One day we noticed a couple of Dutch youth (probably hockey-playing fraternity boys, judging by their telltale Dutch hair) dropping what looked like lightweight anchors attached to long ropes into The Drift, one of the canals in Utrecht. They seemed to be trying to catch something at the bottom of the canal. We wondered what it was about and speculated that it might be some sort of fraternity initiation task. Then we moved on and forgot about it.
The next day we walked past the same canal and noticed a whole bunch of old bikes leaning against the fence. Upon closer inspection, we realized they were rusted, twisted, drowned bikes that had been retrieved from the canal. It must have been those boys who pulled them out.
I always wondered what under that placid, scenic surface of Holland’s canals. If you sucked all the water out of them, what would they look like at the bottom? I think the answer is: pretty damn gross.
Considering how many canals run through busy city centres, and people’s habit of chaining their bikes to the fences that run along the canals, it’s not surprising that a number of bicycles plunge to their watery deaths. You often see still-living bicycles chained to the inner side of the fence, hanging precariously over the canals. But not all bicycle drownings are accidental – I’ve heard it’s a post-party, late-night drunken tradition to chuck bicycles into the canal.
Aparently Amsterdam city has special barges with cranes mounted on them that can be used to fish bicycles from the bottom of canals, called “dredging” (see one in action in this YouTube video).
I’ve heard that sometimes even cars fall into the canal. It’s believable when you see how cars parallel-park immediately along the canal in Amsterdam’s narrow streets. And often there is no pole or other barrier along the edge of the street. So be careful when stepping out of your canal-parked car…
Other treasures in the canal include sunkent boats, mattresses, discarded electronics, and a whole heap of rubbish.