The first island was completed in late '03 after two years of work. Engineers mapped the island's shape via GPS surveys accurate to 2 centimeters. Seven dredgers, 20 miles out to sea, each filled a 5,200-to-22,000-cubic-yard hopper every hour. The hoppers in turn deposited more than 2 billion cubic feet of sand in the appointed areas. "We had to start before there was any protection from the breakwater," says Mark Lindo, engineering manager for the Dutch marine contracting firm Van Oord ACZ, "so we built it 13 feet below sea level." When 9 million tons of rock in 5-ton chunks finally sheltered the palm, Lindo raised it to its final height of 13 feet above sea level.