:06 PM on June 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

My little town is surrounded by farmland so expensive that if I could buy it, I would have to grow poppies if I hoped to turn a profit.

Inexplicably, my house sits on a lot that's no more than ~5" of topsoil, tightly knit with the roots of creeping charlie, over a layer of clay. Despite working a couple of dozen bags of composted manure into the new flower beds, my plants are struggling and my desire to work outside is inversely related to the heat index.
posted by she's not there at 12:07 AM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

An extremely yucky crawl space I’m going to need to pay someone a bunch of money to clean. A seismically sound foundation holding up my house.

The roots of two humongous poplar trees in one neighbor’s yard and two humongous evergreen trees in another neighbor’s yard and a regular-size crabapple tree in my yard. If the big trees die the hill I live on will have a problem.

Some dead possums, apparently, because the last time I dug a hole in the garden I found one’s jawbone - a local artist is making me a necklace out of it by attaching it to a fern and electroplating the whole thing, and I’m very excited about this. Some things I’m doing to put the brakes on an unethical nonprofit’s power grab, which aren’t dodgy but could be perceived as dodgy.

Enough of what hills are made of in Seattle that I’m safe from a tsunami by 149 feet, according to my dad. Some big happy worms.

Some inappropriate feelings I have for a friend, which I really need to make go away. Some ants, which I also really need to make go away.

I could go on and on. This is a great question.
posted by centrifugal at 12:09 AM on June 16, 2019 [7 favorites]

Also, this made me look up the history of my community and discover a lot more underground things. In case anyone wants to learn about a place where I’m sure none of you live...
posted by centrifugal at 12:20 AM on June 16, 2019

(shudder) I don't want to know.
posted by Cranberry at 12:41 AM on June 16, 2019

(Shudder) I know, but I hope no one else finds out.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:58 AM on June 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

Water, lots of water.

The city is built on water and marshland and so houses are built on wooden piles which descend through the sand and water until they hit something solid like clay or rock. Whenever there is new underground construction, the process involves digging and also bringing in huge water pumps to pull out the water. They built an actual subway deep underneath the oldest part of the town.

There is so much water that many of the streets are navigable by boat. I could hop on a small boat just in front of our place and make it all the way out to the ocean.
posted by vacapinta at 1:12 AM on June 16, 2019 [6 favorites]

Our house is in an area of heavy faulting that’s between the Texas hill country & the downthrown coastal planes, so I’m not exactly sure what unit we’re on - either the Upper Glen Rose or the Austin Chalk, neither good cave formers, but there’s neary 500 known caves in my county, mostly to the southwest & southeast of me is areas known as the Barton Springs recharge zone & the Jolleyville plateau, which are all Edwards limestone, a good Cretaceous cave- former. So what is underground around here is holes. Most Travis County caves are smallish, twisty, turns things that mostly involve crawling, with few large rooms to speak of, but it gets better the further west you go, except for the Llano uplift (an amazing pink granite batholith) & Big Bend, which is a huge volcanic intrusion. There’s a ton of cave pictures on my Flickr page, a few from Travis County & some others nearby- Comal, Bexar, Medina, Uvalde, Edwards, San Saba & other points west. Texas is over the 5000 cave mark now, I think. I’m responsible or jointly responsible for discovering about 15 of those.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:23 AM on June 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

Beneath me is land belonging to the five family groups of the Wimmera-Mallee- the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk Traditional Owners.

There is a small crawl space under my house- I know this because we were quoted a price for putting in ducted underfloor heating, and the company were very sad that they had to keep to it: they had to dig out each trench by hand. Terrible work but now we have a warm house that I very much appreciate. (I hear that the employee who didn't investigate things fully before quoting for us has moved on to other things.)

Also the soil is apparently some of the most reactive in the country: as the soil drys it cracks, and as it gets wet it comes together again, moving a LOT. There are cracks in the house and things move- everyone's house does this.

