Norway Proposes World's First Ship Tunnel
How do you solve a problem like fjords?
For all its natural wonders, Norway doesn't have the world's most, shall we say, "user-friendly" coastline. Frequently stormy waters in the south, incredibly harsh winters in the north, and a whole mess of fjords and inlets all the way up and down ... it's kind of a rough deal. Add them all up and Norway has around 63,000 miles of coastline—so it's easy to understand why they'd try just about anything to smooth out the kinks a bit, even if it means thinking outside the boat and going ahead with plans to build the world's first tunnel for ships.
We've seen bridges for boats before, but a tunnel would be a neat trick if the Norwegian Coastal Administration ends up pulling it off. Their designs call for a 160-foot-tall, 118-foot-wide tube traveling a little more than a mile underground and connecting two fjords at the base of the Stad peninsula, a precarious little finger of land that juts out into open water and serves as the dividing point between the North Sea and the Norwegian Sea. It can be an unforgiving place; ships have to contend with dangerously high winds, unpredictable currents, and essentially zero protection from the open ocean. But, as you can see on the map below, there's a spot at the base where it gets awfully skinny. Enter the tunnel.
The project is still in the planning and testing stages, but the government has already set aside over $100 million for the first phase of construction, possibly beginning as early as next year. It would involve blasting out more than 8.2 million tons of rock and take three to four years to complete. It would be designed to handle mainly the passage of Norway's ubiquitous "Hurtigruten" ferries and cruise ships, though it looks like a bit of a tight fit in the renders—claustrophobes beware. And though I have some questions about how they'll handle sealing it off in inclement weather, and manage the water flow, it's exciting to see a new form of infrastructure being attempted.
While it will undoubtedly shave some time off a coastal cruise, the main goal is safety, since 33 people have drowned in the waters off Stad since the end of World War II. In fact, the tunnel is projected to lose money in the end, but this dramatic YouTube video will convince you its worth it.