At more than two millennia old, and over 21,000km long, the Great Wall of China is surely one of the greatest structures ever made by man. Though at only 10m wide and being the same colour as the surrounding soil, it is of course a myth that it can be seen from space.
The Hull-Rust-Mahoning Mine
The largest open-pit Iron mine in the world can be found in Hibbing, Minnesota. Its five miles long, two miles wide and is said to look like a vast man-made grand canyon.
On 1st march 1954, the largest American nuclear device ever tested—codenamed Castle Bravo—was detonated at Bikini Atoll. A crater 2000m across is all that remains.
The Bingham Canyon Mine
Descending 1.2km, the deepest open mine in the world earns its place in this list. It’s said that if it were a sports stadium, it would seat 9 million people!
Brazil Forest Fragments Project
One of the largest and most expensive biology experiments ever created, the idea is to understand what happens to patches of rainforest when the area around them is logged. The only way to really appreciate the scale of this project is from a plane.
Betsiboka Estuary, Madagascar
In few places are the consequences of deforestation more staggering than in Madagascar. Viewed from space, the rich red soil looks like it’s bleeding from a wounded country.
Roman Deforestation, Europe
Few manmade changes have been so thorough that we’ve actually forgotten what the natural world looked like before. Yet the expansion of the Roman Empire and its demand for natural resources did exactly this, as it led to vast deforestation across Europe. Many habitats that we now cherish such as the iconic Scottish Highlands are largely a result of these historic manmade changes.
Three Gorges Dam, China
Built across the Yangtze river and completed in 2008, the dam was a mammoth undertaking, but it is dwarfed by the vast artificial lake that is formed behind it. At 660km long, it holds 39.3 cubic kilometres of water.
Aral Sea, Kazakhstan
It takes a lot to drain one of the largest lakes in the world, but that’s exactly what Soviet irrigation policy managed to do in the 1970s. Currently less than 10% of its original size, this is truly a mammoth human powered change.
This quiet spot in Louisiana was once a non-descript 3m freshwater deep lake. That was until a drilling operation punctured a salt mine beneath causing the largest manmade whirlpool in history. The water dissolved the salt, and now Peigneur has become a 400m deep saltwater lake.
For centuries explorers and pioneers saw the natural world as inexhaustible. From fish stocks to forests, it was thought that no human activity could possibly impact nature on any significant scale. Unfortunately, we now know this is wrong. We can, and have, made vast changes to our world. Here is just a taste of what mankind is capable of.