Memorable Moments of the Bucket Ladder Dredge ‘Karimata’

Model of the tin bucket ladder dredge ‘Karimata’ in the National Dredging Museum

This weekend, I took my family out for a day at the National Dredging Museum. A great place to experience the history, the physics, the industry and the interesting stories from the people who made the Netherlands the great dredging nation of today. As museums go, they also have a lot of models of old, new and important dredging equipment. One particular model had my interest: the tin bucket ladder dredge ‘Karimata’ form the mining company Biliton.

This particular model used to be part of the collection of the Delft University of Technology. It was standing in the hall between the dredging laboratory, where we received our lectures from professor ‘de Koning’ and the coffee room where we drank hot chocolate in the coffee break. Passing this exhibit, sometimes he would pause and tell an interesting story, or explain how nice the specific kinematics of a bucket ladder dredge is able to cut cohesive clay, or remind us of the difficulty of keeping the ladder correctly oriented in the bank. During a rationalisation of the available floor area and the ‘required educational space’, the model moved to museum.1

Professor de Koning (Credit: CEDA)

The ‘Karimata’ was designed as a floating mining factory. The front side of the dredge was the normal bucket ladder dredge to remove the tin containing sediment or overburden from the mining pit. Usually the dredge started at the shoreline, creating its own pool. Overburden and tailings were discharged behind the dredge through those long chutes at the back. Valuable ore was separated in the refinery at the second half of the pontoon. Cyclones and jigs densified the ore2 and removed the tailings. Eventually, the ore could be loaded on barges alongside the dredge.

Picture of the ‘Karimata’ (Credit: Nationaal Baggermuseum)

Before the ‘Karimata’ was transported to the customer, the dredge had to be commissioned and tested. Normally, such an operation is usually done in a well-defined environment like the ‘Haringvliet’ or ‘Hollands Diep’. This time, however, a more challenging job was proposed. In 1799, the ‘HMS Lutine’ was sailing north of Terschelling. The ship was used for an enormous gold transport in bullion and coins. Unfortunately, the severe storm sank the vessel and only one crew member survived. The gold treasure was still there. Over time, several attempts were made to recover the gold. In 1938, most of it was still not recovered3. The ‘Karimata’ was set on a mission to recover the rest. Eventually, the commissioning was successful4, but only one bar of gold was found and the endeavour was called off. ‘Karimata’ was sent to her customer and used until her end5 in 1953.

And the remaining treasure of ‘HMS Lutine’? Well I think, the villains in the adventure comic of ‘Captain Rob and the Seven Star Stones’ seized it and none is left.

Captain Rob and the Seven Star Stones (Credit: Erven J.P. Kuhn)

These bucket ladder dredges were successfully used to mine and process tin. Even in the seventies(?) several of these vessels were ordered by a Malaysian company. During a visit in 1995, they were still operating there in a tin mining pit. For the commissioning of those dredges, a consultant was hired to perform some specific measurements on the vessel. As a token of gratitude, he received a big poster of the dredge. After cleaning out his office at his retirement, I received this poster and it has decorated my office ever since.

Poster of an unknown Malaysian tin bucket ladder dredge

References

  1. Deed of donation, National Dredging Museum
  2. The problem of jigging tin ore, Ports and Dredging nr.47
  3. HMS Lutine
  4. Strain Measurements on Gold-Seeking Tin Dredge Established Basis for Scientific Solution of Dredging Problems, Ports and Dredging nr.10
  5. E.B. 22 Karimata, DredgePoint

See also

The Ancient History of the Cutter Suction Dredge ‘10th of Ramadan’

Cutter Suction Dredge ‘10th of Ramadan’

Last week I was away to Egypt. I have some emotional ties with Egypt. It took me the better part of seven years, to deliver the cutter suction dredge ‘10th of Ramadan’1, to the Suez Canal Authority. This all started from the qualification tender, building it at the Port Side Shipyard in cooperation with DTC, eventually all the way through the guarantee period. At a certain moment, I was so occupied with this dredge, I even prepared a paper model of the vessel in my own spare time.

Presentation of the paper model of ‘10th of Ramadan’

This nerdy pastime served a practical purpose. The specifications of the construction and the requirements for the installed equipment, were very complicated and it helped me to understand the problems in the hull construction before they arose in reality. The environment of the Suez Canal demands some specific requirements concerning tank and space division. Furthermore, the SCA is very aware of the capabilities of the crew and demands corresponding considerations on equipment and systems. To fit this all in the prescribed box, was quite a puzzle. The normal operational environment of the dredge is maintenance on the shallow shelves of the Suez Canal.

