With increased global connectivity, the world is becoming an increasingly smaller place. But for thrill-seeking explorer-extraordinaire Erlin Kagge, there’s always new adventures to be had — especially in our underground sewer systems.
“I think sewers are beautiful,” Kagge told Telegraph reporter Jonathan Wells.
As a Norwegian explorer, Kagge has made it his life mission to constantly seek the next big thrill. In 1992, he walked over 800 miles on his own to reach the North Pole. Only two years later, the man climbed Mount Everest, becoming the first in history to complete the ‘3 Poles’ challenge, which entails reaching both North and South Poles and climbing the highest mountain in the world.
But for a man who has seen such extraordinary things, one cannot help but ask: why sewers?
Kagge doesn’t see anything strange about his recent stint in sewer exploration.
“They have what I call a negative beauty,” Kagge says. “These subterranean wildernesses were obviously designed for functionality rather than for aesthetic appeal, but they nonetheless contain their own beauty.”
The Norwegian explorer’s most recent journey found him exploring the underground sewers of New York City for five days. While it isn’t necessarily newfound discovery, this kind of exploration takes a look into an unseen side of modern world.
“They are manmade wildernesses, and they’re there below any city,” says Kagge. “Somehow I think they reflect everything that is happening above ground — the architectural structure of pipelines and pathways is very much like a living organism. Tunnels are constantly being built and extended, new building foundations are always being laid, and new pipes are being joined to the old. The underground terrain is constantly being altered, and nobody ever notices.”
Typically, a sewage system needs replacement after 40 years, but many of the tunnels Kagge explores house piping much older than that.
And while Kagge explores the underbelly of New York City, people from all over the world are rediscovering manmade structures from a whole new angle.
In Hong Kong, a group called HK Urbex, is making headlines for exploring abandoned and off-limit areas. For HK Urbex, the exploration is about entering a new world and gaining a sense of “going back in time.”
Like HK Urbex, Kagge believes that a true explorer explores all environments with the same sense of curiosity and wonder. To emphasize this, he quotes American singer and satirist Tom Lehrer: “Life is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put in.”