I'm not sure what's below the clay- I know that not far from here there used to be an ocean a long time ago, but as far as I know it's just dirt all the way down.
posted by freethefeet at 2:10 AM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm in the basement of a 4 story house, and below me is... whatever is under Toronto I guess. My boyfriend and I have split the place up into 2 floors each, so my bedroom in in the basement. People have thought it weird that I'd choose to sleep in the only part of the house that is half underground, but all I have to say to that is it is quiet. so quiet. raptors won, neighbours went nuts? barely heard it. Taste of little italy down the street? not a peep. Church bells from the nearby church that the main character in The Cunning Man has a feud with the church about? if I really pay attention I can just hear them. I like my little hidey-hole of a bedroom. I think I could happily live in a cave if I could still walk to a decent bar or sushi place.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:12 AM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I'm on the 24th floor, so underneath me are all the other floors. Underneath the lobby is a fire exit staircase that dips down and comes out further up the hill. Underneath all that are the deep building supports which go into the ground.
posted by frumiousb at 3:06 AM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Tunnel Bob.
posted by eirias at 3:44 AM on June 16, 2019

Probably just a bunch of stairs.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:04 AM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Damn you, Ghidorah. I knew what that was before I clicked on it. But still, damn you.
posted by duffell at 4:08 AM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

We have a dirt basement, with the hot water heater up on a cement pad. We live on a hill, so there are lots of drainage tubes that divert water to the side and underneath this place. Sandy soil, and we also have tons of Japanese knotweed here (called "bamboo" by local people).

Presumably bedrock underneath it all, not sure how far down.

There are several islands on this lake, and one has beaches comprised of black sand (from weathered bedrock, according to that link). I've only been there once, and want to get back out and see it again this summer.

I've heard that near Portland Head Light, where there is an old fort and some WWI or WWII fortifications, there are underground tunnels, but they are closed off to the public due to safety reasons. My husband used to be interested in urban exploration, and one of those folks told him about it.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:43 AM on June 16, 2019

Well, I'm in a bit of Manhattan that doesn't have a subway directly beneath me, so I just have 4 apartment layers, the building basement (which despite expensive exterminators still has rats), and then the manhattan Cambrian formation, which is a fancy name for the really solid bedrock that makes manhattan possible.
posted by larthegreat at 5:55 AM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

There are a lot of fossils underground where I live, and occasionally some construction crew will unearth a 380-million-year-old piece of fossilized coral.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:12 AM on June 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

Gravel or clay soil, apparently. (I learnt more about the village & local area at that link in five minutes of reading than I had otherwise in the entirety of the two years I've lived here).

The only other semi-interesting thing about the local area is that Dorothy Sayers lived in the Bluntisham part of Bluntisham-cum-Earith parish for a few years when she was her kid (I think her dad was the vicar round here or something).

The note about the village bridge being important since 1346 is accurate, as this bridge is still important - sometimes the road just beyond it floods and they close it and one has to drive 20+ minutes in the wrong direction to get to the next river crossing (or, more accurately in my case, one has to work from home for a few days until the flooding goes down).

A few years ago I found a council report that stated it would cost £420k to build a cycle path from St Ives to Bluntisham, which, as an inveterate old stoner, I obviously found hilarious. I tweeted about it, and then noticed months later I'd had a defensive reply from a local cycle campaigner stating stiffly that that is just how much these things cost, all right (don't get me wrong, I love cycle infrastructure and wish we had more of it locally); by the time I saw the message, it seemed cruel and unnecessary to do the whole "mate it was just a weed joke" routine, and thus I did not.
posted by terretu at 6:44 AM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Underground from me is our basement, which is unfinished and super old (well, Midwest USA old, so 100 years or so). The color of the concrete bricks changes about four feet up from the floor and our home inspector guessed that the basement used to be a root cellar and then the entire house might have been raised to create a full sized basement.

