AskDefine | Define draining

Dictionary Definition

draining adj : having a debilitating effect; "an exhausting job in the hot sun" [syn: exhausting]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. present participle of drain


  1. the practice of exploring drains, tunnels, or sewers

Extensive Definition

Urban exploration (often shortened as urbex or UE) is the examination of the normally unseen or off-limits parts of human civilization. Urban exploration is also commonly referred to as "creeping" or infiltration, although some people consider infiltration to be more closely associated with the exploration of active or inhabited sites. In the USA, it may also be referred to as "draining" (when exploring drains) "urban spelunking", and "urban caving", "vadding", "trolling", "building hacking", "reality hacking" or "roof and tunnel hacking".

Targets of exploration

Urban explorers often attempt some or all of these subsets of urban exploration.


Ventures into abandoned structures are perhaps the most common example of urban exploration. Abandoned sites are generally entered first by locals, and often sport large amounts of graffiti and acts of vandalism. Explorers face various risks in abandoned structures including collapsing roofs and floors, broken glass, guard dogs, the presence of chemicals, other harmful substances, most notably asbestos, hostile squatters and sometimes motion detectors. Some explorers wear respirators to protect their airways.
Exploration targets vary from one country to another, but some of the more popular or high-profile abandonments include amusement parks, grain elevators, factories, missile silos, hospitals, asylums, and sanatoriums. Also, due to a marked lack of governmental support of historical monuments under the various communist regimes, some structures may be centuries old, from various architectural epochs and still freely accessible in their unrenovated states.
Many explorers of abandonments find the decay of uninhabited spaces to be beautiful; many of these explorers are also photographers. Some abandonments are heavily guarded with motion sensors and active security. Others are more easily accessible and carry less risk of discovery. Abandonments are also popular among history buffs, 'industrial archeologists,' 'ghost hunters' and fans of graffiti.

Active buildings

Another aspect of urban exploration is the practice of exploring active or in use buildings. This includes seeing secured or "member-only" areas, mechanical rooms, roofs, elevator rooms, abandoned floors and other normally unseen parts of such buildings. The term 'infiltration' is often associated with the exploration of active structures. People entering restricted areas may be committing trespass and criminal prosecution may result.


Catacombs such as those found in Paris, Rome and Naples have been investigated by urban explorers. The catacombs under Paris, for instance, have been considered the "Holy Grail" by some due to their extensive nature and history. Explorers of these are known as cataphiles or Splooshers.

Sewers and storm drains

Entry into storm drains, or draining, is another common form of UE. Groups devoted to the task have arisen, such as the Cave Clan in Australia. Draining has a specialized set of guidelines, the foremost of which is "When it rains, no drains!"
A small subset of explorers enter sanitary sewers. Sometimes they are the only connection to caves or other subterranean feature. Sewers are among the most dangerous locations to explore owing to extremely high risks of poisoning by build up of toxic gases naturally found in all sewers (commonly methane and hydrogen sulfide). There have been large numbers of fatalities from around the world through being overcome by toxic gases from sewers and the only safe way to enter a sewer is if the atmosphere has been tested by a working monitoring device and other confined space entry procedures followed.

Transit tunnels

This subset of urban exploration deals with exploring active and abandoned subway and underground railway tunnels and bores. Such activities are often considered trespassing, and can result in criminal prosecution. As a result, this type of exploration is rarely publicized. Although they exist worldwide, those who partake in this often reside near New York City, Toronto, London, Sydney and Moscow, along with many other major cities throughout the world.

Utility tunnels

Universities and other large institutions, such as hospitals, often distribute steam for heating buildings and autoclaves from a central heating plant. These high pressure steam pipes are generally run through utility tunnels, which are often accessible solely for the purposes of maintenance. Many of these steam tunnels, such as those on college campuses, often also have a tradition of exploration by students. This was once called vadding at MIT, though students there now refer to it as roof and tunnel hacking.
Steam tunnels in general have been getting more secure in recent years, due to their use for carrying network backbones and perceived risk of their use in terrorist activities, safety and liability.
Some steam tunnels have dirt floors, no lighting and can have temperatures upwards of 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46°C). Others have concrete floors, bright light, and can even be quite nice and feature a cool temperature. Most steam tunnels have large intake fans to bring in fresh air, and push all of the hot air out the back.


The rise in the popularity of urban exploration can be attributed to its increased media attention. Recent television shows, such as "Urban Explorers" on the Discovery Channel, MTV's Fear, and the ghost hunting exploits of The Atlantic Paranormal Society have packaged the hobby for a popular audience. Talks and exhibits on urban exploration have appeared at the 5th and 6th Hackers on Planet Earth Conference, complementing numerous newspaper articles and interviews. With the advent rise in the relative popularity of the hobby due to this increased focus, there has been increasing discussion on whether the extra attention has been beneficial to urban exploration as a whole.
The growing popularity of the activity has resulted not just in increased attention from explorers, but also from vandals and law enforcement. The illicit aspects of urban exploring, which may include trespassing and breaking and entering, have brought along with them critical articles in mainstream newspapers. In one recent article, web-postings and photographs from the web-site Urban Exploration Resource were cited as evidence that explorers were trespassing in a closed prison in Northern Virginia. Users had posted specific details on entry points and how "easy" it was to gain entry to the disused facility.
In that regard, some explorers have become wary of posting information and photographs on UE-related websites for fear of being prosecuted for trespassing. Recently there has been a conflict of interest between explorers about this issue. Additionally, arguments focus on whether online listings of explorable structures undermine the "underground" aspect of urban exploration.
Along with the rise in the popularity of urban exploring, numerous events have been hosted throughout the world. These organized meetings have included campouts, barbecues, day-long explorations, and tours of active and abandoned sites. While most of these are illegal in the sense that they involve trespassing or breaking and entering, a handful of meets, such as a recent event held at the West Virginia State Penitentiary, involve tours or lock-ins. Others include UE-related gatherings, such as a meet held by an urban explorer who calls himself Shiroi in which stunts were performed in an abandoned structure. This has received mixed criticism from the urban exploration community.


