Travel - Locations
By: - at May 19, 2015

15 Amazing Man-Made Islands

Artificial islands are pieces of land or structures in a body of water that have been created by man. These islands have been forged through industrial systems like dredging, and were not created by volcanic activity. Natural islands are created by changes in the earth's crust known as plate tectonics where liquid magma escapes into the sea and cools, creating a new landmass. Artificial islands can float, or can be connected to the very bottom of the body of water. These islands also include megalithic and wooden structures that have been created in shallow waters. Artificial islands are made when additional land is necessary in a process known as land reclamation. Many reasons lead to the need for land reclamation and some examples include building an airport when there isn't enough land available, political refuge (creating a land free of political persecution), and real estate projects like in Dubai.

By W like wiki via Wikimedia Commons

Dubai is the most recent and arguably the most notable land reclamation project where luxury properties literally rose out of the water and where more coastline was created to reach the demands of ultra high-end home purchasers.

Artificial islands vary in both size and in purpose. Here are 15 favorites that you’ll no doubt find interesting, and probably a little perplexing.

15)  The Floating Reed Islands of Uros
Anybody visiting Lake Titicaca should make sure they enjoy a boat trip to the world famous floating islands. The floating reed islands of Uros are made and constantly re-made from totora reeds. These floating islands don’t just offer transportation for the residents, but also sustenance.

Reed Islands of Lake Titicaca
Reed Islands of Lake Titicaca
By Thomas Quine via Wikimedia Commons

The floating islands can be found around two hours away, by boat, from Puno, which is on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. These islands are not just home to animals, however. In fact, these incredible islands make up the land of the Uros tribe, which is a tribe of people that pre-dates the Incas. The Uros existed before the sun, according to legends, when the planet was cold and dark. That’s just myth of course, but their legends are a huge part of their culture. The Uros even use reeds to build very seaworthy boats that are very similar to the vessels constructed by the ancient Egyptians.

Reed Boat
Reed Boat

The Uros people speak Aymara, and because of their basic lifestyle, they were considered worthless by the Incas. However, with their reed homes and islands, the Uros continued to live and exist while the Inca society collapsed, along with their stone buildings and temples.

14)  Durrat Al Bahrain
The Durrat Al Bahrain will be the largest manmade set of islands island, bar the Amwaj Islands, in the Kingdom of Bahrain, which is a small island country found near the Persian Gulf.

The Arabic-speaking country set aside more than $6 million to create a number of artificial islands surrounding the country, called Durrat Al Bahrain, which now cover more than 20,000,000 square meters of land. The 15 islands include five islands shaped like fish, two crescent shapes and six atolls. These islands are designed to give the country more space for living and the hospitality industry, and the project a joint effort between Tameer and Durrat Khaleej Al Bahrain.


The project began work but was interrupted in early 2008 when in excess of 1,300 workers stopped work due to a disagreement over pay. Soon after, the strike was called off and the project was completed in full, becoming an incredibly popular area for tourists and locals alike.

Durrat Al Bahrain

13)  No Man’s Land Fort
No Man’s Land Fort was the ultimate home for those who needed to escape the authorities. It was back in 2008 that a businessman called Harmesh Pooni had avoided the creditors who were on his back by jetting off to this old army fort in the middle of the ocean. No Man’s Land Fort is a complex in the ocean, near the Isle of Wight, and the cunning businessman had purchased the fort in 2004.

No Man’s Land Fort

It was reported in a number of newspapers in 2008 that Pooni would be able to fend off those looking for him for some time, given that he had a number of generators and a freshwater borehole that took clean water from the salty water surrounding him. The fort even had luxury amenities, including bars, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a gym and a huge sauna. Tycoon Pooni was eventually ousted from his fort, though. His unique luxury mansion in the middle of the sea was then turned into a getaway resort for wealthy visitors. People now fly from the mainland to the fort, and land on one of the two helipads that were installed on the building.

No Man’s Land Fort

The No Man’s land fort is one of four forts build in the ocean in the 19th century. These forts were designed to help defend against sea attacks, and during the time in which they were constructed, they were packed full of the most modern military devices of the time, however, these were never in fact put to use. It was during World War II that the forts were abandoned and were sold to private buyers in the 1960s.

