The beach is no longer the frontier of human activity. The shallow subsurface in the North Sea, for example, is used by numerous industries (Figure 1). The North Sea seabed is the site of communication and electricity transfer cables; pipelines that transport hydrocarbons, water and waste; military exercises and munitions dumps; sand extraction (currently over 25 million m3/year); and platforms, windmills and other structures for extracting and harnessing energy sources. Some areas have been set aside for ecological and historical resource preservation, but most of the sea will become ‘busier’ and more crowded as existing offshore industrial activities expand and new uses are introduced. New uses of the North Sea may be geothermal energy production, artificial islands for airports and energy, a network of electricity interconnectors, CO2 storage, and harnessing tides to produce electricity. All these activities, even those associated with ships and floating structures, require structures that are based on and interact with the shallow subsurface: they all require ‘foundations.’


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