Urban Exploration is a hobby that comes with a number of inherent dangers. Storm water drains are not designed with human access as their primary use. They can be subject to flash flooding and bad air. There have been a number of deaths in storm water drains, but these are usually during floods, and are normally not Urban Explorers. Confined spaces rules may need to be used in drains and some confined spaces that urban explorers travel into.
Many old abandoned structures feature hazards such as unstable structures, unsafe floors, asbestos, carbon monoxide, exposed electrical wires and entrapment hazards.
Asbestos is a long term health risk for urban explorers, along with breathing in contaminants from pigeon feces. Urban explorers use dust masks and respirators to alleviate this danger. Simple dust masks do little or nothing against feces, asbestos, mercury, ammonia, PCBS, and many other hazards.

In the media


Many urban exploration books are available, including:
  • Ninjalicious (2005). Access All Areas: A user's guide to the art of urban exploration. PO Box 13, Station E, Toronto, ON M6H 4E1 Canada: Infilpress. ISBN 0-9737787-0-9
  • Wand, Eku and Arnold, Dietmar (2001). CD-ROM: Berlin im Untergrund - Eine interaktive Zeitreise unter den Potsdamer Platz. eku interactive e.K., Berlin/Bad Homburg, Germany. ISBN 3-935709-02-1
  • Deyo, L.B. and Leibowitz, David "Lefty". Invisible Frontier: Exploring the tunnels, ruins & rooftops of hidden New York. Three Rivers Press. ISBN 0-609-80931-8
  • Solis, Julia. New York Underground: The Anatomy of a City. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-95013-9
  • The Urban Adventure Handbook. Ten Speed Press.
  • O'Brien, Matthew (Author) and Mollohan, Danny (Photographer) (2007). Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas. Huntington Press. ISBN 0-929-71239-0
The following two photography books by Chilean-born, New York–based photographer and documenter Camilo José Vergara are not explicitly about urban exploration, but Mr. Vergara uses many of the same techniques as urban explorers to gain access to the abandoned buildings which he photographs to document their decay.
  • Urban explorers (termed "creepers") and their culture are at the core of the thriller Creepers by author David Morrell.
  • Steven Hall. "The Raw Shark Texts". Canongate. ISBN 978-1841959115: here the author writes widely about an exploration of unspace: a name used in the book to refer to all of the hidden places in cities usually explored by the urban spelunkers.
  • F. Poul Wilson's second Repairman Jack novel Legacies (novel)includes references to urban exploration.


  • 5100: A Canadian Urban Exploration magazine focusing mainly on Western Canada.
  • The Cave Clan Magazine: Australian draining magazine.
  • Jinx: United States urban exploration magazine.
  • Section61: The UKs First and Only Urban Exploration magazine.


  • Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker (1979).
  • Doom Asylum (1987) - A demented coroner inhabits an abandoned lunatic asylum. When several teenagers trespass on his property, he proceeds to kill them off one by one. Filmed on location at the since-demolished Essex Mountain Sanitorium in New Jersey.
  • Pray for Rain's After..., (2006) a supernatural thriller about three urban explorers who get more than they bargain for when they set out to explore the secret world beneath Moscow. It was released in October 2007 by First Look Studios.
  • Christopher Smith's Creep (2004).
  • The horror film Candyman features the heroine exploring tunnels that connect various rooms in some of Chicago's abandoned Cabrini Green tenements.
  • The horror film Session 9 was shot almost entirely in the abandoned Danvers State Insane Asylum in Danvers, MA

Short films and documentaries

  • David L. Cunningham's documentary short, which documents a research trip he and screenwriter Kevin Miller made in preparation for writing "After...", a supernatural UE thriller about three urban explorers who get more than what they bargain for when they set out to explore the vast secret world under Moscow.
  • Melody Gilbert's "Urban Explorers: Into the Darkness" (2007), a documentary about some of the world's urban explorers.
  • Robert Fantinatto's "Echoes of Forgotten Places" (2005), a visual essay on the allure of abandoned buildings and industrial relics.


See also


draining in German: Urban Exploring
draining in French: Exploration urbaine
draining in Lithuanian: Miestų tyrinėtojas‎
draining in Dutch: Urban exploring
draining in Polish: Urban exploration
draining in Russian: Диггерство
draining in Finnish: Urbaani löytöretkeily
draining in Swedish: Urban exploration

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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