Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Worldwide Land Travel

Did you know that we're only a few bridges and/or tunnels away from being able to drive or take a train anywhere in the world except for a few minor islands? (Which people typically take planes or boats to or from anyway and have no reason to do otherwise?)


Sure, some places seem so distant and impractical to travel to, and this worldwide road and/or train track would be rather...indirect...for some pairs of starting points and destinations. (Florida to London in this would involve going to long way around the world.)

Much of this is also marred by political constraints. The most logical connection from mainland Asia to Japan would be from southeastern Korea, Busan, to Tsushima, which has a ferry to the big Japanese island, and which a bridge could easily be built to. This connection would be sabotaged by the bad relation between the two countries, with Korea furious at Japan for various historical slights and modern indignities, and Japan rolling its collective eyes so often back at Korea that said eyes will fall from their collective heads if they do it any more. By political relationship, Japan would have to be connected to Taipei through Naha. This would be at least ten times more expensive to build.

Within the US, there's no good way to reach Hawaii. (Any tunnel between mainland North America and Hawaii would involve thousands of miles undersea.) And Alaska can be reached either by sea or through Canada. Hawaii should still be connected between its own islands. (Hawaii is about six islands. Ferries run between them when practical.) If Canada complained about US traffic between Washington state and Alaska going through its boarders, then the US would have to dig an expensive sea tunnel between the two. Urgh.

Australia and new Zealand would be a major pain to connect, and there's no other good connection for New Zealand. (Except maybe Antarctica, and that would be an even bigger pain to work with.) Australia would reach Asia through Papua New Guinea or Indonesia.

Probably the most profitable first connection to make would be the tip of Alaska with the tip of Siberia. (Chukchi.) If this connection were made, it would be possible to drive from southern Chile/Argentina, all the way to the northern UK, in a massive, world-spanning trip.

I tend to believe more in the obvious concrete benefits of building some of these bridges, such as increased commerce and reduced transportation costs, over the tauted benefits of increased world peace.


Cairnarvon said...

Alaska and the Chukchi Peninsula are both deserted wastelands. There's a reason the Russians sold Alaska and both previous projects to tunnel under the Bering Strait have been aborted.
Not to mention the fact that the access roads would have to cross many hundreds of miles of protected wilderness on both sides, and the tunnel itself would cross a whale migration route, which would certainly be disrupted during the building.
And of course, Eskimos on both sides wouldn't appreciate losing even more land and peace of mind.

In general, for transport of goods, ships are much cheaper and cleaner and able to transport a lot more than trains or trucks. For people, planes are faster and more convenient.
There are areas where these tunnels make sense (like between continental Europe and Great Britain), but for the most part, they're a waste of effort.

(Japan in particular wouldn't appreciate being connected to mainland Asia, be it to South Korea or anywhere else. Japan has only had one case of terrorism in recorded history, but I'd be willing to bet that that tunnel would be flooded before the first anniversary of its opening.)

TheMadEngineer said...

All good reasons not to, then. Environmental disruption should be minimized, certainaly.

Checking carefully, there is in fact a "trail" road going to the Alaska end of the hypothetical bridge, but it is noted to be closed from April to November, so it's not exactly a practical one.

According to Google's maps, the Chukchi side is utter wilderness, apparently with a lot of little lakes. Building there is probably a bad idea for that reason. (Ice + lakes + marshy ground = trucks abruptly sinking + more environmental devastation.)

If ships are cheaper and cleaner, then yes, they're probably the way to go.

As for Japan, it's worse than that, the only terrorism incident I could find in the news was purely domestic: the Aum Shinrikyo gas bombing. Now I'm imagining that all international bridges would have customs of the recieving nation on either side, which would be worse still for the Japanese, as I picture the opposite side of the hypothetical Japanese bridge deciding to play political-ball by ejecting the Japanese customs agency, which leads to the other end being ejected from japan, which means the bridge is closed. Again.

themadengineer said...

I just noticed another problem. Any Asia-Africa connection would have to go through Israeli held territory. This is clearly just not happening.

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