Residence: Queens, New York

Incident Location: New York City Water Tunnel No. 3

“Hundreds of feet beneath the bumper-to-bumper traffic of New York City is one of the world’s most ambitious engineering projects. Though it goes by the prosaic name of City Water Tunnel No. 3, when work wraps up in 2020 the subterranean aqueduct will have taken five decades and at least $6 billion to complete. It will snake 60 miles from the Kensico Reservoir in Westchester County through the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, supplying water to more than 8 million residents and thousands of factories and businesses.

City Water Tunnels No. 1 and No. 2, finished in 1917 and 1936, transport more than a billion gallons of water daily, but they leak badly in places. In 1954, engineers realized the only way to repair and maintain the older tunnels–and to increase capacity to meet growing demand–was to build a third, more sophisticated tunnel with valves to shut down and divert the flow of water. Plus, it would provide a fallback should any portion of the system be damaged by an event like an earthquake.”

Age: 34

Gender: Male

Occupation: Sandhog

Injury or Fatality: No

Other Witnesses: Yes – Refused Comment

BEGIN RECORDING

Captain Cousteau: Hello Mike! Thank you for meeting with me. Please recount your sewergator encounter with as much detail as possible…

Mike Warfield: I use a pneumatic drill that sinks 10-ft. holes into the rock. Dynamite is then tamped in with wooden poles. We use a massive machine to bore through the longest stretches of bedrock, and I love the sometimes dangerous, always labor-intensive drill-and-blast work. Planning for the tunnel began in the 1960s, and in 1970 the “sandhogs” began to dig. My dad was one of the first sandhogs.

The guys I work with are the closest friends I have on Earth. If all hell breaks loose and a hog is in danger, you go after him, no questions asked. I trust them with my life.

We’d brought in some piping to drain off excessive water. It had been a rainy spring and water in the tunnel was knee-high. We were all wearing waders. It was hard to move. Hard to work.

I don’t know if the beast was in the piping upon arrival, or if the gator had managed to find it’s way into the tunnel on its own. Regardless, it was enormous!

I waded into the deeper water to pound in the dynamite. I was halfway across the waterway when I came face to face with the hungry gator. I looked back and the gator surfaced and I looked him right in the face and stared at him for what seemed like an eternity.

He dragged me under the water five times. Though I wasn’t aware at the time, my arm was being ripped off. The gator hit me in my stomach and knocked the wind out of me and I dug and took my finger and gouged its eye. It spun and turned around and went away from me. I didn’t know I was missing an arm until I was wading back.

I got away from him, luckily. I mean, it was just a fight for survival. He was trying to eat and I was trying not to get eaten. The whole time I just felt myself bleeding to death. The whole time I was just screaming for help and asking God for forgiveness. I was shouting and then men were applying pressure to prevent me from bleeding out. I was praying and after that everything went dark. They called 911 and the ambulance picked me up.

A New York Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission captured the 15-foot-long alligator responsible for the attack and destroyed it. The photo below was taken after the incident. A necropsy was performed on the gator and examiners were able to recover my arm, but were unable to reattach it. Nine months later I received a bionic arm – a gift from Mayor Bloomberg.

The gator was incinerated and all media was kept away to prevent mass hysteria. People shouldn’t know that these animals are living beneath their city. People shouldn’t have to worry about these beasts. This is New York! Not the Everglades!

Picture taken when Alligator was Found:

pipegator2

Maps:

pmx0405sandhog008-lg

pmx0405sandhog009-lg

Collect Pond and the Modern City

Collect Pond and the Modern City

I have conducted several more interviews, but only one seems to lead in any constructive direction—a father and daughter who lost a beloved pet to the Chinatown sewer system. This area has an incredibly rich history which is both forever forgotten and forever memorialized by the modern sewer system of New York:

“Before the Five Points, there was a little part of Manhattan called the Collect Pond. This underground spring-fed lake was a major source of fresh water for the people of New York, but by the late 1700s, it grew too polluted for use due to the many tanneries, breweries clustered near it, and the use of the pond as a dumping ground by others. The city began draining the Collect starting around 1802 by backfilling it with construction debris, and whatever garbage they could find.

There was a problem though…. people soon realized all that water had nowhere to go as the surrounding low-lying area was already marshland, and occasionally flooded. Because of health concerns (malaria), the city drafted a plan in 1807 to build a canal to drain all the water from the surrounding area, and whatever remained of the pond. The Collect Pond was finally drained by 1811. The recovered waterlogged land, was used to build a massive prison called the Tombs in 1838. The canal itself remained until 1821 when it was covered over, and used as an underground sewer.

Yes, there really was a canal at Canal Street. It was built in 1808 to drain the collect pond and the surrounding area of water. In 1821, the canal had gotten to the point of smelling so bad that the city covered it up and turned it into an underground sewer” (http://www.nychinatown.org/history/1800s.html)

Today, a portion of the original Collect Pond is a park (entitled appropriately Collect Park). Canal street is still the location of a major sewer line running through Chinatown. This is where I had to continue my search.

