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Going Souterrain
November 5, 2012 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Our aim is to examine [Paris's] connection to its underground in a way no one has before: we will attempt to walk from the southern edge to the northern, using only catacombs, telecom tunnels, sewers and other hidden infrastructure. It is a 14-mile trek, every step illegal.
posted by Chrysostom (56 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good moaning. I am lucking for the Fronch undergrind. Con you till me the wee to the hodden infrastricture?
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:54 AM on November 5, 2012 [22 favorites]


Some of Nadar's old photos of the sewer mentioned in this article can be found in this google image search. Another article on the ossuaries (with photos) is here. A BBC video of the underground is here.
posted by HuronBob at 6:56 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


...and then they get eaten by ghouls.
posted by Artw at 7:00 AM on November 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Cool project.

Needs an 'infrastructure' tag ;)
posted by carter at 7:13 AM on November 5, 2012


Badass. Thanks for the great post.
posted by entropos at 7:25 AM on November 5, 2012


You know, I'm kind of a wuss and also a total square in the boringly-super-legal lifestyle department but I would so do this.
posted by pointystick at 7:28 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


...and then they get eaten by ghouls.

Who told you about my competing tour-and-dinner service for well-to-do but daring ghouls? IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A SECRET, GUYS
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:30 AM on November 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Who told you about my competing tour-and-dinner service

Ghouls and Goulash
posted by nathancaswell at 7:43 AM on November 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Nadar was captivated by the ossuaries, the silent piles of disarticulated bones

Yeah, just keep me away from the non-silent ones, OK?
posted by Segundus at 7:44 AM on November 5, 2012 [12 favorites]


but I would so do this.

My eagerness to go would depend on the odds that I might find myself up to my eyeballs in shit. I'm OK with bats and rats and spiders and the like, and even stacks of dead people are OK if they've been dead sufficiently long -- skeletons, not bloated corpses -- but I don't want to dog paddle through Pierre's poo. I read
The catwalk is slippery with shit. Steve pulls a length of rope from his bag, "in case someone falls in".
and think that maybe I wouldn't want to go the entire 14 miles.
posted by pracowity at 7:52 AM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ghouls and Goulash

Ghoulash.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:58 AM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


...and then they get eaten by ghouls.

At least they will be eaten by French ghouls, no doubt accompanied by a most exquisite sauce.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:59 AM on November 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


i am always kind of amused by the twitchy defensive loathing some circles seem to hold for urbexing people

it used to kind of seem like it was the standard being-angry-at-kids-having-fun deal but i don't know
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:03 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a handy guide to visiting the catacombs.
posted by grog at 8:07 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


We go through passageways as tight as sphincters

Ok
posted by nathancaswell at 8:11 AM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Another handy guide to the catacombs.
posted by Rangeboy at 8:21 AM on November 5, 2012


All of my steps are illegal too you don't see me bragging on the internet.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:26 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Gauls, Ghouls, & Goulash
posted by princessmonster at 8:27 AM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ghoulash!
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:28 AM on November 5, 2012


So cool. I'll pass on the sewers, but it sounds like it would be fucking awesome to spend a little time with the cataphiles.
posted by threeants at 8:37 AM on November 5, 2012


Yeah. Tell us more about this Misty.
posted by sourwookie at 8:44 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't quite understand why the police might be after them, tbh? I thought there were guided tours of catacombs etc? What is illegal, please help me understand?
posted by infini at 8:51 AM on November 5, 2012


Oh and great link, thanks!
posted by infini at 8:51 AM on November 5, 2012


it sounds like it would be fucking awesome to spend a little time with the cataphiles.

Remember, cataphiles are the ones that hang from the ceilings of the catacombs. Catamites are the ones on the floor.

What is illegal, please help me understand?

