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Moving Heaven And Earth

Humans have been altering and optimizing the physical world around them since the dawn of time. From cave paintings to […]

Humans have been altering and optimizing the physical world around them since the dawn of time.

From cave paintings to canals to climate control, we have been leaving our mark on nature to create a more livable and optimized world.

The scale of our influence wasn’t fully realized until the industrial revolution picked up steam (pun very much intended)

and we had the technology, energy, and knowledge to expand our power to shape nature by a couple orders of magnitude.

You’re probably familiar with air conditioning, snow-making, and golf courses in the desert, but what about some of the larger feats of human engineering?

While the Sierra club might not agree that bigger is better when it comes to giving mother nature a nudge, it’s certainly much more interesting.

So let’s take a look at some of the more notable ways in which we have altered nature.

Bingham Canyon Mine

Aside from being visible from space, the Bingham Canyon mine is remarkable in how close it is to a relatively large metropolitan area.

While most large mining operations take place deep in the Alaskan Klondike, the jungles of South America, or the vast expanses of the American Southwest, the Bingham Canyon Mine is a scant 20 miles from downtown Salt Lake City (metro area pop: 1.15 million).

Past and Future

While ore was first extracted from Bingham Canyon in 1863, large scale mining operations didn’t begin until the early 20th century when Kennecott Copper purchased the mine.

Today Bingham Canyon isn’t so much a canyon as it is a massive hole in the ground.

Although a recent landslide has slowed mining operations significantly, the Bingham Canyon mine continues to produce copper, silver, gold, and molybdenum.

Covering 1,900 acres, this mammoth mine measures 2.5 miles across, and over .6 miles deep.

With plans for significant expansion in the future, the Bingham Canyon mine may be, in the wise words of Jimmy Buffett, “a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.”

Hoover Dam and Lake Mead

While the Hoover Dam certainly isn’t the world’s biggest dam by a dam sight, it has had a massive effect on America, namely supplying the endless suburb formerly known as the Mojave Desert with water and electricity.

Humans need a steady supply of water to keep our lawns green and our bodies alive, but recently we have had a bad habit of settling in areas with little to no water.

Some of the fastest growing areas in the nation like Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, and San Diego are also some of the driest.

History and Effects

This next statement is going to make my grandpa roll over in his grave, but thank goodness for the Great Depression.

While it might have been the worst economic crisis in history (don’t steal America’s thunder, Greece) it freed up thousands of young men to build giant concrete walls in the desert so retirees can have swimming pools and golf courses.

That might be a bit of an oversimplification, but the facts tell the real story:

The Hoover Dam was started in 1931 and finished five years later, today it controls floods and supplies power and water to millions of sun-loving people in the Southwest.

Lake Mead, the body of water behind the dam, is so large that it triggered earthquakes as it reached its peak height in 1936, and has shifted the Earth’s crust approximately 10 inches.

Krupp Bagger 288

The Bagger (German for Excavator) 288 is a custom-built excavator made by the German company Krupp for exposing coal seams in strip mines.

Looking like a chainsaw-wielding brontosaurus, this beast of a machine holds several size records and is commonly known as the largest piece of machinery on the planet.

The Bagger 288 is capable of excavating 240,000 tons of coal daily (the equivalent of a soccer field dug 98 feet deep) provided you supply the required 15.56 Megawatts of electricity required to run the behemoth.

The Numbers

Weighing in at 13,500 tons, the Bagger288 is surprisingly light on its feet with a top speed of 0.6 Km/h and a turning radius of 100 meters thanks to three rows of four twelve foot wide caterpillar track assemblies.

Though the Bagger 288 measures 721 feet long and 315 feet high, the rotary bucket system is what really draws the eye in.

Looking like a circular saw for a giant, the excavating head is a whopping 21.6m in diameter ringed with 18 buckets capable of holding 6.6 cubic meters apiece.

With a bill mandating a shutdown of all German coal operations by 2018, the Bagger 288 will have to find a new line of work here shortly: perhaps as a security guard or a monster in a horror movie.

Featured images:

License: Royalty Free or iStock


The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi. If you enjoyed this piece you can follow me on Twitter

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