Fifteen years doesn’t seem like a long time, but when it comes to trends and technology, studying what items were like more than a decade ago tends to reveal true riches from the past. There was a maintenance project done in 2016 of the infamous Saint-Martin Canal in Paris, France, mandated by the city.
People were stunned by what kinds of treasures had sunk to the bottom of the water. Even after being encased in mud and dirt for years, you’ll have a hard time believing what astonishing artifacts and objects were discovered in the 200-year-old ancient seaway.
The Saint-Martin Canal is one of the most highly regarded and famous sites to visit in Paris, France. The majestic body of water was developed back in 1825, when Napoleon Bonaparte was the ruler, to enhance the city’s drinking water supply.
The alluring water channel is about 3 miles long, joining the Port de l’Arsenal to the La Villette canal basin, with segments flowing both through the city and underground. But over the last two centuries, the canal has shifted away from its original intention.
Throughout the years, the Canal Saint-Martin has turned into a popular tourist attraction, both for the local French residents to walk through the scenic area and for foreign travelers who come to take in the sights of the romantic city.
The beautiful Venetian-styled architecture of the canal is highlighted by the small, packed cafes and restaurants alongside it. Especially in recent years, once about every fifteen years brings about a new reason and special opportunity to visit the area comes up.
Foreign visitors and local citizens gather at the Paris water channel to enjoy a peaceful stroll and beautiful photographs to remember the area. However, people are anticipating the opportunity to take a trip down into the canal when it has been fully drained of all of its water.
Célia Blauel, the head of Paris’ environmental and waterways policies, explained to a local news channel that protocol called for the drainage and repair of the canal no more than every fifteen years. But the repairing isn’t the reason why people rush to enter the waterway every time they drain it.
With the arrival of 2016 also came the arrival of canal maintenance. It was finally time to drain the canal of all its dirty water and restore it once again. From start to finish, the canal maintenance is a huge undertaking for the area since it takes about three months.
The project comprises of draining 90,000 cubic meters of canal water, cleaning all of it, and finally repairing necessary sections. Not only does the total maintenance mission take several months to complete, but the final bill of the restoration project totals to a few million euros.
This endeavor is clearly a worthy investment for the city, but something else actually keeps the crowd’s attention. Have you ever been curious about what sits at the bottom of the ocean? Indeed, there are all kinds of trinkets and ancient artifacts from boats lost at sea and shipwrecks.
But what would be at the bottom of man-made structures, like the Canal Saint-Martin? As it turns out, previous clean-ups have not disappointed curious crowds. There have been a number of noteworthy things left to be discovered when they’ve drained the canal.
During a previous big Canal Saint-Martin restoration project in 2001, there were all types of fascinating historical valuables and treasures that were misplaced along the waterways. A total of 40 tons of trash and junk were found in the canal.
Within the garbage that had sunk to the bottom of the water years prior sat some hidden treasures, as well. Unbelievably, the cleaning crew found bikes, bathtubs, and even a few WWI 75mm shells, which must have been sitting there for more than fifty years. How wild!
After what they found in 2001, eager crowds gathered around over ten years later for the 2016 drainage and maintenance. Faith and assumptions to find treasures, or their own belongings that were lost to the Saint-Martin, brought large numbers of curious spectators.
But some of the objects that were found during this time maintenance draining left people in shock about the uncovered items that washed up to the surface. Which begs the question, what trinkets did they discover along the drained canal’s floor?
On the first Monday of the upcoming year, January 4, 2016, the city’s cleaning team got to work! The section around the canal’s first lock that joins Canal Saint-Martin to the 67-mile-long channel, the Canal de l’Ourcq, is where they started this grueling and immense maintenance undertaking.
Since the muddy waters are brimming with much more than just garbage and lost items before they could finish draining the canal, they had to double-check for and tend to any living organisms they found in the water.
The process of draining the whole canal actually is faster than you might assume—after around a week, the canal was prepped for the repairs and restorations. But before that part of the project could begin, they needed to ensure the safety of all the little fish.
Julien Gaidot, the head of the draining operations, explained to French news channels that they leave a small pool of canal water to gather the fish. In addition to draining the 3-mile-long canal, the city of Paris ensured the careful relocation of any fish that lived in the water. Dedicated workers!
A crew of around twelve fishermen caught the fish and ensured their relocation to a safe place before returning back to the canal after its restoration project. The team of fishermen had only three days to catch and transfer all the fish before the canal was completely drained.
Once that was done, the next step was to use tractors to dig up trash, remove the decade-old garbage, and get rid of all of the mud that sunk to the bottom of the canal. But obviously, there was so much more than just debris found while clearing out the canal.
Before getting to the found artifacts, the crew of fishermen saw something that required urgent attention. On the second day of the process, the team of fishermen located a trapped school of fish that needed rescuing before the whole canal would be fully drained.
Normally, they’d find fish swimming freely in the water, but they had to be quick to rescue this school of fish. Luckily, they found a way to save the fish and moved them to a safe place while their work on the canal continued.
Similar to the maintenance operation from 2001, there were about 40 tons of decade-old trash, mud, garbage, and all types of captivating “lost” possessions. But one of the most interesting ones that have people taken aback is the different kinds of motor vehicles uncovered along the way.
