Archive for the 'Fixed links' Category

A bridge to Sicily?

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

The Washington Post reports an odd bit of fallout from the global financial crisis: Italy is considering boosting public spending by accelerating the long-discussed bridge to Sicily.

This would be the first fixed connection to the island in thousands of years, since ice-age landbridges were submerged by rising sea levels.

The article notes that Japan’s efforts to spend its way out of recession in the 1990s “produced a herd of white elephants including new, but little-used airports and ports, as well as a $250 million bridge to Kourijima Island,” population 361.

Grant Aldonas, a former American trade official, warns of a general problem: “There is a huge danger of bridges to nowhere.”

Image courtesy NASA.

We’re on a bridge to nowhere

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

Ketchikan ferryDespite near-universal acknowledgement as a stunning achievement in pork-barrel spending, Alaska’s “bridge to nowhere” — which would actually connect Gravina Island to Ketchikan on Revillagigedo Island — seems to still be alive.

It would replace the ferry pictured here, at a cost of some $223 million dollars, at the insistence of powerful Republican Senator Ted Stevens.

The problem is that only about 50 people live on Gravina, and a ferry runs every 15 minutes across the channel in question. Wags have even suggested that you could simply buy every family on the island their own helicopter and still save money.

[Image courtesy of Aaron Headly]

Saving Mont-Saint-Michel

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

The Washington Post today reports on efforts to preserve the islandness of Mont-Saint-Michel, the island abbey off the north coast of France. The historic rocky islet “is succumbing to a relentless invasion of silt and sea grass, which are surrounding the island and threatening to make it part of the mainland.

Part of the 19th century causeway will be replaced with a bridge.

Says a leader of the project to hold back the encroaching land, “If we don’t do anything at all, in 40 years Mont-Saint-Michel will be part of the continent.”

“Being an island is part of its strong identity — a gem in the sea,” says the mayor of the island, which has a population of 26 but is visited by 3 million people a year.

Long a pilgrimage destination, its island nature also has symbolic significance:

Brother François, who heads a group of six brothers and five sisters from the Monastic Fraternities of Jerusalem who conduct services in the abbey, said Mont-Saint-Michel was laden with powerful religious symbolism that is important to protect — the mountaintop, the story of the archangel’s appearance, the sand flats where pilgrims wander, waiting for the parting of the sea at low tide.

After the causeway was built in 1879, Victor Hugo decried the change: “The Mont-Saint-Michel must remain an island. We must save it from mutilation!” People are at last responding.

[Image courtesy Neerav Mehta]

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

Bridge and tunnel to Chongming Dao, Shanghai

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

A bridge and tunnel are planned for Chongming, the large Yangtze River island north of Shanghai.

This would transfer another 700,000 or so people from the world’s unbridged island population.  Until then, Chongming may be the most populous unbridged river island in the world.