The Aqua Lung

The Aqua Lung

Due to the unusual conditions of this expedition, I did not want to have a full crew at hand. The Canal street tunnel is large, but entering into smaller tunnels it would be difficult to stay together. Because of this, I chose two other men to accompany me below the surface, and the rest of my crew stayed above ground monitoring our breathing, heart rate, and other vitals. We did not know how much liquid would be below and if we would be completely submerged, so we suited up in Aqua Lungs to begin this journey. Essentially, the Aqua Lung allows us to breathe without connecting to an air source above water, though we still remained connected to each other and the outside world via our radio system (which was inside of our headpieces), and our video equipment, which we attached to the outside of our suits.

We entered the sewers at midnight on a warm summers’ evening at the intersection of Canal Street and Broadway. Alligators are most active at night, as I mentioned before, and they are also most active between 82 and 92 degrees Fahrenheit. I want to see these amazing creatures in movement, in life. I have no desire to remove them, as they have become just as integral to the city wildlife as any other, including the common sewer rat.

The two crewmen and I made were lowered into the bowels of the city by those who would stay above. The burst of stale, gaseous air hit us immediately. It was warmer than one would think—the heat from the drifting liquid and from the enclosure itself was incredible. The interior of the sewer was dark but light could be seen emitting from far off in the distance, and we immediately turned on the few lights that we had brought for the occasion. We waded in the waist-deep refuse seeing little rats scuttle by in the crevices of the tunnel. Of course, we were extremely cautious and quiet, making sure to view all around us. We did not want to have any hungry alligator sneaking up on us.

Unlike the deep ocean, the deep sewer is a reminder of the human life above. The garbage ran around our bodies and little bits of the city’s life seemed to come to light: what people had ate, what they read, where they had gone to the cinema. It became clear that an alligator would have absolutely no trouble surviving in these conditions. It was humid and balmy, there was plenty of food both from humans and from the rats and other creatures, and the water was, polluted, yes, but also shallow and warm.

After a few hours, we prepared to ascend to our fellows.

We did not find an alligator.

But we did find something even more precious—an alligator egg. It was completely in tact, though apparently had abandoned at some point before we found it as we could find no other eggs and no visible nest. It could have fallen or been knocked out of the nest and drifted in the sewage to the location where it was found by us.

We were getting very close to a major breakthrough.

The Sewergator Egg

The Sewergator Egg

“We pulled it out of a 8 inch line in Edmonton, I actually don’t know what it is, but I do know it sure scared me when I saw it on the CCTV, I thought we were going to have to call in CSI as it looked like it might have been Human. I just saw the back part and the curve of the jaw. It was a rather scary day.”  From: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beothuk/279622661/in/set-72157594345353903/

Speculation and Comments:

“It is an Herbivore, but what kind? I would hazard a guess by size, if it were domestic, a sheep or goat, if it were wild, a deer, or Caribou. If you know, I would be interested in hearing what is was.”

“It is the lower jaw of a domestic pig (or it could be a “feral” pig). It’s also a young one because behind the rear molars is a set of teeth that hasn’t yet erupted (come through the bone). I am intrigued by the wear in the middle teeth of the left jaw though – rough diet?”

“Still, that is a really weird thing to be pulling from a sewer line. Oh yeah – also look at the lower canine teeth that basically function as tusks. They are larger in adult males. Good find!”

Suggested Resources (for comparison):
www.flickr.com/photos/barbara-h/172343604/
www.flickr.com/photos/cat-sidh/83465171/
www.coueswhitetail.com/other_hunters/y-vs-old -lower-jaw-2…

Cover, New Yorker magazine, November 29, 1952
Illustrator: Arthur Getz 

BY Brendan Brosh, Alison Gendar, Jonathan Lemire and Wil Cruz, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Wednesday, October 15th 2008, 11:17 PM

Cowabunga!

Three blockheaded teenagers were busted playing in a sewer Wednesday in Queens – after getting lost while pretending to be Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, police sources said.

Schiller Milfort, 16, of Hollis, and Marvin Ottley, 17, of Bellaire, along with an unidentified 15-year-old boy, were shirtless and in their shorts and sneakers when firefighters plucked them out of a sewer in Kissena Park.

The make-believe heroes were crawling around the sewer system when they got confused and lost their way, police sources said.

They were not injured, officials said.

“These three idiots were playing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and wanted to go into the sewers,” said one police source. “They were never in danger, just goofing off and being stupid.”

Milfort and Ottley were charged with criminal trespassing. The other teenager was released to his parents.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/queens/2008/10/15/2008-10-15_three_found_busted_after_getting_lost_in.html

Toys, toys, toys!

April 24, 2009

It is common to find toys in the sewers as children often flush them down the toilet or drop them in the gutter to be washed down storm sewers.

The collection includes a toy sewergator.  Perhaps, some kid thought this was his natural habitat?

“The hand of a doll that we pulled out of a storm line in Meadowlark Park in Edmonton, AB Canada. The doll was filled with sand so it looked rather real when Ernie flushed it into the Manhole.”

From: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beothuk/sets/72157594345353903/