Archive for the 'Artificial islands' Category

Dutch island builders may bring it home

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

Dubai had apparently seized the mantle of champion geoscapers from the Dutch, as whacky island schemes such as the giant palm and The World grew off the Persian Gulf emirate.

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It seems that the Dutch were the hidden hand behind the emirate’s schemes all along: firms from the Netherlands have been central to the macroengineering island projects off Dubai.

Now they may bring it home. A Dutch government agency has proposed building an island off the coast of the Netherlands — and some have suggested it should be in the shape of a tulip. A 400-square-mile tulip.

This may or may not be a good idea, but it would at least make for the long-standing Dutch habit of destroying their islands through polder and dam building.

Recursive islands: mini-Java on maxi-Java

Sunday, July 16th, 2006

I like a double island — an island on another — and the Indonesians have accomplished a special one: a mini-Java on Java.

It is the island in the foreground of the lake here, at Taman Mini Indonesia, where the Southeast Asian country is reproduced in minature, all on the north shore of maxi-Java.

Supervillainous island-building

Sunday, July 9th, 2006

In the new Superman Returns, evil genius Lex Luthor intends to grow a new island off the East Coast of the United States using Kryptonian crystals, consuming much of the country in the process.

It is not a perfect plan: the resulting terrain is terribly craggy, judging by early results, and would make an uninviting new home. As Cinematical puts it,

He aims to sink all of North America …. and then lease acreage on a massive block of green stalagmites and puddle-strewn crystal caves. …. I’m sure the worlds’ surviving masses will be thrilled to hand you 10 million bucks for a spot on a green rock that cannot support vegetation and offers nothing in the way of shelter.

And, being a supervillain, Luthor does not know when to stop, and plans to grow his island to full continent size.

Query: islands, peninsulas, and artificial islands

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

A reader had some questions:

“Where do we draw the line between island and peninsula with regard to man made structures?”

There is no clear line, as many parts of land have manmade water cutting them off.

“Prince Edward County on Lake Ontario was a peninsula, but did construction of the Murray Canal 100 years ago make it an island? (It has a couple of swing bridges over the canal and a high fixed bridge from Belleville, Ontario.)”

Probably not. Ratios are important, and the canal is very narrow compared to the peninsula. Indeed, it cannot even be discerned on this view that takes in the whole land mass.

“Prince Edward Island was connected by a long high bridge to the mainland 7 years ago. Should it be considered a peninsula?”

Bridges do not change the fact that an island is surrounded by water, so they do not erase an island’s fundamental nature. It is more a sort of domestication.

“Cape Breton Island is connected by a causeway to the rest of Nova Scotia.”

A solid causeway is more of a threat, but the Canso Causeway is broken by locks.

“Does the Corinth Canal in Greece make the Peloponnesus an island?”

Opinion is also important, and people have not decided that this is the case. Also, on a full view of the Peloponnesus it does not appear to be an island.

“Does the causeway to Singapore make it a peninsula?”

The Johor-Singapore Causeway is very small compared to the size of the island. Still, if it is solid all the way through, it does compromise Singapore’s status as a true island.

“Or is the natural state of the land mass the arbitrator of the land mass? I think you mentioned a former island in the Aral Sea or the Caspian as a peninsula due to the drop in water level. But was that not the result of irrigation?”

Human actions create and destroy islands all the time — what matters is whether a body of land surrounded by water results.

“Rene Lavasseur in Quebec exists as an island only because of the damming of the Manicaguan Reservoir.”

René-Levasseur is nonetheless a real island, as this view of the Manicouagan Reservoir shows. It is, incidentally, the largest island created by human action.

geography, geographic

Japan hopes to grow island

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

To firm up the definition of Okinotorishima as an island — and thereby insure rights to a large economic zone in the Pacific — Japan is planning to seed corals on the reef in hopes that the island might grow. The island is now almost wholly covered at high tide.

Overall, the Japanese case is weak, though the government argues otherwise. According the the UPI article,

Last year Shintaro Ishihara, the nationalist Governor of [Tokyo], was photographed kissing its dwindling earth. The problem is Article 121 of Part VIII of the UN Convention: “Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no exclusive economic zone or continental shelf.” Even Mr Ishihara would balk at living on Okino-Torishima, although there is talk of setting up an electricity plant to establish “economic life”.

(Perhaps the Japanese have heard this Malay saying: “Where good seed falls into the sea, one day an island may appear.”)

