2 years ago
Hawaiian thrill seeker Alison Teal, once dubbed “the female Indiana Jones” by Time magazine, is now the first person to surf the Catacombs of Paris.
For context, the Catacombs are a series of underground tunnels that house the skulls and other bones of over six million people, as a result of overflowing cemeteries and cave-ins during the late 1700s. It’s one of the world’s most morbid tourist attractions, and has been referred to as the world’s largest grave.
In October, Teal showed up in Paris with a camera crew, guides, a miner’s headlamp and a pink board to surf it.
“I grew up listening to my father telling me stories about the Catacombs on Halloween,” Teal told Caters. “I’ve always wanted to be Indiana Jones and a surfer, so I combined both dreams.”
Teal descended some 150 feet below the French capital and made her way through many secret passageways.
“The caves got narrower and narrower until we were crawling on all fours to get through,” she said. “It was so suffocating. There was minimal oxygen and you couldn’t see far.”
In addition to the lack of oxygen, there was the issue of the remains of the dead.
“It suddenly got crunchy and I looked down and saw we were crawling on skeletons,” she added. “Skulls lined the walls and it smelled horrid. As soon as someone turned a corner, you had no idea where they went.”
Eventually, Teal and her crew reached one of the Catacombs’ lowest levels, and water began flooding the tunnels. That’s when she knew it was time to surf.
“The water was freezing—some of the coldest I’ve been in,” Teal noted. “And I was wearing just a bikini.”
After capturing the moment on video, Teal and the others realized they couldn’t go back the way they’d come. The water had risen and they had no choice but to continue moving forward.
“In the end we all had to swim through it and there was just a little gap at the top of the chamber to breathe,” she said. “It was terrifying. I had to stop filming. It just became about survival.”
Teal made the trip using expert cavers as guides and cautioned against other people attempting the same feat.
“It’s one of the most dangerous things, and I wouldn’t encourage others to do this,” she said. “The place is a maze. Just one wrong turn and you’d be lost for good.”
That said, Teal doesn’t regret making the trip.
“For me, being down there with all those lost souls, it was like stepping back in time,” she said. “It was like walking through ancient history.”
To see Teal surf the Catacombs of Paris, watch the video below.
— Additional reporting by Caters News
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