Another holiday is coming up. Another book recommendation for the armchair dredger. Well, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, a lot of preparations in just too short a time. Probably too little time to read a book. That fits, today’s book under review is only partly interesting from a dredging perspective. It is about the reclamation of the Noordoostpolder. Moreover, it is written in Frisian. So, also only a selected part of the audience will be able to actually read it. Then, why recommend it anyway? Because it will give you a good anecdote at the dinner table, where you can proudly illustrate the ingenuity of us in the dredging industry.
First some introductory details about the Noordoostpolder3. A polder is reclaimed land by isolating it from the sea by a dike and pumping the water out4. It provides cheap land with relative little soil movement, only the dike. In the early twentieth century, the Netherlands needed lots of land for a rapidly expanding population, agriculture and industry. The first real big polder was the ‘Wieringermeerpolder’. And the ‘Noordoostpolder’ was the first real IJsselmeer polder, as it was started in 1936 after the closing of the ‘Afsluitdijk’. Work continued well into the second world war. And part of the book is about the interaction of the German army, the Dutch people and the resistance. Due to this storyline, the book is also, part fact, part fiction.
One fact in the book was right. In the polder, you would need canals for drainage, irrigation and transportation. And the easiest way is to dredge it. Although not a real historic account of the events, the book does contain pictures of the project. And in the picture above, you can see something special: a bucket ladder dredge with a pipe line! Normally a bucket ladder dredge5 would load barges, but the very shallow lake and the narrow canals were not facilitating easy handling of the barges. In these cases, they used some sort of soil pump. In the above picture it cannot be seen, but in the archives of my work, we have lots of pictures of them. Basically they are big boxes with jet nozzles and dredge pumps connected to a discharge line. The end of the discharge line could be positioned over the location of future roads and effectively deposit the foundation of the road.
Nowadays, you would probably use a barge and suspend a DOP in it6.
Unfortunately, the second world war intervened. Still, the German occupation brought the project to a conclusion. The story details about the contractor (‘Verhei’*) not willing to cooperate with the occupier after the project. So, he had his dredge (‘Holland’*) enclosed within the dike. There were locks in the dike, but the pontoon was too wide for the locks. This prevented the confiscation of the dredge. After the liberation, the dredge was still there, and everybody was laughing at the contractor, as his dredge was hemmed in the dike. It turned out , he outsmarted them all. He removed everything above the deck line and with two floating gantries he coaxed the pontoon through the locks on its side!
*Names are fictionalised by the author, but he states that the described events did really occur as described.
- En De Se Wie Net Maer, A.A. van der Werf
- Urkerland of Noordoostpolder, Emmeloord.info
- Polder, Wikipedia
- Noordoostpolder, Wikipedia
- Emmerbaggermolen, Wikipedia (Dutch)
- DOP Pump 350 with leveler head, Damen