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January 22, 2011 / Omar J. Peters

Urban Spelunking in New York City

The Wilderness Below Your Feet

Earlier this year, the New York Times ran a story on a five day exploration of New York City’s forgotten underground. The explorers wanted to expose parts of the City that usually lay invisible and given little thought.

The NYT reporter who accompanied the explorers journaled the experience.

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 we’re 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.

The journal was accompanied with a slideshow.

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