12)  Thilafushi Garbage Island
If you thought that all manmade islands were designed for luxury living, extending the coast line or defending the borders, you’d be wrong. In fact, just a few miles to the West of Male, the capital of the Maldives, you’ll find one of the largest mounds of garbage in the world.


A huge mound of buried garbage has completely changed the nature of a former lagoon Thilafalhu, which warranted the name change to Thilafushi. The reason the garbage island appeared in the first place was because of an emergency measure that was adopted by the local government to solve their growing trash problem.

Garbage Island
By IFRC via Wikimedia Commons

In order to get rid of the huge amount of trash that was appearing on the island, humungous pits were dug into the sand surrounding the shore, and all of these pits were filled with garbage. As more pits were dug, and more garbage buried, the land started rising and the water moving away. The garbage, which includes batteries, asbestos, toxic materials, plastic cups and much more, has resulted in an unpleasant and dangerous piece of land at the end of the shore. Today, industrial plants and companies rent out the land to use for manufacturing and storage.

11)  Isola di Lolando
The Isola di Lolando is an example of how difficult it is to create artificial islands and go against the forced of nature. The island was proposed and in fact was started in Florida, on Biscayne Bay. Soon after, economic disparity affected the project and a hurricane damaged the work that had already been performed, leaving pilings from the island dotted through the bay.

 Isola di Lolando
By Sobesurfki via Wikimedia Commons

It was during the early 1920s that developers began constructing buildings in Biscayne Bay, which was easy because of the virtually non-existent environmental laws and regulation. Islands were created, properties constructed and a living environment made for Floridians. A number of new Venetian Islands were planned in the southern waters of Julia Tuttle Causeway, and the Isola di Lolando was to be one of the first. There had already been previous artificial islands made and so, Isola di Lolando was not a farfetched concept for these early island builders.

It was in 1925 that the population of Southern Florida boomed, and local resources were put under strain. Railway shipping became more expensive, and in the Fall of the year, a large war ship capsized in Miami port. The following summer, the Miami Hurricane arrived, and the Shoreland Company, the firm behind the island, went bankrupt. The project was never finished, and the pilings that remain protrude between five and 10 feet above the water.

10)  Scottish and Irish Crannogs
Throughout Scotland and Ireland, there are hundreds of manmade structures found on the surface of the countries’ locks. Some of these structures, known as Crannogs, have been restored over the years, but many have simply sunken into the rivers over the centuries that they have been standing.

By Christine Westerback via Wikimedia Commons

These crannogs are usually pretty small, and o average 200 feet in diameter, and were built by the wealthy families of hundreds of years ago. To this day, the exact purpose of these wooden structures are not clear to historians, but it has been presumed that these structures were simply status symbols, much like owning a summer home, or a million dollar car.

These estates were designed and used by the elite of prehistoric times, and they also seem to be pretty easy to defend against attacks from unwelcome visitors.

Crannog on Loch Tay
By Helenabella via Wikimedia Commons

Some of the crannogs that have been found in Ireland and Scotland have a natural island in the center, but others seem to be built entirely by man. They were made by builders sinking a number of sharp posts into the lakebed around an island, or just in open water. The water was usually shallow so that it was easier to manage. Then, branches would be latticed between these posts in the water to hold them together, standing upright. The gaps between the posts were filled with logs, soil, clay and other substances to create an artificial piece of land, and then in the center of structure, a wooden building would be made. Islanders could get to their crannog by canoe, but some have even been found to have causeways underneath the surface, meaning that they had a secret entrance to their manmade island.

9)  Amwaj Islands
The Amwuj Islands are another set of manmade islands found in the Kingdom of Bahrain. These artificial islands can be found near Muharraq Island, and these manmade structures equate to more than 30,000,000 square feet in size.

The islands were a project that offered the first set of 100% freehold land to expatriates living in Bahrain. The land also meant that the supply of property at the waterfront was increased. Previously, waterfront properties were not common and could not meet demand. The completion of modern infrastructure on the islands, including the sewers, roads, water, electricity and other systems, meant that the islands soon became used for residential purposes.

Amwaj Islands

New reclaiming technologies were used when these islands were made, including geotubes. The process was made possible due to the shallow seas on the northeastern part of Muharraq Island, and today, the islands are home to hotels, residential buildings, highrise commercial buildings and retail spaces. There is also a large marina, a school, hospital, theme parks, a university, cafes and restaurants and much more. The project was finished over three phases of construction, which included reclaiming the land, fitting the infrastructure and then constructing necessary facilities.