There was at least one car discovered fully intact, as well as a couple of motorbike scooters! Can you even picture how they could have ended up on the bottom of the canal and only been discovered now? We hope the owner has replaced their vehicle at this point!
Motor vehicles weren’t the only kind of transportation that was discovered on the canal floor. They found a trail of bicycles, including quite a number of publicly shared bicycles, locally called Vélib’ bikes. Can you even imagine? We’re unsure whether to giggle or cry!
Marc, a self-employed resident who lives near the canal, shared with The Guardian his feelings on these findings. He said that it reminded him of a type of odd submarine artifact. He was most surprised by the number of Vélibs there were and assumed that they had been tossed in the canal after being stolen.
Cars and bicycles aren’t the only things on wheels that were uncovered at the bottom of the Saint-Martin, either! In addition to cars, motorbikes, and the beloved local Vélib’ city bikes that were seen along the emptied canal, were hand carts and grocery store shopping carts.
Oh wait, get ready because we aren’t done yet! The clean-up crew also found suitcases and a baby doll’s stroller. Again, we’re not sure what the right response is for these finds, but it’s abundantly clear that maintenance and cleaning were long overdue.
The tractors dug up all kinds of fascinating trinkets, including one from the technology world. One red-pink cell phone showed up during the canal drainage, and by the look of it, it appears that it was likely one of the first smartphones from the modern era.
What a truly incredible find amongst all of the rubbish. Of course, it’s pretty sad for the person lost their phone in the first place, but what an amazing discovery and example of how far technology has advanced in as little as even half a decade.
We’re certain that when Napoleon was preparing this canal in the 1800s, he couldn’t have imagined that two centuries later, it would be filled with historical trinkets and capsulized technology. Besides finding a cell phone, the canal floor revealed another technological gem from the past few decades.
They found a boom box! Remember those heavy but fun musical boxes? What a wonderful blast from the past; a boom box and an old cell phone. Again, it just goes down as further proof of how many technological advancements we’ve had in such a short amount of time.
We are curious if the boom box owner even realizes that it’s been found. While we might never get to the bottom of how it ended up in the canal, there are some found items that we can make some guesses as to how they might’ve ended up there.
Amongst the canal trash, there were a bunch of beer cans and bottles. And as unfortunate as it might be to know that in the Saint-Martin were piles of litter, the bright side is that the cans and bottles serve as a sign of good times along the canal.
Finding beer cans and bottles along the water might not be that shocking, unfortunately. However, we’re positive that this next object might peak your interest again. Allegedly there was a large and diverse range of chairs discovered along the Saint-Martin canal.
That’s right, all different types of chairs were collected and recorded. How silly! Can you imagine someone throwing one into the water? We can only hope that there wasn’t anyone sitting in any of these chairs when they managed to tip over into the canal.
It’s tough to imagine how so many smaller items like a boom box and cell phone were able to maintain their shapes and survive all these years under the murky water. On top of these interesting objects, though, was one item that looks a bit ironic.
The clean-up team found a fire extinguisher resting at the bottom of the pool of shallow water. Such a weird discovery! You would assume that if there was a large fire in the area, the huge pool of water from the canal would be enough to put it out but guess someone else felt differently.
If you think a fire extinguisher is a weird discovery, then you’ll surely agree with us about this next find being just as odd. Lost in the canal for who knows how long, the clean-up crew additionally found umbrellas at the bottom of the Canal Saint-Martin.
How strange! It’s incredible that even after years of being covered in garbage and mud over time, it still managed to survive the depths of the Saint-Martin canal. We hope the person who lost their umbrella wasn’t walking home in the rain!
Some of these items lost to the water channel and deep below the surface might have a pretty simple backstory to understand. On the flip side, there are some insanely cool objects they found that truly make you think, “Oh wow! Now how in the world did that thing end up here?”
Another one of those interesting items is also potentially treasures with historical significance! Many street signs were found sitting at the bottom of the canal. How cool! Now that we’ve found them, the next step would be to solve the mystery of how they all ended up there.
You might be asking yourself if they discovered anything a little more unlawful at the bottom of the canal—especially after there were bullet casings from World War I in the maintenance job in 2001. Not the strangest thought and they actually did find something like that.
They discovered at least one firearm during the initial artifact recovery and clean-up that was taken by the police right away. The authorities took every preventative measure and made sure that the proper departments were ready to handle any additional items that they might’ve found.
Along with the pile of trash that gets brushed away and right into the water, the underwater realm of the Saint-Martin Canal is filled with all types of intriguing lost artifacts and time-capsule treasures—each with its own personal story of how it ended up there.
The saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover but, if we’re to take anything away from this, it’s that the world’s surface should not be what you judge it on. Truthfully, those who come to witness the tremendous drainage project aren’t just there to witness the canal without water.
It’s obvious that the canal needs to be periodically drained and do much more than repair and restoration. The water surface is filled with a combination of garbage and timeless treasure, but many people actually show up to search for their own lost possessions!
Because the sites are obviously hazardous, the city ensures that only employees are actually allowed close to the drained canal. Despite all of that, it’s cool that the city continues to drain the canal about every decade. Who has a clue what artifacts will be discovered next time?