To expand the possibilities for beachfront tourist development, Dubai undertook a massive engineering project to create hundreds of artificial islands along its Persian Gulf coastline. Built from sand dredged from the sea floor and protected from erosion by rock breakwaters, the islands were shaped into recognizable forms, including two large palm trees, and even more ambitiously, a map of the world. Satellites images from the past decade have documented the islands’ creation.
This pair of images from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite show the development of the archipelago known as “The World.” The top image shows the project on February 5, 2009. All the continents are represented (the “map” is tilted toward the left). A breakwater surrounds the archipelago, and its role is obvious: outside the perimeter, especially to the northwest, the waters of the Gulf ripple with waves that would wear the artificial islands away. The bottom image shows the project on November 13, 2004, when dredging and building were just getting underway.
Only one of the islands that make up “The World” appears to have achieved its full potential as a manmade tropical paradise. One of the islands in western Greenland has been landscaped, and it appears as a single green dot among its sand-covered neighbors.