We also have a bricked up chimney where the coal fired furnace would’ve been, the occasional gigantic centipede (my husband named them all “Ironhide” and if I see one it keeps me far away from the basement for weeks), and what maybe used to be a homemade shower stall? It’s a solid concrete cubicle with a drain in it; our inspector thought maybe it was an unfinished shower since some pipes also stick out of the wall in it. We asked him if we could tear it down and he laughed and said it was probably concrete poured around chicken wire and we’d be lucky if we could make a dent. “Use it as a storm shelter,” he suggested, so we painted it red and hung a real fallout shelter sign on it and I store my antique Geiger counter in it. Never had to shelter in it yet!

In the dirt around our house we always find bits and pieces of antique trash, usually broken plates and cups and glass, as best I can tell. Sometimes a button. Maybe our house was built on the local garbage heap, or old timey people were clumsy and broke a lot of plates and tried to hide the evidence.
posted by castlebravo at 7:10 AM on June 16, 2019 [6 favorites]

Back in about 2002, we bought our first house in Pittsburgh, PA. The contract was weirdly specific about how we would own the land only to a certain depth. The house we own in northern VA now didn't have any provision like it, so presumably we own that from the crabgrass and dandelions all the way down to the earth's core.

I'm pretty sure the Pittsburgh contract meant that we couldn't charge anyone for mining or fracking underneath our house.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:18 AM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I live in a building directly above the Midosuji tunnel, which means at least once a day when I'm home I get to play the fun game of "Earthquake or Subway Train?"
posted by emmling at 7:19 AM on June 16, 2019 [6 favorites]

Probably a bunch of old coal mines. Above that, some soil that is probably full of lead (I grow veg in raised beds with trucked in soil). Pittsburgh has interesting geology but I don't really know much about it.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:33 AM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

We have some baby rabbits living under my chive plant. However, the chives are sitting in a planter box on our porch railing. The mother would have had to climb the stairs to the porch, jump on the sofa, and then scramble up the railing to get in the box.

I only found out about them because they got very upset when I watered the plant. Since then, the nest has steadily grown with discarded fur covering up the babies. They pop out occasionally, but they’re not really fans of attention.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:54 AM on June 16, 2019 [10 favorites]

Apparently sedimentary rock of the Strathclyde group. Geology was basically invented here, thanks to James Hutton, Siccar Point and Arthur's Seat, so there's lots of it about.
posted by hfnuala at 10:45 AM on June 16, 2019

Under me, I am sure, are multiple creatures who occasionally invade my house (i.e. ants, lizards, skinks, spiders, shrews, mice, etc.). It is not nearly as interesting as what was under my neighbor's patio/fire pit for a little over a year. She buried her husband there when he passed away so she could continue to collect his social security. (I did not live here at the time so not sure if it counts). Other neighbors became suspicious when his "visit to family" stretched on and on....
posted by agatha_magatha at 11:05 AM on June 16, 2019 [7 favorites]

Just an old graveyard from the asylum nearby that was shut down. Nothing too interesting.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:14 AM on June 16, 2019 [12 favorites]

Not underneath me right now, but next weekend I am camping at a campground that is suffering from the pathogen Phellinus sulphurascens (pdf link). We went last year and no trees fell on us so I feel hopeful.
posted by vespabelle at 11:42 AM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lost streams, apparently.
posted by invokeuse at 1:13 PM on June 16, 2019

A very narrow crawl space that is (according to the home inspector) full of horrifyingly large spiders. (I've only been down there once, in mid-winter [thankfully], when a leak sprung and I discovered that the previous owners had connected the lawn sprinkler system to the main plumbing with duct tape.)
posted by Kat Allison at 1:27 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Directly underneath me, not much: the basement of our house, a lead water supply line we need to have replaced when we can afford it, and "Urban land and deep, nearly level to steep, well drained soils that are underlain by sandy and gravelly sediment; on uplands." Like other cities of enough population and age, there are buried creeks, old sewer lines, new sewer lines, a subway system (that now causes vibrations in our neighborhood when newer, heavier trains pass by), and presumably a whole lot of political graft. Oh, and at least one verified, and more rumored, tunnels into the White House.