Amwaj Islands

8)  Ijburg
Ijburg is the name of a residential area in Amsterdam that is being built on one of many artificial islands in the Netherlands. The residential area is found in IJ Lake, and the Ijburg neighborhood was officially a part of the borough of Zeeburguuntil 2010. Today, the area was become merged with the borough of Oost.

By Debot via Wikimedia Commons

There are six islands built in IJ Lake, which include Jetty Island, Harbour Island, Reed Island Large, Small, and East. The construction of these islands was developed through reclaiming the land, installing infrastructure and connective routes and later, creating the residential areas. There are four more islands planned for the Ijburg area, which will create a total of ten islands within the lake. However, the construction of these new islands has been delayed by the courts due to the lack of consideration for the effect of the natural environment.

By PersianDutchNetwork via Wikimedia Commons

The first residents moved into Ijburg back in 2002, and since then, there has been a slow intake of new residents. The lack of interest meant that construction was delayed, and Ijburg remains unfinished. It is expected that, once Ijburg has been completed, there well be room for more than 45,000 residents and around 18,000 homes. There will also be sufficient employment opportunities for around 12,000 people.

7)  Kansai International Airport
The Kansai International Airport has paved the way for a number of Eastern Asian airports being constructed on artificial land. The airport is both typhoon and earthquake-resistant, and was designed specifically for this purpose. It can even solidly make this claim, as it has already proven to be resistant to the effects of these natural disasters.

Kansai International Airport
By Tdk via Wikimedia Commons

The airport was the first of its kind in Eastern Asia, and the experience from building it made the process significantly easier for others planning on building similar airports in the continent. This means that newer airports being built on manmade islands have been made on a budget and completed on time. However, Kansai International Airport was finished later than expected and cost much more than planned.

Kansai International Airport Terminal
Kansai International Airport
By Own work via Wikimedia Commons

It was in 1987 that the seawall was created, and in order to fill the island, three mountains on the mainland had to be excavated. The engineers of the project knew that the land would begin to compress as it was poured into the sea walls, however, the island dropped and compressed much more than expected. As a result of this, columns had to be created that allows the island to adjust its height and the steel plates are extended when necessary.

6)  Trekroner Fort
The Trekroner sea fort can be found at the entrance to Copenhagen harbor. This harbor has four lanes for waterbuses, and is also reachable by ferry lines to Oslo. The fort was one of the rings of fortifications surrounding Copenhagen between 1713 and the First World War, and was enhanced between 1818 and 1860. Later, in 1934, it was sold to the harbor services, but soon became a barracks for the Germans during their occupation of Denmark. Once again, after the war, it became vacant, and eventually became open to the public in 1984.

Trekroner Fort
By denkrahm via Wikimedia Commons

The fort’s construction began in 1787, making it one of the earlier examples of a military artificial island. It had a huge part to play in the defense of the Danish line during the Battle of Copenhagen, and it also defended the city against the British, who attacked in 1807.

By TGCP via Wikimedia Commons

5)  Peberholm
Peberholm is an artificial island found in Øresund, Denmark. The manmade island was constructed to be a part of the bridge that connects Denmark and Sweden. The artificial island is close to a natural island, known as Saltholm, and was named Pebrholm to complement it, as Peberholm means ‘pepper island’ and Saltholm means ‘salt island’.


The primary reason for the construction of the island was to create a crossover point between the bridge and the tunnel. The tunnel was built due to the fact that a full bridge spanning the gap between Sweden and Denmark would have interfered with a number of obstacle-free zones that surrounded the Kastrup Airport. This island is where the bridge meets an underground tunnel, and after the tunnel dips beneath the water, ships are able to pass into the nearby harbors without worrying about being too tall to fit under the bridge. The island also made sense as there was a lot of land being dug out from beneath the water, which was later used to create the artificial island. The amount was so large that it would have been difficult to dispose of otherwise.

Today, Peberholm is only accessible by biologists once a year, and nobody else may visit. It is a biological experiment, where scientists are able to observe the way in which natural life flourished on the new island. It was predicted that with no human interaction, new life would begin appearing and in 2007, more than 454 species of plants were found growing on the island. There are also more than 20 species of spiders thought to be living on the island, as well as 12 species of birds.

