Bridges have been a crucial aspect of human civilization for thousands of years. From the initial primitive structures that resembled logs thrown over water, societies have come a long way in constructing truly impressive structures, such as the Dang Yang Kunshan viaduct, which holds the record for the world’s longest bridge in the Guinness Book of World Records. However, there are still some areas where bridges seem necessary yet remain absent, such as the Straits of Gibraltar connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.
The Straits of Gibraltar have always been an essential route for Mediterranean communication with the outside world, with about 200 large ships passing through them every day. They became even more important after the official opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, as it split Eurasia and Africa and allowed ships to travel from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean without having to sail around Africa. Despite the heavy ferry traffic between the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco and the potential benefits for tourism and the economy, a bridge connecting Europe and Africa has yet to be built.
The Challenges of Building a Bridge Across the Straits of Gibraltar
Building a bridge to connect Europe and Africa would only require a structure of about 9 miles in length, as the smallest distance across the straits is a bit over 8.5 miles. The concept of connecting the two continents dates back to the early 20th century when various bridge and other connecting projects were being developed, some of which were quite ambitious.
One such project was the Atlantropa proposed by German architect Herman Sorgel in the late 1920s. He aimed to connect Europe and Africa and make Africa’s climate more suitable for Europeans by building a hydroelectric dam that would close the Straits of Gibraltar and a second dam across the Dardanelles to stop water from flowing into the Mediterranean. Sorgel’s plan would have generated over 50% of the US’s Nuclear energy today, providing electricity and fresh water to the surrounding regions and transforming Europe and Africa into a single interconnected world. Despite being supported by some big manufacturers, the necessary funds were never found, and the project died with Sorgel in 1952.
More recent proposals for connecting the two continents have been more realistic, with suggestions for various bridges and underground tunnels. However, the technical and financial challenges of such a project make it a daunting task, and no substantial progress has been made in this direction yet.
The Straits of Gibraltar continue to serve as a vital route for Mediterranean communication with the rest of the world, and the idea of connecting Europe and Africa through a bridge has been a topic of interest for over a century. From the ambitious and utopian proposals of the early 20th century to the more realistic and practical plans of recent times, the challenges of constructing a bridge across the straits remain significant. Despite this, the potential benefits for tourism and the economy, as well as the engineering and technological advancements of our times, make it a topic worth exploring in the future.