Authorities Drained a 200-Year-Old Canal, Discover Bizarre Items

Draining A 200-year-old Canal Brought Secrets To The Surface

Draining the canal had been a lengthy process. With the water gone, it was time to clean the cement floor and make the beautiful canal ready to be re-filled. Instantly all activity came to a stop as the workers realized what they had found at the bottom of a 200 hundred-year-old historical canal.

Could it be true? A hush fell among the town employees standing in the empty canal. They could not believe what lay at their feet. As a crowd gathered above them to watch, no one knew what they should do next, and if Paris would ever be the same. 

The City Of Love

Paris is a city known for romance, wine, and cheese. Tourists flock every year to be a part of the love exuding from this magical city. Home to the Eiffel Tower and the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris citizens took great pride in their city’s presentation.

Careful detail is given to keeping historical landmarks pristine and ready to be enjoyed. The Canal Saint-Martin was no exception and lovers strolled the canal, cuddling and dreaming of their futures. A typical city cleaning was about to devastate the local residents and reveal something they would never forget. 

It Was A Different Time

Canal Saint-Martin was built in 1802. The city of Paris was being ruled by Napoleon Bonaparte and he had ordered the canal to be built to bring in fresh drinking water. He had recently created twelve different sections each with its own mayor and an exciting future was on the horizon. 

Citizens were amazed as the canal began construction. Nothing this big existed in France and the residents were full of pride at their french revolutionary. As construction continued everyone felt confident France was going to be one of the best cities in the world. What dark secrets would the canal hide of the locals living along the edges?

A Toast To The Future Of The Canal

With a new tax on wine, construction was slow. The canal didn’t finish being built until 1825. It became a busy trade route and connected to two different ports in the city. It stretched 4.6 km and amazed everyone for its fresh water and structure. 

It began to inspire works of art and literature. Authors would write stories about the main location of the canal. Only the local residents knew the true stories around who lived near the canal, some of who were never seen again. It was a time for success and growth but also a cutthroat time for business. Would the residents survive the dark underbelly of trade existing in their backyard?

Les Années Folles

After World War 1 Paris was booming. From 1921 to 1931 residents celebrated and became established as a capital of art, music, literature, and film. As couples strolled along the canal the destruction of the war seemed in the past with a bright future ahead.

Throughout the years as Paris boomed, the Canal Saint-Martin was a constant presence. It marked the past and kept the city alive full of culture. Would the future continue to be as bright or was there more destruction ahead?

Who Were The Bobo’s?

What we would call today hipsters, the “bobo’s” were the bohemian residents that enjoyed the social aspects around the canal. As Paris continued to evolve through the 1900’s more restaurants and chic shops popped up around the popular real estate.

With more people enjoying the canal, did this mean that they would take better care of it? It was time for local residents to prove this architectural masterpiece mattered to them. The world was watching how they would react.

Paris Zooms Forward With Two Wheels

A new launch of the popular bicycle-sharing app called “Vélib” brought 20,000 more bicycles into the picturesque streets. On top of the new cruisers, there were also 1,800 new stations to pick up and drop off your rental bicycles. Did this mean the Paris citizens were thinking more of their environment?

The company originally launched in 2007 and was instantly popular! In 2018 they also introduced electronic bicycles available to the Parisian public. This may seem like a brilliant idea but just wait until the canal reveals the murky bicycle afterlife. 

It Takes Two To Tango

Canal Saint-Martin is not the only famous canal in Paris. There are two historical canals going through the city. The second canal is called Canal de l’Ourcq and is much longer than Canal Saint-Martin. The two canals connect and funnel into the River Seine.

Canal de l’Ourcq is 108.1 km compared to the 4.6 km of Canal Saint-Martin. From 1923 to 2017 it was illegal for anyone to swim in the canal waters due to pollution. We think once these swimmers see what the canal has been hiding they’ll think twice before going for a dip. 

Tourist Spotlight

Both the canals in Paris are hot tourist attractions. The Canal Saint-Martin especially is a fascinating spot to stop and take pictures. Over time the city has added Venetian-styled and swing bridges, coupled with cafes - it’s easy to bring a book and lose track of time. 