Also there's something literally called the Dupont Underground, a streetcar terminal underneath Dupont Circle that's now going through yet another reimagining after every previous attempt failed to produce anything that stuck. They're currently trying to make a go of it as a multipurpose art space.
posted by fedward at 1:33 PM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

A basement with laundry facilities and storage.
posted by bile and syntax at 2:08 PM on June 16, 2019

I love this - I have learned that I am on top of the sand deposits from the ancient Lake Coleman - about 20 metres higher than Lake Ontario. Under that is the Canadian Shield, of course.
posted by obliquity of the ecliptic at 2:11 PM on June 16, 2019

Since this is Florida, nothing is underground. Or to put it another way, muck is under everything.
posted by Splunge at 3:30 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Totally off subject.....but I must share:

I have just made the best easiest dessert ever. (Y'all probably already know this one; but...) One box instant lemon pudding made according to directions (or, just, however you like) . Chill. Mix in at least one or more pints fresh blueberries. May try a smidge of lavender in it next time.

Could fancify by layering into glasses.

Just, where, has lemon pudding mix been all my life? Why was I making it from scratch!?!
posted by mightshould at 4:19 PM on June 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

My downstairs neighbor's apartment, over gravel and sand deposited in Needham and brought by train to fill in what used to be a tidal marsh/cesspool. All that is over Boston Blue Clay as a result of frequent glacial advances and regression.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:26 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

This review of UNDERLAND: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane seems appropriate here. The Unseen Worlds Beneath Us: Places of Beauty, Danger and Wisdom in the NYT.

Our downstairs consists of my sewing/dyeing studio. And laundry plus storage. Not very exciting unless dyeing is happening.

On another note. The white squirrel that lives in our neighborhood just spent 20 minutes sitting on an evergreen in our backyard. And the bluebirds were mobbing the gray squirrels.
posted by Nosey Mrs. Rat at 4:55 PM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

At the moment, sixty feet of lab space, then a sealed concrete slab designed to float on the swampy soil.

At home, a garage where frustrated valets speed through incredibly tight spaces. After I tore up the entire side of my car trying to squeeze out of a space and realized I was paying more to park than it would take to hire a cab thirty times a month, I gave up on driving. I haven't been down there in a long time. Below that are utilities and very high-bandwidth communications lines to the server farm that occupies the first story of my building.

Below that. . . I have no idea. I'm pretty sure I'm not living on top of the old underground train tracks that run through our city, but they end a few blocks away. One block in either direction are underground subway lines. One has mysterious, empty, room-like spaces on the opposite side of the tracks where rats play. I've always wanted to explore them, but haven't had the courage or time yet.

A decade ago, my answer would have been better: an abandoned 1950s military base with roofs collapsing under 30 feet of snow, which I've heard rumors was left with a fully stocked kitchen, offices with desks that looked like they'd only been left for an evening, and an infirmary with patient X-ray images in file cabinets and bottles of pills on the shelf. Also utility tunnels carved into ancient ice, the cutouts in the walls of which were filled with a wide range of both sincere and snarky votive offerings and memorials.
posted by eotvos at 5:12 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Alan Swann. He's an actor.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 5:19 PM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

My apartment is half underground. Like so many buildings in this town, being built into the side of a hill. Keeps it warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I think if building into the side of a hill wasn't a thing, this town would be half the size it is. The University where I worked for years used the European floor numbering system (Ground, 1st, 2nd, etc) in most of its buildings. However, since most of them are built into the side of a hill, it's wildly inconsistent on which floor is considered the ground floor - the one with the entrance at the top of the hill, or the one with the entrance at the bottom.

There's also the thing the clerk at the local used bookstore said when I bought a volume of Lovecraft - "I just can't keep Lovecraft in stock very long. Makes you wonder what's underneath this city."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:11 PM on June 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Whew. Kind of a rollercoaster of a day, in both figurative and literal ways (went to Six Flags in the afternoon).

But yeah, in the morning (after a lovely surprise breakfast in bed from wife and kiddo) I participated in a sort of panel-discussion "conversational sermon" at my progressive downtown church. It was me and my 3 pastors. (Here we are, I'm the one gesticulating!) It was a big nervewracking thing but I'm glad we did it, and it mostly went well.

