What Lies Beneath the Canal Saint Martin

What Lies Beneath the Canal Saint Martin

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cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
draining and cleaning the Canal Saint Martin by Corey Frye

Mention the Canal Saint Martin in Parisian circles and you’ll likely conjure up talk of favorite coffee shops, shabby-chic brunches, trendy boutiques and sun-soaked apéros with friends. Nowadays however, locals are heading over to admire a different side of the canal — the underside, to be exact.

cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
clean-up begins in the Canal Saint Martin by Corey Frye

Every 15 years, in a mix of city mandate and local tradition, the Napoleon-era waterway is drained of its seven feet of water and 20 species of fish– to be thoroughly cleaned and repaired. The byproduct of such an event is a feast for the eyes—a veritable post-apocalyptic wasteland that offers passersby a mud-slathered exhibit of all that’s been dumped into the canal for the past decade and a half.

cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
cleaning the Canal Saint Martin by Corey Frye
cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
cleaning the Canal Saint Martin by Corey Frye

Leading up to the drainage, the city was abuzz with speculation of what would be uncovered. The findings didn’t disappoint: so far items have included dozens of Vélib’ rental bicycles, baby strollers, traffic cones, office equipment, shopping carts, and even a handgun that was promptly turned over to the police department.

cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
bikes and more discovered while cleaning the Canal Saint Martin/ by Corey Frye
cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
who knows what lies beneath the Canal Saint Martin? by Corey Frye
cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
a stroller at the bottom of the Canal Saint Martin by Corey Frye

For now, rare is the pedestrian who doesn’t pause over the iron footbridges to peer at the canal’s bizarre nakedness. There’s almost a voyeuristic quality to it all, in addition to a sense of being witness to a brief moment in Paris history.

cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
a child’s toy in the Canal Saint Martin by Corey Frye
cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
a chair discovered while cleaning the Canal Saint Martin by Corey Frye
cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
more treasures uncovered in the Canal Saint Martin by Corey Frye

The cleaning and rehabilitation project is set to last three months and cost nearly 10 million euros, after which the Canal Saint Martin will once again flow through the 10th arrondissement clean and clutter-free… for a short time at least. The countdown will then be reset to approximately the year 2030, at which point future Parisians will have the pleasure of discovering their own batch of discarded treasures from days past.

cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
cleaning the Canal Saint Martin by Corey Frye
cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
spectators watch the cleaning of the Canal Saint Martin by Corey Frye
cleaning the Canal Saint Martin
moving the Canal’s fish before the clean-up takes place/ by Corey Frye

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think you’ll ever run out of interesting things to write about! I’ve never heard of this dredging, but I can see that it is indeed fascinating. Thanks again for giving me a ringside seat to your Paris discoveries.

  2. New to me, as well. Thanks. I remember one night several years ago when the faithful gathered at the canal on a high holiday. A nonbeliever, I was quite moved to see this old readition in my favorite city.

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