A very small part of the catacombs are open to tourists. Totally worth doing, btw, particularly for the crazy bone sculptures. But that's only ~1km of tunnel, there's 100+ kilometers of tunnels under Paris. Between the quarry tunnels, the old sewers, and random basements and escape tunnels and the like there's a dense maze. Most of which is a mess, but there's a few open secrets like La Plage and the former movie theater.
posted by Nelson at 8:59 AM on November 5, 2012 [13 favorites]


Thank you Nelson. Btw, I always thought catamites were something else entirely...
posted by infini at 9:09 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


We awake to find a woman standing in our room.

Yeah that isn't creepy at all. It doesn't help that she was carrying a wrought-iron lantern.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 9:10 AM on November 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


The tunnels under Moscow are supposed to be INSANE.
posted by Artw at 9:12 AM on November 5, 2012


Austin only has a couple walkable storm sewers, but it's quite entertaining to yell at passerby from the curbside storm drains.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:22 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The tunnels under Moscow are supposed to be INSANE.

I was saving these up for a tunnel under the city post that I've never gotten around to, so here they are.
posted by infini at 9:25 AM on November 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


You had me until The catwalk is slippery with shit. Steve pulls a length of rope from his bag, "in case someone falls in".

As much I like to think of myself as pretty brave, walking around in people's shit is not appealing no matter where the hell it is.
posted by Kitteh at 9:36 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


All London has is a bunch of stupid cavemen.
posted by Artw at 9:53 AM on November 5, 2012


As much I like to think of myself as pretty brave, walking around in people's shit is not appealing no matter where the hell it is.

I have kids. As long as there's no screaming involved I have no fear of it.
posted by Artw at 9:54 AM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I have kids. As long as there's no screaming involved I have no fear of it.

Artw, you've just ticked one of the boxes in the "The Reason Why I Don't Have/Want Kids" Bingo card! :)
posted by Kitteh at 10:26 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Seriously, people who mention poop are n00bs, once you're on your second kid you can handle that (literal) shit like it's nothing. Baby screams on the other hand...

Skulls are silent, right?
posted by Artw at 10:32 AM on November 5, 2012


In regards to Moscow, I remember reading a terrifyingly awesome article about Moscow's underground secrets when I was about 14. A bit of Googling found an extant copy... I'm now, of course, deeply skeptical, but if even 1% of that were true....
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:23 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aha! Whether or not any of the information is sound is a different story, but the Diggers of the Underground Planet do at least seem to exist. Now, if only I read Russian.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:25 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


The tunnels under Moscow are supposed to be INSANE.
posted by thewalrus at 12:25 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Previously, previously.

There's probably a bunch of stuff on English Russia, though I am sometimes somewhat skeptical of them.
posted by Artw at 12:33 PM on November 5, 2012


...and then they get eaten by ghouls.

A grue, surely.

I was going to make a joke about "une grue" but it turns out grue is the French word for a crane (bird or machine), but can also refer to a prostitute or just the act of standing around. Which is a lot for one little word to handle and more than my little joke deserved. I suppose a grue is also standing around, waiting for to you show up to be eaten:
> what is a grue?

The grue is a sinister, lurking presence in the dark places of the earth. Its favorite diet is adventurers, but its insatiable appetite is tempered by its fear of light. No grue has ever been seen by the light of day, and few have survived its fearsome jaws to tell the tale.
which sounds just perfect for Parisian catacombs and les aventuriers souterraines. So it all comes back around to the beginning and "une grue."

And don't call me Shirley.

posted by Celsius1414 at 1:23 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, I'd also accept giant hordes of rats or the distant albino mutant relatives of the explorer.
posted by Artw at 1:26 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Shoggoths would be a bit much.
posted by Artw at 1:26 PM on November 5, 2012


I've been meaning to check out the catacombs since I've moved to Paris, though needing to buy waders made me hesitant. Any other Parisian mefites keen?
posted by notionoriety at 2:02 PM on November 5, 2012


The tourist bits of the tunnels are perfectly doable in regular shoes, FWIW.
posted by Artw at 2:03 PM on November 5, 2012


When Nadar first dropped into the catacombs with his camera, the tunnels were largely empty. He might have encountered the occasional mushroom farmer, or perhaps the Inspection des Carrières, the workers who prevented the tunnels from collapsing under the weight of the city—otherwise, in those days, no one.

