Challenge: The Macquarie Maze

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Words || Nathaniel Keesing

I will be honest, I’m a complete sucker for conspiracy theories. From bees snorting cocaine (check out our article in our first issue this year, X), to the sassy ghost at the library, Myrtle (ok, I borrowed that one), Macquarie University is full of ancient tales of lore. Yet there’s one that is perhaps the most infamous of all; our very own Chamber of Secrets underneath the campus.

Allegedly, during a chilly winters’ day back in July 1974, students used a tunnel system underneath the University to access the then-Vice Chancellor’s office to protest imposed changes to the Student Union’s constitution, which is pretty freaking boss. You can’t even get us modern students to vote in the student elections, let alone perform a MISSION IMPOSSIBLE-style infiltration to protect our rights. It was time to change that. My mission: find the entrance to the Vice-Chancellors office through the mythical caves below.

I heard from Grapey team members past and present how no one has ever found the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. Did it even exist? Would I need to speak in Parseltongue to open the entrance? Did the sassy library ghost Myrtle die after opening the door? I wanted an easy challenge with minimal chances of a painful death, why couldn’t they just give me money to go to Paddy’s again? I had to suck it up and ask the most fearsome people at Mac-warts: security.

Apparently getting a tour of the tunnels is actually pretty simple. A 2-minute phone call was all it took to book a trip into the bowels of the university. Too easy, I thought. Were they planning on feeding me to whatever monsters they kept down there? I like to think I’m comparable wagyu beef; meat marbled with lots of fat, so surely I would be the tastiest treat they’ve had in a while (not trying to beat up myself. Facts are facts). All I had to do was a 15-minute safety training to be able to enter, which to be honest, I completely zoned out for. Oops.

I was expecting to be smuggled into the tunnels bound and blindfolded, but what actually happened turned out to be nowhere near as kinky as that. We took a stroll down Wally’s Walk, and my guide explained that we were standing directly on top of the tunnel. Well, I certainly wasn’t expecting that. From that point, all the way to the science buildings, we’d been walking directly on top of one of the tunnels. There’s a cement block along the side of Wally’s Walk that I always thought was just a crappy art installation. Nope. It’s a vent for the tunnels. I’m not too sure how gas can escape a solid cement block, but I’m not a scientist. Do you know that big oval structure that looks like a ticket booth in the courtyard outside MUSE? I had never noticed it until they pointed it out. Apparently, it’s literally called ‘The Tardis’, making my inner nerd very happy. It also was a gas vent, making me very worried if I was about to suffocate down there.

We reached an innocuous door that I had walked past so many times before thinking it was simply a broom closet when in reality, it was a portal the dungeon below us. I’m not actually allowed to tell you where it is, but it seems super obvious now. With a fluro jacket and a hard hat, living out my tradie fantasy (so it was kinda kinky in the end), we dove into the belly of the beast.

We entered into what I can only describe as our very own Large Hadron Collider. I stood at a crossroad of tunnels, each direction, besides where we just came in, stretched as far as I could see. The path is shaped like a cylinder, with pipes as thick as my torso and cables as thick as my wrists lining the walls. It turns out, according to my tour guide, that the tunnels serve to feed the campus with utilities such as power, water, and internet. Where were the killer monsters? To be honest I was a bit disappointed I wasn’t going to die. He continued on to mention that everything in the tunnel, and the tunnel itself, is locked down and secured for safety reasons, hence why most people don’t even know it exists. There are even gas monitors down there in case of any uncontrollable leaks, which definitely had me clenching my butt cheeks.

While slightly disappointed at the lack of danger down there, I was pretty happy that odds are the university will never explode. But this wasn’t why I was here. I needed to find the entrance to the Vice Chancellor’s office. Unfortunately, I would have no such luck, as the entrances and exits of the tunnel are so few and out of the way that there’s no way you could sneak into a building through them, let alone the Vice Chancellor’s office.

It was a pretty cool experience going into the universities tunnel system, but the conspiracy nut inside me was left hungry. At least we can say this office break-in myth is officially busted.

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