Connecting the Past and the Future

Turkey realizes ‘Ottoman dream’ with rail tunnel linking Europe to Asia | Al Jazeera America.

A train tunnel linking Europe with Asia opened today in Istanbul.

The engineering feat spans 8 miles to link Europe with Asia some 66 yards below the Bosporus  Strait. Called the Marmaray, it will carry around 1.5 million subway commuters daily throughout Istanbul, Europe’s biggest city, and serve high-speed and freight trains. 

The project has led to criticism of Prime Minister Erdogan; many call his extravagant projects “pharohic,” a reference to the mega-projects of Egypt’s kings.

Another issue is the tunnel’s ability to withstand earthquakes – it lies 12 miles from the Anatolian Fault.

The Marmaray, which Yildirim has described as the “safest structure in Istanbul,” is a free-floating structure designed to withstand a 9 magnitude earthquake. In the event of one, interlocking floodgates have been engineered to seal off each section.

We’ll see how that works, because a large earthquake is predicted to strike within the next generation.

the project also uncovered a Byzantine port with 13 shipwrecks, and other objects that date back 8,000 years.  that’s a long time, and shows the importance of the area as the crossroads between Europe and Asia.

The finds nearly doubled the project’s duration and prompted UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural arm, to voice concern about threats to the peninsula, a “world heritage” site.

To honor the finds, the government will open an “archaeological park” at the Yenikapi subway station to showcase relics.

Maybe I’ll get to ride it next summer if I make it to Turkey, hopefully without an earthquake trapping me in the tunnel.

Good Bye, Magellan


Tunneling through Andes to speed global trade.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — South American engineers are trying to tackle one of the continent’s greatest natural challenges: the towering Andes mountain chain that creates a costly physical barrier for nations ever-more-dependent on trade with Asia.

The proposed tunnel through the Andes will allow ships to by pass the dangerous Straits of Magellan around the tip of South America, saving time and money.

The trip over the mountains is slowed by snow, and impassable for days at a time.  A tunnel would change all that.  A consortium of companies with experience in building tunnels have proposed the 32 mile long tunnels and electric trains to cut shipping costs.

Currently, much of the processed soy oils, wine and meat Argentina sends to China, as well as Asian electronics destined for Brazil, must first sail around the tip of South America, adding nearly 3,000 nautical miles and another week to the trip. Shipping by rail between Atlantic and Pacific ports would unite the most productive regions of Chile and its South American neighbors, making trade more competitive for all involved.

Both Chile and Argentina, as well as Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay, will benefit from the lower shipping coasts.

Chile’s mining wealth and Argentina’s agricultural bounty have sustained their economies, delivering positive trade balances year after year, but both countries need to produce and move those exports more efficiently to maintain growth. Chile imported $75 billion worth of goods and exported $81 billion last year, while Argentine imported $74 billion and exported $84 billion, the U.N.’s regional economics commission reported Tuesday.

How likely is it the tunnel will be built?  How will new routes affect global trade?

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