Book Review: Donald Duck A Muddy Fine Business; Artistic Equipment Design

Front page of Penny Pincher magazine with Donald Duck as dredge master (Credit: Disney)
Front page of Penny Pincher magazine with Donald Duck as dredge master (Credit: Disney)

Donald Duck is a Jack of all trades, that he eventually he would end up on a dredge was inevitable. The story was already published in 1977 in a Donald Duck comic magazine. It is written by Freddy Milton1 and drawn by Daan Jippes2. At that time, I read it and already liked it very much. Later, I had it in a comic album3, but lost it moving to a new house. I wanted to review this story here already for a long time. Eventually, I consulted ‘Bul Super’ in Delft4, he advised me to search for Daan Jippes. That helped to find the story back on the internet.5

Opening scene of ‘Muddy Fine Business’ or ‘Success Test’ (Credit: Disney)
Opening scene of ‘Muddy Fine Business’ or ‘Success Test’ (Credit: Disney)

The story revolves around the endless feud between Donald Duck and Gladstone Gander. This time they have to compete in a success test by operating two different vessels: a ferry, ‘Seagull’ and a dredge ‘Aristoteles’. They have varying degrees of success and the outcome is unexpected.

The best known illustrator of Donald Duck is Carl Barks6. But Daan grew into his footsteps and eventually his stories are at the same level as the original master. He was with the Disney studios in the USA, but was working mostly in the Netherlands. In this edition, Jippes drew one of the most Dutch professions: dredging. Jippes had a keen eye for the elements that make up a dredge, tough the execution lacks some reality. Here I want to highlight some shortcomings that will help to illustrate the tricks that should have made it work and explain how real life dredging equipment functions.

Various details of the ‘Aristoteles’ (Modified from Disney)
Various details of the ‘Aristoteles’ (Modified from Disney)

The ‘Aristoteles’ is a truly multi-functional dredging vessel. It features both a grab and a bucket chain and the sediment can be loaded unto the vessel itself like a hopper or into a barge in tow. It is also self-propelled, although there seems to be a magical power generation as there is no visible exhaust pipe. Maybe Donald is again ahead of his time and running fully electric already?

Than the dredging equipment; the grab is suspended from a gantry, but it does not seem to be able to swing. Loading the tow barge would be difficult, as he has to reposition either the dredge or the barge. Apparently Donald should know about the technology of a rotating crane, as the picture on the front page has such a crane. And how would the material end up in the hopper?

Discharging buckets with reception carriage on a bucket ladder dredge
Discharging buckets with reception carriage on a bucket ladder dredge

Maybe with the other dredging tool: the obvious bucket chain? Though it is not supported on a ladder. Maybe that makes sense, as the buckets seem to be positioned on port or starboard in various panels. The material falling from the buckets might end up in the hopper. The vertical orientation presents some difficulty, as the material will fall onto the previous bucket and eventually through the well. In a normal operation, this is controlled by moving a carriage receiving the load and bringing it to the chutes. With a real vertical orientation, this would not be helpful anymore.

I once saw a solution for working with a vertical bucket chain on an exhibit in the National Dredging Museum7. A manual operated drawer-like slide was moved between every passing bucket to catch the load. It seems very labour intensive and prone to accidents.

Even after breaking down these operational details in the design of the ‘Aristoteles’, the vessel serves its purpose in the story: it is a really useful dredge for dredge master Donald. Well done Daan.

Exhibit with vertical ladder at the national dredging museum
Exhibit with vertical ladder at the national dredging museum

Call to the audience

The exhibit is still there, but unfortunately, it is broken. The mechanism has to be repaired, any model building fanatics are invited to help the museum restore it. There is a special event for new volunteers, now!


  1. Freddy Milton, Wikipedia
  2. Daan Jippes, Wikipedia
  3. Oom Dagobert En De Ondergrondse Kluis, nr34, Disney
  4. Stripboekhandel Bul Super
  5. Read online Walt Disney’s Comics Penny Pincher comic – Issue #4, ZipComic
  6. Carl Barks, Wikipedia
  7. Nationaal Baggermuesum

See also

Book Review: En De Sé Wie Net Maer

Book cover ‘En De Se Wie Net Maer’ by A.A. van der Werf1.

