Thursday, May 13, 2010

'1835 + 1'

Audrey

Yesterday, May 12th, was an exciting and extremely busy day loaded with information and sights. Beginning at 8:30am and ending at 21:00pm, the day allowed us to see and experience many of the dutch engineering designs attempting to keep the noordzee from flooding the area of zeeland, known as the "delta project". The first stop, a watch tower with many stairs, was an overlook of a lock designed to keep the salty water of the estuary Oosterschelde out of a a body of fresh water while still allowing boats to pass through. 
The tower, seen in the above photographs both on a map and as it looks in person, gives an overhead view of the lock below. The boats enter the lock and the salt water is blocked off (as demonstrated in the figure above). Fresh water is then added to the lock and, due to density differences, the salt water settles to the bottom. Once the salt water is at a low enough level to limit its diffusion into the fresh water, the lock is opened and the boat can continue into the fresh water while allowing very little salt water to enter with it. Although amazing, this is just the beginning of some of the most spectacular and beautiful engineering work ever done.

After viewing the lock, and freezing, we headed to the Watersnoodmuseum. Here, the disaster of February 1st, 1953 was memorialized demonstrating the reason behind the Delta Project and enlightening the visitor to the importance of further protecting the coast of the Netherlands from potential storm surge. The museum is constructed inside four caissons (the first seen in picture 2) placed in the area to plug holes that had formed in the dykes causing the monumental flood that caused the Dutch to focus a great deal of money and time ensuring that their people were safe from storm surges.

 Once we arrived to the museum, we were greeted with coffee (image 1), which is something that we have come to value and expect from our visits to different areas in the Dutch culture. It is a tradition that I am pretty sure we are all very happy exists. The first caisson contains images, maps and an overall conceptual view of how devastating the flood was to those living in the area. After moving into the second caisson, we were confronted with a very moving and honest form of art implanted to give the visitor a glimpse into the lives of the 1835+1 people (the +1 being a baby who had not yet been registered prior to death) who died as a result of the 1953 flood. Here, the names of the victims are seen floating underneath of a small platform (image 3). The visitor can then place their hand on the box to the right of the platform (image 4) and speak the name of one of those lost in the flooding. The lights would then dim and, in a very moving manner, a voice would read a brief biography provided to the museum from a friend or loved one. I thought that this was a tremendously artistic way to memorialize those lost in the flood and, although the words were in Dutch and I could not understand, I left feeling like I understood what was lost and the emotional impact that it must have had on all those who lived here at that time. In the third caisson, images of rebuilding the country after the flood were planted in the viewers mind. All of the help given to the Netherlands from other countries was reported and the concepts of dyke, house and city repair were staged. Entering into the fourth caisson, the museum visitor entered the future of the Netherlands and their quest to live with the water that surrounds them. At the entrance of the caisson is an image of two children playing in the water (image 5). Upon closer inspection, it is seen that the larger picture is made up of smaller pictures taken of the consequences of the flood. I thought that this museum was an important addition to our tour. Although up to this point we had heard a lot about the 1953 flood, it was difficult to get an impactful view of what was lost and how difficult and scary the ordeal must have been. After seeing this, the force and effort that was put on the Delta project was well understood. I also felt that this was a very smart use of the caissons.


Once we left the museum we stopped to see the dykes that were currently being repaired in the area. 
By utilizing several different layers and materials, the dykes are water proof, strong, high enough to block storm surges and contain material that will promote plant growth in areas where plants were destroyed for the renovation. 


After leaving the dykes we headed over to the Oosterschelde storm surge barrier (top left). This impressive, massive engineering masterpiece acts as a bridge most days of the year. However, if the water level ever reaches the lower red line painted on the side of the barrier (top right), a height of 3.0M + Normal Amsterdam Peil (NAP), the large barriers (bottom left) will be automatically lowered into the water preventing the storm surge from flooding the estuary and the land. Also indicated on the barrier is the level of the water during the 1953 flood (top right image, top red line) which was marked at a height of 4.2M + NAP. This demonstrates that the water level will not be allowed to reach the same height as it did when the storm of 1953 killed so many people. In addition to simply seeing the barrier, we also were permitted into a museum that has been built within the barrier just below the road. Here, we were able to see models of the building equipment that was used to lay the tremendously heavy and robust foundation of the barrier. We were also able to view the hydraulics that lower and raise the gates of the barrier. Once we left the museum, the real wind started as we climbed to a platform near to the top of the barrier.
I found the opportunity to see the storm surge barrier to be very valuable and was, yet again, impressed with the Engineering ability and design observed throughout the Netherlands.

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