Not all aquatic structures are multi-million dollar mansions for playboys or glitzy underwater hotels. Some structures are built underwater purely for convenience. The Channel Tunnel, the 31 mile tunnel that connects the United Kingdom to France, is one such structure. This impressive feat of modern architecture has the longest portion of undersea tunnel on earth and is perhaps the most famous underwater tunnel ever built.
Working from both the British and French shores, builders used 11 gargantuan tunnel boring machines to cut through the thick mud on the ocean floor. The tunnel is wide enough to accommodate passenger and freight trains. Unfortunately, the tunnel does not permit open traffic. Deep in the middle of an ocean and 15 miles out from shore, the potential danger posed by a car crash is much too great, so all vehicles are transported by a rail-mounted shuttle service.
While the project took 12 years to finish and a massive £11 billion by today’s standard, the “Chunnel” represents a true feat in human and architectural achievement. Considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, the structure is as useful as it is impressive, linking the United Kingdom to the rest of Europe. The Chunnel facilitates international travel and trade by offering a cheap alternative to boats and planes.
Sadly, the utility of the structure requires that it is all function and no flare. For such an amazing piece of architecture, it is difficult for travellers to appreciate it beyond its mere use value. You cannot see the tunnel, watch others travelling along it, or really experience much beyond a train ride, which isn’t that different from a subway ride. Compare it to the Golden Gate Bridge, which serves a similar function. The Golden Gate Bridge, however, is an iconic symbol of San Francisco and one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. It truly is a shame that such a valuable and impressive structure is essentially invisible.