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Modern engineering marvels

Mankind has come up with some amazing and awe-inspiring engineering achievements. Many of these spark the human impulse for travelling, to see them in person and create lasting memories of such magnificence.

From ancient wonders such as the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza to more modern feats, such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the world abounds with these grand edifices. And if you haven’t been already, any one of them would make a memorable holiday destination this year!

The Flexicover Team takes a look at a few of the marvels built in the 20th and 21st centuries.

Hoover Dam; Arizona/Nevada, United States

The Hoover Dam is located 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas and was originally called the Boulder Dam, before a name change to honour Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of USA. And at the time of its construction, between 1931 and 1935, this 221m high concrete arch was the most expensive engineering project in American history, costing $49 million (approximately $700 million today). It's a gravity dam, which means that its foundations rely entirely on gravity to keep the structure from collapsing. It contains enough concrete to build a 1.2m wide path around the Earth at the Equator. The dam draws some 7 million tourists a year and a further 10 million visit Lake Mead - the largest man-made lake in the Western Hemisphere – for boating, sailing, fishing and other recreations.

Burj Khalifa; Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The magnificent centrepiece of downtown Dubai stands at a massive 828m, making it both the tallest building and the tallest free-standing structure in the world. Due to the gargantuan size of the project, engineers faced multiple challenges – not least the strong winds that would batter the tower. As a result over 40 wind tunnel tests were conducted, not just to determine how the wind would affect the building but also to test the cranes used to construct it. Construction began on the mammoth skyscraper in 2004 with its doors opening six years later on 4th January 2010. The 163-floor building features the ‘At The Top’ observation deck on the 124th floor and Atmosphere restaurant just two floors below with residential apartments, hotel rooms and office space taking up the rest of the building. The Burj Khalifa was the platform for igniting the largest firework display in the world on New Year’s Eve last month.

Large Hadron Collider; Switzerland and France

It seems a little ironic that to study the smallest bits of matter you need to construct one of the biggest machines in the world, but that’s precisely what the physicists and engineers at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) have done in their efforts to understand the fundamental structure of the universe. Under the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva, the 17-mile long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is used to smash atomic particles into each other at speeds approaching the speed of light. These ultra-high energy collisions release many exotic particles, most notably the ‘famous’ Higgs Boson is believed to have been detected as part of the experiment. Whilst it’s not possible for the general public to get up close and personal with the LHC, CERN do offer guided tours of the facility but don’t forget your passport as some of the tours will entail crossing the border.

Qinghai-Tibet Railway; China

Running 1,215 miles from Xining in Qinghai Province to Lhasa in Tibet, this railroad has its highest point in the Tanggula Pass, some 5,000m above sea level. As you’d imagine, at such elevation the air is a little thinner so the trains have oxygen regulation systems, emergency oxygen supply for each passenger and a doctor on-board. Building the world’s highest railway was never going to be easy, but Chinese engineers gave it a go anyway; the main problem they encountered was how to build on permafrost. To combat this the track was elevated so air is allowed to circulate under the track, which is mounted on columns driven deep enough to hit stable earth. This allows passengers to enjoy the stunning scenery during a journey featuring desert landscape, snow-capped mountains, goats and yaks grazing and the “heavenly” waters of Lake Nam!

Channel Tunnel; United Kingdom and France

The idea of linking England to France was first proposed in 1802 by French engineer Albert Mathieu who wanted horse-drawn carriages to use an underground highway. But it wasn’t until the 1980s that the two governments approved moving forward with plans for an international link. Ideas included a suspension bridge, a drive-through tunnel and a high-speed rail link. In 1988 the rail idea was approved and work began on what was at the time the most expensive construction project ever proposed. The cost finally came in at £9 billion. The 31.4 mile undersea tunnel linking Folkestone with Coquelles (near Calais) finally opened on 6th May 1994. Nowadays, the tunnel carries high-speed Eurostar passenger trains and Eurotunnel Shuttle roll-on/roll-off vehicle transport as well as international freight trains. The journey time is around 35 minutes and in just over two hours you can be in the sparkling metropolis of Paris! 2013 saw the service pass the 10 million passenger mark for the first time in its history, albeit some 15 years later then originally forecast!

Wherever you decide to travel and whatever you chose to see, at Flexicover we are committed to providing you the highest level of protection to ensure that you are safe and secure, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year when away.