Basically, as the church's resident amateur historian, I worked with my pastors to break down the oft-repeated myth that our congregation was founded by abolitionists (very much not the case). Some sorely-needed truth-telling.
posted by duffell at 7:32 PM on June 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

We're pretty much in the middle of the Burbank liquefaction zone and maybe 4 miles north of the Hollywood fault line. Which is why I am prepared for the next earthquake.

Lyn Never, I was here for Northridge and I grew up in the SFV. if you ever want to ask questions, I can tell you all about it. I will say, the weirdest thing was Balboa Blvd. on fire. Like the entire actual street just above Rinaldi.
posted by Sophie1 at 8:10 PM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Tunnel Boring Machines.
posted by pompomtom at 8:52 PM on June 16, 2019

The Bat Cave, wait ... I mean just an ordinary house foundation. Completely ordinary. Excuse me, my butler Alfred is calling me.
posted by mundo at 10:30 PM on June 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Clay. So much clay. We want to plant flowers and shrubs and nice things in our yard. But there is so much clay. And really that would still work. There is some soil on top, after all. And some plants like clay. But this is also the wettest spring/early summer in the history of Chicago. And clay doesn't absorb water so well. So it's a soggy mess.

We thought about putting in a dry well. They say if you want to find out if your yard is a good candidate for a dry well, you should dig a good-sized hole and fill it with water, then see how long it takes for the adjacent soil to absorb the water. We dig a hole. It filled itself with water within a few minutes and hasn't gone down in two weeks.

Comrade Doll says maybe we plant a nice rice paddy. I'm leaning toward a cranberry bog.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:14 PM on June 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I live right above the boundary of early-1900s landfill built as part of the Taikoo Shipyard and Kowloon granite.
posted by mdonley at 4:27 AM on June 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Underground at my current home is our dearly missed cat, Luke, whom we had to have put to sleep soon after we moved here. :(

In college, underground were the steam tunnels that ran beneath almost all of Indiana State University. Quite a lot of good exploring (and getting between buildings when the weather was crappy) was done. Cracked my head open on a pipe once. Added bonus: Old Civil Dense supplies! That's where I got one of these to use as my studio trash can. Also: Carb supplements and survival biscuits! Extra-special also: Large bottles of phenobarbitol!
posted by Thorzdad at 6:46 AM on June 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

DirtyOldTown - hi my family has had a cranberry bog for about 4 generations now if you are serious about that I could put you in touch with people who know stuff.

I'm using the "underground" prompt metaphorically - apparently I had some major Stuff lurking in my subconscious that got unearthed over the past few days, after Best Roommate Ever told me he's moving out of the city in two months in pursuit of a screenwriting career. He is out of town these past few days, which left me alone to drag myself to my job (which I'm realizing I really don't like) and back, and it left me to do a lot of thinking about "What the hell am I doing with my life?"

And after a weekend of sulking and self-care, that is when Ideas suddenly started popping up, and with them the beginnings of some Life-Transformative Plans.

* I started looking around for a career counselor. Had an initial call with someone who sounds like they'll be taking exactly the approach I need - after the first session, he said, he goes away for a couple weeks and studies the job market FOR me, then comes back with ideas. When I said that I feel like there is some alternative ways I could qualify for things with my experience and maybe don't even know it, he said that 'yep, that's pretty much the whole point of what I do." Am saving up for the first session and then I'll jump into that.

* I am making a baby step back into freelance writing as a side hustle, largely to get my ass into a chair. Really, that move isn't so much about generating content; it is about generating self-discipline. Best Roommate Ever regularly makes time to write, and....I don't. And that needs to change. Being answerable to a customer even at a low-stakes level has always been what motivates me, and I'm hoping that will snowball.

And already I'm seeing signs from the universe that I am heading the right way -

* Sometimes I use tarot cards as a self-reflective exercise. I did a reading for myself last night - and it couldn't have been more clear, every single card in there had "it is time for you to take action and go for it" as an interpretation. Basically it was the Shia LaBouef "Just Do It" meme in tarot form.

