Gowanus Canal

Gowanus Canal

photograph detail by Nate Dorr

The Gowanus Canal—home to a substance referred to as black mayonnaise, to syphilis and gonorrhea, to a mysterious white goo, immune to disease—is so polluted that it’s been designated a Superfund site. That pollution, though, swirls its surface such that it’s earned the lovely nickname Lavender Lake. Animals like a shark, a whale, and a seal named Gowanda have passed through it, items like birdcages have been pulled from it; read on to see what’s been imagined into it.