Six Days Alone in a Cold War Bunker

OK – you are probably wondering what’s going on here – after all, this is essentially a blog about cyber-security. However, it’s also a crazy adventure blog & a few weeks ago I spent six days sealed in a Cold War bunker – now that’s a crazy adventure….

Yeah – alone in a huge bunker for a week. I blogged the experience & created a few videos to give you a flavour of what I got up to.

From a computing perspective – let’s just say the bunker is full of old kit….read on if you dare. I also made some video-blogs – I’ll put a link if for the first of these then you can follow if it’s your kind of thing….you watch them all through to when I get out if you like that kinda stuff….

Monday 13:00hrs

I arrived at the bunker about 2 hours ago, through thick ice and snow. I’m now sitting in a room at the very bottom of the bunker in an old meeting room that is going to be my home for the next 6 days. I’ve set up my camp which includes an inflatable mattress, sleeping bag, basic supplies and the kit I’ll need to survive underground.

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This is my second stint staying in this former Air Ministry bunker. My first time was a few years ago and I have to say, things feel the different. The place is the same. I’ll take as many photos as I can but you can imagine stacks of old radio and computer hardware. Piles of old ministry papers everywhere. Gas masks and Geiger counters on every corner. This bunker was built back in 1952 and was meant to hold up to 600 people. It’s where government would take refuge during a nuclear attack and there is even a special bedroom here for the Prime minister. It’s part of a network of 12 such bunkers across the country.

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I wanted to take these moments before lock-down to really consider two questions. Firstly, why am I doing this again? And, secondly, what do I want to or hope to learn? (Perhaps a sneaky third question would be how is it different from the first time?)

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Why am I doing this? Well, I’ll be honest; I don’t have any upcoming bunker books to sell. It’s not part of some clever marketing ruse – this is purely for the experience. My first stay here was burnt into my memory as one of those life changing experiences. I still struggle to describe it. Cut off, alone and in a Cold War setting, you didn’t need to do much role-play to imagine yourself as the last survivor of some holocaust. That will be the same this time. Once I’m sealed in later, I won’t see another soul for 6 days. I’ll be on regular patrols of the perimeter but basically that’s it – I survive by myself. But what about the why bit?

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Mmm….I suppose I dreamt of being here when I was away. It’s just such a unique experience in a unique setting and I feel you have to grab these things when you get the chance. Plus, it’s the chance to play in a giant Cold War bunker – what’s not to love.

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Secondly, what do I hope to learn? Not sure. I think I’ll better be able to answer that at the end of the week. One thing is for sure, I’m better prepared this time. I feel like I know the bunker better and it knows me. I’ve spent time here before. There is far less of an alien feel to it now. Last time it took me a day or two to really get out and see the entire bunker. Now, I’ve already scouted most of it out.

Let’s see after 6 days what I’ve learnt. From my time in the desert and my previous survival blog here, I suspect it will be around being alone, around self-reliance. There is a kind of peace down here in the bunker.

Right, not sure if I answered any of my questions but certainly a kick off to this survival blog…stay tuned for more daily updates this week.

Monday 22:09hrs

Right, video blogs done. I need to remind myself why I’m doing this. The reality is beginning to kick in. I’m in here for 5-6 days. I’ve eaten dinner and will be keeping myself awake for as long as I can so I can get onto nights. Trouble is – I’m already tired. As it was last time, this is going to be far tougher than I thought. My plan is to relax a bit, drink a ton of coffee then review in the morning. Things always look better in the morning!

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Here’s a link to the first of the video blogs:

The Last Survivor Video Blog – Day One

Tuesday 13:48hrs

Manage to stay awake until 04.30 and then slept in today until about an hour ago – that should get my body clock on to nights. I woke up with a dull head ache I can’t seem to shift. I wonder if it’s the oppressive impact of the bunker? Underground life would certainly not suit everybody. The temperature is consistent, with very little variation across the bunker so you need to wear a jumper but not a coat.

Tuesday 15:22hrs

It’s amazing the difference a cold wash and sink shower can make. I’m still locked down below but managed to grab myself a decent clean up. Feels 100% better. One thing I remember is that importance of having a regime – of having the day planned out. I felt like I was drifting a bit. Right, I’m getting back into a routine. You need it down here. With no natural daylight, you forget we all work on a cycle. Upset that cycle and things get kooky. In a couple of hours, I’ll get breakfast, do some exploring and filming then have my dinner. Structure is more important to me than I realised.

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Wednesday 15.13hrs

I feel like I’m on bunker time now – adapted to a new cycle of day and night. I followed a routine more carefully yesterday and having that structure does help. I’m up, work out then patrol. Breakfast, some blogging the more patrols. (The patrols simply involve checking each of the main doors and the security integrity of the bunker.) After all that, I spend some time preparing a meal. Even if it’s just dried pasta heated up, you try to make an event out of it. It’s a main feature of the day. Then some relaxing, more patrolling, exploring through to lock-down at around 04.00 in the morning.

That’s life underground. You have to get used it. The sterile, dry air. The humming of the fluorescent lights. The shadows and noises everywhere. This is a vast concrete structure. There are always creaking pipes or noisy air conditioning units.

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I keep returning to the central question of why I am doing this? Why am I ‘wasting’ 5-6 days of my holiday alone and locked in a Cold War bunker. I enjoy doing the video blogs and posting them online. Internet connectivity is better here now so in that sense you are never truly cut off. But, at the same time, it is an intrusion. I’m posting the blogs as I hope people will find them interesting but they aren’t the reason I’m doing this. I enjoy sharing the experience.

I think the real answer is similar to the ‘walkabout’ the native Australians often talk of. Just to separate yourself from life for a while. To disconnect if that’s possible these days. To distance yourself from the familiar to gain new insight and perspective. Ironically I wanted to do a wilderness walkabout during this time but here in the UK it’s very difficult to find anywhere to do and be able to free-camp in the open. So, I ended up back in the bunker.

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Distance from the familiar to gain new insight – I reckon that’s it. Anyway, on with another patrol.

Thursday 16.04hrs

Busy planning my last few video blogs this morning. I found a can of curry yesterday and it transformed my boiled rice dish into a meal to remember. Maybe it was the spices but that taste just lifted me above the blandness of bunker life. There is still so much to explore here so I have to plan my blogs carefully. I’m planning on visiting the plant room then perhaps trying to capture something of my patrols, with a bit of wrap up commentary on this whole experience.

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It has been different second time round, it was bound to be. The isolation has been the same. The challenge has been the same. But, my sleeping quarters are better equipped this time as I knew how to set up my camp. It really helps knowing the environment you’re coming into.

Also, I feel very much more aware of the limited time I’m here for. Last time, the days seemed to drag, getting out of the bunker almost seemingly like a theoretical event. This time, I can see the 5-6 days as a distinct period of time. It’s hard to explain but perhaps there is less of an ‘unknown’ factor this time. I don’t feel like such a stranger to the bunker. I almost feel at home.

Friday 14.04hrs

I quickly updated my last video blog this morning then packed up the base I’ve called home for the last week. Leaving the dusty atmosphere of the bunker into the fresh air, I didn’t realise just how musty it was down there. I was glad to get into the open daylight.

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It’s going to take a while to think through this survival blog. For sure, it was different to last time. Different to the desert. But, as always, it was a challenging and unique experience not to be missed.

Incidentally, the photo below was taken next to the broadcast room – this is where the emergency messages would be sent out to any survivors across the country. A grim place but I discovered these two LP’s ready to play.

So, if you ever wondered what was going to be playing at the end of the world, I know the answer – it was disco….pure James Last & Hawaiian disco…

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