* And a few weeks back I submitted my blog in for membership consideration at a movie blog network; just this morning, I noticed that they started following my blog's twitter feed, which most likely means that they are evaluating my blog now for membership consideration. I have been texting people urging them to "go comment on something over there pleeeeeze" for the past couple hours.

So - basically I think my aspirations and goals got buried in my subconscious for a while, as a sort of self-protective thing; there was a stretch when I couldn't do anything to work towards my hopes, because the rest of life was so hectic, so I buried it. And I realized it's time to unearth that again, and I'm taking some steps towards that, which is scary as fuck but so far is encouraging.

posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:13 AM on June 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm on the 23rd floor of a midtown Manhattan office building. Beneath me are a series of floors dedicated to an international investment bank, then a ground floor lobby with some commercial businesses, then in the "concourse" (otherwise known as a basement) are office services like the mail room. This concourse is also part of a series of tunnels that that connect my building with Rockefeller Center and stretch from 5th Avenue all the way to Broadway, as well as north and south of 50th street. There are multitudes of commercial business in these tunnels as well as at least one current and/or former consulate and then beneath all of that is the subway. And beneath the subway? Bedrock - more subway? My knowledge ends. There are also lots of cockroaches.
posted by rdnnyc at 8:07 AM on June 17, 2019

Pipes. So many pipes - gas, sewer, water - as well as buried telecom lines, and sometimes electric lines. Please, please, please call before you dig!
posted by nickmark at 8:51 AM on June 17, 2019

I live in Houston. Our part of the country is formed by clay and sand washed down from areas north and west of us, and probably all the way to the Rocky Mountains. In addition to the sand and clay, there is probably a significant deposit of salt. Join me now as we imagine the soil and underpinnings of this modest urban house.

As I understand it, in the beginning there was rock. Sediments flowed down and covered it. The proto-Gulf of Mexico covered the area. Due to geological upheavals, the Gulf became a huge isolated lake, and began to dry up. That accumulated as salt deposits of variable thickness. The sand and clay continued to wash down, and cover the salt. Over time, the Gulf was replenished with ocean water, and dried up again. Then it was open to the ocean as it is now. Sediment continued to stream down from the center of the country, in rivers that changed courses often. Included in this sediment is organic material that is buried and transformed.

Over time the great wedges of clay and sediment built up to the point that they were above the level of the Gulf. The weight of the mile or more of sediment pressed down on the salt layers. Salt is interesting, because it weighs less than rock but is not compressible. Instead, it bulges up where it can. This bends and lifts the layers of sediment, and creates traps for the oil and gas born of the organic sediment. In the Gulf and on the shore there are hills and humps that represent the tops of the salt bulges.

The closest bulge in my part of Texas is about 10 miles away. 20 or more miles away are salt mines and salt caverns. These are great for extracting salt for chemical use, and for storing liquids and gasses. There are none of these under my house. Instead, I sit on clay that changes from black to orange to gray to white as you did down 30 feet. Then I assume it is mostly white all the way down. The clay is funny stuff, because of how small the particles are. The clay swells when it is wet and shrinks when it is dry. Called "self plowing soil", the deep cracks in the surface that appear during droughts capture organic material when the rains come again, and then close up until next time. This is what accounts for the change in color. This also causes structures on the surface to shift over time. In order to keep my house level there are a series of piers, made of stacks of concrete cylinders, that hold the slab up and extend 10 to 15 feet down into the clay, to a point where the moisture level should remain stable. It doesn't.

In order to repair the slab, and also to repair the sewer line under the slab, I have tunneled underneath. It is dark, dank, and claustrophobic. There is a hum of thousands of mosquitos, which thrive in the damp.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 9:32 AM on June 17, 2019 [4 favorites]

And I think those roots are responsible for the downstairs toilet hating poop. You can pee in that toilet and it will flush just fine, but if you poop in it the toilet needs a plunge or two after the flush to get the water to return to a normal level. Nothing we've tried to fix it works. I think it's the tree's roots choking the sewage pipe.