I found this difficult to believe.
posted by dhartung at 3:16 PM on November 5, 2012


Exploring sewers, utility tunnels, and catacombs around the world
posted by homunculus at 3:28 PM on November 5, 2012


Also previously: The New French Hacker-Artist Underground

"What has made much of this work possible is UX’s mastery, established 30 years ago and refined since, of the city’s network of underground passageways—hundreds of miles of interconnected telecom, electricity, and water tunnels, sewers, catacombs, subways, and centuries-old quarries. Like computer hackers who crack digital networks and surreptitiously take control of key machines, members of UX carry out clandestine missions throughout Paris’ supposedly secure underground tunnels and rooms. The group routinely uses the tunnels to access restoration sites and stage film festivals, for example, in the disused basements of government buildings."
posted by homunculus at 3:36 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Catamites are indeed something else entirely. I think Nelson was joking...
posted by jacalata at 5:16 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read this article before I go to work, and figure there will be some mention of Valjean carrying Marius through the sewers (and Hugo's bit on the history of sewers)...

But then I come home from work basically 12 hours later and NO! NO MENTION OF IT ANYWHERE.

For shame, MetaFilter. For. Shame.
posted by hippybear at 6:01 PM on November 5, 2012


Catamites are indeed something else entirely. I think Nelson was joking...

They're those things that turn up if you do the Hellraiser puzzlebox, right?
posted by Artw at 6:03 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am green with envy.

Washington, DC is perhaps too young a city, and parts are too near the water table, to have extensive underground architecture other than the underground museums, the Metro and the little subway for Congress -- this site has collected much available information. But the rest they're not telling you about. National security and all that. If you Google, you soon hit masses of disinformation, such as the alien reptilians. (warning: site is aesthetically challenged)

I've done research at the Library of Congress and wondered just how far underground the stacks go. There's a long underground corridor between the Jefferson and Adams buildings. Staff and researchers use it regularly, and if you were a visitor you could probably use it and nobody would arrest you; but it's still claustrophobic feeling, as the photo shows.

En route to this tunnel from the Jefferson elevator are mysterious hatches in the floor. (Not related to the elevators, too far away.) A tunnel branches off, leading DOWNWARDS. I have speculated about underground stacks and fallout shelters (the LOC being practically at Ground Zero for a nuclear attack in the Cold War era).
posted by bad grammar at 6:55 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


dhartung - it's plausible. Not that there was no one else in there, but that with the immense size of the underground network in Paris there were not enough people in there that he would have bumped into any more than a handful of people. It's immense.
posted by notionoriety at 8:47 PM on November 5, 2012


bad grammar: There are also underground remnants of DC's streetcar system. The largest space is under DuPont circle.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:26 PM on November 5, 2012


I did both the Catacombs and the Sewer Museum this summer, and found the latter heaps more interesting. The Catacombs are spooky and cool (literally: whatever the weather outside, inside is 14C), but all in all not that interesting.

The sewers, though, are fascinating. I learned such tidbits as: people who work in the sewers have a life expectancy shorter than the rest of the French population by 17 years; falling into the sewage water earns you a direct trip to the hospital; there are two rats for every human in Paris, and they do an essential job of eating garbage and cleaning up sewers tunnels; Paris boasts the second biggest cleaning plant in the world (1st is Chicago). Of course the Sewer Museum being a part of the actual sewer network, you shouldn't visit it when it's raining (there are flood lines coming up to your chest at some point), you shouldn't touch the walls, you should eat or drink anything while inside, and clean up your hands thoroughly before leaving.
posted by snakeling at 12:58 AM on November 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


"You guys, I've got this. I totally beat Deus Ex like multiple times."
posted by Rhomboid at 4:31 AM on November 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Exploring the Paris Metro’s Eerie Ghost Stations
posted by homunculus at 7:55 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


The underground art rebels of Paris
posted by homunculus at 2:17 PM on November 23, 2012


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