Will Fatberg Hunting Be The New Glamping?

It’s always good to learn a new word every day, and today’s word is fatberg. A fatberg is exactly what it sounds like–a giant mass of fat. In this case, a giant mound of fat blocking up one of the world’s largest sewer systems. So what does a fatberg look like? Watch this video to find out, but don’t blame me if you can’t ever bring yourself to eat a kebab again.

The fatberg in question was discovered in Kingston, southwest London. A congealed slab of oil, fat, food and other trash such as cleaning wipes, the 15-ton monstrosity was the size of a double-decker bus and had reduced the main sewer line to only 5 percent capacity, preventing locals from flushing their toilets.

They should be grateful. Thames Water officials say if they hadn’t caught it in time, the toilets would have started backing up and raw sewage would have spewed out, a bit like that barbershop scene in the remake of The Blob.
The brave workers at Thames Water have slain the fatberg with high-pressure hoses, but more fatbergs may be lying in wait to attack innocent toilet sitters. Now’s your chance to help. Many cities offer sewer tours. Brighton has one, as do Paris and Vienna. The closest thing you can get in London is tracing the underground Fleet River, which was used as a sewer for much of its history.

What the world really needs are overnight sewer camping tours where each person is equipped with a high-powered hose. Brave adventure travelers could venture forth into the Stygian darkness, ready to do battle with malevolent fatbergs. Forget glamping, you overpaid bank executives, and give something back to society for a change. Go hunting fatbergs!

‘Undercity: Las Vegas’ Takes You Above And Below Sin City

Just last month, Gadling took you on a journey inside the world of urban exploration, bringing you on a behind-the-scenes look at the urban explorers who are inventing new ways of visiting the areas under, above and inside the cities we traverse every day. Today, we’ve got another intriguing look at the urban exploring phenomenon to share with you, courtesy of the short film series above called “Undercity: Las Vegas.”

Part of an interesting collaboration with shoe company Palladium, the film series follows the exploits of urban historian Steve Duncan, profiled in Gadling’s recent feature, along with director Andrew Wonder, as they investigate the subterranean water tunnels and unfinished construction sites that comprise the lesser-known side of this urban neon mecca of gambling and nightlife. In this particular clip, Duncan manages to sneak inside the as yet unfinished Fontainebleu Resort Las Vegas, climbing nearly 60 floors to take in an eye-popping view of the early Vegas dawn.

Though the trespassing on the construction site is clearly illegal, it’s an intriguing look inside the urban underbelly that few Las Vegas visitors ever see. Those interested in seeing the full film can head over to Palladium’s video hub to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this ongoing series.

Stench in newly renovated San Jose terminal building compared to outhouse

The newly renovated terminal A complex at Norman Mineta airport in San Jose has a bit of a smelly problem. For months, staff have been complaining about an unbearable stench in office areas and the crew break room.

The smell is so bad, that odor neutralizing machines and large fans have not helped. So bad in fact, that the airport purchased picnic tables so the staff could escape the stench and sit outside during their lunch break.

Nothing the airport tried in the past five months has helped, so now airline officials are threatening to withhold thousands of dollars in rent payments until the airport operator fixes the situation.

Continental Airlines general manager Urban Grass (awesome name) said “it’s got to be resolved somehow.” The smell has stunk up his accounting area and employee break room, and that the sewage smell in the United and US Airways offices down the hall is “horrible.”

Like everything in the airline industry, everyone is very concerned about the issue, but continues to point fingers at someone else when searching for a guilty party.

The only upside is that passengers are not affected by the stench, and no baggage is flying home infused with the smell of San Jose sewage.

[Photo credit: Flickr/Andrew Feinberg]

12 underground tours around the world

Sometimes there’s more to a city that what you see above ground. Several cities around the world sit above underground labyrinths just waiting to be explored. Budget Travel has put together a list of some of the best underground tours around the world.

In Paris, you can tour the sewer system, in Berlin, check out a hidden world of bunkers and tunnels used during World War II and the Cold War, and see the remains of the older city (which the new city was built upon) in Seattle. Other cities with tours that take you underground include Vienna, Rome, Seoul, Portland, Naples, New York, Jerusalem, Edinburgh, and Istanbul.

And to Budget Travel’s list of spots with unique attractions below ground, I’ll add two of my own. Most visitors to Chicago don’t realize that the city has it’s own network of underground tunnels, called the Pedway, that connect many of the city’s government buildings and allow people to travel between them without suffering in the bitter winter cold. And in Logrono, in Spain’s Rioja region, the area underneath the town is actually larger in area than that above, thanks to an extensive network of tunnels that were once used for defense and are now used as wine cellars.

When we visit a new city we generally spend a lot of our time looking up, gawking at the tall buildings. But, it seems, maybe should pay a little more attention to the wonders just underneath our feet.

Big in Japan: A Look Inside Japanese Sewers

Let’s start out with some comparisons, shall we?

In regards to total land area, Japan is approximately the size of the US State of Montana. However, unlike Montana which is home to less than one million people (and a whole bunch of cattle), the island nation of Japan tops out at over 127 million people.

To put things into perspective, consider the fact that California, which is home to no shortage of large American cities, is only home to 36 million people. The greater Tokyo metropolis alone tops out at 35 million people, and is considered by demographers to be the world’s largest urban area.

So of course, this brings about a very simple question: where does all the poo go?

Fortunately for the island residents of Japan (myself included), Japan has one of the world’s most advanced sewerage systems. Considering that Japanese cuisine can at times be heavy on the brown rice and cabbage, this is a good thing for all of us using the porcelain throne.

Although some historians argue that modern institutions such as democracy and the legal system are the greatest Greco-Roman inventions, I have to argue that it’s sewerage. I mean, if you think about it, it’s kinda hard to elect public officials and hold judicial hearing if there are rivers of raw effluent running down the streets, even if they happen to be made of polished marble.

Not surprisingly, the Romans caught on to the whole sewerage thing fairly quickly. In approximately 600 BC, the Cloaca Maxima, literally the ‘Greatest Sewer,’ was built in Rome in order to drain local marshes and remove the waste of one of the world’s most populous cities.

Of course, environmentalism hadn’t really been invented yet – the sewer dumped its untreated contents directly into the River Tiber, which ran beside the city. Think about that when you order ‘Frutas del Mar’ over linguini the next time you’re in Rome!

Moving to the other side of the world, the Japanese were also implementing sewerage systems in all of their cities. In the Nara Period, approximately 1,300 years ago, a large and complex drainage system ran through the capital area. A few hundred years later, large stone culverts designed to collect human waste were standard features on castles and stately homes.

So, it’s not surprising that the Japan Sewage Works Association (that’s the JWSA for those of you not in the know) is able continue this proud history of poo-related achievements.

Every year, the JWSA holds a ‘Sewerage Works Exhibition’ aimed at highlighting the latest in poo-draining, poo-collecting and poo-treating technologies from around Japan and the world. It’s also a forum for poo-networking and poo-information exchange, and a time for sewerage officials to let down their hair and engage in a variety of poo-related festivities.

(I’m sorry, but as a professional writer, it’s rare that I can use the word ‘poo’ in abundance without inquiring the wrath of my editors. Forgive me if I get a little carried away with it!)

Anyway, I’m sure I can speak for everyone by saying that I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the poo conference. Next year, I’ll see if I can work my press credentials and get you some photos from the inside.

Special thanks to the big boss Justin Glow for tipping me off to these photos.

** All photos courtesy of the Edogawa River Office in Tokyo, Japan. **