Walking on Water: Floating Islands


Need more land? You might soon be able to create your own. Dutch engineers are experimenting with floating islands that can support buildings, farms, and other amenities.

The Dutch Maritime Research Institute has built a prototype of a floating island made up of dozens of interlocking triangles that can move somewhat independently, allowing the surface to flex to cope with currents and waves. The scale model (you can see photos of it here and a video here) consists of mostly plastic components, although the full-sized version, up to 5 kilometers wide, would be made of concrete and steel.

The institute sees these islands as an alternative to reclaiming flooded land by dewatering or building dikes, as the Netherlands has been doing for centuries. As sea levels rise, they say, it might just be easier and less expensive to create new livable space on top of the water than to hold back the ocean. Engineers envision islands with homes and recreational facilities on them, as well as offshore solar and wind farms. They’re also considering offshore farming on the islands, which would be tethered to the sea bottom, the shore, or both. Construction is scheduled to begin later this year, in fact, on a floating farm with a slightly different configuration.

The US-based Seasteading Institute has even greater ambitions. It wants to build a series of islands near Tahiti that would essentially have their own government; the organization is working with French Polynesia to create what it calls a “special economic seazone” and sees potential for other semi-independent cities around the world. “We believe there could be a market on our floating city for residences, tourism, aquaculture, a business park, a research institute, and a power plant to sell energy and clean water back to the host nation,” says the organization’s website.

If you had your own island, what would you build on it? How practical do you think floating islands will be in the long run? EC_bug_web

  • Floating man-made islands and crumbling infrastructure are having problems sharing space in my brain.

  • Hal Lunsford.

    With the possibility of coastal sea levels rising over the next hundred or so years, we may have to look at this technology for a new home. Plus, I see industry (i.e., aquaculture, ship building, sports fishing, recreation and leisure , coastal cities, and so on….) and the military applications as well. There’s a lot of possibilities for our future. Wow! Do they sell their stocks yet?

  • Ken Ferry.

    The strongest deterrent I can think of is the effects of cyclones on such floating islands. Engineers can theoretically design for any condition, but cost always brackets thinking back into the realm of reason.


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