It is one of the biggest man-made islands in the world. The extraordinary plan was to build a city in the 5.5 Km Island with bustling shopping malls, restaurants, hotels, apartments and homes with stunning views.
One of the world’s most audacious engineering projects ever, Dubai’s artificial islands could have been built from concrete, but to blend it with the surroundings, it was to be made from sand and gravels.
This would end up requiring the use of 5.5 million cubic meters of rock with the 94 million cubic meters of sand that was needed for the construction of the island itself. This sand was actually much harder to source as desert sand is of a much finer texture than sea sand making it unsuitable for the project. As a result, huge volumes of sand were dredged from the ocean floor and vibro-compacted into place to help increase density. This process of stabilisation took 8 months and the use of 15 specialised machines.
To ensure the shape of the island was perfect, the construction team used a private GPS satellite which guided the sand pouring efforts to within 0.39 of an inch.
The shape of the palm tree structure meant that the engineers struggled to keep sea water flowing between the palm shapes. This meant that water could become stagnant as the tides weren’t able to flush the area efficiently. To combat this, the engineers cut two 328 foot openings in the outer circle of the structure to provide the flow that the inner area needed in order to keep the water circulating and the beaches fresh.
Along with the breakwater’s lower level made of sand and one-ton rocks, a further two layers were built to create the breakwater’s upper level using larger rocks weighing upwards of six tons apiece. This ensured that the island would be able to withstand the extreme gulf weather. The size of the breakwater also took into account predicted rises in sea levels as a result of global warming.
The project, which took nearly a decade to complete by 2006, adds 78km to the Dubai coastline and has become home to thousands of people of various nationalities. The Palm Islands regularly attract a huge number of tourists a day with their massive shopping centers, restaurants and recreational activities on offer.