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Norway Proposes World’s First Mile-Long Tunnel for Ships

The tunnel would help ships and ferries avoid rough seas around the Stadlandet Peninsula where 33 people have died since World War II

smithsonian.com

Ships and ferries sailing along Norway’s coast have it pretty good. Lots of little islands and the coastline’s award-winning fjords offer protection from the often rough Norwegian and North Seas. But there’s one spot where the sailing isn’t so smooth. To get around the Stadlandet Peninsula in the Njordford District boats need to take the long way round into the open ocean where winds and waves can be nasty. In fact, the area is considered the most dangerous stretch of the country’s coast. That’s why the Norwegian Coastal Administration recently unveiled its newest plans for the Stad Ship Tunnel, which would allow watercraft to avoid the peninsula altogether.

According to Anthony Cuthbertson at Newsweek, the tunnel would be roughly a mile long cutting through the base of the peninsula at its narrowest point. At 120 feet high and 87 feet wide, it would be large enough to allow the passage of popular Hurtigruten cruise ships which tour the fjords. “If the project is realized, the Stad Ship Tunnel would be the world's first full-scale ship tunnel of this size,” writes the Coastal Administration.

Matt Burgess at Wired UK reports that building the tunnel would involve blasting away about 7.5 million tons of rock using underground drills over the course of three to four years. The cost of the project is estimated at about $271 million (2.3 billion Norwegian krone). Though the government supports the project, it is currently undergoing a feasibility study and will receive a green light if that works out later this year.

The idea of blasting a tunnel through Stadlandet is nothing new. According to Holly Brockwell at Gizmodo UK, a newspaper first called for a tunnel bypassing the dangerous peninsula in 1874. The BBC reports that the idea began gaining support in the 1980s and there have been at least 18 studies looking into the project since then.

The BBC points out that construction of the tunnel is not a particularly difficult engineering challenge, especially for the Norwegians who built the world’s longest road tunnel. The mains sticking point is the cost, since the Coastal Authority assessment shows that the tunnel is not likely to recoup its construction costs.

But the convenience and safety of the tunnel are the main selling points, not the economic improvements. The BBC reports that since World War II, there have been 46 accidents or near misses in the area and 33 deaths. In 2004, a 161 passenger cruise ship almost foundered in the waters off the peninsula.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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