It is a cloudy day in Paris, and a throng of people has converged in a bid to have a glimpse of what is taking place along the Canal Saint-Martin. They kept their eyes glued to catch every moment of every inch the murky waters of the canal were receding as authorities drained the iconic waterway.
As the water receded, the things uncovered from the 200-year-old canal will leave you in absolute astonishment.
As authorities gaze into the murky abyss below, the waters gradually disappear, revealing mysteries that haven’t seen the light of day in over a century.
As the floor of the 200-year-old trench comes into view, a seriously strange history of the city is uncovered.
Historically, the 4.5 Km canal was constructed after Napoleon Bonaparte I put a signature to provide a go-ahead.
The primary objective that compelled him to build the canal was to provide clean drinking water for the 550, 000 Paris residents, though there was a possibility that the population could even grow further.
Additionally, Napoleon hoped that the accessibility to clean water would help mitigate the rampant health cases reported about Cholera and Dysentery. In total, the Canal Saint-Martin covers around three miles of Paris.
Back then, the waterway also carried both building supplies and food to the people of Paris.
Over the next few decades, 2 canals were constructed with the same purpose. Apart from the Canal Saint-Martin, authorities oversaw the successful construction of the Canal de l’Ourcq, and the Canal Saint-Denis.
With a length of 108 Km and a width of 3.4 m, the former wound make its way from Port-Aux-Perches to Bassin de la Villette, to join the Canal Saint-Martin. Keep in mind these canals are hundreds of years old…
Presumably, Canal Saint-Martin is the widely known of the three, and silently flowed underground from the Bassin de l’Arsenal, all through the Place de la Bastille, a place frequently alluded when speaking about the French Revolution of 1789-1799, because it was at this site that a prison was unexpectedly attacked.
With such history, authorities had no idea what they would find at the bottom of the canal.
Today the canal is mostly a place for tourists and locals to relax.
Wealthy young Parisians can often be seen congregating on its banks and in nearby cafes while tourists tend to focus on the bridges and landmarks for photo opportunities. But why would they drain it?
The past two centuries have definitely taken their toll on the canal. Officials now make an effort to empty it every ten to 15 years, removing the waste that has found its way to the bottom.
Things were a little different this time though…
Paris, typically referred to as the City of Light, was discovered to behold loads of hidden secrets, veiled by the dark waters of the canal.
The uncovering of some bizarre materials from the Canal Saint-Martin seemed to jar a lot of fuss from the Parisians who stayed glued to the draining operation. No one knew what to expect.
The first time a canal got drained was in 2001, and during this initial project, over 40 tons of wastes were removed from the water. What stood wrapped up in strangeness were the gold pennies, bullets and bombshells from the World War I.
More suspense was elicited when an automobile that dates back to that era was lifted from the canal. But what would they find this time?
Work began on the gargantuan task of emptying the canal. The project would take three months and involve moving some 3 million cubic feet of water.
It would also cost the city over $10 million, but it needed to be done. What the crowd was served this time around was a spectacular display of objects that were nothing short of dowdy.
January 7th, the rest of the water was emptied from the canal. The waterway’s secrets were finally seeing light for the first time in 15 years.
Crowds flocked to the bridges and sides to get a closer look at what the crew had unearthed.
Coming to witness the physical impact that the draining project had on the view of the Canal Saint-Martin, you will have to rub your eyes to determine that you are not dangling in a reverie but reality.
Here’s what they found at the bottom…
Initially, as the workers drained the water to about 50 cm, they purposefully waded the water in a bid to recover more items, they ended up dealing with living “things” as well. The working personnel safely fished out virtually 5 tons of trout, carp, and bream that were subsequently transferred to better breeding grounds.
The fish were carefully weighed and identified before their relocation. The new location could not be a comfortable haven for the fish but is surely a better option than the existing alternative. Then…
The most common objects revealed as the water levels dropped were bicycles, particularly ones from the city’s Vélib hire system.
Launched in 2007, this scheme brought some 14,500 bikes to the streets of Paris. Sadly, however, many of them seem to have met an unfortunate fate.
As the waters were receding with continuous draining, wheelie bins, mopeds, and bicycles were recovered from the depths of the base of the canal. A toilet came into plain sight in the canal and was recovered as one of the essentials that were decomposing to add to the murk.