Buy a (virtual) island

Thursday, March 30th, 2006

For the less wealthy, the virtual world Second Life offers islands, beginning at $1,250 for 16 acres.  Sixty-four acres can be had for $5,000.

The new owner can choose from “six different topologies,” name his island, and choose the rating (PG or M).  Unlike most real islands, the new island can be moved, for a fee.

Of course, for about the same price as a small virtual island, you can rent Ranguana Caye, Belize, for a week.

Starting your own island country

Saturday, February 25th, 2006

“Let’s blow this fascist popsicle stand! Purchase a small island somewhere, and start our own country.” – Montgomery Burns

People thinking about forming their own nation often turn to islands: they appeal to people’s sense of dominion, and their borders are clear. One just might get away from it all, and start something new.

But a new island country requires an island, and citizens, and there difficulties begin.


Four problems are paramount:

  1. There are no undiscovered or unclaimed islands—with one partial exception.
  2. Existing countries are quite protective of their sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  3. There is no recognized process for forming your own country, and it comes essentially down to power.
  4. It is difficult to obtain a population for a startup country.

Solutions….and more problems

People have tried to get around these problems in a variety of ways.

Problem 1: No undiscovered islands

  • Since existing islands are claimed, some conclude that they should just build new ones.
  • However, it is quite difficult to find suitable places that do not fall under some kind of national jurisdiction. If you are making your own land, it has to be outside countries’ territorial waters (generally 12 miles offshore) and exclusive economic zones (generally 200 miles from land)—and there is little or no shallow water outside of such zones. For instance, the would-be Principality of New Utopia is planned for the Misteriosa Bank in the Caribbean—but it seems to be in the Exclusive Economic Zones of both Honduras and the Cayman Islands (UK). Both countries have signed the Law of the Sea Treaty, which gives them power to regulate new island creation.
  • The partial exception to the dearth of unclaimed territory is Antarctica, which is essentially international, with nations’ territorial claims effectively suspended. But the continent is supervised by all the most powerful countries on the planet, and they would not let a startup country grab some of it.
  • (There is a cheat to the land problem, in the eyes of the island purist: build a floating island city—there are several schemes kicking around. But these would be mere ships, in truth. And there is the oil rig solution, notably represented by “Sealand”, a surplus-gun-platform “country” off the coast of England.)

Problem 2: Existing countries want their islands

  • You can buy islands in many countries, but that means that you are a landowner, not a separate country.
  • While most countries will not surrender sovereignty over a piece of land, it might be possible to find one so poor or corrupt that it would do so. Some right-wing Americans thought Haiti fit the bill a couple of decades ago, and attempted to buy the Île de la Tortue (Tortuga Island) off the northern coast. They were going to form the usual libertarian paradise, but even Haiti proved insufficiently abject to fall for the scheme. (The fate of thousands of Haitians already living on the island was unclear.)
  • You can try to take an island by force, but fortunately for the small states of the Pacific and the Caribbean there are powerful countries that prevent that sort of thing.

Problem 3: No process for forming new countries

  • The best solution is to become a leader in an island that might like to break away from its country: Nevis, of St. Kitts-Nevis, for instance. The separate islands of the Comoros have each achieved substantial autonomy under their own leaders in recent years. And East Timor has made the transition to sovereign nation.
  • You still need recognition from the international community. And that requires sympathy, triggered by oppression of your little island, or at least popular support for its breaking away.
  • Barring that, you can try to seize an island nation whole. This has been attempted by mercenaries in the Comoros (with some success), Vanuatu, and the Maldives. Once again, it runs into the problem of great power protectors.

Problem 4: Need for citizens

  • The breakaway inhabited island solves this problem, but otherwise you have to convince people to come live on your island.
  • Build-your-own-island schemes typically dangle libertarian freedom as their lure.
  • Forming your own cult has its advantages. A rogue Mormon sect in the mid-19th century took this route, briefly declaring Beaver Island in Lake Michigan to be their kingdom. But cults tend to be unstable and draw the attention of authorities quickly.

So starting your own island country is not easy. As a consolation, you might buy one of the many uninhabited islands in a tolerant country such as the US, Britain, or Canada and declare your own nation. We’ll enjoy seeing what you get away with.

For additional details after February 2006, see this document at the master WorldIslandInfo site.

What is the area of a submerged island, grasshopper?

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

A newspaper offers this Zen statement about a small Michigan island used for an annual party:

“The island was created by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which dumped clean dredged materials onto the site from 1937 through the mid-1960s. The island is actually about 137 acres, but all but 4 acres are submerged.”