No one knows quite what to call the Prelude, the floating behemoth that Shell engineered to extract natural gas from below the ocean floor and liquefy it for use. It's hard to describe Prelude because it's so much bigger and more complex than anything else humans have ever built—which is also what makes it difficult to photograph.
In an amazing story in The New York Times Magazine today, photographer Stephen Mallon manages to capture the entirety of Prelude thanks to a crane he used to shoot (and combine) more than 1,000 separate photos of the vessel, which is still under construction. Lucky for us, Mallon has uploaded his enormous composite photo to Photosynth—check it out:
Here's how Robert Sullivan describes the scale of the giant:
More than 530 yards long and 80 yards wide, it was constructed with 260,000 metric tons of steel, more than was used in the entire original World Trade Center complex, and it's expected to displace 600,000 metric tons of water, or as much as six aircraft carriers. Even the paint job is huge: Most big vessels dry-dock every five years for a new coat, but Prelude's paint is supposed to last 25 years.
If Prelude seems like a class of vessel unto itself, never to be replicated, you'd be wrong. As we reported earlier this year, at least 30 other city-sized ships just like it are currently being planned by other companies. [The New York Times Magazine]
Lead image: AP Photo/Shell International.