spaceSpace and Physics

Fatberg That Weighs The Same As A Herd Of Elephants Found In London Sewer


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

The stuff of nightmares. SvedOliver/Shutterstock

When you see the word “fatberg” appear in an article, you know it’s not going to be good. Puppies, kittens, or a fourth type of chocolate have precisely the opposite effect on your imagination.

Well, stop eating and brace yourselves, because a record-breaking fatberg composed of human waste, sanitary products, and contraceptives has been found in the sewage system beneath Whitechapel in East London.


It’s 250 meters (820 feet) long and weighs 130 tonnes (286,600 pounds), which means it’s the same size as two-and-a-half American football fields back-to-back, and is as heavy as 19 adult African elephants, or, if you prefer, 878 sumo wrestlers.

It’s currently blocking up a major segment of London’s sewage network, and if left untreated, would cause bile and poop to flood the east London streets like some sort of demented fountain of fetid fondue. In order to prevent this gruesome geyser from emerging from the depths, authorities are hard at work using high-pressure water jets to attempt to dislodge it and break it down. It will take about three weeks to remove.

Fatberg is an inarguably appropriate name for this hellish spawn. They’re normally composed of condoms, wet wipes, and other insoluble products that shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet under any circumstances. These used items, coated in human detritus and effluent, are held together by a sticky matrix of fat, which is normally oils that have been washed down kitchen sinks.

Make no mistake, this monster is a vile inadvertent creation. Think of the poor crew that are currently hacking away at it, especially those armed with nothing more than shovels. Thames Water, the organization responsible for maintaining these poop portals – among other things – shell out $1.3 million per month cleaning out fatbergs like this, per the Guardian, but this one will probably set a new costly record.


Although BBC News point out that fatbergs can be used to produce biodiesel, they are for the most part extremely unwelcome phenomena. If you wish to help out those poor subterranean workers, then please don’t flush your used condoms into the toilet and try to drain the oil out somewhere else.

One day, you could hear a rumbling beneath your feet, and the gastric-like unguents of a concealed fatberg will burst forth and cover you in indescribable filth. You do not want this to happen. So, for everyone’s sake, think twice before you flush.

If you are for some reason sad that you'll never get a chance to meet the Fatberg monarch in person, don't fret: The Museum of London is hoping to acquire a cross section of it to preserve its disgustingness for generations to come.


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