The Canal Saint-Martin in Paris is one of the city’s oldest and most beautiful waterways, but the centuries-old four-and-a-half-kilometre canal is also one of the dirtiest and has to be periodically cleaned out. City authorities recently drained and cleaned the canal for the first time since 2001, removing over 40 tons of debris in the process. But it wasn’t all beer cans clogging things up; thousands of artifacts were pulled from the muck, and they range from fascinating to downright bizarre.
The Canal Saint-Martin in Paris has a very rich history. Its construction was ordered by none other than Napoleon in 1802, designated to bring fresh water to the city’s rapidly growing population, and provided an avenue for commerce. In typical French fashion, the funding was procured through a tax on wine. But as the city grew, the canal was put under immense strain. Today, while still scenic, it has mostly become a watery garbage dump.
City authorities recently dammed and drained the canal for the first time since 2001. Workers descended into the canal bed to begin the cleaning process. So far, they’ve removed over 40 tons of debris and counting. It’s a bizarre sight for city residents; the water is still so low that you can practically walk across it.
They found a lot of wine bottles, but there was a whole lot more – people seem to have abandoned thousands of bikes and mopeds there. Some of them appear to have been thrown in quite recently, but most of the artifacts were quite old. Even though they were mostly everyday objects, they seemed to carry a certain historical dignity. For the workers, it was like wading into the city’s rich past.
Many of the city’s residents gathered to watch the cleaning; they couldn’t get enough and wanted to see what else they were going to pull out. The city’s avian residents, fossil, turned out in droves to inspect the new territory. The canal’s aquatic residents were probably less thrilled, but the city didn’t just leave them to perish at the bottom. During a span of several days, workers moved over four tons of fish to a safe location.
In addition to the more modern artifacts, there were plenty of older items. There were old boom boxes and even older cameras. Among the items found in the canal were some artifacts from the First World War, including coins, an unexploded shell, and even a car. That’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. Who knows what else they’re going to fish out of there?