It’s a gray January day in Paris, and a crowd has gathered along the Canal Saint-Martin. As they stare into the murky brown depths below, the waters slowly empty, uncovering secrets that have been kept hidden for many years. And as the bottom of the 200-year-old canal emerges into view, a truly bizarre underside of the city is revealed.
The story of the famous canal began in 1802, when the French leader Napoleon I ordered its construction. At the time, around 550,000 people were living in Paris, and the population was continuing to grow. Napoleon therefore hoped that canals bringing fresh water to the city would help to prevent the spread of disease.
As a result, over the next two decades, three canals were dug across the city, together totaling more than 80 miles in length. Arguably the most famous of the three, the Canal Saint-Martin, connects the 68-mile Canal de l’Ourcq with the long, lazy flow of the River Seine.