The increase in foot traffic also meant an increase in the garbage. Unfortunately, not everyone disposes of things in public trash bins and the beautiful canal becomes an easy target. As the water drains, would they find anything to return to one of the many tourists?

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

The entire Canal de l’Ourcq is too big to drain at one time. In the most recent draining and cleaning the crew starts at the first connection point between the two canals. The total length of the waterway that will be drained is 67 miles.

While people flock to see the drain they might also be looking for valuables they have lost intentionally. A lover’s quarrel with a dramatic ending, a dramatic gesture to prove something to friends, or a selfie went wrong. Police have to do crowd maintenance, but sometimes one person will still sneak through and risk it all to find buried treasure.

Trendy Neighbourhoods And Valuable Property

Now, the district of Canal Saint-Martin is known as one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Paris. With cafes, restaurants, arts, and a young population living within the community, it makes for a memorable Paris destination. 

The neighborhood represents a blend of European innovation and houses exclusives brands for its local residents. As the locals enjoy everything at their doorstep, does this mean the canal has become exclusive? Keeping this canal public ensures its kept clean every ten-fifteen years. Every time the water is drained, more surprises from the past come to the surface than anyone is ready for!

 Embraced By Artists Internationally

The canals inspire everyone around them. They began as a vision from a legendary explorer who wanted to bring more drinking water to the locals of Paris with this amazing canal system. Today, the canals are mentioned in songs, books, and movies. 

Artists from Edith Pilaf Joni Mitchell have tried to capture the essence of this popular city. A new tourist attraction includes taking a water boat cruise along the canal while a Jazz band plays softly behind you. Did this new tourist attraction lead to the remarkable discovery in the canal’s watery depth?

A Starlet In The Spotlight 

Besides songs trying to pay homage to this beautiful city, movies use Paris as a popular backdrop. One particular movie focused on the Canal Saint-Martin. The 2001 film ‘Amélie’ portrays a shy Parisian quietly orchestrating events in the people around her.

This dreamy character also loved to skips stones into the picturesque Canal Saint-Martin. The movie received praised worldwide but Parisians noticed it was time to clean their beloved canal and landmark. The same year Amélie was released the city declared it was time to clean and get to the bottom of hidden treasures below the surface.

2001 Cleaning Breakthrough

Ideally, canals should be drained every ten to fifteen years but the cost and manpower are difficult to organize. After so much attention was given to the Paris landmark in the blockbuster hit it was time to find the resources and drain the canal. The world was watching. 

A lot of residents had never seen the canal drained before and excitedly crowded around to see what would come up from the depths of the waterway. Residents began placing bets on buried treasures, priceless coins and would try to sneak past the police presence. As the first set of treasures got pulled from the water, the crowd gasped in disbelief. 

A Throne Like No Other

No one expected to find a throne in the middle of a canal! Each King is entitled to their own castle but this was definitely murky territory. The crowd held their breath to see what else could be buried deep below the surface.

Was it possible that they could be walking next to buried treasure every day? The possibilities of what could be found were endless but the crowd suspected the toilet was the least impressive. They weren’t wrong and couldn’t believe what else was brought to the surface. 

The Full List Of Unbelievable Treasure

In 2001 the crowd was dedicated to seeing what else was pulled from the 67 miles of architecture waterway. Each day new finds excited the crowd and also brought laughter and tears. Every day, different residents placed bets on what today’s haul would include. 

The final tally of treasure included two 75mm shells from the first world war, locked safes, precious gold coins, a vintage washing machine, at least one car, and forty tonnes of common garbage. Everyone was pleased with the results and challenged each other to be careful of what would go into the water. Unfortunately, not everyone was careful and it was wild what was discovered fifteen years later. 

The Planning Stage

It’s not easy to organize cleaning for such a large aquatic life and large space in the bustling city of Paris. It has been years since canals were used for trade but they are a beloved part of everyday life for local Paris residents.

While the government worked out who could help them with the project the cost skyrocketed. The final cost of the draining process was estimated to be 9.5 million euros, or $10.3 million. Shocking! Would the local residents' rebel against spending that much money on a landmark? Would the streets fill with protests for the money to be spent somewhere else?