Stanczyk, If you're still following these comments: at an old house I used to have an annual problem with a clogged toilet due to root incursion in the sewer line. A plumber finally said that from spring until fall I should flush a cup of copper sulfate down the affected toilet once a week to kill off the roots before they could really build up enough to do damage. I was told at the time it's not a high enough volume to be toxic to anything but my local roots or to damage anything outside that one root system, but I'd probably do a bit more research now to find out if that's accurate. In any case, the plumber who gave me that advice was the last plumber I had to have out for that problem.
posted by fedward at 9:40 AM on June 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Soil - and lots of roots from the giant trees in the yard (I know this, because a new fence is going up between us and the neighbours and they have been auguring holes with much swearing and gnashing of teeth).

But - probably rocks/bedrock. About 2km east there used to be a big aggregate rock pit/mining operation (Lafarge).

And then just slight to the southwest (walking distance) is a "mountain" that is a ski-hill, so I am guessing lots of rock.
posted by jkaczor at 10:06 AM on June 17, 2019

New York State onions are known for their bold flavor, due to our rich muck soils created by prehistoric glacial activity!

Dammit, worked with the farm bureau way too long...
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:36 AM on June 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

Where I live currently, the building wasn't finished, because the answer to "what's underground" was clearly "unstable ground if you go any further to the east", but there's 3 storeys of flats below me and one above, a decent height for 1788. The road outside is a little more deceptive, because it's a viaduct built on stone arches, but still fairly heavily trafficked (the buses go up to 8 tons). Underground, there is, as mentioned in the linked article, a lot of springs, which is why there's a park in front of the house now. The houses built downhill fell down during the mid 19th century. It's just a flat I rent, and I'm not here for much longer, but it's very weird being in the middle of a landmark.
posted by ambrosen at 3:51 PM on June 17, 2019 [2 favorites]

The souls of the damned.
posted by briank at 6:46 PM on June 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

My scary, scary crawl space. Scary because you have to wriggle through a hatch to get in there. Scary because it's dark and full of spiderwebs. But REALLY SCARY because I know there's some kind of water damage down there and I'm afraid to find out what it is. There's a musty smell by the back door when it rains that just ain't right.
posted by HotToddy at 7:55 PM on June 17, 2019

Some carpet, then a concrete slab and I assume some gravel or sand or whatever they built the foundation on. Under that the more interesting stuff: "Quartz dioritic gneiss, usually the ribbon and migmatitic, amphibole-bearing, sometimes garnet-bearing. Contains amphibolite lenses, age of intrusion c. 1529-1492 million". I had to get Google Translate to help me out there, but discarded its suggestion of "amphibian-bearing" rock. (Maybe it's a thing? I don't really know...)

The area had Norway's largest silver mines, so I might be sitting on a silver vein? They're not economically feasible to run anymore, as the silver price is a shadow of what it once was.
posted by Harald74 at 2:19 AM on June 18, 2019

I looked the stuff up on The Geological Survey of Norway web site, BTW, and they have a cool hammer-and-quill-pen logo.
posted by Harald74 at 2:21 AM on June 18, 2019

In case you just want to keep on digging - Antipodes Map tool to show you what is on the other side of the world from any location. Pro-tip: The answer for most people is “the Ocean”.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 7:20 AM on June 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

No idea, I never go out. So my joke is :

The company who just burst a watermain in one locale here recently was the same company who caused a gas main explosion that killed a firefighter in another locale.

So pipes that shouldn't be drilled by ill-trained contractors is underground here.
posted by symbioid at 9:41 AM on June 18, 2019

I think the most interesting thing underground that's close to me (a couple miles from where I work) is the Park River.

