Saturday, June 07, 2008

Connecting Asia to Europe

Istanbul is located at Europe and Asia, the only city in the world that straddles two continents. An international team of engineers began the Marmaray Tunnel Project in the spring of 2004. This is a 3 billion dollar rail system that ties in 47 miles of commuter line with existing networks.

The main part of the project is a 1.2 mile tunnel that is being forged under the Bosporus Strait. Engineers discovered the remains of a Roman built harbor dating back to the 4th Century A.D. in Yenikaupa two miles away from the tunnel site in 2005.

This project involves a team of 750 people and thousands of artifacts. The discovery of the Roman harbor remains was a thrill to archaeologists. However, it has derailed the engineers bringing the project to a halt.

There are several theories as to the reason for the burial of the ancient Roman harbor. One theory is that it is merely covered in 700 years of river silt. The theory receiving more attention is that the covering of the harbor was due to a catastrophic natural disaster. Supporting this theory is the belief that the 15 ships discovered are thought to have sunk at the same time. The cause is believed to have been a tsunami resulting from an earth quake under the sea.

The idea that this area was so dramatically effected by a tsunami, and that it is located so closely to a fault line, has caused the engineers to rethink safety precautions. It is considered unlikely that the submerged tunnel would be effected by a tsunami, however there is concern about the seaside stations. They are being placed 15 feet above sea level and equipped with attached flood gates that operate automatically. History continues to inform engineers on crucial decisions involving this project.

Please visit National Geographic Explorer to view a video on this topic. For a blast from the past watch the video for Istanbul (not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants.

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