Can We Dig A Tunnel Under The Ocean?

Source: Freepik

If you need to get from London to New York, you can choose from several different paths. Going by water or air on a sea liner is considered to be the most comfortable, but it can easily turn into a nightmare for those who suffer from sea sickness. 

In addition, a seafaring voyage gobbles up gobs of time and money, as they last almost two weeks and cost roughly $3,000 and up🤔. In the absence of aerophobia, a fear of flying, taking a ride on an aircraft will, of course, be a much more rapid means of transportation. 

However, soaring across the skies is not an instant trip by any means; it still takes from eight to eleven hours. And what if you suffer from both seasickness and aerophobia? Or, for whatever reason, you just need to urgently cross the ocean?

The problem can be solved with the help of a tunnel that would allow various kinds of transport to move freely from Europe to the USA. Such structures are no longer a novelty. We now have a tunnel under the Amur River in China; thus, a Seikan tunnel in Japan travels under the sea; the Cross Harbor tunnel between the island of Hong Kong and Mainland China; in comparison with the Gargantuan tunnel, which will have to be dug from Europe to America

These will all seem like tiny little underwater paths. Nevertheless, today there are several concepts for creating such an incredibly long transport corridor. It could be laid on the bottom of the ocean floor under the bottom or even floating at a certain depth, and there are two technologies that might be used that are considered promising: the first is sectionalized construction, and the second is panel construction.

The first provides for the assembly of the main line from finished elements at the bottom of the ocean, and the second is inserted into the thickness of the earth itself deep under the ocean bottom. But before considering all these different construction concepts, let's first determine what type of transport is most suitable for such travel. 

Traveling through a hyperloop tunnel

One would have to endure a mind-boggling 5,600-mile road trip😮. Remembering, of course, that part of the trip passes through England before going under the sea. Even at a speed of 200 km/h, such a distance would take at least 28 hours to traverse. This is vastly longer than flying in an airliner, but a vacuum tube train, also known as a hyperloop, could save an enormous amount of time.

Source: CNBC

According to some estimates, a Hyperloop train could accelerate to as fast as 6,400 km/h🤯, which means that it could travel from London to New York in less than an hour. The secret of this super train is quite simple: it's a sealed capsule that, as it moves through the airless tunnel, literally soars as if through an outer space. 

Travelling through Maglev

With magnetic levitation, maglev reducing friction at the wheels to almost zero. In addition to the airless environment almost eliminating drag, the vacuum also protects the tunnel from the destructive effect of the sonic boom that normally appears when the supersonic barriers are overcome in the atmosphere. An advantage of such transport is its high ecological compatibility; unlike cars and trains, it does not eject fuel waste into the environment. 


However, creating a complete vacuum in a tunnel is an extremely difficult task. There will still be air in the tunnel, but only in very small quantities. But even in small quantities at such high speeds, if it is enough to increase friction such that the train will overheat and terrible things can happen. 

Building a under water deep tunnel: Unlocking the challenges

Theoretically anyway, we will allow us to take several meters from the shore deep under the ocean quite quickly, so far so good, but then water will start to seep through the earth and from above, and then suddenly ker-plop, the entire structure in the blink of an eye will be hidden under millions of tons of earth and water catastrophe.

So before beginning such construction, it would be mandatory to arrange for proper drainage as well as soil consolidation. Fortunately, the old but tried-and-true method of stabilizing the earth with the help of tunneling boards, will save you from such laborious work and find the best transport for traveling across the ocean floor. 

Now let's try to build a suitable tunnel for the vacuum enclosing capsule. Digging with shovels under the seat just ain't going to cut it, so we're going to have to use a big drill. This is expensive work. 

How can we build this mega tunnel?

The essence of this method is that hydraulic jacks gradually push a shield forward. With the construction crew immediately installing metal support rings with concrete and cement formation quickly following to prevent water seeping through the walls of the tunnel. 

The front part of the passage or shield is kept under pressure with compressed air. This process additionally squeezes free moisture from the rock, draining it in effect up to a set distance in front of the shield. Further, to strengthen the earth and keep water from flowing, one can use specialized Ohio genic😂 construction techniques, basically freezing everything😜.

It won't be very easy working under such conditions. The task can be facilitated by tunnel drilling machines with carbide cutters installed on a giant disc array. These monster machines graciously devour soul, earth, and stone at a speed of up to 80 meters per day.

