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Paris - New Years - 2007

The Paris "Catacombs" are only a small section of a vast network of tunnels beneath the city. The most popular and commonly-explored sections are the inspection galleries of the ancient limestone quarries under Paris. These galleries were created by consolidating (backfilling) the many ancient room-and-pillar quarries which threatened to collapse parts of the city above. Technically the catacombs are only those sections of inspection galleries which hold bones (Ossuaries). The 14th district (arrondisment) holds the largest section of galleries, although the 15th and 13th also offer a wide expanse of tunnels as well, commonly reported to total 300 kilometers of passage. Smaller quarries exist in other districts, as well as outside the city limits below suburbs, some of which connect to urban systems. In addition, Paris has networks of telephone cable tunnels (100k), electric power tunnels (180k), subway tunnels and associated utility passages (300k), and a vast network of walking-height sewers under nearly every city street (500+ kilometers). The sewers are used to carry water mains as well as steam pipes for district heating and communication conduits. However, there also exist small segments of dedicfated water, steam, and communications tunnels in certain areas. Around 50-100 kilometers of Roman-era aqueduct tunnels are still in use today as water pipe galeries and sewers.

My half-assed diagram of the Paris underground.

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The most common Carriere (Quarry) entrance is the "Plaque de Soliel" seen behind the model's
head in the first photo.The next two show two kinds of telephone manhole, while the 4th shows a
common sewer/water manhole (with red fire hydrant valve).The fourth photo shows a common hatch
(often locked) used for power tunnels, transformer vaults, and subway equipment chambers.

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Aside from manholes, the most popular 14th entrances are along abandoned light-rail tunnels that
ring the city, passing just above the quarry level.

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It is actually very rare to find intact skulls or bones other than legs and arms.Unfortunately many
idiots have made their way into the quarries over the years, smashing or stealing the remains of corpses
from the Ossuaries. These bones are very fragile, so treat them with care if you find them!


Europe 217 Europe 237 Europe 222 Navigating through the inspection galleries involves traversing a variety of flooded, dry, muddy, gravel, sand, stone, or concrete passages. One must also find their way through various room-and-pillar quarry remnants, which often have the best cataphile rooms and artwork. 

Squats and rooms (sometimes created by explorers) are some of the most interesting features.
These often feature better artwork than the scribbly tags left by stoned teens in the main tunnels.
Art can include paintings, sculpture, and intricate carvings in the limestone walls. 
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Part-way through our time in Paris we were able to meet with historian and author Giles Thomas, whom Nivelo had previously explored with.
He very generously offered to lead us on a tour of the 14th district's historical details, which are often overlooked or even destroyed by the majority
of visitors to this system. Pencil sketches and tags dating from the 1800s are especially fragile and can be accidentally brushed off simply by touching the walls!
For more historical information, purchase his book. (French only, but worth it for the photos and diagrams!)

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A reinforced "Fontis" (falling roof) beneath a subway station. 
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Ancient water wells pass from, and through, the quarries down to the water table, sometimes from houses and buildings above. A former exit stair shows typical idiot-sign.
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The tomb of Philibert Asparait, an early explorer who got lost. The 2nd photo shows a reproduction elsewhere which acts as a tribute to the photographer Foxy who passed away recently.
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In the gallery of Promos, artwork created
by mining-school students.
As our guide explained the last one: "Miners, they penetrate the Earth!"
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Another popular party spot, the former German WWII bunker Allemand. Despite increasing grafiti, a few original signs are still visible. 
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Nearby, vandals had cut into the basement of the pharmacy school from it's former bomb shelter. The hole was still open a week later!
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Original 18th century markings, and grafiti dating from the French Revolution.
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A former grow-op, and a now sealed hidden entrance. The trolley-box slid under a telephone tunnel chatiere, disguising it as a water-filled hole. 


Europe 515 Europe 517 Europe 575 Europe 522 Europe 519 More photos from various nights of exploring. The large abstract designs are a higher class of artistic tagging left by cataphiles. 

Chillin with Adam Z from Hollow-Hills, and pimpin' it "Ouest Side" In Rue St. Paul! Europe 511 Europe 505 Europe 523 Europe 524 Europe 525 Europe 544 Europe 546

Two interesting art pieces, some pre-mission mapping. The last photo shows the rock display stairway of the Bureau Mineralogique (the used car showroom of rocks). Europe 234 Europe 377 Europe 312 Europe 442

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As did last year, this trip saw some visits to the telephone galleries (tunnels). While some of the PTT's cables used to run
through quarry passages (first picture), the majority are now in modern concrete tunnels to combat water and vandalism. Despite this,
there are many flooded sections of  tunnel, some underpass junctions are so deep that the only way across is to swim or climb along cables.

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We also visited some of Paris' many sewer tunnels. Most streets have mummy-shaped 6' high tunnels, with many having minor collectors of the type seen in
the first photo. These tunnels have sidewalks equipped with rails for small train cars, which either carry workers or scrape sediment from the tunnel floor.
A debris-encrusted rail cart is shown in the second photo, such cars are pushed along by water in the sewer. The pressure of water backed up behind the carts
is released through a gap at the bottom, washing away sediment from the sewer. Larger major collectors like the green-lit tunnel shown in the center are cleaned by
boats, and feature water and utility pipes, overpass stair tunnels to switch sides,and other interesing features. The last two photos show where a subway tunnel passes
over the sewer.