Friday, 10 June 2011

Visitng Zeeland II: The Oosterscheldekering or Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier

(Si prefieres leer este post en español, sigue este enlace)
The piers and slides of the Eastern Scheldt barrier in the province of Zeeland.

With the official inauguration of the storm surge barrier in the Oosterschelde (the Eastern Scheldt river) on 4 October 1986, Queen Beatrix declared the Delta Plan works in the Netherlands completed. More than ten years later she did that again when she opened the last section of the Nieuwe Waterweg Dam on 10 May 1997. It doesn't matter how many times it needs to be said; one thing is for sure: The Netherlands has definitely tamed the power of the sea - or at least, that is what we like to hear from those who have in their charge the management and the overseeing of the dikes and dams in this country.

With 60% of its territory under the sea level, the Netherlands is world renowned for its Delta works - a series of construction projects designed to protect a large area of the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta from the destructive power of the sea. Bearing these facts in mind when I moved to the Netherlands,  I thought that I had to pay a visit to the monumental sea barrier  and see for myself this ingenious work of engineering.

This is why the main purpose of our holiday in the southern province of Zeeland was to stop at the Oosterscheldekering or Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier - the most impressive storm surging structure in the Netherlands.

The Oosterschelde or Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier.
This is what the Oosterschelde Storm Surge Barrier looks like on Google Maps:

The construction of this sea barrier cost an impressive total amount of 2.5 billion euros; but even more impressive is what it is supposed to have achieved: thanks to this monumental barrier the chances of having a destructive flood like the one that the country suffered in 1953, have gone down to one in every ... 4.000 years!

Driving on the Oosterschelde barrier you can get a closer look at the piers and slides that make up the construction.

The alternative plans for the Oosterschelde: 
Initially, this section of the Eastern Scheldt delta was to be closed with a regular dam that would completely block the sea. But even though safety was the top priority, there were serious concerns about the consequences that this kind of barrier would have on the ecosystem of the delta. The alternative then, was to build a barrier consisting of piers with slides that were to be kept open, but which could be closed if there was any risk of flood.
The cost of executing this plan as it was originally intended would have been astronomical and therefore, after much discussion in Parliament, it was finally decided that the best alternative was to build two auxiliary dams (the Philips dam and the Oester dam) to reduce the surface of the open barrier and, at the same time, allow for a better control of the tidal movement. The new plan also included a tide-free shipping route between Antwerp and the Rhine.

Everything seem to be working properly when I "inspected" the Oosterschelde Storm Surge Barrier in 2008.

Nature in the Oosterschelde:
The sea/ landscape and wild life in the Oosterschelde is now quite unique with a rich variety of fish, water plants and algae. The reserve is also a favourite with an amazing number of birds that feed or hibernate on the land. All this wonderful natural environment would have been completely lost if the original plan to close the Eastern Scheldt had been carried out and also mussel and oyster farming would have been affected with disastrous economic conseequences for the entire region.
Fortunately, the alternative chosen for this amazing piece of engineering seems to have been a success; not only to keep the sea level under control, but also for the preservation of the natural habitat of hundreds of different species.

The Oosterschelde storm surge barrier is a must-see for anyone who wants to know what makes the Dutch people proud. Windmills, tulips, cheese and wooden shoes you can take back with you as souvenirs (you will find plenty of these at the Schiphol Duty Free shop and you can even order them online); but the water works and what they have done for the safety of the Dutch coast can only be truly appreciated in-situ. Open your eyes, take it in, enjoy ... and learn.

There is a fun way to get to know  more about the Delta Works and sea life in Zeeland: the Delta park Neeltje-Jan, built on an artificial island on the Oosterschelde offers exhibitions and educational activities together with fun attractions like a sealion theatre, a hurricane simulator and many, many more interesting things to do or see, making it is an ideal place to spend time with the children. On their website you can find all the information necessary to plan your visit.

A plaque placed at one of the ends of the barrier reads in Dutch:

"Hier gaan over het tij, de wind, de maan en wij."
(Here rule over the tide, the wind, the moon and us)

You may also like to read: The light breeze of Zeeland and Visiting Zeeland I: Middelburg.


Alison said...

What a wonderful post! The Dutch mastery of water and land truly is amazing and I love seeing both big elements like this and the smaller day-to-day bits you see when even a bit of road construction is done. I hope I get to visit this some day, although I might skip the hurricane simulator. Living in Florida, I was a bit too familiar with hurricanes! ;)

Ana said...

Impressive! Do you feel safer now? LOL! I really admire those feats of engineering.

Aledys Ver said...

