Big balls were used to clear sewers of the 1870s
Cleaning sewers in Paris literally required rolling giant spheres of wood and iron through the tunnel
You had to have balls to maintain one of the most famous sewer systems in human history.
Atlas Obscura shared a story about the world-famous sewer network under Paris, France, including the amount of physical effort it took to keep the 165-year-old system blockage free.
Back in the day, workers raked muck from sewers that could be reached safely by hand. But some scenarios called for something more.
Enter these giant balls of the 1870s.
They were forcefully “bowled” against larger blockages to clear tunnels.
Unremembered History has a much more detailed look at the practice and practicality.
Today, sewers are cleared with a combination of manual labor and the technology of the times, which often includes camera-equipped cutterhead-weilding robots. And when we do head underground, our safety equipment is much more robust than that of the 19th century of course but no less important.
Even as early as 1867, Paris’ sewers were a tourist attraction. We totally understand: You can learn more about our sewers and see the dirty work it takes to keep them clean by following @neorsd on Twitter or our YouTube page.