How much time will it take to build this mega tunnel? 

This almost miracle technique immediately lays down on a preformed passage in its wake with giant sections of tunnel tubing. Interestingly, most of the processes in the machines are automated, with computers, being responsible for accurately moving the unit through the earth when building a tunnel as a rule. Tunnel Wars are used, which move towards each other from the two different starting points. 

Unfortunately, these amazing devices have one huge drawback: they often fail, but even if there isn't a single failure of the drilling machines during the London-New York City operation, the construction of our transatlantic underwater corridor would take at least 111 years to complete, with about 90 years for the raw tunnel itself and the remaining 21 years for completing the inner covering and a variety of cosmetic finishes.

Submerged floating tunnel: A life saver

We must also be prepared for the fact that the task will be greatly complicated by the difference in height at the bottom of the ocean at certain points, and we'll have to do the entirety of this underground work the masonry and the installation of support rings, etc.—all well-known and chomping through a variety of densities of soft earth or hard rock. In short, the job is colossal, but still, without the even greater difficulty of parting the seas, which according to legend only the biblical prophet Moses could do, it is possible.

Source: Wikipedia

However, we won't have to part the seas, as we might be able to accomplish the task with the help of a submersible tubular tunnel. To install it, you don't need to crunch and crawl your way through endless kilometers of stone and soil. The structure is simply assembled in the water from separate, preformed segments. 

However, it must still be taken into account that the Atlantic Ocean reaches an average depth of 3736 meters. The pressure and the extreme depths of the abyss are quite high—more than 380 atm. Therefore, only a heavy-duty kind of construction will be suitable for the formation and laying of the segments.

It will need to be carefully protected against any and all possible future mechanical damage, and last we forget, the ocean is unlikely to meet the builders with open arms. It will certainly present surprises in the form of stones, pits, and other nasty shocks. There's also the problem of the unexpected unevenness of the bottom. These folds need somehow to be ironed out😂. 

The problem of unevenness of the bottom of the ocean

A special vessel loaded with gravel and small stones, with the help of a pipe, can quite accurately fill the cavities in these regions, smoothing out all the incongruities in the path of our underwater tunnel. But if these irregularities prove to be more extreme, the work will become that much more difficult to do, and in many cases, gravel cannot be used as it's too heavy and will depress softer rock or soil below. In this case, to level out our sea floor path, we'll need to use lighter supports made of metal or even plastic structures

Underwater floating corridor: solution of unevenness of the bottom of the ocean

There's another interesting concept: the creation of an underwater floating corridor. In this case, the sections of the tunnel are immersed and float just 50 to 100 meters below the surface of the ocean, avoiding excessive pressure from the depths having neutral buoyancy.

These structures are then simply attached to the seabed, far below the surface. It's not easy to attach such a particular structure at such great depths, and as a result, a series of problems could arise during its installation. 

We also mustn't forget about underwater currents and, of course, pressure on this underwater bridge. Our underwater corridor has to be fitted with a wide variety of sophisticated devices and technologies, for example, according to some assumptions, to safeguard against all possible failures. The absolute most advanced robots will need to be employed. Other possible expenses will be the extensive use of carbon nanotubes and powerful seismic sensors, which will allow the structure to automatically adapt to underwater earthquakes. 

How expensive might it be?

According to some estimates, at least 12 trillion dollars—that's trillion with a T—will need to be spent on the construction of our transatlantic tunnel. Our current level of technological development simply does not allow us to cut our costs or solve some of the major problems in any other way, and finally, it's still unclear what kind of environmental impact the various versions of the tunnel would have.

Future of under water deep tunnel

Nevertheless, the endless and increasingly rapid development of science and technology occasionally makes it possible to implement the most fantastic projects. Just so recently, in Nevada, the first tests of a vacuum train called Hyperloop were conducted as previously proposed by American billionaire Elon Musk, and who knows, perhaps such trains will soon carry passengers from London to you via a transatlantic tunnel😜. 

If it is possible to build such a long and technologically challenging tunnel highway, it will certainly go down in history as one of the most, if not the most grandiose, engineering projects in all of history. Its implementation would greatly add to our technological development across a variety of sciences and industries, as well as, of course, give people a convenient way to cross the ocean.

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