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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.