When you see a massive tower or a huge oil platform built in the middle of the ocean, it's natural to be a little bit amazed. Such extreme structures require extreme building methods. More than that, they require cranes that seem almost as unlikely as the structures themselves.

These are some of the amazing cranes that build the impossible structures we take for granted. Some are unique because of where they operate while others stand out because of their sheer power and capacity.

Tower Cranes

Tower cranes are the long-beam cranes that are often seen atop tall buildings in the city. These cranes must solve two major logistical problems. The first is the problem of moving heavy steel equipment to the top of a skyscraper. The second is how to move the crane itself up to where it's needed.

That's what makes the Liebherr Type 357 HC-L so special. Built to help in the construction of Kingdom Tower--a skyscraper planned to reach over one kilometer in height--the Type 357 can actually "crawl" up any of the tower's 65 elevator shafts. Then, it can raise 18 tons of material to any height on the building from ground level at a speed of 44 meters per minute.


When the construction issue isn't height so much as it is weight, supercranes are the answer. Typical heavy-duty cranes can lift a lot of weight, but concrete construction is sometimes more than a normal crane can handle. For large bridges and nuclear reactors, supercranes are required to get the job done.

While a typical crane can sometimes lift up to 500 tons, supercranes can lift ten times that amount. In fact, the aptly-named Bigge 1250 AFRD is designed to lift approximately 7,500 tons. Just for purposes of scale, that equals 15 million pounds. Apparently, nuclear power plant construction can get quite heavy!

Crane Vessels

Sometimes, a crane placed on a boat simply isn't powerful enough. For those situations, engineers have developed something stronger--a crane that actually is a boat. These crane vessels are able to be piloted like ocean-going ships to assist in the building of wind farms and oil platforms at various locations out at sea.

One of the world's largest crane vessels is called Rambiz and was designed to assist with installing concrete for bridges in Portugal. Basically, Rambiz is a crane on top of two large pontoons which allow it to be positioned anywhere on a river or lake. However, Rambiz is small potatoes when compared to it's companion Thialf, which has a capacity of over 14,200 tons.

Space Cranes

Arguably the most extreme of all cranes, space cranes are made to help with delicate space-based projects. There isn't an environment less construction-friendly than the vacuum of space. However, the most improbable space crane of all wasn't used for building anything at all. It merely assisted in a routine spacecraft landing--on another planet.

The Mars rover Curiosity made contact with the Martian surface on August 6, 2012. It couldn't have done so without the help of a highly-specialized crane. This sky crane was launched with the rover to serve the purpose of lowering the rover gently to the planet's surface. Using rocket boosters, the crane slowed the descent of Curiosity while it lowered the apparatus at a speed of 1.7 miles per hour. 

Modern crane rentals have developed to handle just about any job imaginable. Whether the job requires extreme lifting power or capacity under extreme circumstances, someone has likely developed a crane that meets those specifications. In the unlikely event that there isn't a suitable crane at this point in time, someone is likely designing one right now!