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What's the single largest man-made structure on Earth?

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478206.  Tue Jan 13, 2009 10:40 am Reply with quote

Well, a good debate has been started, hasn't it?
I think we need to get some definitions sorted out and agreed upon. 'Structure' is just too vague. The thing about a rubbish dump is that it is more or less solid, whereas buildings are more or less hollow, so their total volumes are not directly comparable. I think we have to exclude things like the internet, as there is no way of estimating its size (is there?). Similarly, roads can be excluded (if we wish to) on the grounds that they are too spread out - to paraphrase TBOGI a road is not a single cohesive structure.
If we would like to include mines and quarries in the debate, we could open up a separate category for them, but I imagine that details may be hard to find - depth may be easy enough, but volume may be difficult for mines. There may be some underground structures we will know very little about - such as nuclear bunkers in Colorado (?). I have no idea whether such a thing may be really negligible in comparison to a mine or quarry.

In answer to Daze Off's suggestion of the Great Wall of China, this has been considered by TBOGI and discounted, along with the Great Pyramid and the M-a-K Tower, Kuwait.

490148.  Tue Jan 27, 2009 6:42 am Reply with quote

Although the longest road may be 15,000 miles long, it's width and depth are very small in comparison.

Taking a mile as 1600m, a normal road is say, 6 metres wide (0.00375 miles) and the road build up would be, say 2 metres deep (0.00125 miles).

Therefore, the volume of the road is only about 0.10 cubic miles, which is probably substantially less than the volume of a quarry!

Norman Castle
702417.  Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:58 am Reply with quote


Seriously, the land is mostly a man made structure, and would quickly disappear into the sea without constant maintenance.
842009.  Tue Aug 30, 2011 4:10 am Reply with quote

[quote="Norman Castle"]Holland.[/quote]

There's no country called Holland since 1815. Dutch people are deutsch (national anthem, which is an acrostychon: "ben ik van duitsen bloed", I am of german blood), but the county is Nederland (Netherland), the language is "Nederlands", and it's the Koninkrijk der Nederlanden (Kingdom of the Netherlands, plurar). According to the Dutch, the people in Germany (Duitsland) do speak German (Duits).

If you'ld call the whole country Holland, as if Brussel means Brussel, Belgium, Europe and NATO members, anything below sealevel is "man made" would count, which isn't the whole country. The red line on this map roughly shows were the sea would be:

The largest single structure, land based, also isn't the Haarlemmermeer with Schiphol, as mentioned on the great show. I think the largest single structure in Netherland, and indeed perhaps the whole world, is Oostelijk Flevoland, one of the 6 parts of the man-made province Flevoland (former islands Urk and Schokland, Noordoostpolder, Oostelijk Flevoland and Zuidelijk Flevoland, Houtribdijk). Flevoland itself is part of the largest part, the Zuiderzeewerken, which includes a former sea. The Markerwaard may be bigger, or not. It was decided to not built that final part of the Zuiderzeewerken. This just covers Flevoland, in English:

The NAP Route is related to the sea level, the Zuiderzeeroute is related to the whole Zuiderzeewerken and has a length of about 415 kilometres (old version, the newer version is less strict regarding the borders).

The south(west)ern dike of Oostelijk Flevoland, the Knardijk, still exists but nowadays it's land locked between Oostelijk Flevoland and Zuidelijk Flevoland. Walking or by bicycle the whole length of the Knardijk can be travelled between the area near Harderwijk (on the "oude"/old land) and Lelystad on the new land.

Near my home town recently a new ditch was dug, still clearly showing the layer of shells on a former sandbank in the former Zuiderzee (Southern Sea). Finally the size of Oostelijk Flevoland is 540 square kilometres. The Trans American Highway, not a single structure, has to have an average width of app. 21 metres to beat that, if I'm right. But if that road is a single structure, the Nederlanders would like to enter its Zuiderzeewerken, which amongst many, many, many others created the IJsselmeer, Markermeer, proefpolder Andijk, Nijkerkernauw, Wolderwijd, Gooimeer, and so on.
842021.  Tue Aug 30, 2011 4:56 am Reply with quote

I'ld just want to add that the Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen, more aimed at the former Zuiderzee area, is a far better tourist attraction due to the number of activities than the Japanese-attracting, rather selfisch town of Volendam. English website:

As far as I know there's no English version of the Zuiderzeeroute books (bicycling, walking), but the books should include maps and there are GPS versions ( The Nieuw Land centre in Lelystad (named after Cornelis Lely) isn't that exciting, I think the kids want to visit the rebuilt ship Batavia and the wife'll want to shop in Batavia City. There are small museums/infocentres on Schokland and the Afsluitdijk. As far as I know there's no other single information centre dedicated to the new developments, i.e. the largest man-made structure. The area itself is quite boring or featureless, for one because it's hardly older than 50 years.

