Reuters

The city's waterways have also been known to host sharks and whales.

"Does anybody have a canoe?"

So asked a distraught police officer on the edge of Brookyln's Gowanus Canal this morning, The New York Times reports. The officer had responded to a call about a dolphin, as basically all of Twitter has no doubt informed you by now. The sea mammal in question appears to have been stuck in the canal since early this morning. Onlookers say the dolphin seems like it's struggling to swim through the filthy 1.8-mile waterway.

Officials say they will wait until the canal hits high tide around 7 p.m. before trying to help. At that point, they'll see whether the dolphin is able to free itself.

It couldn't have gotten stuck in a worse place. For years, the Gowanus has been a dumping ground for industrial waste and sewage spill-off. According to New York magazine, business men were describing the canal's water as "almost solid with sewage"...in 1910.

The canal was fitted with a 6,200-foot underground tunnel the next year. Fresh seawater was flushed in until 1961, when the pump broke. (Legend has it "a city worker dropped a manhole cover on it."). Officials left the pump broken until 1999; its bottom hasn't been dredged since 1975.

The canal has proven a particularly fertile ground for bacteria. New York reports (emphasis ours):

Cholera, typhoid, typhus, gonorrhea: They’ve all been found in the water. A team of biology professors at New York City College of Technology have also studied a curious white goo oozing along the bottom, which turned out to be a mix of bacteria, protozoans, and various contaminants. The microbes appear to have evolved resistance to the filth, and the scientists have been trying to figure out whether their disease-fighting mechanisms could be adapted for medical use.

But despite it's nasty reputation, a stray wild animal or two has seen fit to wander in over the years. In 1952, a shark swam into the canal; it was shot by a police officer. A minke whale was beached in the canal in 2007 and died.

It's also not the first dolphin to make its way to New York.

In 2012, a dolphin washed up on the beach in Far Rockaway, Queens. For hours, police poured water over the dolphin to keep her alive while a rescue crew rushed in from a marine biology center 60 miles away. By the time they got there, it was too late. The dolphin died while being hoisted onto a stretcher.

That same year, a dolphin made its way into the Hudson River. Onlookers said the dolphin swam from 90th Street to the George Washington Bridge. A different dolphin was found dead Pier 59, at the end of 18th Street later that week.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    How Seattle Bucked a National Trend and Got More People to Ride the Bus

    Three experts in three very different positions weigh in on their city’s ridership success.

  2. Maps

    Mapping Where Europe's Population Is Moving, Aging, and Finding Work

    Younger people are fleeing rural areas, migrating northward, and having fewer children. Here’s how that’s changing the region.

  3. Design

    Experimental City: The Sci-Fi Utopia That Never Was

    With solar energy, recycling, computers, and personal mass transit, the 1960s-era Minnesota Experimental City was a prescient and hopeful vision of the urban future. A new documentary tells its story.

  4. A man walks his bicycle beside a train in Paris.
    Maps

    Breaking Down the Many Ways Europe's City-Dwellers Get to Work

    One chart shows which cities do best when it comes to biking, walking, or taking public transit to work.

  5. Construction workers build affordable housing units.
    Equity

    Why Is 'Affordable' Housing So Expensive to Build?

    As costs keep rising, it’s becoming harder and harder for governments to subsidize projects like they’ve done in the past.