Inside The World’s First Undersea Roundabout

Inside The World’s First Undersea Roundabout

Narrator – Fred Mills
Producer – Jaden Urbi
Video Editing and Graphics – Jim Casey
Executive Producers – Fred Mills and James Durkin

Our thanks to Visit Faroe Islands. Additional footage and images courtesy of Kringvarp Føroya, P/F Eystur- og Sandoyartunlar, Alexandar Vujadinovic, Rasmus Steintórsson Biskopstø and Niels Jóhan Sigurðsson.

Welcome to the Faroe Islands.
Well, I’m supposed to be there right now.
But I’m stuck here, at a hotel in Copenhagen.
That’s because all the flights to the Faroe Islands were cancelled because of the weather.
And I promise – this is actually really relevant to the underwater tunnels we’re going to
tell you about.
Now, when you think of the world’s most impressive tunnels the Faroe Islands might
not be what comes to mind.
But to connect 18 rugged bits of land formed from volcanic rock, they’ve had to get pretty
good at tunnelling.
Now they’re working on their biggest project yet.
This so-called “jellyfish roundabout” is a work of art in its own right.
It’s a critical piece of infrastructure that’s cut travel time between two of the
most populous islands from more than an hour to just 15 minutes.
Welcome to one of the world’s most impressive and remote construction projects.
Life here in the Faroes moves slowly.
But the weather moves quickly.
Some people say you can experience all four seasons in a single day.
That can make getting around a little difficult – or even impossible as we learned just
trying to get there.
The Faroe Islands sit just between Norway and Iceland in the North Sea.
They’re a self-governing nation that’s technically part of Denmark.
In all, its population of just over 50,000 people, and some 70,000 sheep, is spread out
across 17 habitable islands.
Up until relatively recently, the only way to travel between the islands was to take
a boat.
But the water out here can sometimes be a little bit rough.
Rolling waves aside, the journey itself can take up to half a day depending on when you
can catch the ferry, or if it’s even running.
In the 1970s a bridge was built connecting the two most populous islands, turning that
half-day journey into just a few minutes
But it was back in the 1960s, that the Faroe Islands began its tunnelling boom.
With a little help along the way from the Norwegians, the Faroese got really good at
digging tunnels.
In the last 60 years, they’ve built twenty through narrow fjords, steep mountains, hills
and the ocean.
Today, there are over 50 kilometres of road tunnels for just 53,000 people.
That’s more than 1 metre of tunnelling for every person who lives here.
Now, the Faroes is expanding its tunnelling system even further with two undersea tunnels.
It’s the biggest investment it’s ever made, with a combined price tag of nearly
USD $700M.
It’s just sort of surreal how it changes the geography and places that have always in,
in our minds been, been separated by uh, at least for 50 minutes, 45 minutes, all of a
sudden are separated by 10 minutes or less, which is strange and wonderful.
The Eysturoy tunnel opened in 2020, and runs for 11 kilometres to connect the islands of
Streymoy, where the capital city is located, and Eysturoy.
The second Sandoy tunnel is set to open in 2023, connecting the sparsely populated villages
of Sandoy with the wider infrastructure network in Streymoy
The Eysturoyar tunnel will shorten the distance for a big part of the population who have
to commute to the capital to work, out where all the public services are, hospital and
everything else.
Yeah.
And all of the a lot of the export from the Faroe Islands go to and from Torshavn the
capital.
So investments like this are very important for the Faroe Islands, for how you can arrange
and have an efficient society.
Teitur is leading the construction of the latest undersea tunnels, which are part of
a slow transition in how people get around here.
Rather than driving cars onto ferries, now they can simply drive under the water.
The Eysturoy tunnel connects more villages with the mainland and the islands’ main
infrastructure.
Travel times to the capital are reduced from more than an hour to mere minutes – and adding
in some epic construction makes an already stunning drive even more breathtaking.
The tunnel itself is the second longest in the world that you can drive through – and
they’ve spared no detail.
On the 8 minute drive beneath the sea, you can listen to a radio station specially programmed
to enhance your experience.
And of course, there’s the roundabout. 72 metres below the surface you’ll find this
giant pillar of colourful rock that looks almost like a jellyfish.
The deepest part of the tunnel sits 187 metres below the water’s surface.
The team used a drill and blast method to excavate the area.
Essentially, a hole is drilled into the rock below the water, explosives are dropped into
the hole and then the rubble is cleared out.
So when we are drilling the project, there are around 140 people or something like that
connected to the project, but not everybody are working at the same time.
The project is running 24 hours, which means that there are eight drilling teams, one in
each site, and then two are sleeping and four are off.
To make sure no water gets into the tunnel, the rock is sprayed with concrete to create
a solid lining.
There’s also a system of gates, pumps and pipes that lead any rain or surface water
away from the cars before pumping it back out into the nearby fjord.
In all, construction of the 10.5 kilometre tunnel took four years to complete – that’s
nothing compared to some projects in cities like New York and London which can take far
longer.
Of course, there are far less people living above a tunnelling site in the Faroes, but
there are some lessons to be learned in how to build tunnels quickly and efficiently.
We are a small country, a small society where decisions can be taken quite quickly.
and then we are.
Yeah.
That’s one reason why we can do projects like this.
And also that we have good experience doing tunnels we are using or building tunnels based
on Norwegian standards and Norwegian technology.
The Eysturoy tunnel is expected to carry thousands of vehicles everyday – and it’ll cost
a pretty penny, at about USD $25 or $10 with an annual pass, but that roll revenue will
be used to cover the cost of construction, maintenance and future tunnel projects.
The second tunnel on the other hand is expected to carry just 310 vehicles a day across 22
kilometres, making it the longest car traffic subsea tunnel in the world.
That comes with a price tag of nearly USD $500M.
It’s a huge investment per capita – substantially more than other European tunnel projects.
But this isn’t a densely populated nation, and it’s going to make a huge difference
for the people it does benefit.
Right now, you have to take a ferry to get from Sandoy to the mainland.
The new underwater tunnel will make a 64 minute commute just 16 minutes by car.
For the people in Sandoy, which has seen population decline over the last well, since the eighties,
I think, um, it, it means that the rest of the country cares about them or listens to
their wishes.
It’s a part of the whole seeing the country as one small unit and connecting it as one
small unit.
It’s a big honour to work on a project like this.
And it’s also a very big responsibility because it is an investment of around €7,500 per
inhabitant in the Faroe Islands.
So if you compare it to the annual other country, it’s an unbelievable big project.
It’s worth noting that I am not the first good-looking British man not to make it.
The islands feature in the James Bond film No Time To Die … but Daniel Craig was never
on the actual islands due to a “logistical challenge”.
For a quiet nation of just 50,000, the Faroe Islands are investing a lot of time, money
and skills into its infrastructure – and it’s paying off.
These new tunnels can literally make the difference between getting to work, seeing family or
even reaching a hospital or being stuck on the other side of stormy waters.
With a further two new tunnels now in the works, and another 14 on the drawing board,
the Faroes tunnelling boom isn’t slowing down anytime soon.
I hope you enjoyed watching this video guys, I haven’t enjoyed making it.
So if you can give it some views, share it to your friends and at least subscribe to
The B1M, I’d really appreciate it.
Hopefully one day soon we will bring you a video on the ground from the Faroe Islands.

 

 

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