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 liquify it for use. It's hard to describe Prelude because it's so much bigger than any other floating structure humans have ever built—which is also what makes it difficult to photograph.

In an amazing story in The New York Times Magazine yesterday, photographer Stephen Mallon managed 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 and is made from more steel than the World Trade Center. Lucky for us, Mallon has uploaded his enormous composite photo to Photosynth, so you can check it out for yourself.

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]

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Lead image: AP Photo/Shell International.