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

Dredging Exhibits At The National Maritime Museum Gdansk

Overview of the National Maritime Museum in Gdansk, Poland

Currently I am in Gdansk, Poland. Last week I had a CEDA event1 and next week I am at the Hydro 2018 Conference and Exhibition2. On both events I will report later. My colleague Saskia den Herder wrote a teaser for you3. Now, here, I had the weekend for myself and what better to do, than be a tourist, visit a maritime museum and write a blog about it. So, I will report you about interesting dredging exhibits I discovered at the National Maritime Museum in Gdansk4.

The National Maritime Museum comprises three major venues: the museum building itself5, the ‘SS Sołdek’6 and the old city ‘Crane’7. All equally interesting in their own way. Buy a combined ticket and you get the ferry between them for free. As general maritime museums go, they mainly focus on the history of shipping, shipbuilding and the interaction with the development of the city or country. Gdansk in itself has a very long history in shipbuilding, as the country was well forested for providing the building material for ships. In modern times, one might have heard of the ‘Lenin Shipyard’8, the birthplace of the free labour union ‘Solidarity’, which brought Poland out of the socialist led economy. And of course, where there is water, there are ships and where there are ships, there is Damen9,10.

Horse powered scoop ladder dredge

Between the many models and pictures I found some about dredges indeed. This one seems to be a very first attempt at mechanical dredging. The power was provided by two real horses. There were some sort of scoops or blades drawn over a chute. The wooden blades excavated the soil from the bottom. Water was expelled through holes in the blades. The drained material could be loaded in barges for further transportation. Only after translation later on, I learned that in fact this was an example of a Dutch dredge!

Picture and model of a steam powered bucket ladder dredge

I did find a picture and a model of a locally build dredge. It employs a German steam engine and was built on an oak hull. It already featured the classic iron buckets on a ladder. The development of the working principle did not change that much. The dredged material could be delivered to barges at the aft end for further transport.

Grab dredge ‘Homar’

Finally I came across this model. It is a grab dredge ‘Homar’11, built in 1971 and operated by PRCiP Sp.z o.o. (Dredging & Underwater Works Co Ltd) here in Gdansk12. OK, I don’t want to brag, but it looked vaguely similar to the one we saw when we were on a site visit with the CEDA to the Port of Gdansk13. We had a splendid view over the harbour from the port control tower. And there I already noticed they were doing some dredging works in the entrance channel. But for all what we could see, it could also have been its sister ship ‘Świdrak’. And that concludes a nice round up of dredging discoveries for the weekend.

Overview of the entrance channel as seen from the port control tower. Dredging works indicated.


  1. CEDA-MIG Joint Symposium on Advances in Dredging Technology 2018
  2. HYDRO 2018
  3. Dam maintenance – deep dredging, Saskia den Herder
  4. National Maritime Museum in Gdansk
  5. Granaries on Ołowianka Island, NMM
  6. Sołdek, NMM
  7. Crane, NMM
  8. Gdanks Shipyard (Lenin Shipyard), Wikipedia
  9. Damen Engineering Gdansk, Damen
  10. Damen Marine Components, Damen
  11. Homar, Dredgepoint
  12. PRCiP
  13. Port of Gdańsk

See also