A History of Toronto’s Underground Explorers

I don’t think of the drains and tunnels of the sewers often. Usually just when I notice a manhole cover on the street. I look for names and dates on those but I’m not jumping in to see what lies under them.

Following is a clipping from The Toronto Star newspaper. I’m happy I do know about most of the people mentioned in the article. I’ve reposted it here to preserve the information as an archive of Toronto’s underground explorers.

 

Toronto has nothing to compare to Paris’s Sewer Museum (yes, there really is one), but the past decade has seen a growing appreciation of our sewers by the “urban exploration” community. While you may have stood on a manhole cover, these folks opened it and jumped in.
Toronto’s own late Jeff Chapman (a.k.a. “Ninjalicious”) published his first printed issue of Infiltration, “The zine about going places you’re not supposed to go,” in 1996. Though Toronto may not live in the imagination of people around the world, Chapman made this city’s sewers famous for his global readers. His work lives on in Access all Areas, his book published just before his death to cancer in 2005, and at infiltration.org.
Similarly, Michael Cook, then a student in human geography at York University, started vanishingpoint.ca in 2003, a lush and wistful website that continues to explore drains and more in Toronto and beyond, exchanging bureaucratic sewer designations for romantically named journeys (the Wilson Heights Storm Trunk Sewer becomes “The Depths of Salvation”). These writers make Toronto’s sewers seem as magical as Paris’s, whether it’s a late-Victorian brick tunnel in Trinty Bellwoods, or a mid-century concrete tunnel in North York.
Less clandestine is the recently released anthology by Coach House Books called HTO: Toronto’s Water from Lake Iroquois to Lost Rivers to Low-flow Toilets. The essays within parse through the layers of water under Toronto looking at wastewater sewers, storm sewers and, of course, the buried creeks – some notorious, others forgotten.

 

Shawn Micallef is senior editor at Spacing magazine and contributed “Subterranean Toronto: Where the masquerading lakes lay” to the HTO anthology.

Source: Getting to know Toronto’s sewers | Toronto Star

The old rivers, creeks and such do interest me. Those forgotten and lost waterways. Not so long ago in our history we just took all our fresh water for granted. As if it would always be there, mysteriously replenished without any effort on our part. Now water is an issue. Getting water, cleaning water and keeping water are all important. Those long lost streams of water are being looked at again. But, some are too polluted, too misdirected to be useful now. The greening of our water supply is something I like to read about. Not greening with algae but greening as in making it work again.

Then there are all the old drains. Some are antique, over 100 years old. People may wonder about what is down there: lost treasure, old pipes, stagnant water, etc. I admit I would like to see the old pipes, the old drains and mechanics. Did some long ago worker leave a name in a little corner niche? Did they add some extra trimmings, fancy workmanship and decorations to anything they did? What little unknown secrets are there under every city?

An Urban Exploration Directory is Too Much Work

I had wanted (and tried!) to build an urban exploration directory of sites. I have experience building and maintaining a web directory, for years. But, I’m finding the project is too big and too vast to take on and build to my own standards of over-perfection. So, I am just working on a directory for Canadian urban exploration groups, photographers and resources.

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I am still adding other links but I’m not going to focus on them. I may turn some of the links into pages sorted by location. But, that is down the road somewhere.

Old Photos and Old Blog Posts

I haven’t updated my own photos to my Flickr account (or the groups I started there) since 2013. I feel guilty, sort of. Mostly I think I just ran out of steam. I have still been taking photos. Getting them up online was a routine for awhile and then I got behind and more behind and then drastically behind.

I still moderate at Flickr. I don’t login as often as I used to but I’m keeping the groups going. I like to see the new photos come in and (for the groups which I moderate for someone else) new photos can’t get posted without moderator approval. On my own groups I didn’t set them up that way. But, this means I have to have faith in people to post relevant photos. I’ve been really lucky or fortunate. I seldom need to moderate my groups for Ontario or Canadian explorers. Now and then someone posts a road trip photo, not understanding the idea of urban and rural exploration versus a road trip.

Anyway, I am merging older posts from my personal blog into this one so my older exploring and photos will be here, soon. I’ve started adding some but the old blog is a disorganized mess. It has been around since before the days of categories and tags. I’ve found posts which don’t have anything, not a title even. So, it is taking time to sort out the madness.

The nice thing about doing this is finding places I had forgotten about. I only hope all the photos will come along nice and easy as I move the posts over. At least it is another WordPress blog so it shouldn’t have a conflict that way.

Wish me luck!