Lol! I can imagine that you'd rather skip the hurricane simulator, indeed!

Aledys Ver said...

I do, actually!! You never know, of course - especially with the recent rather horrendous disasters that have hit different parts of the world... but I'm not planning on being around 4.000 years from now, so.... :D

Anonymous said...

The safety level of Holland (Noord and Zuid) is much higher than that of the other provinces. The dykes of Holland are supposed to withstand a once in 10.000 years storm

The reason for the difference is the pseudo scientific argument that the delta committee used to calculate the desired safety levels.
According to that committee to total cost of building and maintaining dykes and rebuilding after a flood should be a minimum.
At some point it is cheaper to rebuild than to prevent.
The committee recognized that when a flood happens there is not only loss of goods but also loss of life. But they didn’t dare to assign a value to a humans life. They just ignored it.

The economic value of Holland was (and is) much higher than that of the other coastal provinces, hence the higher safety level.

Aledys Ver said...

Thanks for your input! When you read and hear all about these monumental works of engineering, you don't quite know how accurate and how permanent or enduring they can actually be. Ultimately, I guess, once nature has to follow its course, there is no stopping it...
North and South Holland are the more densely populated provinces in the country, so it would make sense that more money and effort should be spent to make their coast safe.

BLOGitse said...

hahah - my turn to say I'm busy and I'll be back!!! Take care my friend!!!

Aledys Ver said...

But I *did* go back to your blog! hehe Couldn't resist the temptation.
No problem, I saw a photo of a bandaged arm in passing through your posts... so get well, please!

VagaMundos said...

Real great travel report. Zeeland has much to offer!

Aledys Ver said...

Thanks! You are right - there's much to see and do in Zeeland and sometimes tourists outside the NL are not aware of this province's beauty...

Buday said...

A story we read in elementary school (centuries ago!) told about the Dutch boy who plugged the leak in the dike with his finger and almost froze to death. It was of course in an illustrated storybook and for so long I had this romanticized image of the dikes in 'Holland' as being just a few feet tall and surrounding tiny picturesque villages. They never looked like these at all, heh.

Aledys Ver said...

@Hi Buday!
Yes, it's the story of Hans Brinker! I'll tell the story here one day. The story made reference to the old dikes so probably indeed, they looked different to this one!

BLOGitse said...

Do you explore Holland a lot?
I don't like sitting in a car, nor plane. That's why I'm very lazy traveller.
When I was a kid we used to drive and camping in Europe, Scandinavia.
At the weekend we met Finnish friends from Germany. We really should get up and go. It's so easy to travel in Europe...
When (month) are you planning to travel to Tuscany? for how long?
You need a car there - are you driving from Holland or renting in Italy?
How about visiting Helsinki this summer? They have special offers during the summer months.... :)

Aledys Ver said...

Yes, I take short day trips all over the country - here it is possible, since the country is so small! At the weekends we usually do that together with my husband.
We're planning to go to Tuscany (though it might also be Sicily...) for our spring vacation, around the end of April or beginning of May and the plan is to stay for 8 days, maybe 10. I guess the best thing would be to rent a car when we get to the airport. In Argentina we drive - last year did 1600 km just to get to our destination :D and there was practically nothing in between... but petrol there is much cheaper than here in Europe.
This summer we're already going to Greece - we'd have to leave Helsinki for summer 2012 or spring 2013, I'm afraid!

Katie said...

The Google Maps satellite view really allows you to appreciate the scale of this project. Impressive, indeed!

Like Buday, I thought of the story of Hans Brinker when I read your post. I would not want to be responsible for plugging a leak in this dam! haha

Alejandra said...

Hola Aledys!!!
tanto tiempo! cambiè el blog, para dedicarme un poco màs a la actualidad turistica, ya que ultimamente no viajo tanto, te invito a conocerlo, espero que te guste! saludos desde Buenos Aires!!!

BLOGitse said...

8 days...2 days in Florence, then you drive down and stay in a small house and make day trips to all those beautiful towns/cities and vineyards.
I can make a list for you if you like.
One place you should visit > Le Terme Val d'orcia
I'll make a post of it soon. You can sit outside and keep your feet in a "river" (very small) and the water makes your feet soft as baby's butt! :) I'll post pics of that too.

Maybe I or we'll come to Holland. What is your nearest airport? Don't worry. I'll call beforehand! :)

Anonymous said...

The Google Maps satellite view does NOT show the Oosterscheldekering. It shows the Brouwersdam.
The Oosterscheldekering is the next structure when going south.

Aledys Ver said...

It shows the Oostscheldekering, the island where the Neeltjes Jan is located and the dam on the other side as well :D