Passion And Protest Are In The French Blood

French citizens are known for their passion and heated debates. In October 2010, the streets filled with protests over changing the retirement age from 60-62. This mainly impacted the oil and gas industries in Paris and all 12 refineries were closed.

Environmental impacts bring forward the most passionate of protests. This beautiful planet cannot speak up for itself. As the government found a solution, citizens wondered if this would impact the canal and other historical landmarks? The next protest would focus on a permanent solution, but would it be for the best?

A March For Climate Change 

In 2015, over 75 countries protested in unison for climate change. It was the largest international protest for the environment and Paris citizens made sure their voice would be heard. The end result was reaching an agreement to lower greenhouse gasses and save our planet from unnecessary damage. 

With everything that was being found in the canal, would it support that local residents were always thinking of the environment, or would dirty and dangerous secrets surface? As local residents walked along the canal they felt confident they were doing the best they could to protect the things they loved, but if the Canal Saint-Martin could talk it might say something very different. 

Budget Changes The Year Before

Paris believes in staying clean and in 2020 the city was part of the reform that would allow all environmental contracts to become available to the public. This meant that all spending and allocation could be denied by the public.

Obviously, the canal is an extremely expensive procedure. Do Paris citizens believe their government is doing enough and is the canal worth the expense? After a public vote, would the canal get the same treatment, or was the historical landmark no longer important? Would the 2021 cleaning go according to plan? 

Diving Into The Canal 

It was time again for the canal to be drained. On the first Monday of the New Year, the crew was assembled for the first time. Monday, January 4, 2021, was the first day of what would turn into a months-long process of draining the historic Canal Saint-Martin. Already crowds had begun to gather along the 67 miles of waterway. 

The process was going to be simple but time-consuming and costly. They would need to start where the two canals connected, lower a dam, and then also filter all the water into the River Sienne. Would anything go wrong, or would the canal be drained according to plan?

Lower The Dam

Are you wondering how the water leaves the canal? You can’t just empty 67 miles of water anywhere you want! A perfect solution is to use the natural direction of the canal to ensure the water stays untouched.

The Canal Saint-Martin flows into the River Sienne. A massive dam was dropped down so the water would only in one direction. All incoming flow was blocked and stayed in the river. At the end of this process, 90,000 cubic meters of water would be emptied into the River Sienne. What about the fish that had built a delicate ecosystem in the canal? Would they be safe or were they at risk with this canal being drained?

Don’t Sleep With The Fish

A thing a lot of local residents were worried about is what would happen to all the fish that called the canal their home. If they didn’t get out through the draining, was Paris looking at killing thousands of fish?

Of course, the fish removal was taken very seriously and executed delicately. After the dam was installed a separate service was enlisted to capture any remaining fish. The city left 50cm of water in the canal to ensure the fish were not harmed and removed safely. What else was living the murky shadows of the canal?

The Discoveries Begin

After three days dedicated to removing and categorizing the various fish, it was finally time to empty the remaining water. Anxiously the crowd waited to see what they could see from bridges and sidewalk views. 

The workers were taking their time to walk the length of the area they were responsible for cleaning. Finally, the water was drained and excited yells and screams came from the onlookers! They couldn’t believe their eyes with what the canal was revealing!

We Recommend Packing Lightly

One of the most interesting items was a packed suitcase. No one could understand how it ended in the canal or if it had floated from a port instead. Visions of a stranded traveler leaving for vacation flooded the onlooker’s imagination. 

When the suitcase was found, immediately authorities looked for any identification. There was nothing saying who the suitcase belonged to. Since the canal had been cleaned fifteen years ago, it’s hard to say if the person would even still be in Paris. What else was revealed in the canal?

Stopping Traffic

Crowds erupted into laughter when the traffic cone was spotted. It was easy to imagine a frustrated traffic cop or construction worker losing their patience and throwing the cone into the water. Many pictures were snapped of the cone for staying in such good shape for fifteen years. 

The original traffic cones were made of wood but eventually were mass-produced as plastic. Plastic is a terrible material to find in large bodies or popular tourist destinations like canals. Today traffic cones are made of a flexible plastic called polyvinyl chloride. This latest find stops traffic what will the workers uncover next?

