06 October 2018

Ars Technica: “London museum is livestreaming a key 21st-century artifact—festering sewage”

The rancid refuse was chipped off an infamous sewer clog discovered in London late last year called the Whitechapel “Fatberg”—the preferred term for such muck monsters. The complete clog clocked in as an epic 250-meter-long, 130-metric ton mass of congealed excrement and waste, thought to be one of the largest—if not the largest—fatbergs ever identified. Authorities found it blocking a Victorian-era sewer line in the eastern Whitechapel area of the city. They spent nine long weeks in a subterranean war, hacking and blasting away the hardened blob of feces, fats, wet wipes, and various other detritus.

As Thames Water authorities donned biohazard suits to do battle in the bowels of the city using pressure hoses and shovels, curators at the Museum of London smelled a fresh opportunity to document our times.

Beth Mole

When I first visited Hamburg, way back in the 20th century, there was a strange exhibit in the Modern Art Museum: a sculpture made from chocolate, housed in a transparent box, and kept there in plain sight of the visitors, as the chocolate decayed and crumbled, slowly changing the shape of the original – presumably reminding passersby of the passage of time and the futility of life (or something deep like that). This story instantly reminded me of that.

FOG deposit formation in sewer pipelines
A representation of the chemical formation of fatbergs. FOG = Fats, oils, and grease

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