Friday, July 20, 2007

What Lies Beneath Your Feet

New York may be the greatest city on Earth, but living here does have its downsides. Many of you may have heard about the disaster in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday. According to news reports, a steam pipe beneath Lexington Avenue exploded after cool water from a rainstorm trickled down from the street above. The destruction was unbelievable. For over an hour, a geyser of mud and searing-hot steam shot past the upper floors of nearby skyscrapers. When it was finally stopped, workers discovered a giant crater in the middle of the street, which had swallowed an entire tow-truck. (See above.)

It wasn't long ago that I worked in one of the buildings across from the explosion, and I'm happy to report that none of my former co-workers were injured. More than forty other people weren't quite as lucky.

How could this happen? As anyone who's read Kiki Strike knows, New York City is hollow. And many of the tunnels, pipes, and power lines that lie underneath the asphalt are old and decaying. This wasn't the first time something like this has happened, and unfortunately it probably won't be the last.

So what exactly is down there? Take the National Geographic tour of the city's subterranean world. (No, they don't let you visit the Shadow City, which lies deeper than the subway tracks. But it's interesting nonetheless.) For those who'd like to learn more about what goes on in the city's underground, check out Kate Ascher's The Works, one of my favorite books of all time.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the model of the layers. I wonder how far down Shadow City would be? We know it's below the subway, but would it be even lower than the sours?

These are the questions that haunt me.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous randa said...

have you seen the show cities of the underworld? I thought of you when ever I see it!!

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Ananka said...

Hi Annemarie,

Sorry for haunting you. ;) The diagram on the post is a little misleading. In the oldest parts of New York, the subways and sewers aren't quite as deep as they are in other places in town. The Shadow City is beneath them both! (But above the huge water pipes that run hundreds of feet below the surface.)

And Randa . . .

I LOVE that show. I watch it every chance I get. The "city" beneath Naples, Italy looked particularly fascinating. I've been dying to see it.

11:44 PM  
Blogger Teen Vegan said...

dito about the show! my abuelos (spanish for grandprarents) live in DC and they were away last week while I was in Peru (I really need to post on the trip) and their swimming pool lost about a foot of water several hundred gallons worth of water jusr disappeared about a quater of that I guess could be accounted for due to evaporation, but 9 inches!! my abuelos are really scared that there might be an underwater lake beneath their property which would be a disaster...

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok all you guys are lucky,traveling allllll over I've only ever ben to 5 states.

1:38 PM  

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