Sunday, 28 December 2008

Underground Wonder

The high priest stepped onto the altar, the sacred part in the Pantheon off-limits to any other living thing. No, not even the pharaoh. And especially not fowls. They were considered "unclean". No one knew what that meant, and no one asked because it was the word of God. They knew that because the high priest told them so. But how the high priest came to know about God's distaste for chicken was one of those questions that you could never ask. When a young ignorant lad from Hwt-ka-Ptah did, he was killed from bloated bowels after 59 days of constipation. Even the most potent of cactus juices could not cure him. So the local priests concluded that he was cursed by God for his insolence.

59 goats, 59 babies and 59 virgins, just as demanded by God. The high priest was sure that He would be appeased. This was a sacrifice of the biggest scale which the kingdom had ever made. But the people understood that it was reasonable; God's demands were always reasonable. You would think it was unreasonable only if you lacked faith.

The high priest started to recite from the scripture. The ancient language could only be learned by those with a flexible tongue. Some people were just lucky enough to be endowed with one at birth but to a high priest, it did not matter anyway. It came with all those practice at Sunday sermons.

As the chanting eventually came to an end, the most miraculous thing happened. Lights began to pour into the underground chamber and showered upon the high priest.

The high priest stretched his arms wide, and looking into the heavens, praised God.

* * * * *

Alright, that was not the pantheon but it was a real photo nevertheless, albeit with some editing. The photo was taken in the most marvelous underground structure in Japan, namely the Metropolitan Area Outer Discharge Channel (首都圏外郭放水路) in Saitama. The facility was built for flood mitigation purposes and is supposedly the biggest of its kind.

How big exactly, you ask. Chew on this.
  1. The tunnels run 50m underground, parallel to a highway. Meanwhile, Oedo Line, which is touted as the deepest subway line in Japan runs only at 22.2m underground. As a reference, one storey is roughly equivalent to 3m.
  2. Five cylindrical pits draw water from the nearby rivers should they overflow. These pits are 70m deep. That is big enough to snugly fit in the Statue of Liberty, a space shuttle, or the leaning tower of Pisa.
  3. Equipped with four gas turbine engines similar to that of a jet plane's, the pumps are capable of discharging 200 tonnes of water per second. That is equivalent to emptying a 25m pool in a second!
Despite being the largest underground discharge channel in the world, the facility is not very well-known. The fact that it has only been completed two years ago - after 13 years of construction - is probably one reason.

Nevertheless, reservations are always full. I placed a reservation for eight persons as early as two months ago! But if you are patient enough, you can always wait till the open day, when the facility is opened to the public, no reservation required.

Control Center
This is the control room of the facility. I haven't watched an Ultraman movie since a decade ago but this is supposedly the command center in Ultraman Cosmos. Whoa, so this is where all the save-the-world actions take place during the non-monsoon periods!

The Chamber
After some lengthy explanations, we were finally brought to the underground pressurizing chamber. For some obvious reason, I prefer to call it the "underground pantheon".

This chamber is supported by 59 concrete pillars, each weighing 400 tonnes. Now that's the weight of 400 cars. It is a lot but it is required to counter the buoyancy of subterranean water.

The far end of the chamber, where everything is pitch black, led to the pumps that discharge water into the Edo River. On the opposite end, lies the first pit. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to venture too far down the chamber. And by "too far", I mean "the second row of pillars". The time allowed for taking photographs was too short too - a mere 10 minutes.

But then again, these people are more than generous for allowing the public to visit the place. What better way to feel its grandeur than to see for yourself?

2 persons flung their shoes:

Yap! It's 3088.. said...

that's an engineering feat! with so many columns impeding the flow of water and the possibility of wastes from the washout of a major flood event, i am a little doubtful if 200tonnes/sec is achievable. Just like London's vintage Victorian mains, you'd be surprised what you can find in it - mattresses, chairs, tree branches, plastic barriers, etc! nway, nice one!

Kryptos said...

ah, i need to clarify that this chamber is not the tunnel. it is located at the opening of the tunnel and serves the very purpose of slowing down the flow of water before it is being pumped into the Edo River.

200tonnes/sec is the maximum capacity when all the four 14000HP turbines are activated. out of the 18 operations so far, it has not yet been operated at the max.

no worries about the washed out garbage. they send a bulldozer down a hatch in the rooftop to clean up the place after use.