Example cross section of the Suez Canal

The maximum box size, that made the design so tricky was determined by a certain lock to access the irrigation system along the Suez Canal. On the west side of the canal, water from the River Nile is diverted to the fertile land over there. Already in ancient Egypt, this was a much treasured area. Joseph gave this area than called Land of Goshen to his family to live there2. Senausert III, Pharaoh of Egypt (1874 B.C.) also saw the potential of this area and used it to established a connection, between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea by linking branches of the Nile to the Bitter Lakes3. Subsequent kings renovated and expanded the canal, that eventually became known as the ‘Canal of the Pharaos’4. Unlike the international importance of the current Suez Canal, the Canal of the Pharaos was mainly used for local transport of produce of the irrigated land and construction stones from quarries on the Red Sea coast to the monuments along the Nile.

Canal of the Pharaos (Credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, the ancient Egyptians might be called the inventors of dredging canals for transportation, preceding the Chinese by about 1000 years5. Parts of the canal are still there. They are now incorporated into the irrigation system, that the Suez Canal Authority has to maintain, next to the big Suez Canal. In a way, I feel honoured, that the dredge that was once only a figment of my imagination and became a reality, will one day keep this ancient piece of Egyptian history alive and preserve it for future generations. Well, that may be a bit presumptuous, but I still feel proud over this dredge and have fond memories of the people from the Suez Canal Authority I have worked with.

OK, I may have pestered my colleagues so much with my stories about Egypt and my little dredge, they even prepared a cover for a book for me to write about it on my work anniversary.

Cover page ‘Mark Winkelman as Egyptian’ (Artwork: Gert Kraaij)

References

  1. ‘10th of Ramadan’, DredgePoint.org
  2. Genesis 45:10
  3. Canal History, Suez Canal Authority
  4. Canal of the Pharaos, Wikipedia
  5. History of Canals in China, Wikipedia

See also

What Dutch Dikes are Really Made of

Placing protecting basalt blocks on a dike by a stone setter (Credit: van den Herik-Sliedrecht)

The Netherlands coastline is, to a great extent, defined by unnatural sharp lines: dikes. Even when you zoom into a more human scale, the dikes are decorated by geometric patterns: hexagons. Just like the dikes are not a natural component in the environment, the hexagons are an invasive specie: basalt blocks imported from more rocky countries, as Germany, England and Norway. They are carefully placed by hand to protect these structure from waves and tides. This armoured lining is usually the final stage of a dredging project: protecting what just has been constructed.

My personal experience with these blocks, is that we used to play with them, when we were just little boys. We sailed to the newly constructed Pampushaven, where there was a stockpile of these basalt blocks leftover from the reclamation of the Flevopolder. We puzzled them together like a real dike, or built forts of them. Even after forty years, the stock pile is still there!

Playground stock pile of basalt blocks for dike and shore protection (Credit: Google street view)

What I remember was, that they are extremely heavy. And their perfect prismatic geometry intrigued me intensely. I thought they were made that way. By now they feel less heavy and I have learned that they are some kind of volcanic rock called ‘basalt’. But it puzzled me how molten basalt can solidify into these perfect jigsaw pieces. Until last week, I’ve read an article in the Guardian1 about a geological feature called ‘Giants Causeway’.

Recent article about the origin of the basalt blocks at the Giant’s Causeway (Credit: Guardian News & Media Ltd)

As it happens, I also visited this Giant’s Causeway. And it really feels like standing on a dike at home. But this ‘dike’ was laid down by mother nature. Molten lava flowed over chalk beds. As it was clamped between other layers during cooling, the internal stresses caused the cracks to be distributed evenly in a nice geometric pattern. So, Finn MacCool2 wasn’t involved after all!

The internal structure of dikes, dams, jetties and groynes is a bit different and purposefully designed for the intended application. Usually there is a body of sand, that is designed to take the load of the tide and waves. Next an internal lining with appropriate permeability. Either watertight for keeping the water out, or open structure for draining the wave run-up. Height, width and slopes depending on the requirements.

Example of an internal structure of typical dike

Evaluating all these requirement choices in a well-balanced design is an art by itself. Don’t cut corners, it’s all about safety of the people living behind the dike. It is best left to specialised companies that are familiar with the design and construction of these civil works. In the Netherlands, the trade was often handed over from father to son and whole families became intertwined in these specialist dredging companies.

So, now we know the origin of the stones for the dikes and how they are used. But the real resource used to protect our dikes and the land behind it are: all those unnamed men that have literally put their back into placing those stones. We owe them our land!

‘The stone setter’ by Ineke van Dijk placed in 1982, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Afsluitdijk (Credit: Wikipedia)

References

  1. Scientists solve mystery of how Giant’s Causeway was formed
  2. Finn MacCool

See also