Palm Jumeirah: A Marvel of Engineering

 
Written by Ameena Navab

When you hear the name ‘Palm Jumeirah’, it is almost synonymous with Dubai. The island has crossed off a long list of ‘impossible’ feats and is often referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World.’

The Palm Jumeirah is a man-made island built in the shape of a palm tree off the shores of Dubai’s Jumeirah coastline, which extends into the Persian Gulf. It is one of the biggest attractions in the UAE and a haven for luxury living. Palm Jumeirah houses some of the most exquisite villas, apartments and penthouses in Dubai that overlook breathtaking views of the Arabian Gulf, but there is so much more to this island than its elegant lifestyle.

The Palm is a groundbreaking feat of engineering, designed by professionals from various fields, from design and architecture to science and engineering. It was even featured in National Geographic as part of a feature on ‘Impossible Islands’. 

The construction of the Palm Islands began in 2001. It started off with divers surveying the seabed to make sure that the waters were safe to build this island on. And it was also from this very seabed that the island came to existence.  

The first step to building this island was constructing a crescent shaped breakwater. A breakwater is a man-made harbor to intercept water currents and prevent beach erosion. During the construction of the crescent the breakwater didn’t do its part and the waters surrounding it began getting stagnant, which had a negative impact on the marine life. It was bad for the environment and also for the island. So how was the issue resolved? The solution was simple yet brilliant. The scientists made alterations to the blueprint of the crescent and added two openings to the breakwater. 


These openings let the current rush in and restore clean water every 14 days. The stagnant waters were gone and marine life thrived once again. The gaps in the crescent were then connected by two bridges.  

These breakwaters were of utmost importance because the designers at Nakheel, who were developing the island, believed that this was the key to protecting the island from rising storms and even rising sea levels as a result of climate change. 

But that was just the crescent.

The archipelago consists of the trunk and 17 ‘fronds’. The construction process for the entire structure involved more than 110 million cubic meters of sand and 5.5 million cubic meters of rocks. 


These sands were taken from the sea bed itself. Over 3 billion cubic feet of ocean sand had to be drilled into place to make sure the island didn’t move with the tide. This was done by a process known as vibro-compaction, which is used to stabilize loose sands and gravel up to a depth of 30m (98 feet). That’s essentially the reason why the Palm hasn’t floated off into the ocean.

To make sure that the complex shape of the island was being formed according to plan, designers and contractors used Differential Global Positioning Systems (DGPS) to plot the palm and ensure the sand placement was not off by more than 0.39 of an inch. And with the help of DGPS this whole feat was monitored from outer space.

But why was Dubai the chosen city for such a unique undertaking? According to scientists, the Arabian Gulf is perfect for this kind of construction because the shoreline does not not have enough width or depth for destructive waves to flow into the waters. Thus, it is easier to build and maintain islands on the Arabian gulf than by any other body of water.

In the early October 2007, the island had already become one of the largest in the world. By the end of 2008, 28 hotels were already opened on the Crescent. 

The total area of the archipelago is 5 by 5 km with a 300 metre bridge connecting the island to the mainland. There is a monorail of 5.4 km connecting the Atlantis Hotel to the Gateway Towers at the foot of the island. An extension of the Dubai Metro’s Red Line into the island is also being planned for the near future. 


With a level of design and engineering that can indeed be achieved nowhere else on the planet, the Palm Jumeirah has truly earned the title of ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’.