That added a pang of humor to the whole endeavor. But then they discovered much bigger objects!
“It’s like some kind of weird submarine treasure,” one witness, Marc, told The Guardian. “I just can’t believe the quantity of Vélibs in there. I guess they were stolen and thrown in afterward. It’s bizarre.”
Moreover, bicycles weren’t the only strange things to have found their way to the bottom of the canal.
“That’s Paris for you,” onlooker Bernard commented. “It’s filthy.” What’s more, apparently it’s only getting worse.
“The last time, I don’t remember seeing so much rubbish in it,” he continued. “I despair. The youth are using it as a dustbin.”
Even more strangely, a pair of motorcycles were also found as the waters continued to drop.
How did such expensive pieces of transportation end up dumped in the canal? The truth may never be known. But the findings get weirder…
While much of the rubbish revealed at the bottom of the canal was of the sort that you might expect –
Items such as glass bottles, shopping bags, and traffic cones – some of it left locals puzzling over exactly how such objects had ever ended up in the water.
An office chair was also among the collectibles. Its discovery evoked a level of skepticism.
Was an office personnel missing a much-anticipated party in the 10th arrondissement that the user traveled on the wheels of the chair? Quite ridiculous, right?
Further, as the collection of clean-up staffs carried on with the job,
they also got to have a peek at the gross suitcase that laid beneath the water.
One crew member was left with no other option but to go pick up a traffic cone from the revealed surface.
Additionally, Parisian shopping trolley could not have missed from the recovered bunch: Real evidence that Paris, is a destination for shopping.
Workers drained the water from the canal until just 20 inches remained. The fish needed to be evacuated first.
For three days, the cleanup team rushed to catch the bream, trout, and carp that live in the waters, subsequently placing them in the safety of another section of the waterway.
Despite this, there is hope for the canal. With the litter problem laid bare for everyone to see, authorities have seized the opportunity to speak out against the problem.
“If everyone mucks in and avoids throwing anything into the water,” deputy mayor Celia Blauel told the MailOnline, “we might be able to swim in the canal in a few years.”
After the recovery of these items that could have otherwise remained in oblivion, it is quite unfortunate that Parisians and other migrants had to dig deep into their pockets to pay for homes along the canal’s vicinity.
The prices reach up to a whopping $9000, just for the acquisition of property along the 10th arrondissement, oblivious of the hidden mysteries beneath the highly regarded district.
The waterway has assumed a lush and aesthetic look.
In fact, the canal is an inspiration to many artists, as its walls are littered with compelling graffiti, and its bank has a vast multimedia space designated solely for art.
Over the course of the next two decades, three canals were dug across the city, coming together with a total of over 80 miles.
The most famous of the three, the Canal Saint-Martin, connects the 68-mile Canal De l’Ourcq to the River Seine.
The canal has also lured tourists and Parisians alike, who come to have a view of the badges as they navigate through road bridges and the litany of locks.
The area around the Canal Saint-Martin has become famous for its nightlife scene, with young people flocking to the previously quiet district.
There were concerns that this would bring even more waste to the waterway – and in 2016 it was time to find out if it was so.
Construction of the canal began in 1802 when French leader Napoleon I demanded its construction. At the time, around 550,000 people were living in Paris, and the population growth showed no sign of decreasing.
Napoleon hoped that canals bringing fresh water to the city would help prevent the spread of disease. Well…
Starting at Bassin de l’Arsenal by the Seine, the canal travels under La Bastille, the site of a prison that was destroyed during the French Revolution.
It emerges close to the Place de la République before heading north to the Bassin de la Villette. There, it merges with the Canal de l’Ourq.
Alongside the bicycles and motorbikes were shopping carts, chairs, trash cans, and suitcases, all scattered across the muddy surface.
There were stranger oddities, still: a vintage stereo, for example, and even an abandoned toilet.
Hundreds of thousands of bottles and cans were collected as the water was being drained away.
In central Paris, the Canal covers a total of three miles along the 10th arrondissement,
which is a renowned fashion-oriented district but has recently been robust with elated nightlife and an attractive tourist-receptive district.