842310.  Tue Aug 30, 2011 8:25 pm Reply with quote

Thank you - that was actually not annoying at all but very interesting :-)
843046.  Fri Sep 02, 2011 7:05 am Reply with quote

Below is an image with rounded sizes, and age indication, regarding the Zuiderzeewerken. Oostelijk Flevoland is the largest piece of land. As such each distinguished green part (and dike mentioned) is a fair "single structure", albeit Zuidelijk Flevoland nowadays is truely connected to Oostelijk Flevoland:

Scale of the 12th province, Flevoland, compared to the rest of "Nederland":

I-themed, not to mention the IJsselmeer (the ij is a kind of 27th alfabet character, in the Health&Safety-episode mr. Fry pronounces the words "Bokito Kijker" quite correctly, including the ij) or the former islands (Wieringen, Urk, Schokland and perhaps Marken):

infrared images, The Sky At Night-modus:

It's not always that clear, but the new land often has a different color. It also shows the development in time, including Oostelijk Flevoland while just the dikes of Zuidelijk Flevoland existed (1964) and the dike Lelystad-Enkhuizen (Houtribdijk) didn't exist yet. The comments are in Dutch, but I think the first 1973-image demonstrates the color differences the best. It may even be seen from the moon, as an infrared dot that is. Most of the Dutch comments mention differences or developments, and explains why the pieces of land aren't that red, and so on.

Just to be complete, each piece of land in Flevoland became larger in time. The oldest Noordoostpolder has the smallest pieces of land, and Zuidelijk Flevoland has the biggest pieces of land. The bridge between Oostelijk Flevoland and the Noordoostpolder is the only direct connection between those parts, and it was build in 1970. The newest part, Zuidelijk Flevoland, has one of the biggest cities in the Netherlands, Almere, but Lelystad is the capital of the province Flevoland. It's flat, as far as I know this image shows about the highest natural point (lighthouse-area of the former island Urk) of the whole province Flevoland;

Dutch mountains... Not as impressive as the largest single man-made structure. The kids in the foreground have almost created a New Highest Mountain, the boy with the blue shuffle is just a few feet short of a record breaking heigth.

843081.  Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:46 am Reply with quote

Now then. The post above makes clear that there are basically no hills in Flevoland. Much as the Netherlands is known as a flat country, there are a few hills - and indeed a couple of those meet the traditional British definition of a mountain by exceeding one thousand feet.

But what is the highest mountain in the Netherlands?

843101.  Fri Sep 02, 2011 12:15 pm Reply with quote

I'm not falling for that one.
843242.  Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:07 am Reply with quote

I verified the highest natural point (iceage-origin, I'ld say) in Flevoland, indeed it's the former island Urk with - please make sure you're sitting down - 8 metres.

By the way, the volume of the man-made Flevoland structures isn't 0. There's man-made layers on top of the sea floor, and of course there are dikes. There are no hills indeed, as a matter of fact about the whole man-made surface has a negative natural height compared to the sea's level: it's a former sea floor. Minus 4'ish.

The highest hill in the Netherlands (Nederland) is the Vaalserberg, from the top of my head just over 320 metres. It's also where the Drielandenpunt is (threecountiespoint, where Dutchland (Germany), Netherland (Nederland, Holland, the Netherlands) and Belgium join. Slightly interesting detail: it used to be a fourcountriespoint, with the former, rather unknown country "Neutral Moresnet".

The highest mountain/hill in the Kingdom of the Netherlands (if that kingdomstatus still apllies) is perhaps Saba's Mount Scenery in the caribean.

Since this is General Ignorance, the other former island Schokland (Shockland), UNESCO World Heritage, had to be abandoned. Not because it became too dangerous due to the influence of the sea, but because the people had no means to live there anymore. People tend to assume the danger of the ever decreasing island, but that's not the reason the king had it evacuated.

By the way too, too bad it's not related to the UK, but if you did mean Saba in the (Kingdom of the) Netherlands then this was an excellent QI-question!

By the way three, I did just also mentioned Oostelijk Flevoland regarding the Holidays-episode, where mr. Fry said that, according to some people, the H-themed Haarlemmermeer is the largest (not single, per se) man-made structure in the world. It isn't, even the reclaimed Wieringermeer land in the very same province Noord-Holland is larger. About 200 square kilometres, compared to the 179 square kilometres of the Haarlemmermeer (Harlem's Lake). Oostelijk Flevoland is about 3 times larger than this Haarlemmermeer, so those quoted people were very, very, very wrong. The Wieringermeer is larger, Zuidelijk Flevoland is larger, the Noordoostpolder is larger, Oostelijk Flevoland is larger, and all of those competoitors are true single structures.

