From New Babbage Department of Records and Archives
Canals penetrate the majority of the Southern part of New Babbage, allowing the free passage of goods and materials between Port Babbage and the city's many factories and warehouses. Of the several seaward openings, the Stora canal is perhaps the broadest, while the Telford is fitted with ingenious raising bridges to allow the passage of taller vessels.
New Babbage's canals communicate freely with both open sea and the city's sewer system, the commingling of these two sources forming something of the unique character of the city's odour. The effluvia of the many factories and workshops also contribute to the mix, with the result that the city's vessels are rumoured to be remarkably free of barnacles.
Danger to the Unwary
While known abroad as a masterpiece of engineering, the canals of New Babbage are locally notorious for their ability to ensnare tourist and resident alike. Many a visitor returning to his lodgings has found his foot irresistibly drawn to the water's edge, and while resolving to keep safely to the pavement found himself helplessly tumbling into the waters below. It is not known what accident of geometry contributes this magnetic effect, but the phenomenon is known to affect even the most seasoned of city folk. Indeed, among many revellers a dip in the canal is considered an unavoidable feature of a night's entertainment, while others credit the waters for the general sturdiness of the New Babbage constitution.
From time to time, some effort is proposed to enclose the canals and thereby reduce the incidence of near-drownings within the city walls. Such efforts have thus far been resisted for a number of sound reasons. Even disregarding their effect on the smooth conduct of Industry, such barriers would greatly injure the livelihoods of those launderers, bath-owners, and shoe-blackers who rely upon the waters for their trade. Likewise the filthiness of the city's urchins, while not strictly reduced by immersion in the canals, is at least rendered homogeneous with that of the city as a whole.
Use in Sport
Although not recommended for swimmers, with the exception of the hardiest constitutions, the canals nevertheless form a sporting venue when winter ice renders them impassable to trading boats. Ice-skating is a popular recreational and competitive sport for many, while others take advantage of ice-holes to extend their fishing through the winter months.