4)  MOSE Project
MOSE stands for Modulo Sperimentale Electromeccanico. In English, this means ‘Experimental Electromechanical Module’, and the MOSE Project is designed to protect Venice, Italy. Venice is of course famous for being surrounded by water, where most transport in the city appears on the water, with buildings that have doors stepping out immediately into canals. It is known that the city faces a very real danger of flooding, and the project involves systems that use mobile gates to temporarily isolate the Venetian Lagoon from the ocean when high tides hit. This means that when a high tide appears, there are not substantial floods in Venice, ruining architecture and putting lives at risk.

Downtown Venice
By Wolfgang Moroder via Wikimedia Commons

Along with coastal reinforcement and the raising of many parts of the coast, this system stops a rise in sea level of up to three meters, and the system automatically kicks in when there is a tide that reaches more than 110cm.

Lido Inlet Where MOSE is Located
Lido Inlet Where Mose is Located
By Magistrato alle Acque di Venezia via Wikimedia Commons

3)  Whale Island
Whale Island is a small artificial piece of land that can be found in Portsmouth Harbor, near Portsea Island. Here you will find the oldest shore training facility in the British Royal Navy, and it is also the headquarters for the Navy Command.

Royal Navy Fleet Headquarters
Royal Navy Fleet Headquarters
By Peter Facey via Wikimedia Commons

The island itself actually began as a natural landmass, and was named Whale Island due to the fact it resembles a whale. It was during 1867 that a viaduct was created that spanned from the northern wall of the dockyard to the corner of the southeastern part of the island. This was on the ‘Big Whale Island’, and when land was reclaimed, the island became connected to ‘Small Whale Island’. It was the reclaiming of the land that made the island artificial.

Wairaka Statue (Lady on the Rock) and Whale Island
Whale Island
By P. Doyle via Wikimedia Commons

There was a railway that ran on the viaduct that operated around the island, creating a transport system for those working on the landmass. Today, the track remains but it is mostly buried underneath the roads. Interestingly, most of the construction work that was performed on the island was performed by convicts.

It was in 1885 that the island became home to rive rifle ranges, and later the Gun Drill Battery. The island, prior to WWII, had its own zoo, which was home to animals given to British representatives by foreign countries. Today, the island has a number of historic artifacts that are of interest to the public, as well as operating Naval training areas.

2)  Spiral Island
Spiral Island is found in Mexico, and the floating island is probably one of the strangest manmade islands to exist in the world. This floating island can be found near Isla Mujeres, and was created by eco-fanatic Richard Sowa. The British expatriate made the island out of 100,000 plastic bottles that he’d taken from peoples’ trash. These bottles were made into a 60-foot wide island.

The island is not the first created by the eco-warrior, as Hurricane Emily destroyed the first one in 2005. Despite this, Sowa built a second floating island that is now complete with sand, mangrove trees, his own home and a number of plants. In the center of the island, there is also a swimming pool that even has its own floating island that is used by the ducks.

spiral island

The floating island is kept in place by ropes, and in order to get to the shore, Sowa imply has to pull the rope. The island docks on Isla Mujeres and can later be pushed back out into the water.

To create the island, bottles were packed into fishing nets and mesh bags, which were then attached to the sides of wooden pallets. These floating pallets created the base of the island, and the construction occurred through a hole in the surface of the island. More bags of plastic bottles are pushed into the water through this hole to ensure that the island remains afloat during the year.

1)  Floating Mountain of Immortals
The final on the list is the Floating Mountain of Immortals. From a distance, this incredible sculpture looks like a pile of mercury or lead that’s melting in the midday heat, but when you get closer, you see the sculpture for what it is. The art piece is hundreds of yards away from the Belgian coast and about a mile away from the Netherlands. The mountain is a modern art piece that was installed by Zhan Wang. Wang is known for his steel sculptures, but his floating island is easily one of the most bizarre!


With the population of the earth growing all the time along with the potential threat of rising seas swallowing up existing land masses, the need for additional land is only going to increase as years go by. Human beings have developed almost all available land near city centers and the value of available lands continues to grow at an alarming rate. One solution to these concerns will be to literally make our own land and create artificial islands out of surrounding bodies of water. As our technology becomes better, we could see whole cities built on the oceans, to make up for the lack of space on the continents. Who knows what lies ahead for us, but what we can be sure of is that history has produced some of the most bizarre, and often functional, artificial islands we’ll ever see.





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