The merely superrich buy land. The ultrarich make their own, using special ships called trailing suction hopper dredgers. These leviathans can hoover up to 835,000 cubic feet of sand per hour from the ocean floor and spit it out in a new location with the precision of an engineer. The vessels were originally designed to dredge waterways and repair storm-damaged coastlines. But the Rotterdam, owned by Dutch dredging firm Van Oord, is “rainbowing” sand into the Persian Gulf off the coast of Dubai to help build The World, an artificial archipelago of privately owned islands that will eventually resemble a map of Earth. Next up: Van Oord will terraform Palm Deira, another island destination for Dubai’s elite. “Instead of buying half of Manhattan or London, they’ve decided to invest in their own country,” says Bert Groothuizen, Van Oord’s marketing and PR manager. When it’s finished, Palm Deira will cover 57 square miles – requiring a cool 35 billion cubic feet of sand. The cost: $3.2 billion. But check out the location!
WIRED, October 2006