843246.  Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:48 am Reply with quote

Surely the biggest man-made structure has to be one of Bob Wilson's convoluted arguments?

843397.  Sun Sep 04, 2011 3:25 am Reply with quote has at least three errors on it (I stopped checking). What a surprise!

The subscript of the first photo mentions the North Sea to the left of the Afsluitdijk (Closing Dike), but unfortunately that's the wrong sea. Its name is the Wadden Sea.

The subscript of the second photo mentions "Cornelius Lely" instead of "Cornelis Lely".

It doesn't mention newer parts of the city of Almere (Almere Hout, Almere Poort).

Typical detail: the mentioned American Society of Civil Engineers selected 7 new wonders of the world. The Zuiderzee Works is the only one not related to their American continent nor an English-speaking country (the Channel Tunnel).

843475.  Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:56 am Reply with quote wrote:
By the way too, too bad it's not related to the UK, but if you did mean Saba in the (Kingdom of the) Netherlands then this was an excellent QI-question!

Thanks! Yes, I was looking for Mount Scenery on Saba as the correct answer and would have sounded the klaxon for the Vaalserberg.

After the Netherlands Antilles was abolished as an entity last October, Curaçao and Sint Maarten became separate countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, in the same way as Aruba has been since 1986. The other islands - Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba - became parts of the Netherlands proper, and just happen to be geographically isolated from the rest of the country.

This may have unintended consequences. For instance, welfare benefits in Saba are now identical to those in Amsterdam; those in Curaçao are rather less generous, since the cost of living is lower in the Caribbean than in north west Europe. It's too early to tell as yet, but some have predicted that this will lead to an influx of immigration from Curaçao and Sint Maarten to the smaller islands.

So not only is Mount Scenery the highest point within the Kingdom of the Netherlands - as it has always been - but it is now also the highest point of Nederland proper.
843831.  Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:34 am Reply with quote

[quote]too bad it's not related to the UK, but if you did mean Saba in the (Kingdom of the) Netherlands then this was an excellent QI-question![/quote]

For the record: assuming about nobody knows what the highest 2 mountains of Danmark are, a question like this could still work on tv using, for example, a simple map with colored areas. In the case of the Netherlands:

Question: if any natural hill above 73 metres is called a mountain, where is the highest mountain in the Netherlands (or Holland, no association with the Kingdom or lands)?

Show a map of the country Nederland, dvidend in - let's say 5 - colored areas. This map has no use at all, other than to promote wrong answers.

Forfeits: names (the south, Limburg, Zuid-Limburg, other areas with "mountains", Vaalserberg, close to Belgium/Germany/Aachen/Maastricht), color (if Limburg or the south is yellow: yellow), "Anything is lower than 74 metres", or "There are no mountains".

Right answers: areas (South America, Caribean, Saba), Mount Scenery, or black (background color of the map)

Then the host can explain why, in order to add the I to the Q.

I'm not suggesting this to be used as such, and I really don't want the Netherlands in the N series, and it ain't perfect, but it's a way to be able to use questions with answers that are hard to guess without specific knowledge. Show me a map of Rabadisthan, and I'm able to point to an area where I think its highest mountain may be, without having to know the name of that mountain.
844677.  Fri Sep 09, 2011 4:08 am Reply with quote

Ugly, boring point of view (date: 28-01-2011).

1st video @1:45, entering the Noordoostpolder (480 km2, #2)
2nd video @9:45, Oostelijk Flevoland (540 km2, #1)
3rd video @6:55, Zuidelijk Flevoland (430 km2, #3)
4th video @4:45, goodbye Flevoland, hello Noord-Holland (the former Holland, i.e. Jimmy Carrs wrong suggestion)

If there was a fifth video ("Deel 9"), it may show another wrong QI candidate, mentioned in relation to the biggest steam engine. The Haarlemmermeer with Schiphol Airport (179 km2, smaller than the Wieringermeer in the same province). But I'm quite sure the Haarlemmermeer used to be the biggest single structure indeed, at least until the first of the Zuiderzee Works were completed.

The comments are related to some landmarks, other roads and borders ("rechts", to the right). All elevations in view in Flevoland are eighter bridges or dikes. A counterclockwise version by bicycle, perhaps with a local guide pointing out landmarks, would be more interesting than those videos. For example, the IJsselmeer can just be seen when the car enters Oostelijk Flevoland via the A6 highway, but the comments don't mention it.

The position of the camera is fixed so you'll miss a view at Urk to the right of the Ketelbrug, with Urks natural hill of 25 feet. A German tv show may have been the inspiration for the videos, but you can tell the difference between the professionals and this amateur. The position of the sun is a clue, early in the morning. Nevertheless it's an impression of driving through the three largest man-made single structures in the world, and it seems to include a visit to a McDrive in the city of Almere.


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