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.

Historic map2 of the Noordoostpolder from 1946. (Credit:

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.

Canal dredging in the still submerged Noordoostpolder.

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.

Soil pump ‘GP3’ by De Groot Nijkerk, at work in a narrow canal, here loaded by drag lines.

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!

Pontoon of bucket ladder dredge ‘Holland’* on edge for lock passage.

*Names are fictionalised by the author, but he states that the described events did really occur as described.


  1. En De Se Wie Net Maer, A.A. van der Werf
  2. Urkerland of Noordoostpolder,
  3. Polder, Wikipedia
  4. Noordoostpolder, Wikipedia
  5. Emmerbaggermolen, Wikipedia (Dutch)
  6. DOP Pump 350 with leveler head, Damen

See also

Book Review: The World In A Grain

Cover page The World In A Grain by Vince Beiser.

Last Saturday, a special Dutch season started: Sinterklaas1. He traditionally arrives in a steam ship in some camera pleasing port and starts his tour through the country. Eventually he commemorates his name day (December 6th) by leaving presents for all children on the eve before. Usually this is celebrated with children and/or parents giving each other presents in elaborate packaging and clumsy rhymes. So, this might be a good occasion to recommend a book for your wish list.

Somewhere I found a copy of ‘The World in a Grain’ by Vince Beiser2. Actually, it was the subtitle, ‘The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization’ that caught my attention. As you may have noticed, I am very interested in sand. And, it is good, to occasionally take a step back and contemplate how our product contributes to civilisation and the world as we know it.

Photo of American-Canadian journalist Vince Beiser (Credit: Wikipedia).

Vince Beiser3 is an American-Canadian journalist and the book is easy to read. The chapters are arranged to the subject where sand is coming from and its contribution to society. Beginning with the origin of sand, the erosion of rock, and the locations where it ends up and can be extracted. The most basic application of sand is construction sand to create infrastructure: reclaimed land, ballast material for roads and railways, general landscaping etc. Than, the applications become more refined: concrete, asphalt, fracking, foundries, glass making, eventually all the way to high end products as computer chips and smart phones. Each application requiring its own type of sand.

Soil sample exhibit at the Damen Dredging Experience.

Proceeding through the book, you will be surprised about how dependent we’ve become on such a small unit of our universe. And that is exactly where Beiser is alarming us about. Not only that at some point in the future, sand will become a scarce commodity, it already is. As with all scarce materials, they become precious and attract activity that is not always benefitting all stakeholders. This usually involves violence and crime. And Beiser has been exploring this dark side of the trade for his book.

His experience as criminal-justice journalist has helped him to uncover social injustice, where some greedy individuals were profiting from resources that ought to serve the wellbeing of all mankind. Beautiful beaches that have been scooped away. Rivers that changed their course and deprived communities from irrigation. Pastoral landscape, that was torn up and left behind devastated. He visited some sites and spoke to victims and activists. At some occasions, he was even threatened himself.

Progressing through the book, I even felt ashamed that I was taking part in an industry that allegedly rapes nature and deprives future generations of their rightful heritage. He reported severe cases from undeveloped countries, but even well-known names in our dredging industry have been mentioned. According to Beiser, there is no direct solution, as the demand is still on the rise, but I think there is: cooperation in governance. Share with others the experience on sand mining, the market possibilities and communicate with all stakeholders involved. Personally, I am involved in CEDA4, but there are many more platforms: IADC, EuDA, EMSAGG, PIANC etc. And as always: think about what you are doing and what does it leave future generations with.

OK, one last bonus link for those who don’t like reading a whole book. I think the producers of the Dutch children’s TV show ‘Buitendienst’5, last Friday, have been reading this book also.

Het grote zandmysterie (Credit: De Buitendienst).


  1. Sinterklaas, Wikipedia
  2. The World in a Grain, Amazon
  3. Vince Beiser, Wikipedia
  4. Dredging Management Commission, CEDA
  5. Het grote zandmysterie, NPO Zapp

See also