(It's interesting that right now I'm reading a book in which some folks dig up what they think is the corpse of Samuel de Champlain under an anglophone library in Quebec City, so underground is taking up some head space for me.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:45 AM on June 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

A not quite basement full of dead cats who died because they got trapped in there. Also MASSIVE ant colonies. Filth, and pipes for gas, water, sewage...
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:02 PM on June 18, 2019

We have Chinese tunnels in the downtown part of town. I’ve wanted to tour them.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:13 PM on June 18, 2019

Underground here is the San Ramón Fault, an active thrust fault that keeps life in Santiago interesting, especially when we get a 7.0 or so quake and all the outsiders freak out but the locals don't even look up from their pisco sours. It gives santiaguinos a certain blasé attitude towards disaster and happenstance.
posted by signal at 7:17 PM on June 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Not underground-related, but I finished the Zombies, Run Couch-to-5K app! Now I can do the Zombies, Run original recipe app. I am ridiculously excited.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:27 PM on June 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Currently, a quilt of 1990s Alice in Wonderland shirts (quilt in progress from about a year ago), on a bed, on the 2nd floor of our house, which is above an artificially flat lot, because this whole neighborhood is a weird series of terraced lots, to maximize ... something. Building space? I dunno. It was the land of Pueblo people, maybe Mescalero Apache. Across the highway is lovely open land, currently designated as Santa Ana / Tamaiya Pueblo land, which is down the road from Zia / Tsʾíiyʾamʾé Pueblo, and then on up to Jemez / Walatowa Pueblo.

It's getting up into the 90s (Fahrenheit), but still cool enough in the evenings and mornings that we haven't run the AC yet. We even had a serious rainstorm yesterday, which is a bit early for monsoons. Looking at the 10 day forecast, it looks like an outlier, but still much appreciated.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:20 PM on June 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

Every year I get reminded that my back yard is an underground firefly nest. I'm seeing more and more floating green flashes in the grass and in the trees as the summer wears on. There might be a hundred or more out there nightly by the time mating season is over.

It's better than the spring stinkbug wave, anyway.
posted by tyro urge at 6:07 PM on June 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

parties i'm too old to hear about anymore, i feel sure
posted by slappy_pinchbottom at 6:35 PM on June 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

So are they glowing around in the larval stage underground too?

I've been kind of puzzled for years about the song calling them "glow worms".
posted by jamjam at 7:51 PM on June 19, 2019

thin layer of topsoil,
posted by cabin fever at 12:15 AM on June 20, 2019

Yeah, it seems like fireflies use light (and the chemicals that create it) through every stage of their lives.

(It was just an afterthought in that last post, but that silentsparks website [and attached blog] was apparently set up by Dr. Sara Lewis, an active entomologist, and her posts [and data] seem to be pretty clear and accessible.)

Er, I'm in Atlanta, Georgia by the way. My browser ate the first version of that comment, which started out by mentioning Underground Atlanta, a mediocre downtown shopping center that the city kind of buried. I guess they're trying to convert it into housing now?

Just a few blocks away there is another mostly subterranean mini-mall, Peachtree Center, which is next to an underground train station, Peachtree Center Station, where I once sprinted up the (then [and frequently] non-working) escalator stairs just to see if I could.

(The answer to that question was "yes," but in retrospect it was a terrible question.)

Atlanta is full of hills and history and very strange things. Thanks to this thread I can't stop thinking about it. (Immediate goal: find the nearest public bomb shelter and sample the rations. How does apocalypse food taste?)
posted by tyro urge at 5:22 PM on June 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

The downstairs apartment (currently empty), then a local hill that might be a moraine. I live at the end of the Great Plains so it's mostly flat but starts rippling up in occasional hills from where I am westward.

I have no idea about underground culture, other than your typical punk and spoken word scenes. I think anything being done by non-white artists around here is definitely underground because I sure don't see it talked about much even in the alt weekly.
posted by emjaybee at 8:32 PM on June 22, 2019

Till, gneiss? [Not my area of expertise]
posted by Glomar response at 4:08 AM on June 23, 2019

At least two historical pollution plumes!
posted by Temeraria at 6:28 PM on June 26, 2019

Still overcrowded after all these years
posted by thivaia at 6:15 PM on June 29, 2019

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