Exploring Subterranean New York

A reporter for the New York Times follows an expedition exploring the sewers and tunnels underneath the city. The travelog makes for an interesting read, if the whole idea doesn’t make you feel too claustrophobic.

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    1:48 a.m.

  • Bronx sewers

  • Amazing. The sounds down here are even more impressive than the sights and smells: the Niagara-like crash of water spilling in from side drains; the rumble of the subway; the guh-DUNK! of cars hitting manhole covers overhead, like two jabs on a heavy bag. Steve says were only 12 feet beneath the surface, but it feels far deeper. The familiar world is gone: only sewage now, the press of surrounding earth, the anxious dance of headlamps on the water. Every 100 feet or so, an archway appears and we can see a parallel channel gurgling beside us with a coffee-colored murk. I shine my headlamp down and watch a condom and gooey scraps of toilet paper float by. I check the air meter constantly: no trace of gas, and the oxygen level is a healthy 20.9 percent. I ask Steve how he navigates down here; he laughs. Hey, Erling, he calls out, youre taking care of the navigation, right? Funny.

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