Why Return The Cart When You Can Let It Sink

Imagine going grocery shopping and then dumping your cart into a beautiful canal? Who would do such a thing? No one came forward to claim it but this cart was one of many found in the bed of rubble of the canal.

The bottom of the canal was proving to reveal a lot of interesting finds. The crowd could not believe how many of them had wheels! The canal has a blockade around it to prevent pedestrians from falling in, but this next find meant that people were serious about getting into the canal, no matter what the cost.

Why Would You Cycle Into The Canal?

It’s hard to believe but bicycles began to pop up through the entire 97 miles of canal. It wasn’t just one or two there were several bicycles found. Public outcry was loud and instant! What did this mean for all of Paris cyclists?

Everyone wondered if these were the bicycles from the popular bicycle-sharing app Vélib. Did that mean instead of paying a fee cyclists were dumping their bicycles under the cover of darkness? The next big surprise in the canal came with two wheels and an engine!

Is This Considered Free Parking?

Locals were truly shocked to find scooters at the bottom of the canal. It felt like a movie prop out of place. Everyone wanted to know who the driver was and hold them responsible for this attack on the environment.

Whether it was local daredevil or stunt artist driving into the canal’s these scooters weren’t even salvageable for spare parts. Surely before landing in the canal they could have been made into scrap metal or sold second hand? The sheer volume of these discoveries was starting to make people uncomfortable. What would be found next? 

Scrub A Dub Dub

We can’t imagine why but somehow a bathtub ended up in the canal. This tub looked like it stayed in good condition, so why would anyone throw it into a canal? We don’t know the hidden message with this rare find. 

A lot of magical memories ended up in the canal and some people were trying to find their lost belonging. This next item might have a clue on how to locate the original owner! Would an item be returned to someone or would it be another loose end?

Capture This Moment 

Cameras are important for capturing magical memories and moments. This could have belonged to a local resident capturing their joy next to the historical landmark or a tourist capturing their experience in Paris.

When the camera was found everyone held their breath wondering if there was a roll of film inside. Could it be developed after so many years? What would this camera reveal about the owner? While the authorities worked on cataloging the next item pulled out brought smiles to everyone’s faces.

Play This Soundtrack On Repeat

Music is so important and we love the convenience of listening with headphones. Before downloading tunes to your smartphones there were walkmans. Before walkmans, people had to carry around their stereo.

Finding this vintage stereo meant someone was using music to create the perfect vibe next to the canal. Did this mean someone was trying to propose the perfect song? Was it a band listening to their first cassette? Was it a group of friends having the perfect day with music-making them dance and laugh? The next items pulled out of the canal continued to shock the growing crowd.

Just An Impressive Collection

No one could believe how many bicycles were being pulled out of the water. It was beginning to upset the crowd! Who were these people foolishly throwing their bicycles into the river? Why would anyone think this is a place they belonged?

When the next item was pulled out of the canal a hush fell among the crowd. The problem was this item could literally belong to anyone standing there. They all immediately felt guilty and some people began to walk away before authorities asked questions. This was an item everyone had at least once a day.

Think Twice Before Throwing A Bottle Overboard

It was unbelievable the number of bottles thrown into the canal. You could no longer read what the bottles had held but the crowd was uneasy. Everyone drank from bottles, who could be held responsible when they were all guilty. 

For the future, it was decided that if anyone was caught throwing a bottle or any garbage into the canal there would be a fine! It was steep but the public agreed enough was enough! The new fine would be set at 68 euros. Everyone would think twice about throwing something into the canal going forward. 

Environmental impacts of garbage

The cleaning started in January but the full process was not complete until April. The final estimated cost was 9.5 million euros. The Paris public began to see the scariest thing about the canal was their own mistreatment. It was up to them to protect this historical landmark and preserve it for the future. 

From humble beginnings 200 years ago this canal represents an important of the history in France. The city of Paris vows to do better and hopefully, in the next fifteen years nothing will be at the bottom of their precious canal. Do you think people can stop throwing bicycles into the canal? Only time will tell what local residents are truly capable of.